Paper Swordsmen: Jin Yong and the Modern Chinese Martial Arts Novel by John Christopher Hamm

I have been wanting to read this book for ages! This book is most excellent! There are so few scholarly sources in English about novels published by Chinese writers featuring wuxia heroes.  Hamm focuses on one of the most prolific authors, Jin Yong (also known as Louis Cha).  I’m drawn to it because Jin Yong’s novels are the basis for many Chinese wuxia television series, including Eagle Shooting Heroes, Return of the Condor Heroes, Book and Sword: Gratitude and Revenge, Laughing in the Wing (Smiling Proud Wanderer; also the basis for Tsui Hark’s Swordsman film series), Deer and the Cauldron, and Sword Stained with Royal Blood.

For my purposes, he does a lot of exposition of the plots of these novels, as many of them have not been translated into English.  This really helps me out because it gives me an idea of where many of the wuxia series engage in creative retelling.  Anyone who has committed to watching one knows that it might closely follow the novel, or it might make some…..changes.  I’m less concerned about authenticity and more interested in how those changes alter the meaning of the series.

Hamm also does crucial work on locating these novels within a Chinese historical context. I’ve always thought it mattered that you had a heroic story about the Song despite their occupation by the Jin in Eagle Shooting Heroes.  Hamm makes this make sense!

I have to say my favorite quote is actually a quote he takes from Wang Shuo’s essay on Jin Yong:  “The only reason Wang Shuo can imagine for this stuff’s popularity is the possibility that it serves as a kind of ‘head massage’ for the overstimulated victims of modern life. Jin Yong’s fiction belongs, in sum, together with the ‘Four Heavenly Kings’ of Canto-pop music, Jacky Chan’s action films, and Qiong Yao-inspired television soap operas, as the ‘four great vulgarities’ (si da su) of our time.” (251).  I love this, because he hits three of my greatest interests in Asian popular culture! Of course I don’t agree; I find the debate about whether or not these novels are literature not very interesting or productive.

Love this book!

Babies, Tweens and Grandmas: Unsung Fans of Kpop



Some people say it like it’s a bad word. All too often, I find people saying condescending things about Kpop fans, assuming that they are all 12-year-old girls. They deserve respect, and so do the other fans of Kpop that people do not recognize.

Read more at (Originally published on August 29, 2011)

Kpop Success In The U.S.: At What Cost?


Everybody wants to know: can Kpop succeed in the United States? Well, that depends on your definition of success. In order to enter the mainstream American music scene, Kpop would have to change so much that it would become unrecognizable to current fans.  But, if Kpop remained an underground phenomenon in the United States, it could be successful without compromising its identity.

Read more at (Originally published on August 16, 2011)

Style Over Substance: Weighty Matters in Kpop


This week, Piggy Dolls released their newest MV Know Her, sparking many comments from netizens, who immediately noticed the significant weight loss of the trio. While Kpop groups are well-known for their radical changes in concept, the Piggy Doll’s switch-up bothers me because it represents a shift not just in image but in talent as well.

Read more at (Originally published on August 1, 2011)

One Minute and Fifteen Seconds: JYJ’s Ayyy Girl

JYJ’s recent stop in the U.S. on their world tour has me thinking about them. Actually, it has me thinking about their only video from The Beginning, “Ayyy Girl.” And when I think of the video for “Ayyy Girl,” it’s hard for me not to think of one thing: one minute and fifteen seconds.

Read more at (Originally published on June 1, 2011)

Don’t Hate The Playa AND The Game: Recent Criticism of Kpop

So, this week I ran across a brief story by Esther Oh on the “failure” of Kpop.  While I’m always open to hearing what others have to say about Kpop, good or bad, I disagreed with several points that she made.  Ok, it’s not just I don’t agree with what she says. What she says is not the Kpop world I know.

First of all, her story had “tone.”  It just didn’t take a position on Kpop, it set out from the get-go hatin’ on Kpop. It’s clear she has no love for Kpop.  She says she “cringe[s]” when she hears about the Wonder Girls or Rain. Personally, I have a different reaction when I hear about Rain, but that’s just ME, and I’m not even the biggest Rain fan in the world.

Rain; Credit: Esquire

Read more at (Originally published on June 4, 2011)

An Informal Review of Sun Jung’s “Korean Masculinities”: Part 2, or Why We’re Not Going to Talk about Bae Yong Joon

So, Nabi has given you a pretty good overview of the book and our general observations of it. Chapter 2 includes Sun Jung’s reading of the masculinity represented by Bae Yong Joon. We here at KPK have pretty strong opinions because most of the time, we are fairly confident in what we’re talking about.  This is the reason why I’m not going to talk about Sun Jung’s analysis of Bae Yong Joon. I haven’t seenWinter Sonata, so I can’t tell say anything about her reading of the way “middle-aged Japanese women” (her phrase) read Bae Yong Joon’s masculinity.

But that’s doesn’t mean I don’t have things to say about this chapter, because she talks about more than Bae Yong Joon. I was really struck by the way she framed her discussion of Bae Yong Joon by talking about “pretty boys” in Korean popular culture in general.

Read more at (Originally published on July 22, 2011)

Why I Do Kpop Even Though Chuckleheads Keep Giving Me The Side-Eye

Hey shorty…It’s me (Kpop)

I gotta tell you something

It’s about us

I’ve been seeing other people

Millions of other people, around the world

I really think this is gonna work out baby

I’m not sorry

–KPK’s Reimagining of Eric’s intro to Shinhwa’s Crazy

“You cannot understand Kpop unless you are Korean.”

Recently, I heard this statement, in more than one place, uttered by more than one person.  Not only is this perception narrow-minded and old-fashioned, it does not reflect the international reality of Kpop.

Read more at (Originally published on July 30, 2011)

An Informal Review of Sun Jung’s Korean Masculinities, Part 4, Or Who Are You Calling a Cult?

So now I’m going to tackle Sun Jung’s analysis of fan reaction to Chan-wook Park’s film, Oldboy.  Basically, Sun Jung argues that, well, I’ll let her explain it:

Chapter 4 focuses on Western cult fandom of the Korean genre film, Oldboy, and discusses how postmodern South Korean masculinitiy is reconstructed through the ambivalent desires of Western spectators based on the mixed practice ofmugukjeok, and neo-Orientalism. This chapter explains how the Western desire for the Other is expressed, transformed, and redefined by consuming hybrid South Korean masculinity, as exemplified by the “savage but cool” Dae-Soo, and how this transformed desire, “with a distinctly postmodern slant,” is different from earlier Orientalist desires towards the primitive Other. . . . Hence, Western audiences of Oldboy experience hybrid “time between dog and wolf,” which refers to the time when they cannot identify whether Dae-Soo is a “cool” friend or a savage stranger. (31-2)

Read more at (Originally published August 25, 2011)

Stealing the Show: Unintentional Leads in Queen Seondeok and Warrior Baek Dong Soo

When a Kdrama starts, I’m sure the writers have a clear idea of who the lead character is. Sometimes, that plan goes awry, as other characters become so compelling that they come in and steal the show.

Read more at (published September 3, 2011)

Yo, Where’s My Stuff?!: Dwindling Access To Kpop


If you are an avid fan of Kpop, you most likely listen to a wide variety of artists. This means that you are downloading music regularly, and in order to do that, you need a steady supplier. If you are an international fan of Kpop, however. this is getting increasingly more difficult to find…..

Read more at (published July 24, 2011)

One Agency To Rule Them All?


On June 24, 2011 several high-profile idols, including Kim Hyun JoongSuper JuniorTVXQ and 2PM gathered to help launchUnited Asia Management, an agency that represents a collaboration among the top Korean agencies, including SM EntertainmentYG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment. While this may be a great way to pool resources to extend the global reach of Kpop, the collaboration could also worsen some of more suspect elements of Korean idol system…..

Read more at (published July 14, 2011)