Speakers: Jeongin Lee (Ph.D. student, University of Texas), “Performing Demilitarized Peace: The DMZ Peace Music Festival in the Post-Korean Sonic War”Stephanie Choi (Ph.D., UC-Santa Barbara), “Idol and Us: Valorizing Intimacy in the K-Pop Business”
Abstracts:Performing Demilitarized Peace: The DMZ Peace Music Festivals in the Post-Korean Sonic War
The soundscape of the DMZ has reflected the relationship between South and North Korea. Since their first operation in 1963, the loudspeakers on both sides of the border have been turned on and off over the years, depending on the diplomatic mood of the peninsula. Not only the sound of the DMZ provides a unique context to examine the multivalent nature of the inter-Korea conflict, it also implies how sound manifests, witnesses, represents, and/or masks wartime violence.
I challenge the conventional understanding of the DMZ soundscape, either as noisy sonic warfare or quite peacetime, and attempt to listen beyond. I investigate how the post-sonic war soundscape, or the demilitarized soundscape, has been “produced” and “performed” through various sonorous practices and encounters. Through an ethnography of the DMZ soundscape, I intend to examine the role of these festivals in promoting peace, the institutional strategies they adopted, and further explore how the individuals’ experiences of these peace music festivals affect and mediate their understanding of war, division, and peace. By pointing to the disjuncture between performing peace and (de)memorializing the war, I also explore how the sounds of demilitarized peace are mobilized to mask the multiple tensions that abound in the DMZ. By emphasizing the complex and fluidic interrelationships between sound and place, I argue that the DMZ soundscape is neither “absolute” space nor a mere replication of the inter-Korean relationship and call for listening beyond the dichotomous contradictions of Cold War conflicts.
Idol and Us: Valorizing Intimacy in the K-pop Business
From the Beatles to Taylor Swift, a musician’s private life and off-stage relationship with fans in the Western pop music industry have been influential factors for publicity, although they have never been determinants of gauging professionalism in one’s singing career. Meanwhile in the realm of K-pop, fans have come to demand their favorite singers to be “professional,” by demonstrating full emotional and physical devotion to them. These singers are categorized as “idols” [aidol], whose work encompasses musical production as well as various behaviors called “fan service” as a way of pleasing their fans. Maintaining a wholesome, if not ascetic, personal lives and presenting gratitude, care, and love to their fans are essential duties for K-pop idols today. The presentations of gratitude, care, and love are circulated in text forms in digital media, becoming a main source for fans when promoting their idol and drawing more fans. When fans find the duties are underperformed, however, they question the idol’s sincerity and request a response, or even withdraw their support from the idol, claiming their action to be valid as rightful consumers. In this seminar, Stephanie Choi investigates K-pop as a participatory culture in which both the idols and fans become laborers and producers of marketable intimacy. In what milieu have K-pop fans, especially Korean K-pop fans, and the industry come to valorize intimacy as a commodity, and how is intimacy transacted verbally, musically, and digitally? Choi will demonstrate how K-pop fans and idols redefine the celebrity-fan relationship that has long been pathologized as abnormal and deviant in academia and public discourse.