Cover of K-pop Live by Suk-Young Kim
K-pop Live
Fans, Idols, and Multimedia Performance
Suk-Young Kim


August 2018
280 pages.
from $29.95

Cloth ISBN: 9781503605039
Paper ISBN: 9781503605992



1990s South Korea saw the transition from a military dictatorship to a civilian government, from a manufacturing economy to a postindustrial hub, and from a cloistered society to a more dynamic transnational juncture. These seismic shifts had a profound impact on the media industry and the rise of K-pop. In K-pop Live, Suk-Young Kim investigates the meteoric ascent of Korean popular music in relation to the rise of personal technology and social media, situating a feverish cross-media partnership within the Korean historical context and broader questions about what it means to be "live" and "alive."

Based on in-depth interviews with K-pop industry personnel, media experts, critics, and fans, as well as archival research, K-pop Live explores how the industry has managed the tough sell of live music in a marketplace in which virtually everything is available online. Teasing out digital media's courtship of "liveness" in the production and consumption of K-pop, Kim investigates the nuances of the affective mode in which human subjects interact with one another in the digital age. Observing performances online, in concert, and even through the use of holographic performers, Kim offers readers a step-by-step guide through the K-pop industry's variegated efforts to diversify media platforms as a way of reaching a wider global network of music consumers. In an era when digital technology inserts itself into nearly all social relationships, Kim reveals how "what is live" becomes a question of how we exist as increasingly mediated subjects, fragmented and isolated by technological wonders while also longing for a sense of belonging and being alive through an interactive mode of exchange we often call "live."

About the author

Suk-Young Kim is Professor of Critical Studies and the Director of the Center for Performance Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is also the author of the award-winning book DMZ Crossing: Performing Emotional Citizenship Along the Korean Border (2014). Her research and commentary have been featured on CNN and NPR.

"Suk-Young Kim's intimate and detailed ethnography showcases the strategic, interlocking exchanges among producers, directors, performers, fans, and studios in Seoul and beyond. Kim captures both the small moments of curated, performed liveness and their layered, highly mediatized production contexts. A glittering glimpse into a pure realization of late capitalism, and perhaps into our collective future, K-pop Live uncovers why K-pop is the global cultural phenomenon."

—Carol Vernallis, author of Unruly Media: YouTube, Music Video, and the New Digital Cinema

"K-pop Live is essential reading for all interested in popular culture in general and K-pop in particular. Suk-Young Kim provides accessible and lively insights into the complexities of the artistry and the commerce, the manufactured and the impromptu, the virtual and the somatic, and the local and the global, that propel the production, dissemination, consumption, and reproduction of Korean popular music today."

—Hyung-Gu Lynn, University of British Columbia

"K-pop idols are sweeping the world, and K-pop Live is the book you need to understand this incredible phenomenon. From the music videos to a futuristic fan museum, Kim reveals the ways idols are transforming how we think about musicians and fandom. An excellent read, and great for all levels of coursework."

—Ian Condry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology