In general, we classify Korean music as ‘K-Pop.’ Why? Because it’s the most mainstream genre of Korean music; it’s the kind of dance-pop music that people are usually referring to when they talk about Korean music; it for the most part accurately describes Korean music; it’s easier and simpler to say than ‘Korean music.’ But as with any music in a certain language, one genre alone cannot accurately depict all the music in the language; K-Pop alone does not define Korean music.
Perhaps my sister and I are in the minority when I say that we listen to Korean music, not so much K-Pop; or maybe there are many people like us, who have ventured out of K-Pop to some other genre of Korean music, but just not enough listeners of another specific genre of Korean music to be distinguished in this ever-growing sea of K-Pop fans. Just as American music is not defined just by what is broadcasted on the radio, Korean music is not defined just by what is written on on Allkpop, or what is broadcasted on music programs.
Like American music, there are many genres of Korean music, including ballad, dance, indie, rock, hip hop, R&B/soul, electronica, trot…and more. Naturally, most music can’t be classified under only one category, but still, there is more than just catchy, eye-appealing dance pop music.
Even if the term ‘K-Pop’ was meant to incorporate much or all of Korean music at the time it came into use, K-Pop, as much people know it, does not incorporate much Korean music. K-Pop incorporates all-out music videos, specifically eye-appealing visuals, makeup, stages, and stage outfits (‘costumes’), synchronized dancing, male and female ‘idol’ groups, fan chants accompanied by banners and glowsticks and posters, catchy, upbeat tunes, and Korean lyrics sprinkled with [random] English phrases.
I do listen to K-Pop, but I do not only listen to K-Pop. I have started listening to other genres of Korean music, and I find it unfair to be grouped together with K-Pop and its fans, when much of what I listen to these days is not at all ‘K-Pop.’
Kim Bumsoo is not K-Pop. He was essentially a faceless ballad singer until he became famous from I Am A Singer; and while he does have his crazy upbeat songs, he does not fit into the K-Pop mold. He is and never was a part of a dancing idol group; he wears his glasses most of the time and does not have fancy comeback stages, complete with fan chants and banners.
Zitten is not K-Pop. The duo (now soloist) is at most average in terms of physique, perhaps even below average. I have not seen either member attempt to dance; I have not seen an album with one or both of their faces on it. I have not seen them perform on a music show, or even perform on a flashy stage. Instead, I have only seen them sing and play their instruments in rather ordinary apparel, before a sea of silently and calmly swaying glowsticks.
Lee Moonsae is not K-Pop. He had already been an active singer in Korea for years before the term ‘Hallyu Wave’ or ‘K-Pop’ even existed. From a sole K-Pop fan’s point of view, Lee Moonsae would probably be just ‘an old, slow, boring singer,’ perhaps with a song bearing a striking resemblance to Big Bang’s Sunset Glow (Big Bang’s Sunset Glow is a remake of Lee Moonsae’s original). Lee Moonsae is 53 years old; I think most would rather not see him don skin-tight skinny jeans.
Korean music is not K-Pop. Yes, K-Pop is a type of Korean music, but Korean music is not K-Pop. Korean music has long existed before such a thing as K-Pop even came into being, and it will, even if K-Pop ceases to exist in later years.
(The point of this post isn’t to look down on K-Pop, but to state that Korean music is not solely K-Pop, and to recognize the existence of other genres within Korean music.)