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Who's afraid of the new Korean pop music craze?

Update: March, 23/2012 - 10:39

This week:

Since 2008, Earth Hour, a global event annually held on the last Saturday of March has attracted millions of participants across over a hundred countries around the world.

By encouraging people to turn off their non-essential lights for an hour, the event hopes to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change.

In Viet Nam, the Earth Hour celebration helped save 500,000kWh in 2010 and 400,000 kWh in 2011, according to Electricity of Viet Nam.

This year, the event will take place on March 31 from 8:30pm to 9:30pm.

Despite its well-intended aim, the go-green initiative still faces criticism, even from electricity experts who say that turning off lights cause negative effects such as increased carbon dioxide emissions from candle use, petroleum exhaustion via youth racing round town in celebration and traffic jams.

Do you celebrate Earth Hour every year, and how?

Do you think the celebration of Earth Hour is effective in helping reduce energy consumption and promoting people's awareness of environmental problems?

How do you suggest celebrating Earth Hour in addition to/rather than switching off lights?

Emails should be sent to: opinion@vnsmail.com – or by fax to (84-4) 3 933 2311. Letters can be sent to The Editor, Viet Nam News, 11 Tran Hung Dao Street, Ha Noi. Replies to this week's questions must be received by Thursday morning, March 29.

Last week, Viet Nam News asked its readers whether Vietnamese adults should be worried about the influence of the Korean pop-music craze on Vietnamese teenagers. We wondered if the mania existed in other countries and, if so, were youth in other places encouraged to enjoy new trends while respecting their own traditions?

Here're some responses:

Antonia Maiolo, Australian, Sydney

Teens in Australia have similar tendencies to idolise celebrities and pop stars, but in my opinion not to the extent that has a majority of parents concerned about it affecting cultural values or societal morals.

I suppose this has to do with the fact that Australia is a western, multicultural country that has citizens belonging to a variety of different religions and cultural backgrounds. Adults should not worry unless the person or thing that they idolise is influencing them to do wrong, for example commit a crime.

If Vietnamese children are idolising pop stars because they look up to them for their talent, fashion sense and looks, I don't see this as a major problem unless a pop star has an eating disorder for instance. This could influence young girls to eat less, which is not necessarily a good thing.

Vietnamese culture is an ancient culture with deeply embedded values and social codes that I believe cannot be altered by a single foreign pop band - or several.

Australia I think manages to ward off negative influences simply by its geographical isolation. But I disagree with the premise that outside cultures are negative. Australia since the 70s has embraced a multicultural society which means to accept and respect other cultures and nationalities.

I'm not very familiar with Korean Pop culture. However, it depends on how it affect teens. Does it harm them? If not, I do not see the problem.

Kun Lanh, Vietnamese, Paris

I am proud to say I am a fan of Kpop. I admire Korean idol-music bands including DBSK, Girl's Generation and 2NE1 for three reasons.

Firstly, they represent talent chosen by an entertainment company from among thousands of Korean children about 12 years old. Then, they were trained by music experts for seven years before giving their first stage performance.

Secondly, their music products are really professional. Their music videos have good sound, lyrics and images and have big budgets.

Thirdly, I can "find" myself in their music. When I am sad, some of their songs cheer me up. When I am stressed, they help me relax. When I am in love, their songs also express my feelings with meaningful lyrics.

Also thanks to them, I have become acquainted with wonderful friends who share the same idols with me. However, I am just a fan, not a maniac. I am against Vietnamese maniacs of Kpop who spend a lot of time setting up online forums, fan pages and anti-fan pages to condemn, besmear and fight against each other's idols.

These maniacs not only are addicted to Korean food, clothes and traditional customs, but also look down on Vietnamese culture. This gives adults the wrong impression about Kpop and its idol-music bands, even though they may never have watched a performance.

Moreover, many young Vietnamese people spend a lot of money buying CDs, albums and posters of Korean singers and more on tickets for their shows. They ask their parents for big sums of money to spend on their favourites. If refused, many steal.

I work part-time to earn money to buy tickets when the Koreans perform in Europe and my parents are happy about this.

My mother spends time watching Kpop shows with me on television and listening to my stories about them. However, she always gently reminds me of the limits to my admiration.

Piet Bels, Belgian, HCM City

Parents should not be concerned. The success of these Korean bands is the due to their understanding of how kids think and feel. They have freedom of expression and production and marketing are of excellent quality.

It's not difficult to observe how kids here are sandwiched between different values: the old so-called traditional ones or the ones that invade the minds through the internet and other media.

However, I believe the notion of traditional values is a delusion. Values are never static. It's human nature to be inquisitive and to want to go beyond the known horizon. And nothing can stop this - except another band!

Lawry Bee Tin Yeo, Singaporean, HCM City

Why worry about Vietnamese children going crazy over the KPop group as long as they are under control. This is part of the growing up process of children anywhere in the world. Imitating group styles, clothing and hairdo's is only a passing phase.

Parents should not feel concerned and wonder what has happened to their kids. It is natural. I am a parent also and I like to see my children have a good mix of activities. But I also have them under control and they do well in their studies.

Children in Singapore enjoy these pop concerts and get wild too, but they are also well under control. During my young days I had similar feelings about pop singers such as Elvis Presley, the Beatles and many other rock'n roll singers who some adults thought were repulsive.

Le Hop, Vietnamese, Ha Noi

I recently saw a photo of hundreds of teenagers running to a car carrying Super Junior despite the danger of being hit by other vehicles. These kids risking their lives can be my children or yours. We can't ignore this image, can we?

I have seen Vietnamese children dyeing their hair the same colour as their idols, wearing similar make-up and strange clothes. They also eat such things as "kimbab", "tokboki" or "kimchi" and call their brothers "oppa" and sisters "unni'. Should we as adults worry about these influences?

Young people have idols because they want someone to look up to and have someone to inspire them. A study by a Swedish expert showed that one of the reasons young people are attracted to idols is related to a feeling of inadequacy - a longing to develop a different lifestyle or character traits to gain popularity. Idols thus fulfil young people's secret desires and needs.

However, our teenagers maybe too young to define what is bad or good. If they remain obsessed by their idols day and night, they will eventually lose their present identity.

I allow my 16-year-old daughter to admire her idol if she follows certain conditions, such as getting good marks at school and wearing clothes that are not too shocking. But I must confess I am not sure if my efforts will bring results.

John MacDonald, Australian, Ha Noi

As an adult, I find Korean pop groups easy to watch. The same can be said for Korean news broadcasts, game shows and especially documentaries.

To me, this fluid and highly professional approach to communications is a sign of the maturity of the South Korean people and their thriving nation. That Koreans could ever produce their own compelling variety of modern music is a total surprise.

Several decades ago, there were few modern bands in Asia of any note. Only the fabulous Filipinos could hold their own on the Asian or international circuit.

The emergence of the Kpop groups, even though they have been artificially developed, is a healthy sign. This shows that Asian teenagers will not have to always rely on Western idols for their dreams and inspiration. It's a kind of musical revolution! — VNS

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