Page Turn Episode 037

Hello and welcome to Episode Thirty Seven of Page Turn: the Largo Public Library Podcast. I’m your host, Hannah!

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The English Language Transcript can be found below

But as always we start with Reader’s Advisory!

The Reader’s Advisory for Episode Thirty Seven is Valley of Terror by Haohui Zhou. If you like Valley of Terror you should also check out: Uzumaki: Spiral Into Horror by Junji Ito, The Day the Sun Died by Yan Lianke, and The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher.

My personal favorite Goodreads list Valley of Terror is on is Up Next.

Happy Reading Everyone

Today’s Library Tidbit is on the History of K-Pop!
If you’re a teen or know a teen who’s a fan of K-Pop check out our Virtual K-Pop Club, meeting on May 12th. Registration is required!

K-Pop, for those that do not know, stands for Korean Pop music and it a sub-genre of Pop music that comes from South Korea. While it has become globally loved within the last decade, the popularity of K-Pop has been steadily growing since the 1990s.

To understand a little bit where K-Pop came from and why this specific style of music arose in South Korea it’s important to know a little bit of the history of Korea. Prior to WWII the Korean peninsula was fought over by the Japanese, the Chinese, and the Russians, sometimes, but rarely the Koreans had control over their own land and cultures. I won’t go into all of these wars and their outcomes today. In 1910 the Japanese annexed Korea and tried to replace the Korean language and culture with Japanese language and culture. The Japanese Empire of the time exploited the Korea people and their land for Japanese gain up until WWII.

In 1945 following the end of WWII the Korean peninsula was split into two by the US government and the Soviet government. Initially the plan was to re-combine the two halves and give control of the peninsula back over to the Koreans as a single county. However, due to the conflict between the US and the Soviets, and mismanagement this did not happen. Instead, the Soviet government occupied the landmass for Korea under the leadership of Kim Il-Sung as the People’s Republic of Korea and the United States occupied the landmass for Korea and in 1948 after 3 years of occupation South Korea held a Presidential election electing Rhee Syngman as the first president of South Korea. Tensions remained as neither North Korea or South Korea would adopt the other leadership or government style of the other. This lead to the Korean War in 1950 just 5 years.

After the Korean War the South Korean economy was in shambles due to the exploitation of Japan and the mismanagement of the US. The government, which started as democratic but became increasingly autocratic was replaced by military rule. The next 3 governments after the strict military rule have been nominally democratic but functionally were continuations of military rule. The most recent government of South Korea is a liberal democracy.

Why was it necessary to explain this background of South Korean history? Well, partially because it explains some why the South Korean government pushed for the international exportation of South Korean culture, called hallyu, but also to explain the Kim Sisters.

The Kim Sisters was the first international South Korean girl group. Compromised of Kim Sook-Ja (also known as Sue), Kim Ai-ja and Kim Min-ja (also known as Mia), these sisters were put together as a group by their mother Lee Nan-young to support the family after Sue and Ai-ja’s father Kim Hae-song was kidnapped and murdered by North Korea in the 1950s during the Korean War. Mia was adopted by Lee Nan-young before the group was formed. The Kim Sisters learned American popular music and performed for the American troops. They became so popular that an American producer flew to South Korea to hear them perform and then helped to get the group to America where they became a popular group performing on the Ed Sullivan show over 20 times.

Another South Korean girl group to follow a similar path was Korean Kittens. This group toured with the Bob Hope and the USO during the Vietnam War and also found some success in the American music scene.

Both due to the economic instability of South Korea and that South Korea had a travel ban until 1988, the South Korean music scene wasn’t able to gain international attention until the 1990s. However, several genres emerged in South Korea including trot, rock, t’ong guitar folk, hip-hop, and ballad. Some of the genres are influenced by the Western music scene, and while the influences can sometimes be recognized they have grown into something uniquely South Korean.

In the 1990s, these genres saw more hybridization and mixing, which created K-Pop. In 1992 Seo Taiji and the Boys debuted on a televised talent show. They received the lowest rating in the show from the judges, however, people at home watching loved their combination of rapping and pop music. Seo Taiji and the Boys were the first group to gain national love for combining American rap and Korean language pop music. The hip-hop swagger they brought to their music continues to influence K-Pop to the this day. Not least of which because a member of Seo Taiji and the Boys, Yang Hyun-suk went on to start one of the most popular idol agency in the business, YG Entertainment.

In the mid to late 90s the Idol Era of K-Pop started. Several entertainment agencies opened up with the singular goal to forming and developing pop stars. Typically K-Pop stars sign with an agency in their teen years and undergo years, at one point it was at least 7, of training in singing, dancing, media, and presentation before debuting as a pop star or in a group. The management groups develop personas for the talent and control their image. Wannabe idols sign lengthy contracts that often stipulate that they will need to pay the agency back for any money spent on their training and upkeep, trainees often gain large amounts of debt which, if they are unable to break out in the K-Pop world, can be quite crippling, much like US college debt.

It was during this time that the K-Pop idol formulas were created. K-Pop is heavily produced pop music. The groups and idols are also over produced to create a product that is both nice to listen to but also nice to look at. The dancing and choreography is always spot on and dynamic. Even the styles of music in songs and on albums has been work shopped over the years for optimal fan interaction and love. Idols personal lives are either kept extremely private or they are not allowed to have much of a private life in order to seem attainable for fans. There are no mixed gendered groups for the same reason. Although, someone should really tell them that queer people exist.

In the late 2000s the K-Pop girl group Wonder Girls opened for the Jonas Brothers for their US tour. This introduced K-Pop to young pop music fans here in America, however, K-Pop was still a small niche market in America until Psy’s Gangnam Style went internationally viral in 2012. Psy is a South Korean rapper and not part of K-Pop. Let me just get that out of the way before someone comes to correct me, but Gangnam Style broke through into the global consciousness in a way that helped other K-Pop acts to follow in the wake. And boy howdy did they, with BTS and BLACKPINK which haven’t just been superstars in South Korea but are also superstars internationally as well.

There is a darker side of the K-Pop industry that seems to be slowly changing. Retired idols talk about the extreme pressures put on them, the long hours in the gym and extreme diets, as well as the debts they accrued while in their training. Every aspect of K-Pop stars lives are strictly maintained, including being anywhere from highly discouraged from dating to forbidden to date while an active idol. South Korea also has fairly strict beauty standards and plastic surgery is common, especially among young women. BTS has broken some of the formula by being open about their mental health struggles and were actually given an extended break from the idol life. This came about after several popular K-Pop idols committed suicide following waves of hate by so-called fans for not living up to the fans perceived ideals. Hopefully the industry and the fans can continue to evolve to recognize the importance of a more balanced life for the idols.

Fans of K-Pop are extremely loyal and extremely knowledgeable. I hope they recognize that I tried my best and also don’t get too mad at me for not talking about their favorite group in any detail. I look forward to seeing the evolution of the genre in the coming years and I hope we see you in Virtual K-Pop Club.

And now it’s time for Book Traveler, with Victor:
Welcome to Books Traveler. I am Victor, a librarian here at the Largo Public Library and today I am going to be talking about a book called La Puerta or The Door by Manel Loureiro.

Synopsis: A ritual crime. A woman desperate to save her child. Manel Loureiro surprises with a thriller set in the mysterious and legendary Galicia.

The discovery of the corpse of a young woman, murdered by an ancient ritual form at the foot of the mythical Puerta de Alén, puzzles its researchers. Agent Raquel Colina is a newcomer to that lost corner of Galicia to try to save her son, whom medicine can no longer cure. With no other alternative, and full of doubts, Raquel had turned to a local healer, who promised her the healing of her son.

However, the mysterious disappearance of the healer and the discovery of the victim of La Puerta make Raquel suspect that both cases may be related. With the complicity of her partner, in a magical and rural environment that she does not fully understand and where everyone seems to keep a secret, the agent will begin a desperate countdown to solve the case and thus find the last lifeline she has left to his son.

Opinion: This book takes place in Galicia, Spain, in a rural community with a magical atmosphere where Raquel Colina, a civil guard, moves to a remote place because her son is seriously ill. The reason for the move is that Raquel has heard of Ramona, a witch or healer who has cured people with cancer similar to the disease of her son, Julián. As soon as Raquel arrives at her new station to work, she receives a call about a crime on Mount Seixo: they have found the body of a woman with characteristics of what seems to be an ancient ritual in La Puerta de Alén, a remote place in the town. where she is. Simultaneously with the murder, Raquel loses track of Ramona, the healer she wants to find to heal her son.

La Puerta is a book that keeps you intrigued and suspenseful. The author manages with great success to convey the despair of our protagonist when fighting against the illness of her son Julián. The history that constitutes La Puerta is the element that makes you intrigued and want to continue reading. The impossible element of the situation coupled with the reader’s desire to come up with a solution and solve the mystery makes the book quick to read. It is a highly recommended book if you enjoy mysteries, secrets and psychological terror.

Outro: It is a very intriguing story with a strange and surprising ending. Highly recommended. It’s all for today, until the next edition of Book Traveler. Bye.

Stay safe everyone out there! Check out our virtual programming here and also don’t forget to sign up for our Read Woke Initiative on Beanstack!

For everyone interested our intro music is by Break the Bans and the outro music is by Jahzzar, both artists can be found on Free Music Archive.