US-based K-pop columnist Jeff Benjamin and renowned jazz vocalist Nah Youn-sun, the two winners of the Korea Image Awards given by the Corea Image Communication Institute, said Tuesday that global attention to Korean music is expanding beyond K-pop as the country boasts the world’s sixth-largest music industry.
“It is really special to think how much Korean music has grown for the 10 years,” said Benjamin during a press event at InterContinental Seoul Coex on the sidelines of CICI’s Korea Image Awards.
From left: Interpreter Na Yoon-sun, K-pop columnist Jeff Benjamin, jazz vocalist Nah Youn-sun and CICI President Choi Jung-wha attend a K-music press meeting on Tuesday. (CICI)
“We have seen growing influence and interest in genres that go beyond K-pop music, including K-rock, K-indie, K-hip-hop and K-dance.”
“It is (a) really exciting time for Korean music,” he added.
Benjamin has worked as a freelance journalist specializing in K-pop. His articles written as a columnist for Billboard have appeared on the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Teen Vogue, NPR and other publications.
The Korean music industry has grown to become the world’s sixth largest as of 2017, following the US, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and France, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.
Jazz vocalist Nah added that when she left the country for France to study jazz 25 years ago, she rarely found Korean musicians performing in European countries, apart from some classical musicians. She now sees a growing number of Korean musicians in a variety of music genres in the region.
“There were not many people interested in Korea when I first went to France, especially in small towns,” Nah said. “But now people come to me after concerts and share their good memories or experiences related to Korea.”
Last November, Nah was given the Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government -- her second cultural recognition from the country. She received the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2009. Nah stages about 100 performances every year.
“Jazz is a mixture of diverse genres such as African music, European folk music and classical music. So I tried to embed Korean folk songs or traditional music into jazz, which eventually attracted people’s interest to my music,” she said.
Asked about the driving forces behind the popularity of K-pop, Benjamin picked Korea’s unique culture of hard work and dedication to a team or group.
“Koreans have (a) tradition of working hard, rising above other people and making the best products possible,” said Benjamin.
“I also think it is really special that you say your family name first in Korea, and putting their team or group first ... that (success) is not about one person’s ambition, it is about team or company’s ambition.”