Scholarly and official discourses on Korean music have focused almost exclusively on the range of genres that fall under the broad rubric of “kugak.” Yet it is well known to Koreans and foreign observers alike that kugak is little known and underappreciated by the majority of Koreans today. While many Koreans study Western classical music and hold it in high regard, the music that is most widely consumed, and can be said to be the most popular and meaningful in the lives of contemporary Koreans, is Korean popular music (taejung kayo), and particularly the genre of sentimental love songs known as palladŭ. Although the Korean government has expressed pride in the international spread of Korean popular culture (the “Korean Wave”), cultural policy mostly sanctions kugak and denigrates popular music. I challenge the notion that Korean popular music should merely be viewed as an economic commodity, somehow not truly representative of Korean culture, lacking “Koreanness.” Focusing on musical style, language, emotion, and visual imagery, I discuss representative palladŭ songs and their recent history, considering the elements that are widely felt to be “Korean.”


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pp. 71-92
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