Today’s POP is Lily. K-pop. Fizzy pop. POP Cover for Asian markets, Issue 28: HYUNA!
So in case you hadn’t noticed, South Korea is having its time. 2012 was the year of K-pop – South Korean pop music for the uninitiated – in which Gangnam Style, with its infuriatingly catchy beat, irresistible dance routine and record breaking YouTube hits (1.1 billion and counting) (poor Bieber) managed to transpose the global perception of Korea from nuclear warhead hangout to 21st Century pop paradise.
Pre-GS, my sole cultural reference for South Korea was Dumplings; a piece of cinematography so genuinely disturbing it makes Clockwork Orange look like the Tellytubbies. I am still mentally reconciling the two exports, given as – on the surface at least – they simply could not be more different.
K-pop is the Russian ballet school of pop – a world in which nothing short of perfect is acceptable. The music is a sort of r&b dance meets electro pop, with an emphasis on synths (everyone loves a synth right?) It is extremely kitschy but also extremely catchy. The dances are seamlessly choreographed and perfectly executed. The videos are an explosion of hyper-real realities in which glitter and hot-pants feature kind-of heavily. It is all performed by K-pop artists who are (with the exception of PSY) young, hot, sexless sex objects. The entire package is produced and marketed to within an inch of its life. But it survives, in a sparkly, neon, highly stylised world of its own. This is fizzy pop. And it sells.
The success of K-pop and Hallyu (k-pop’s parent movement) is an indubitably complicated, multi-faceted mishmash of political, economic, social and cultural factors. However, there is also one very simple reason for its global ascent: K-pop is actually, kinda great and everyone actually, kinda loves it (even if they say they don’t). It has infiltrated the world over; David Cameron and Obama are dancing GS, super casual like. And the YouTube parodies have come in from groups as geographically and culturally diverse as Etonian Schoolboys and Filipino prisoners.
PSY has paved the way for a whole new cultural movement and its members are moving from East to West with colonial ease. The very stylish Hye Yeon Kim, Buying Merchandiser at Gucci Group, has given us some names to remember…
For a good glimpse at S.Korean street fashion, Jinyong Kim – jinyongkim.tumblr.com – is a wonderful start, as is the work of Nam, a street photographer who shoots for the likes of grazia.it and streetfsn.com. Photographer Jang Hyun Hong is currently directing an ad campaign at Galarie Lafayette, Paris and the model Wonjung Kim, who has walked for Kenzo and Neil Barrett (two POP faves). There is the Creative Director Sukwoo Hong, a whole host of designers: Steve J & Yoni P, KAAL, KYE, PUSHBUTTON, Beyond Closet, Baby Centaur, Flat apartment & Reike Nen to name a few! Musically, other artists to watch include Bigbang, 2NE1 & Girls Generation (my personal favourite).
To sum up, there is a bit of Korean take-over going down. And the empress of this global invasion is Hyuna Kim, a 20 year old luminescent beauty who is both the main love interest in the GS video and a very successful k-pop artist in her own right. And a POP cover girl. Nuff said.
Black & perspex choker custom-made exclusively for POP by Kitty Joseph
Hyuna we totally love your music and your videos and clearly we are not alone – you've been watched by over a billion people worldwide. How does that feel?
HYUNA: To be honest, it’s surreal. That means that 1 in 6 people in the world have seen my videos, right? I am very honoured.
Tell us about an average day in the life of a k-pop star?
HYUNA: It's nothing special. I spend my free time either with friends and family – going out for coffee, or to dine or to shop – or practicing at the practicing centre. Listen to my song ‘Very Hot’ – it basically tells the story of my life.
Do you live in Gangnam?
HYUNA: Yes, I do. Gangnam is where my life is: my home, Cube Entertainment (my management company), the practicing centre etc. So for me it’s just as ordinary as any other place! There's a big gap between the Gangnam I know and the Gangnam portrayed in the song.
Has Gangnam changed as an area since 'Gangnam Style'?
HYUNA: No, it’s about the same.
Your generation of artists have helped put Seoul on the map… Tell us some great – and not so great – things about Seoul?
HYUNA: The fast pace circulation of trends make the city very exciting and full of surprises but this is also a downside – it's too fast sometimes! It's also very crowded.
Sounds a bit like London… have you ever been here? If not, come visit us!
HYUNA: I LOVE the city VERY much. I love the unique London vibe. And I am in love with your red telephone booths. Ps. Please invite me, I’d love to visit again.
You are officially invited. Ban Ki Moon called Gangnam style "a force for world peace", what do you reckon?
HYUNA: I agree, the world has gotten much closer as a result of it. Seeing people of all race dance to GS is amazing. It proves a song can tear down the barrier of language and unite people as one. One day I too want to take on such a role.
For now be happy with your role as Korean style icon? You have an amazing sense of style and obviously love fashion. Who are your favourite designers?
HYUNA: I do not have one in particular since it all comes down to what interests me at that particular moment and/or place. I love to experiment… to dress up and down. There are no boundaries to fashion and that is what I like about it.
And what can we expect from your own upcoming fashion label, Spicy Color?
HYUNA: Sweet, funky, vivid – I selected things I like and would wear.
Can you sum up 'HYUNA' in 5 words?
HYUNA: Let’s make it 5 letters, H. Y. U. N. A. haha! I am just fooling around. I'm still trying to find out what ‘HYUNA’ is: 'cute’ and 'sexy’ are words that are often associated with me. However, I am ‘HYUNA’ and i want to have my own distinctive colour, different from others. No matter what I do and where I am, I want to be on stage and perform until all the audiences recognize what ‘HYUNA-ness’ is.
If you could do a collaboration with anyone, who would it be?
HYUNA: Rita Ora!
That would be awesome. Speaking of collabs, you are the main love interest in GS video and probably have millions of men totally in love with you! Is there anyone you're in love with…?
HYUNA: It’s a secret! (blush)
No fun! But fair enough… So what does the future hold for you?
HYUNA: I want to perform on various stages around the world, learn new things and keep entertaining more and more people with my music and performance.
Yey! Bubble Pop is my favourite K-pop song. I love it. So final and most important question for you: what’s your favourite bubblegum flavour?
Heart choker custom-made exclusively for POP by Kitty Joseph
All Clothing Gucci Spring/Summer 2013
Artwork Eddie The Wheel
Photography Young Kyu Kong
Videography Su Kim
Fashion Louby Mcloughlin
Words Lily Silverton
Hair & Make-up Minji Kim
Photography Assistance Soo Yeon Lee
Fashion Assistance Hye Yeon Kim
Prop Design Assistance Hye-Jin Kim
Digital Technician Felix Kim
Production Studio Kong
Retouching Fiona Kim
Special thanks to Yeonsoo Lee, Cube Entertainment, Hanna Moon & A.G Cook
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