East meets west: RU K-POP

The room is filled with chatter as tables are numbered from one to 10 and people are assigned to their respective groups. Some people are energetic and they start introducing themselves eagerly, while others are shy, watching the crowds that come in. Once members both old and new are seated, RU K-POP’s orientation begins.

RU K-POP hosted their third annual orientation night on Nov. 23. It was a night filled with games, laughter and even a dance party afterwards. The main members of the club introduced themselves.

Justin Liang, a third-year business management student, is the president of the group and has only been president for a couple of months so far. He first started listening to K-pop in the tenth grade when his friend introduced it to him. By the time he started university, his interest in the genre has grown and he found more people that were interested through RU K-POP.

Korean pop music, commonly known as K-pop, has been making its way over to the Western world in the past decade. The first major K-pop group to debut in America was all-girl group called Wonder Girls, whose sound recreates pop elements from the past few decades.  In 2009, their English version of the hit “Nobody” was featured on Billboard 100, making them the first K-pop group to be featured on the chart. Then later followed by Jay Park, an American-born triple threat and established b-boy, that was leader and rapper in the boy band 2PM and founder of his own hip-hop label ‘AOMG’. Finally, Lee Chae-rin or ‘CL’ , leader and rapper from the four membered group 2NE1 years after, who now works as a solo artist and has worked with famous DJ’s, Diplo and Skrillex, and from them on collaborations with Western artists kept growing.

RU K-POP members play trivia games together.

“Music is always able to transcend through gender and race, so I find it awesome that everyone and anyone can enjoy K-pop,” says Charlotte Carbone, a third-year fashion student, who said that K-pop was a “refreshing” new sound when she first started listening to it. During high school, Carbone was struggling to search and find her identity because of the lack of Asian representation in the media. She was able to find it through K-pop and has since been embracing her identity in university. “I hope K-pop continues to keep its authenticity and doesn’t sell out to American media, I’ve already seen it begin to happen,” she said.

After introductions and a few moments of chatter, the executive team lead the room in an interactive game of K-pop trivia. Groups gather to play quizzes broadcasted on the projector screen and on their cellphones. They also participated in team building games, where people try and pop balloons by using their partners’ body force, a game often played on Korean variety shows.

With the growth and spread of K-pop in not only the Western world, but also in the Middle East, Africa and Europe, their fan base continues to grow more every day. According to YouTube, more than two billion people listen to K-pop, with 240 million views coming from North America. New K-pop groups are being made with members of different cultural backgrounds. For example, the all-girl group Rania added Alexandra Reid, an African-American member to their group last November. K-pop continues to grow to become more inclusive for everyone.

“I feel like not just K-pop but everything is becoming globalized,” said Nick Nguyen, a business management student in his first year who’s been an avid K-pop listener since he was 11. “It’s reaching different cultures, and people who are the best of the best are taking from each other. It definitely feels like a cultural pot in the sense that we are all sharing our talent.”

After a night of pizza and excitement over K-pop, the lights go dark and a projector shows a playlist of the latest and greatest of K-pop songs, as well as classics. Dance circles are formed and dance battles began. Members of the executive team dance and interact with new and returning members. Liang watches as members enjoyed themselves and is content with seeing the success of the get-together.

Students dance and battle together.

Ryerson is a mix of cultures and is its own little world within a city that is so vast and multicultural. K-pop and other music styles transcend through these cultures and create unity, one way or another. And RU K-POP is definitely a result of that.