A hit in the west, mukbangs started at the Korean table

By Nadine Kam I

If you follow Korean culture, you’ll eventually arrive at the mukbang.

Mukbangs started out true to the meaning of the word that translates as “eating video,” based on early variety TV shows that had hosts following guests on eating adventures. They took off in South Korea because of its highly social culture. In the absence of friends or family, people found they were a comforting way to vicariously enjoy a meal with others.

These days, mukbangs have become more commonly associated with the trainwreck spectacle of watching people gorge on massive piles of food on par with competitive eaters.

Food is one of the first subjects people tend to think of when they hear the word “Korean.” When I mention K-pop, people often start making associations and talk about K-dramas and how they make them hungry because the characters are always eating. That is part of Korean branding. Its democratic government knew South Korea would never achieve power through might, so they pushed soft power, winning people over with their food, music, entertainment and culture. It worked as interest in such soft subjects has boosted South Korea’s economy through interest in its electronics, food and beauty products, its tourism industry and enrollment in Korean language schools.

K-pop stars have to continuously come up with ways to keep fans entertained and one of them is through eating segments on their live feeds, travelogs or video diaries. BlackPink’s Rosé is one of the cutest eaters, maybe because of her chipmunk cheeks. I need to watch and learn from her!

I am constantly in restaurants because I write about them for a living, so mukbangs were a natural extension of what I was already doing. Bringing them back to their original form, the intent is to introduce some of Hawaii’s new restaurants, popular and trendy places, holes-in-the-wall venues that people may miss, and high-end restaurants that some may not be able to afford but still want “to experience” through the camera lens before deciding whether or not to commit their hard-earned dollars to a firsthand visit.

My latest was a visit to Don E Don restaurant at 919 Keeaumoku St., which is best known for red pepper pork spareribs and sea salt spareribs, differing from many Korean restaurants that tend to focus on beef.

It’s a relatively small space that tends to fill up quickly at peak lunch and dinner hours, but worth checking out.

BlackPink’s summer diary in Hawaii available in pre-sale

By Nadine Kam I

BlackPink was on Oahu in mid-July to film various activities over a few days for a travelog, “BLACKPINK Summer Diary: In Hawaii.” At the time, I wrote a story for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser about their activities.

Group members Jennie Kim, Jisoo Kim, Rosé (Park Chae-young) and Lisa Manoban posted dozens of photos from the Kahala Hotel, where fans also spotted and photographed them swimming with dolphins.

This image of Jennie kissing the dolphin Hua appeared on her IG account.

Well, YG Entertainment just announced the release of a photobook package, “2019 BLACKPINK’s Summer Diary (In Hawaii),” with photos and videos of the group vacationing in Hawaii (they’re always working vacations) after completing their first world tour. It must be noted that they kept smiles on their faces (mostly) even though some weren’t feeling well.

Rosé was feeling ill and posted these images to her IG, referring to, “A sick balloon for a sick Rosie.”

The photo book is available for pre-order through Sept. 8 KST on Amazon.com for $62.99. It will be officially released on Sept. 9.

YG artists regularly release winter season films and photobooks. This project marks its first summer season product.

Dance diary: Black Pink’s ‘Ddu-Du Ddu-Du’

On Feb. 2, 2019, we danced the chorus of Black Pink’s “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du” during our beginner K-pop dance class. As I’m still catching up on the past after starting this dance blog, the timing is good in light of the quartet’s debut yesterday, April 12, at the Coachella music festival in Indio, Calif.

I’m happy about their reception in this country because back in September I said on Facebook that Black Pink is likely to be the next K-pop breakthrough act in America. Why? I said so because of racism in this country. It’s been the case in entertainment since the 1920s that this country has been willing to support only one major Asian-American star at a time because some non-Asians think we all look alike. So whenever an Asian role comes up, the chosen one typically gets cast over and over again, from Anna May Wong to Bruce Lee, Nancy Kwan up until today’s Margaret Cho and her successor Awkwafina.

In K-pop world, the band of the moment in this country is BTS, but because they’re men, there is room for an act people can recognize apart from that group of seven Koreans, that is, a group of women.

Black Pink is certainly deserving, and at that moment were arguably the hottest girl band in South Korea, prior to the arrival of Itzy.

👁 🎧 Black Pink’s music video

At any rate, “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du” is a really catchy song, and so is the dance created by American choreographer Kyle Hanagami, who is based in L.A.

Usually in class, we just dance in a line, but on this day we tried the moving formation. It was really fun, but Black Pink tends to be sexy and I am so not.

Dance calls for a lot of acting, but I grew up without movement, so it feels like an awkward lie.

Around this time I started thinking that there is so much more to dance than people realize. Non-dancers think of it as merely a physical act, but there’s a lot of psychology behind it, and just as there are sports psychologists who help athletes perform better, I feel as if I need a dance psychologist.

When I mention this to my dance instructors, they don’t really understand. They are instructors likely because they moved naturally and started dance lessons in early childhood, so they’re not likely to understand the trials of someone starting as an adult.

I would go as far as saying dance is 40 percent physical, and 60 percent mental, just because I am not a great mover, but can certainly follow along and pick up the choreography. Making it look good is still a problem, but my mental blocks are even harder to overcome.

Dance diary: A walk through Black Pink’s ‘As if it’s Your Last’ and BTS Home Party

By Nadine Kam I

Through this dance class, dated Jan. 12, 2019, I wanted to share the process of learning and creating a formation to show that it’s not a scary endeavor at all and to encourage any closet dancer to come out and take a chance on learning something new.

For a year, I’d been inviting some sedentary friends to come keep me company and get some fun exercise, but a little aerobics is one thing and dance is another. Dance tends to make people feel intimidated. And videos are the bane of dance teachers. On the one hand, they love to show their work and accomplishments, partially as a way of enticing people to come out and dance. But when people see the end result, their first thought is, “I can’t do that.”

It’s the same way I feel at the start of each class. Every time I’m shown the K-pop videos, I think, “I can’t do that.” But rather than stopping there, my second thought is, “Oh well, let’s give it a try.”

Each teacher, here Sarah Replogle, is able to break the dances down into bite size chunks, so non-dancers will be surprised how much they can actually do when taking it slowly. K-pop dance is one form in which anyone with no dance background can jump into without risk of injury.

Alas, I used to invite friends to also join me in beginning ballet, modern and jazz classes, but it’s weird to say that even though I’m still a novice in all these forms, I’ve advanced in a year to the point that they could not join me in the same classes, at risk of hurting themselves without a foundation in technique.

The one thing I’ve learned through ballet is that the exercises never end. Even the pros continue to perform the same exercises as we do as beginners to maintain their form and balance, and build strength.

This video shows how slowly we walk through the moves to get to the end.

A slow walk-through of Black Pink’s “As if it’s Your Last” chorus after about 30 minutes of learning the choreography. I don’t care that I’m lagging in this first attempt at a formation.

👁 Watch: Black Pink “As if it’s Your Last”

Around this time, because of all the modern dance I had been doing, I was feeling more confident and when I watched this BTS Home Party dance practice video featuring J-Hope, Jimin and Jungkook, and other of their raw practice videos, I felt like if I were in the same room with them, I would be able to pick up choreography just as quickly as they do with their 10-plus years of dance and stage experience, often putting 11 to 16 hours a day into rehearsals vs. my four or five hours a week. Of course they are far more brilliant in their presentation than I am as a beginner much older than them, but their process is the same and watching them helps me set goals.

I am in no way a natural dancer. I move in strange ways and am totally uncoordinated, but I always felt as if anyone could learn choreography. It’s looking good doing it that’s the problem. It takes a lot of strength and technique to achieve the long, clean lines, posture and balance that Jimin maintains, plus a lot of flexibility to arch and flatten your back.

I didn’t have much of a problem with flexibility when I was taking nine classes a week and stretching daily, but now that I’m down to about four classes weekly, weighted toward the end of the week, I can feel how the body contracts and stiffens in the downtime. I don’t know how I lived 20 years as a couch potato when I feel the difference now after just three days of non-movement. Lol!

Because I never moved since childhood, and had no dance training, all the moves felt unnatural a year ago, but over time, movement grows on you. When I watch casual, personal videos of the K-pop stars, I notice they are always a second away from showing dance moves or dance hand gestures. I’ve noticed the same thing happening to me when I sit down to eat and hear music. Movement is starting to come more naturally as a matter of everyday life.

Anyway, I’ve pretty much done every move BTS does in this dance video, including hitting the floor with the kick in the air, but the longest segment of choreography I can commit to my brain is 1 minute. Dance is a challenge of memory as well as physicality. I am working to build new neural connections. In a way, I guess you could say if your strengths are elsewhere, dance makes you smarter.