The Korea Herald


Book traces roots of K-pop from 1900s to present

By 원호정

Published : Aug. 20, 2015 - 18:23

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“Introduction to K-pop History”
By Zhang Eu-jeong, Suh Byung-kee
(Sung An Dang) 

Cover of Cover of "Introduction to K-pop History" (Sung An Dang)

Listeners of K-pop may be surprised to find that the content of a book titled “Introduction to K-pop History” goes all the way back to the year 1907. The term “K-pop” has become so synonymous with the global phenomenon of idol groups, dance music and fandoms that it seems hard to imagine anything before that as being Korean pop.

The new book, planned by the Korea Popular Musician Association and written jointly by professor Zhang Eu-jeong of Dankook University and Herald Business veteran entertainment reporter Suh Byung-kee, hopes to break those preconceptions and provide a more comprehensive understanding of how popular music has evolved in Korea to produce today’s K-pop culture.

The book, which was written both as a history book for Korean music listeners and as an introductory textbook for students of popular music, is divided into fifteen sections to correspond with a typical 15-week college semester. After covering basic concepts surrounding popular music, the sections focus on specific periods of time. Each period includes a discussion of how popular music from that period was influenced by contemporary events, such as the Korean War and democratization, as well as descriptions of major singers and songs.

The two authors each wrote half of the book -- Zhang wrote about the periods up to 1970, while Suh wrote about the periods that followed. Their different approaches to the subject matter offer an interesting contrast, with Zhang’s half more conceptual and historical while Suh’s half is more vivid and singer-centric, thanks to his 28 years of experience reporting in the field. Rich in research and analytical insight, the book is an easy guide to the century-long development of Korean pop music, from the introduction of foreign pop music all the way to “Gangnam Style.”

By Won Ho-jung (