Tuesday, July 12, 2011

K-pop Fans Fight Running Battles with Police in London

About 400 K-pop fans gathered in Trafalgar Square and marched across London at the weekend, demanding that Korean singers be allowed to perform in the U.K. Accompanied by the manufactured Korean girl band 2NE1's hit song "Fire", the protesters said they were angry about the lack of Korean culture in the culturally homogenous and insecure Western country, which was once called the birthplace of pop, before K-pop was born.

K-pop entertainers, who rarely venture outside the Korean capital, were nevertheless excited by the angry outpouring of support for their art form in the distant country. The lead singer of Korean boy band sensation 'IQ82' said "I am with the protesters... although not in person... because... it’s not here." He said that next time he hoped the protest could be held in Seoul, which would be more convenient for him. The CEO of one of Korea's largest talent management agencies SM Entertainment, welcomed the event, saying "I will make the K-pop business model the standard of the global music industry."

The organizer of the British protest, 18 year-old Kim, said it all began when he launched a Naver cafe page last month demanding a so-called 'flashmob' march across London. Before long, other users of Naver in Britain joined up to show their support, but he never imagined 500 people would turn out to protest. Another protester, 20 year-old Lee, said she hoped the angry outpouring of support for K-pop could help to create a bridge of cultural understand between Koreans and the British.

The demonstration was initially good-natured, with protesters carrying Korean flags and placards, practicing their Korean language and singing songs in support of famous K-pop stars who may have accidentally killed people and face charges. But the situation turned ugly when police tried to stop the diligent marchers. The brave protesters struggled to burst through the police line, but they were helpless in the face of water cannons, tear gas, and batons. Around 600 of the protesters then broke away from the main group and stayed until morning on one of London's main intersections protesting the police suppression and mass arrests.

The Ministry of Culture in Seoul said it condemned the arrest of the 700 K-pop fans, but it is still hopeful that the London K-pop March is the start of a British Korean Wave. Recently the Wave stormed across France leaving many K-pop fans there hopeful that they would no longer have to listen to dreary female French singers with their 'artistic' and largely depressing angst-ridden songs. British music is similarly bereft of the kind of relentlessly upbeat tunes which people need to get them through their 12-hour working days without thinking too much, which is probably why British people work less than Koreans. "We hope the British people embrace the Korean Wave and recognize the unique Korean culture they can benefit from" said a Ministry of Culture spokesman. The Ministry of Sound in London refused to comment at the impending replacement of British sound with Korean music, possibly due to the shock of British people's outpouring of support on Saturday.

After the success of the demonstration, which received widespread coverage in the Korean media even though the news of the K-pop riot was suppressed in Britain, members say they will continue to take action until the Korean Wave storms across Europe sweeping all before it.

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