Organized Panel Session

1 - Idol Singers' Intimate Labor in the Global Circulation of K-Pop

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Madison B, Mezzanine Level

Although many Western pop singers, such as the Beatles, are emotionally connected to their fans through in-person and virtual meet-ups, such intimate relationship with their fans outside of musical realm is not the musicians’ primary source of profit or professional duty for their fans. Meanwhile, a majority of Korean K-pop fans consider it “unprofessional” when a male K-pop singer reveal his dating relationship even when it is exposed by paparazzi, because dating is a waste of time for those who “should be working hard by now” for the female fans. If a singer’s private life becomes criteria of professionalism in his career, who determines and applies such criteria to the singer? How do the singers negotiate with such surveillance? In this restricted environment, how do the singers and fans share emotions and create a sense of belonging with each other? What are the ways through which intimacy is economically transacted, and what are the roles of music in this transaction? Drawing on Boris and Parrenas’s idea of “intimate labor” (2010), I discuss cultural meanings of K-pop singers’ labor in the postindustrial market in which female fans purchase intimacy from their male singers. While the traditional notion of service work has primarily referred to emotional and/or physical contribution produced primarily by female laborers, I investigate how the K-pop male singers as service workers provide intimacy by caring female fans and being cared for by fans in the transaction of intimacy in the Korean music industry.

Stephanie J. Choi

University of California, Santa Barbara, California


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1 - Idol Singers' Intimate Labor in the Global Circulation of K-Pop

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