Sunday, May 20, 2007

Stephen Colbert vs. The Korean

Good news everyone, the Korean is back with a spiffy new computer. And here is something that the Korean desperately wanted to cover, and here it is now-- at least a week late.

Dear Korean,

Did you see the Stephen Colbert show last night? He did his own Korean music video. I thought it was very funny, but it seemed to spoof budget music videos more than specific Korean-ness--the joke seemed to be that Stephen knows nothing about Korea besides Hyundai & what he learned from M.A.S.H. So, what did you think? Do you know anything about the Korean R&B scene? Are you not at all surprised that Rain is at the top of the Time Readers' 100 Most Influential People?

If you were going to satirize a Korean video, would you do it differently than in The Roots' What They Do? ( ) Or what special video clich├ęs would you have to add on for maximum Korean flavor?


Dear RL,

Thanks for sending in the link for the Colbert Report. (If you are hopelessly behind the times and haven't seen it, here is the link.)

First thing the Korean thought seeing Colbert's video was that his Korean pronunciation was surprisingly good. It was pretty funny.

As to Rain, the Korean is not sure if he really is one of "100 most influential people in the world." The Korean was always skeptical about that type of gimmicky lists. The fact that Rain was voted in by regular people (who bothered to vote) adds to the fact that the whole thing seems to be a bit silly. But it is absolutely true that the "Korean Wave" is a cultural phenomenon to be reckoned with in Asia; the Korean can accept it if Rain was voted in as the representative for the Korean Wave.

The Korean has not followed Korean pop scene much. (Except for a few notable artists, the Korean has always thought it is generally stupid, as all pop cultures go.) But there are definitely certain trends in Korean music videos.

The biggest thing is that they always try to tell some type of story. The Korean thinks the genesis of this trend was the video for 21st Century Monolith by 015B, which cost an unprecedented 100 million won (roughly $100,000) in 1996. Although at the time it was a bold attempt, it unfortunately set a trend that made all the videos appear hilariously stale. Now every Korean music video is a small movie.

Trouble is that since songs generally don't last more than 5 minutes, the movie has to progress very fast. The result is the compressed version of the cheesiest Korean movie/drama you have ever seen. All the cliches are there -- usually a girl dies, either by cancer or a car accident that somehow leaves no injury, only a small stream of blood in the corner of her mouth. Often a rich guy steals a girl, and the poor dude works in a hazardous job, possibly dying of accident or exhaustion. (Or sometimes loses an arm! That's exciting.) And so on and so forth. If the Korean were to make fun of all this, it would probably look like the compressed version of Bobby Lee's skit in MadTV, parodying Korean dramas.

Would the Korean try it? Maybe. The Korean is done with school, so who knows?

Got a question or comment for the Korean? Email away at

1 comment:

  1. In attempt to combat the 5 minute bottleneck of the music videos, arbitrary prelude, interlude, and postlude are often added in the videos.

    The most recent "cinematic" music video I've seen is Arirang by SG Wannabe(SG Wannabe named themselves that in order to show their ambition to become as influential as Simon and Garfunkel. Too bad they didn't know that "wannabe" is a derogatory term for a cheap imitation). The video is whooping 22 minutes and 10 seconds, which I believe is over five times the original length of the song. They're known to have spent about .9 million dollars on the project.

    Also, just FYI, while it is true that 015B was one of the first to try the idea of cinematic music videos in Korea, the big hit that really started the fad was "To Heaven" by Cho Sung-Mo.


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