Shannon Ryu

photo of Shannon Ryu
Shannon Ryu

Music  |  Education Studies

Music Capstone Project:

“Gugak and K-pop: Korean Government and Cultural Music Promotion”

In recent years, Korean culture has attained significant global attention, especially for pop music, television, and beauty products. This global attention translated to more than 10 billion dollars of revenue for the Korean government by the K-pop music industry alone. However, as K-pop becomes the outward-facing image of Korean music making, traditional music gets pushed to the margins. While this may seem like a harmless and natural consequence of modernization, the erasure of Korean traditional music, or gugak, could have detrimental impacts on the longevity of Korean culture both in terms of historical memory and contemporary relevance. Traditional music is taught in a way that is extremely removed from the rapidly urbanizing country. Though the government promotes the upkeep of traditional music-making through residence programs and subsidized education programs for selected practitioners, these initiatives can be inaccessible or unknown. Efforts to protect intangible cultural heritage trap cultural musical practices in their historical context, only allowing them to exist as a live museum rather than allowing them to adapt to the rapidly changing cultural landscape of Korea. As K-pop rises in significance in the global eye, even minor scrutiny over the industry unearths the perpetuation of cultural appropriation, along with many other problematic elements of the industry. In a comparison of gugak and K-pop promotion methods, I explore ways in which the government can bolster both art forms through collaboration, keeping the “K” in K-pop and creating relevance for gugak a rapidly modernized country.

Personal Statement:

When I came to Brown, I did not have any intention to concentrate in music, let alone take a music class. After taking my first music class, I couldn’t help but get sucked in. Thank you to Eric Nathan, Ivan Tan, and all of the other wonderful professors and mentors I’ve had for helping me ignite my love for music!