Saturday,
June 23, 2018

Saturday,
June 23, 2018

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Students in Hallyu Wave Find Common Ground as K-Pop Fans

Hallyu Wave members Erick Torres, Amy Trinh and Adreanna Thai danced to K-pop, Korean popular music, during a recent performance. If you don't see the video, watch it on Vimeo.

UT Dallas sophomore Erick Torres still remembers the first time he heard the catchy melodies and vocals of K-pop music back in high school.

K-pop, short for Korean popular music, fuses electronic, hip-hop, pop, rock, and rhythm and blues music with synchronized choreography and slick production values. Originating in South Korea, the musical genre and its related fashion and subculture have a growing worldwide fan base.

“It was a brand-new spectrum for me,” Torres said. “It was unique and so different. It’s very addicting, definitely an eye-opener.”

When he enrolled at UT Dallas last year, Torres was delighted to find other K-pop fans on campus. During freshman orientation, he learned about Hallyu Wave, an organization of diverse students who celebrate Korean popular music, history and language.

Now Torres, a sophomore in the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication, is president of Hallyu Wave. Its 20 or so student members gather each month to practice K-pop dance moves, discuss their favorite soloists and groups, and explore Korean culture and history.

“We even have Korean words of the week that we all learn,” Torres said.

members of Hallyu Wave dancing at the plinth

Adreanna Thai (left) performs with Hallyu Wave.

Hallyu is Korean for wave. That wave of Korean pop music and culture has grown for two decades — from a distinctive musical genre into an entire subculture among teenagers and young adults throughout Asia. Thanks to such viral hits as the 2012 song “Gangnam Style,” which has had more than 3 billion views on YouTube, K-pop has reached global audiences.

Fans around the world are fascinated with both the music and the style of girl groups like T-ara and male idols such as the boy group Vixx. In the United States, the K-pop boy band BTS made history last year when the group’s EP “Love Yourself: Her” debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 album chart.

South Korea’s best-known pop music export recently was showcased during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang when K-pop stars EXO and CL performed in the closing ceremony.

I really liked the songs and the music. It’s very upbeat with a lot of rhythm, and has a lot of emotion that you don’t always get in Western pop.

Adreanna Thai, health care management sophomore

Adreanna Thai, a health care management sophomore in the Naveen Jindal School of Management, recalled being impressed when she saw the K-pop movie “The Wonder Girls” as an adolescent.

“I saw the movie trailer and thought, ‘Wow, Asian girls are singing,’” said Thai, whose family is Vietnamese. “I really liked the songs and the music. It’s very upbeat with a lot of rhythm, and has a lot of emotion that you don’t always get in Western pop.”

Thai didn’t know anyone else at her high school in Frisco, Texas, who listened to K-pop. Joining Hallyu Wave has given her like-minded friends at UT Dallas. Being part of the organization’s performance team is a way for her to express herself and “let some energy out.”

Torres said anyone who likes to dance can learn K-pop moves, but the synchronization takes some work. He leads the organization’s dance tutorials and performance team rehearsals, making sure dancers work together in unison.

Members also mimic the “street-style” fashion of their idols — including red jeans, the latest sneakers and oversized jackets.

“It’s all about the accessories. Everything correlates. It’s like hip-hop, with just a hint of class,” said Torres, who has already influenced his two younger sisters to become K-pop fans.

Torres wants to continue learning about South Korea, possibly even through a summer intensive language program.

Eventually, he hopes to put his studies in emerging media and communication to work on social media platforms, preferably for the K-pop entertainment industry.

“That would be my dream job,” Torres said.

Media Contact: Robin Russell, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4431, [email protected]
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].


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