Is Plagiarism a New Genre?
By Lee Sung-moo
Korean pop culture was very far from the mainstream back in the 1980s and `90s. The mainstream of pop culture used to be dominated by Hollywood, Hong Kong and Japan.
But ever since numerous Korean soaps made big splashes throughout Asia, Korean culture has become a new icon of pop culture at least in Asia and we can see ``hallyu ― the Korean wave" ― often in The Times, CNN and many other international mass medias.
After the big wave of TV series, of course, many Korean songs and singers became very popular, too. Now, a lot of bands and singers are enjoying sold-out concerts and they generate tremendous album sales outside of Korea. Hallyu is not only a one-shot event but also a trend in the entertainment world. Obviously, Korea has hundreds of bands and idols on stage and hundreds of others are training to get their shot. However, some hallyu singers and bands have both fame and shame.
About a month ago, G-Dragon, a member of Big Bang, which is one of the hottest boy bands in Korea, released his first solo album. He is known as a ``genius singer-songwriter" and he made the most of the band's songs. The songs that he composed hit the charts and became anthems for youngsters. As soon as he made his solo debut, all the charts were his and the spotlight was on him.
But after only a few days, I could see a lot of criticism about his two songs and a very interesting sign [Ctrl C + Ctrl V by G-Dragon]. The sign is a shortcut of copy and paste for MS Word and Hangeul, the nationwide program for word documents in Korea, and other various computer programs. This is sarcasm for the plagiarism issue among some netizens.
His two songs ``Heart Breaker" and ``Butterfly" were suspected of plagiarizing the world famous rapper Flo Rida's song ``Right Round" and rock band Oasis's ``She's Electric," respectively. Fans of G-Dragon were annoyed and rejected the allegation outright, but some of the critics and musicians pointed it out as a chronic disease of Korean pop.
After considering the storm that was developing, Sony BMG, after some days, sent an official warning letter on Sept. 17 to YG family, the company of super idol groups such as Big Bang and 2NE1, about non-permission use of other artists' contents.
To date, there is no answer from the company. After the official warning, the singer still sings the songs on stage and they continue to be at the top of Korean pop charts. Furthermore, G-Dragon's fans point out that the people who criticize plagiarism really have no objective thoughts about the issue. They have acted like misdirected people and have finally defined the criticism as a ``witch hunt." Personally, I'd like to point out a few things about this issue.
First, YG family and the singer have to explain to their fans about the official warning. Everyone knows about it and people are waiting for the truth. But, for weeks, nobody has given clear answers, even though this is one of the hottest issues in Korea. Many people are waiting for the truth and audiences deserve to be informed.
Second, the fans need to have an objective view about this issue. Supporting their favorite stars is natural and no one will blame them for that, but supporters and fanatics are very different. If you really love the singer and encourage him, now is the time to take objective criticism. Without reasonable and logical thoughts, your behavior is nothing but meaningless worship.
Last but not least, all the broadcasting companies take this issue really seriously. If the song and the singer are suspicious, you need to stop playing it and stop showing them. Continuing to act negligently could make listeners feel that copyright and plagiarism are minor problems.
G-Dragon and his band Big Bang are the icons of Korean pop. As I mentioned above, Korean pop culture is not only for the people. Millions of Asians are watching and chasing after Korean stars and culture, too. Moreover, many Korean stars are dreaming and trying hard to spread their wings to other parts of the world (i.e. the Wonder Girls in America). However, no one can stand on stage with fake songs.
So, I exhort you, G-Dragon, to be a real ``dragon." Spread out your own talent in the entertainment world. Don't just perform as a ``drag-on" specialist.
The writer teaches English, and creates and organizes programs at UNESCO GPV as the head teacher. He also used to be a freelance writer for HOT Music magazine and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.