[VOM Culture] K-Pop Music and Drama Invades the Arab World


Every country has its own special character in art production and display, from TV drama to music videos, but there are those countries which managed to capture a wide audience and great popularity that overpassed their borders to all over the world.

One of these countries is South Korea. Watching and following a Korean drama shows its ability to succeed and overcome cultural and language barriers as well as forming a wide network of Arab fans who are completely obsessed with it and thus follow every new release.

Korea is not just about technology and Samsung, and thus the spirit of the Korean cultural wave appeared in 1990 under the name of “Hallyu”. The action plan was based on 3 axes, Korean pop music, then series and movies. It mainly started with the song “Gangnam Style” which garnered unpresented view numbers of over 2 and half billions that is around the third of the earth’s population. Likewise, was the Korean drama “Boys over Flower” that was the starting point in the obsession in Korean drama.

The key factor in Korean drama that attracts a wide audience is that they are not like any other drama, they have non-repeated new ideas as well as the huge role of production that creates interest in viewers. It tackles many problems all over the world, like bullying, and it also brings new ideas that appeal to the young generation since it is appropriate to all age groups. It also brings a realistic drama that tackles all that happens in family life, daily problems, and conflicts as well as love and happiness. Likewise, it shows a picture of a family that no longer stays Korean only, but reflects images of families abroad, perhaps families that some viewers especially teenagers wish to be a part of. Another point is that their drama is short and might only have 15 episodes which are totally different from the Arabian drama which might extend to over 60 episodes as well as the absence of violence in every episode, where it only appears as something urgent happens, unlike the Arabic drama that is full of violence.

People are fascinated with the Korean actors and singers, their fashion styles, their way of living, their food, and even how they take care of their skin. It has also affected a lot of young people to a degree that they learnt the Korean language and took from the culture and added it to their own culture.

Upon interviewing some teenagers who love the Korean drama, most of them mentioned how they learnt respect of the elderly, table manners and how to not surrender and always face the hardships. They say that it added a lot to their principles and in some ways, it changed their lives to the better.

Teenagers Obsession with K-Pop

Teenagers in the Arab World are absolutely obsessed with K-pop culture, this is a result of many reasons, some of which are:

  1. Their search for their true identity, and the state of confusion that they live in during this difficult stage, especially that not a lot of parents understand their teens and just accuse them of being ridiculous or disrespectful. The K-pop gives these teenagers hope that they will find happiness, love and acceptance. They watch the perfect life of Korean families and how Korean family members respect each other and how close they seem to be. This makes them wish that they belong to one of these families.
  2. The attractive actors and actresses, since all Korean actors and actresses are beautiful, elegant and fit which makes these teenagers yearn to be like them
  3. In Korean drama, the audience has a lot of choices, they can choose among many categories of science fiction, romance, war, comedy, medical, imaginary, and scholastic.
  4. Music that plays a big role in the amazing scenes which helps attract the audience and this is known everywhere especially that the Korean drama music has won a lot of prizes in the Music Prizes Ceremonies.
  5. Fashion; Korean drama is well known for the beautiful styles and clothes that the actors and actresses wear. Teenagers love to dress and show off so they tend to copy this fashion.
  6. Lack of awareness that neither the Arab parents nor the schools provide for teenagers. They do not help them understand that drama is not the real life. They let them fall into the illusions of this drama and they do not even help or teach them how to find their own personality but rather they oppress them and add more stress that they don’t need.
  7. K-Pop phenomenon that has a magical influence on them, since it tackles their life issues as bullying, racism, friendship, love, youth and dreams so they tend to imitate the haircuts and the easy dance moves as well as learning the lyrics and singing them with their favorite bands or singers.

In one incident, two young Saudi Arabian girls, have recently ran away from Saudi Arabia to Korea. One of the girls was reported to enter the Korean borders but the second girl is still being searched for. The reasons why they fled to Korea are still unknown, but it is supposed that they wanted to meet their Korean drama heroes and to live the perfect life that they watch in these dramas.

Another Saudi Arabian girl called Sara has surprised the Korean Super Junior band by calling them and talking Korean fluently. The call video on social media platforms has risen many questions about how she managed to speak in this fluency and a hashtag started asking #where is Sara, on Twitter.

Another fan of the Korean pop bands said that the language was never an obstacle due to the development happening around the world which made translation of lyrics available and as they practice singing the lyrics over and over they learn it easily.

The Hidden Fact of Korean Pop 

What most fans and teenagers don’t know is that this image of the Korean singers is a fake one. They are not happy, they are stressed out, depressed and overwhelmed by how much is expected from them

They undergo what is like a slavery contract, the company thus controls everything about them, they control their clothes, food, weight, hair and even what they can talk and what they cannot. They even control their personal lives, what friends they can have so that their lives become a property of the company. They do not have any chance to object or give their opinion, because they have already signed the contract that gives the company this full right.

The company searches for young singers around 12 years old, they start enslaving them till the age of 19, where they have to study in the morning, and go practice all afternoon till late at night thus having very few hours to rest and sleep. They spend more than 12 hours in strict camps where they are prepared to be idols, they learn how to sing and dance to apply for competitions in hope to be accepted in music bands, and sometimes it might take up to 2 years for them to be fully prepared to be singers. They are asked to write their diaries which the company reads and supervises their lives 24/7.

They are obliged to keep a certain body figure and maintain a certain weight, some of them are not allowed more than 300 calories in a day which leads to a lot of illness as anemia, low blood pressure, fatigue and constant tiredness since they are not allowed to rest and are obliged to perform even with an injury.

Most of those idols join the camps to help their poor families thinking that they will gain lots of fortune but they get shocked even after two years that they had made nothing at all and cannot even annul the contract unless they pay for all the practices they had taken. They get bullied most of the time and that is what led two of the famous Korean singers [Kim Jong Hyun member in Shinee band and Sulli member in F(X)] to commit suicide, because of all the stress and pressure that they are subjected to. Kim Jong Hyun wrote before his suicide: “I am shattered from the inside, depression is killing me slowly, it has consumed me completely. Believe me, fame was never my choice, but its curse will follow me forever.” 

Dangers that Teenagers may Face 

Some psychologists are worried about the effects of the K-Pop music on teenagers, they say that this type of music causes psychological pressure, that may expose the central nervous system to defects and as a result the individual becomes unable to develop his own abilities and to carry out his daily tasks, and this is the case of K-Pop as it is classified as loud music and it involuntarily increases the feeling of pain with an increase in high blood pressure. In addition to the so-called musical tremors, it makes the mind in an unstable state during and after listening to it, since the level of brain fluctuating increase as a result of high frequencies which make teenagers become hyperactive and push them to move unpredictably.

They also add that this music reflects on the vitality of the nervous system, and increases feelings of depression and anxiety, as it directly counteracts alpha pulses (one of the vibrations that emanate from the brain related to the state of relaxation and meditation) so it makes them lose the sense of relaxation and happiness.  It is like a trap that devours the emotions of teenagers, where they live in a state of harmony that pushes them towards joy and hyperactivity so they get separated mentally from the reality and become linked to such an atmosphere whether with or without the influence. 

Teenagers might show some signs of aggression because they get confused, and unresponsive to others. In addition to neglecting their studies and having a tendency to be isolated in their rooms, surfing the internet and listening to their music, which might also lead to eye sight problems and some other sickness.

There are also the electronic wars where fans of each band fight with each other on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. They consider themselves as the army of the band and thus they have to defend their band whatever the consequences are.

Arab Parents’ Refusal of Korean Pop

Although Arab parents say that their fear on their teenagers is that they do not want them to be addicted to such music and drama, but the hidden reasons are way too many. These parents do not understand why their kids act like this or love this music, they get frustrated with them and try to ban them from following and listening to this music in any possible means and sometimes it might be with force, as punishments and deprivation from everything they love.

The problem in the Arab culture in general and Muslim one in particular, is that everything should be related to religion but in a very oppressing way. They say that this drama and music teaches their teenagers that drinking alcohol is accepted and this is banned in Islam.

They also add that this drama shows teenagers that they can smoke just to release their anger, and that sometimes it portrays taking drugs in a comical way which attracts teenagers and makes them want to try.

They also fear that their girls act like the Western girls, they show women without veils and with full make up, perfume and lewd clothes which makes the young girls follow these actresses and try to copy them and thus lose their morals and Islamic principles. They add that this affect men as well and lead them to look at those young girls because they gave them the reason to by putting make-up.

Parents also fear for their girls if they think that it is okay to mix with boys and talk with them normally and without any barrier, they think that in this way their girls will be deviated from the right path. They do not accept the idea of freedom especially for women, because they think that freedom is equal to disrespect and abandoning religion and it also makes girls irresponsible and not wanting to work at home and even not accepting to marry anyone who the parents may choose because in their minds, they have this picture of the perfect man and they want him to resemble the Korean man.

Some parents also go to the extreme ends of religion, where they accuse their daughters that they are following atheists and people who do not follow God, and they accuse the girls of becoming immoral and need to be punished to be back on the right track. Thus many girls have undergone a lot of violence and beating and others were banned from leaving the house and even their rooms and got deprived from their mobiles and social media websites as well as getting oppressed facing a lot of painful psychological stress.

In a world full of devastation and hatred as a result of the world’s struggle for control and wealth, South Korea has created another path for itself that enabled it to succeed in controlling the world; East and West, which was something that the strongest military forces in the most powerful countries in the world failed to achieve. This was by using their weapon that they developed over 27 years period, that is K-Pop drama and music.

In the end, no one can deny the fact that the Arab youth generation has suffered a lot in the recent times from the political situation that was limited to wars, revolutions and regime changes and what happened to them, as well as the economic situation and the psychological, social and emotional damage that followed them. They needed someone to give them hope or psychological support in ways different than psychiatrists and non-qualifying courses and seminars. These bands and drama, have both the good and the bad side, but aside from the negativities, their positive effects are much more.

They gave teenagers an outlet to live and dream, even if parents call it an illusion but teenagers need this period of dreams and imagination to grow and develop, they should not be oppressed and banned from following their favorite bands, they are under constant stress from society and religion and this should not be another issue to add more stress. For this reason, mothers and fathers should respect their teens’ development, support their individual efforts, and not ignore the miraculous importance of positive communication, rather than quarrelling with their children. It is a period and it will pass, they will grow out of it, they will learn about this new Korean culture, they might learn the language which is not a bad thing at all, they learn even from the so-called fake image about the Korean society, morals of respect, love and freedom to express their feelings without barriers and fear. This period will help develop their personality, it is not dangerous at all, and as they grow older, they will look back at this period and feel happy that they had the chance to learn and progress.

Dr. Emel Sarı Gökten said, “Adolescence is the second fastest stage of brain development in life. In this developmental period, the emotions, thoughts and behaviors of adolescents are quite different from that of a child and an adult. ‘

He adds: “Adolescents experience their emotions intensely, but they have difficulty controlling, they are sensitive, they think that they are not liked and liked. It is very important for them to belong to a group. For this reason, adolescents do their best to be included in peer groups, they can start smoking to gain social acceptance, and commit crimes to get into the eyes of the group. In a period when he/she is so sensitive, especially if he/she cannot easily enter the peer groups he/she wants, if he/she is not accepted enough, if he/she is frequently criticized by his/her family, he/she will feel lonely, unhappy and consider himself/herself worthless. At this point, fan groups such as K-Pop, which will connect him/her to a group, where he/she will feel safe and find his/her idol, come to his/her rescue. Thus, they find themselves at a point where they are involved in a social network, have contact with peers with the same thought, and are presented in front of a belief system that they need, where they can reflect on an idol the desire to have the perfect physical appearance imposed on everyone in today’s society.”

Parents should communicate with their teens and understand them to rebuild the bridge that has been broken. Allow their free will and they will not deviate from the right path. Religion should not be taken as a reason for oppression but it should make teenagers feel free and psychological comfort not oppression, anxiety and psychological stress. Thus, parents should not take religion as an excuse for their ideas and their fear from society and traditions. Religion is not extremism and is not related to ignorance and violence, and their children are God’s trust in them, so they should not preserve them through oppression, deprivation and extremism because they may lose them in one moment that passes in the minds of their teenagers pushing them to end their lives in search for the comfort they desire.

Sarah Ahmed | MWTV volenteer writer

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