On March 12, 2021, the University of the Philippines (UP) Korea Research Center and the Ateneo Korean Studies Program conducted another public lecture, “Accounting for Popular Taste: Neoliberalism in Reality Talent Shows”. This free lecture discussed the history, nature, and practices of Korean reality talent shows and K-pop idol formation under neoliberalism.
Dr. Roald Maliangkay from the Australian National University was invited to share his expertise on this topic. Fascinated by the mechanics of cultural policy and the convergence of major cultural phenomena, he analyzes cultural industries, performance, and consumption in Korea from the early twentieth century to the present. He is the author of Broken Voices: Postcolonial Entanglements and the Preservation of Korea’s Central Folksong Traditions (University of Hawai`i Press, 2017), and co-editor of K-pop: The International Rise of the Korean Music Industry (Routledge, 2015).
Today, many K-pop fans and audiences alike anticipate the formation of their K-pop idols from Korean reality talent shows and survival shows like I Can See Your Voice (Mnet), Superstar K (Mnet), The Voice of Korea (Mnet), Korea’s Got Talent (tvN), Survival Edition K-pop Star (SBS), Top Band (KBS), Singing Batte (KBS), and Star Audition: The Great Birth (MBC). This kind of “business formula” was established as early as the 1930s, and today’s events sometimes reveal precedency of “good looks and showmanship over musical skill.” Dr. Maliangkay highlighted that the term “neoliberalism” has been used not only in economic and social studies, but also in cultural studies and K-pop. He noted that neoliberalism can be identified in the K-pop industry with hypercommodification and hyper-rationalization through the hectic training system, “use of lipsync”, different idol formations, and idol-fan interactions.
Participants also asked questions related to recent survival show issues and fandom competitions at the end of the lecture. Re-watch the full lecture via UPKRC official YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aFgcNP2QEs.
Press release prepared by Diana Kassandra A. Almarez (UP KRC Research Assistant)