Another week, another roundtable!

There are countless ways in which fans go about being an active participant of K-pop. On the consumer end, fans may save money to go to concerts, buy albums and merchandise, or watch Kdramas in their spare time. Other fans take the next step in generating their own content by remixing songs, creating artwork, or even writing their own fanfiction starring their favorite K-pop idols.

Here at Seoulbeats, we choose to participate by sharing our honest opinions about all aspects of K-pop (the good and the bad) with you readers, in hopes of facilitating further and deeper discussions about K-pop from different perspectives around the world.

The question this week for our writers is: Why did you join Seoulbeats, and what you like about writing on the team?

Michelle: I feel that I’m in something of an awkward position to answer this question, since I’m so new in almost every sense of the word. I’m new to Seoulbeats, and as strange as it might seem, new to K-pop. Still, there’s something about hours upon hours of “research” that gets a person attached and a tad too knowledgeable — and of course, nothing quite beats seeing your idols in the flesh.

Before Seoulbeats, I had my own music review blog. Once that had gone down due to the requirements my life had for me, I found that I wanted to write more than ever. Writing had been ingrained in me at a young age. Fiction was one form I could express myself freely in but more serious, analytical writing was what I wanted to improve in and continue writing. It just so happened that I ran across Seoulbeats, saw the connection with what I had been doing for the past year — writing reviews and articles on J-pop and K-pop and realised that this was probably what I needed. As such, I sent in an application and somehow, it landed me here. Truth to be told, part of it was very self-centred but I still, I had genuinely wanted to contribute to the fandom however I could. Writing was something I knew I could do well enough and I just thought that this was a perfect way to simply talk about something I loved. And well, in this instance, somebody might actually listen to me, contrary to the hyper fangirl real-life me who spoke too fast with too much enthusiasm.

The SB family was also a pleasant bonus, I admit.

Gaya: I initially never intended to write for Seoulbeats at all, to be honest. I’d discovered the site during what I dub The Great Minho Google Search, and I’m pretty sure I’ve read every Minho-related article on this site. I was still ridiculously new to K-pop (I remember looking at the SB homepage at one point and going “What on earth is DBSK?”), and reading Seoulbeats has provided me with a lot of the K-pop knowledge I have today. I always looked forward to the “5 Things I Loved in K-pop” posts, because they gave me an insight into all the various facets of hallyu (variety shows, dramas, music) in one convenient post.

I wanted to be more involved with Seoulbeats but didn’t feel confident enough in my knowledge to write full-length articles; so I joined as a proofreader, thinking that I’d eventually absorb enough to be able to consider writing. When I told Young-Ji of my concerns, she suggested talking to the other writers to learn more, and from there, the Seoulbeats Exhcange was formed.

I’ve really enjoyed doing the exchanges — I’ve learnt a lot not only from my now associates, but so much from the comments section as well. Seoulbeats has one of the most intelligent, articulate and thoughtful readerships not only in K-pop, but throughout the internet, and their comments have never ceased to give me food for thought. I appreciate every comment I get, praise and criticism alike, and I’ve discovered so many new things from them (like the joys of listening to the entirety of IU’s Last Fantasy album).

Dana: Blogging has been a pastime of mine for quite awhile now. I began blogging during my year abroad in Seoul as a means to keep up with family/friends back at home and to provide future students who might like to study in South Korea with some practical advice. However, about four or five months into my stay, my posts began to take a turn away from my day-to-day experiences and I focused more and more on socio-cultural observations about the society in which I was participating. Being that K-pop was always one of my greatest loves and something that I followed seriously both while in Korea and while at home, spazzy (and serious) posts about K-pop began making their way into my blogging routine.

As a longtime reader of Seoulbeats, getting the opportunity to blog for a greater (and obviously K-pop-loving) audience has been an honor and a consistent source of both entertainment and inspiration. Writing for Seoulbeats provides me with an outlet through which I can fangirl obsessively or tear down an idol from his/her pedestal; it allows me the chance not only to share my own humble opinions with both my fellow writers and readers, but in turn to hear their opinions and grow in my knowledge of K-pop and its place in Korean culture. Oh, and it spares my non-K-pop-loving friends from having to put up with an onslaught of squealing every day.

But what I love most about writing for Seoulbeats (and here I echo many of the other writers) is that Seoulbeats really, truly does keep it real. Selcas are not news, and not every idol deserves the blind adulation they are often given on other sites. Seoulbeats writers and readers are unafraid to engage with K-pop on a deeper level, and very few topics are off-limits. I think that Seoulbeats stands alone in its willingness to both celebrate our love and appreciation for K-pop and to call it out when such a call-out is due. I love being an active participant in this community because it truly is a community of like-minded and enthusiastic people who love what they do as much as they love K-pop. I always look forward to seeing what our writers and readers will conjure up.

Justin: I decided to join the team because I felt that I could contribute a different perspective to Seoulbeats. Seoulbeats is not like other Korean entertainment sites, being geared towards intellectual editorials on various subjects in the Korean entertainment industry. Because of the prestige that I give this community, I wanted to build upon its strong points while also contributing my own opinions and perspectives to the site, namely in two aspects.

The first was with humor. When I was just a ghost follower, I felt that Seoulbeats could have been a little more light hearted because, let’s face it: K-pop really should not be taken too seriously. The articles were very well thought out and in-depth, but sometimes you just need something to make you laugh and relax. Knowing this, I try to be more light hearted and relaxed in my articles to let the readers know the Seoulbeats team doesn’t take everything in the Korean entertainment industry too seriously.

My other contribution that I thought I can make is that, well, I am a guy, and it would be cool to have a guy’s perspective on the team. There hasn’t been a male writing for the team a long time, and I thought that it would be good to have a representative from the other side. I think that in the K-pop world, it’s really hard to know a guy’s perspective besides the stereotypical “she’s hot” remarks. I want to share to everybody that not every single guy listens to K-pop just to fantasize about girl members, and that there are guys that actually do listen to K-pop.

Now having been in the team for a while. I am no longer a newbie at Seoulbeats, and I can definitely say that I am glad that I am on this team. Everyone here is really unique; we have people from Hawaii, Australia, England, and it’s really cool to see the diversity of the team in perspectives. It is also interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes of Seoulbeats with the operations and mechanics, but trust me — the Seoulbeats staff members really do have an adorkable side to them. I love the team that I get to work and talk with everyday.

Gil: I only read Seoulbeats for a couple of weeks before I decided to apply. Granted, I went through a gazillion posts in a day during that time, but I enjoyed how the writers weren’t afraid to express their opinions — however unpopular they may be — and were willing to face the wrath of pissed off fangirls/boys, which is something I find very admirable in our team.

I decided to join Seoulbeats because I loved how the writers have a different perspective on K-pop. After spending too much time reading about so-and-so’s cute/sexy/sad/aegyo selcas, I welcomed the new perspective. I learned a lot from the writers and commentators on K-pop, like discovering new groups and thinking about the impacts this industry has on society and culture. Since we have so many people writing for our site, it allows for a wide range of opinions and perspectives, and the fact that we ourselves hail from all over the world and with different backgrounds also helps shape our different perspectives.

We have our ups and downs as a team, but we work as a big family.We not only spend time to spazz over various pretty K-pop boys but we truly support each other and give feedback. Don’t worry — as cynical as we may seem on our site, we are also just a bunch of fans who squeal and capslock to our hearts’ content.

Maddie: When I joined Seoulbeats, I didn’t even know what fangirling was, and nor was I familiar with K-pop fandom in the absolute. To be honest, I didn’t read blogs dedicated to K-pop or K-pop news sites until I began training. Out of all the writers, I believe I was the least knowledgeable when I first began writing for the site. My knowledge of K-pop was limited to whatever MVs were available on YouTube by KARA, SNSD, Big Bang, 2ne1, DBSK, and Rainbow, which weren’t much at the time. I’m sure I’m not the only one here who remembers a time when K-pop wasn’t available on iTunes and there were no company or official YouTube Channels for groups and artists.

You’re probably asking yourself why someone would chose to write for a site when she didn’t even have a clear grasp on the subject. It’s simple: the challenge to write articles that go beyond the bright, colorful lights, catchy tunes and the certain level of superficiality typical to K-pop is one of the reasons why I’ve continued to write for Seoulbeats. My obsession to find meaning in a genre that’s sprung up terms like ‘chocolate abs,’ ‘bagel girl,’ ‘troll,’ and ‘anti-fan;’ a genre that most of my friends and family are either disinterested in or completely unaware of has been what’s fueled my extensive research and writing process.

Though I consider myself to be one of the more “serious” writers on the team, I’m glad some writers have joined to add a bit of humor and lightheartedness, as well as plenty of others who also have an interest in the socio-cultural aspect of K-pop. This is another reason why I write for Seoulbeats — the atmosphere. Our staff writers are opinionated, but are always up for an open-minded discussion and, although we do tend to “spazz out” from time to time, we’re a focused group. Our editors are understanding, offering advice and amazing feedback and our readers are always keeping us on track and driving us to improve.

I also wanted to write about music, which is something I’m very passionate about (although I’m still attempting to learn Hyde’s “Angel’s Tale” on guitar — yes, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” just was below me). K-pop is not just one of the many genres I listen to but one that I spend hours of my free-time researching for and writing about. Writing music reviews and op-ed articles for Seoulbeats is just something that’s very fulfilling — especially when a reader’s insightful comment provides a wonderful sense of accomplishment and communication.

Natalie: I came across Seoulbeats shortly after getting into K-pop. Whenever I come across something new, I want to know all about it, and so I had this mad curiosity other K-pop sites couldn’t fix. I wanted to know who was really bad, who was really good, who was overexposed, who was underappreciated, and about everything that went into K-pop. I found it all so interesting because it was completely unlike what I was used to. Unfortunately for me, most K-pop sites don’t enforce a lot of criticism or analysis into K-pop groups, so I had to go on a search. I don’t remember how I came upon Seoulbeats exactly — I might’ve been searching for an SNSD article — but I was so glad when I did, because the writers and readers here aren’t afraid to bluntly state their opinions and criticisms. They appeared more savvy than most K-pop fans I had seen, so Seoulbeats quickly became my favorite K-pop website.

I didn’t join the writing team until a few months later, however. An article had been posted about wanting new writers and I, thinking it would be good experience for the future, applied. I was accepted and after a few weeks of training, I was on the team. I don’t regret it at all — it’s been a very rewarding experience. The other writers are great and I find all the criticisms I get for my articles (no matter how painful) to be rewarding because they help shape me into being a better writer bit by bit. And also, I’m learning more and more about a different culture (South Korea) and subculture (K-pop fandom), and I still find it all very fascinating.

Nabeela: I joined Seoulbeats because the writers here are not afraid to call K-pop for what it is. K-pop is a colorful and complex music business, and it can be hard as a fan to find sites that are brave enough that formally point out its cruel irony and discuss related social issues. Seoulbeats offers readers honest perspective and a platform for discussion; in other words, a dose of reality for the fantasy that is K-pop.

After being a reader since the site’s debut, I decided to join Seoulbeats to be able to share my endless opinions and thoughts on K-entertainment. I absolutely love writing for Seoulbeats because the staff here is a genius group of individuals, some with an insane sense of humor (*cough* Subi). Seoulbeats is a fun, argumentative place to be that has opened my eyes to new sides of K-pop and pop culture like never before!

Antonia: Similarly to Gil, I was getting selca-coverage fatigue, and so Seoulbeats was a haven of rational and grammatically accurate K-pop commentary. I found it particularly helpful becuase so few of my friends listen to K-pop and those that do I tend to have a language barrier with. You can squeal a bit about a new release or try to learn dance steps; but a disscussion about the long-term effect of K-pop in the West or the K-pop perspective of beauty is off the table.

However I never considered contributing above the odd comment; that is, until I saw the post for new writers and was instanly gavanised to…do nothing actually. I didn’t submit anything until very late (an article about JYJ/DBSK because I’m original like that) and then sat around the computer biting my nails. To my suprise, Young-Ji got in touch telling me I had been accepted to start training, which, I will tell you, makes idol trainees look like lacklustre do-nothings. I’d like to see them stop dancing and come and wrestle with Google images. Huh, the layabouts.

It’s rather odd (and a little daunting) to see your articles next to those by writers you have been following for a year or so, but it’s great fun too, much better then training for stardom. Less meeting of actual celebrities, but you can eat while you work.

Of course, one of the best things about writing for Seoulbeats are the writers themselves, who veer between mind-numbingly bright and informed to spazzing, squeeing capslock abusers in a way that should be terrifying but is actually something brilliant. They’re like the classmates you never had, but better.

Fannie: Most of the K-pop world runs and reasons on emotions and as much as I love my K-pop, I also feel strongly that the rising hysteria in K-pop fan culture needs to be counterbalanced in some way. The main motivation for me as a writer for this site is that I feel like I’m doing my part in attempting to fight the good fight against the affliction of K-pop fans that are so encased in their feelings that they’ve forgotten how to keep their minds open… and get along.

It’s been a great journey so far: what I really like about our team is that while we are most certainly a motley crew (we each have vastly different personalities, opinions, and preferences), somehow we still manage to mesh together quite nicely. As Gil mentioned above, we’ve really come to think of ourselves as one big dysfunctional family. The one main thing that I would say unites us is a desire to not only speak our honest opinions, but also to keep an open mind. The beauty of this site (and this encompasses both writers and readers alike) is that we are constantly learning from each other and building upon our understanding of K-pop.

I find that in most other areas of the K-pop internet, people with differences in opinion just can’t seem to get along. Sites are either strongholds of narcissism (fansites) or battlegrounds for fanwars, and there are very far and few alternatives in between. Although Seoulbeats itself is not able to completely escape from the aforementioned syndromes (sad but true), overall we try to communicate that having people with different opinions and tastes come together can be a GOOD thing as long as we respect each others’ opinions. In an ideal world, all K-pop fans would be able to get along the same way that our writing family does: we may have clashes in opinions, but it doesn’t get in the way of getting along and having fun.

So to address the question: my favorite part about being a writer for Seoulbeats (aside from being able to share my perspectives on socio-cultural issues with the world) is that I get to be part of such a wonderfully dysfunctional family. It’s a lot of hard work, but for me, it’s also a labor of love.

Patricia: I still remember the day when I officially became a part of the Seoulbeats team in 2009. Back then, my sixteen-year old self believed that that would be one of the happiest days in my life, for it was the culmination of the two biggest loves of my life: writing and music. Back then, I believed that Seoulbeats was a pretty big deal (and it was, considering the fact that there weren’t a ton of K-pop blogs to begin with at the time, let alone one that was so opinion-friendly), and to be a part of it was empowering.

My participation in Seoulbeats has fluctuated over the years, and I’ve only recently begun to invest more into the site — more time, more energy, and more of myself. It still strikes me as a bit silly that I spend so much time on K-pop of all things, and I’ve gotten used to the funny stares I get whenever I tell people that I write for a K-pop blog. But then I remember why I make it a point to tell people I write for Seoulbeats in the first place, and it all becomes clear.

The internet has made it easy for anyone with a keyboard and an opinion to post their thoughts for the world to see, and, with the right amount of luck and good timing, make a difference. I love working for Seoulbeats because, in my mind, we do make a difference here. Not in the sense that we’ve enacted great societal change or initiated a grand movement of cultural awareness; heck, it’s not even as if we have K-pop stars knocking down our doors demanding interviews. But we make a difference by being one of the only K-pop outlets where opinions are welcomed, valued, taken seriously, and amplified. Anyone can post a comment on a K-pop news article, but regardless of how insightful or valuable that comment may be, what are the chances of that comment effecting change without adequate exposure? I’m blessed to write for Seoulbeats, because I know that it’s a platform where my thoughts will be heard.

Perhaps it’s overly idealistic to think that our little blog will effect grand change in the K-pop industry, but my fingers are still crossed. K-pop is a drama-filled place — a place where angry screams and arguments oftentimes ring louder than thoughtful, civil discussion. Of course, as a writer I sometimes worry if K-pop is too inherently shallow for deep socio-cultural analysis, and I wonder if there will ever come a day when there is simply nothing left to write about K-pop. But at the same time, I think I need to put a little more faith in the intellectual capabilities of the K-pop community. As long as we’re immersed in K-pop, we’ll continue to think about K-pop, and we’ll continue to have opinions on K-pop. And in the end, it’s the circulation and amplification of those opinions that really matter.

Johnelle: I became a writer for Seoulbeats because I needed an outlet to share my thoughts, rants, raves, and love of K-pop with others. I’m the oldest member on the team and through working at Seoulbeats I have been able to rediscover my 13-year-old inner fangirl that had grown up way too fast and got bogged down by the daily hum drum of becoming a working adult.  It has also given me the chance to renew my affection for writing, and writing for something I enjoy instead of for grades or work.

The great thing about Seoulbeats is that it lets K-pop fans have a voice. As a fan, you realize that supporting K-pop is not only about praising the hell out of your favorite idols, it’s about being real and calling bullshit when you smell it. I’m not always the best at this because I’m old-school and of the thought that “if you have have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” But my dongsaengs on the site, who are so passionate and eloquent in their love of K-pop that they constantly make me feel inadequate, will always pick up the slack and bring truth as they know it to the site — even if that means we’ll be bombarded by hateful comments. No growth will ever be made in the K-pop industry if no one points out its inadequacies or faults, and that’s why we do what we do — we love K-pop and we want to see it prosper. But with the hate comes the love, and with every new K-pop fan whose eyes are opened to the issues that surround the world of K-pop through our articles and thanks us for that — that’s what makes all the sleepless nights staying up researching, writing, or editing for Seoulbeats worth it and why I enjoy writing for the site even after a couple of years.

The added bonus of being a part of the Seoulbeats family is the camaraderie and shared love of K-pop among the writers.  We all come from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and lands, but have found a connection through K-pop and writing for Seoulbeats.  And while that connection has sometimes caused my inbox to blow up with emails in the hundreds about an idol, their hair, their clothes, their new song, a new scandal, or their abs—the conversations are always enthusiastic, multifaceted, amusing and usually ends up with Subi saying something rated R about Yunho or telling us to “Keep relevant conversations in relevant threads!”  It’s a pleasure to work with such a passionate and talented bunch who care for each other and are always ready to lend a helping hand.

Young-ji: We founded Seoulbeats in 2008 with a group of writers and despite some rough patches we faced, we always have fun, either through the article we wrote, the new media we generated, random brunch/coffee dates with the team or the spontaneous skype/gchat sessions to discuss the current state of K-pop. Just like true friends, we do not hesitate to express our satisfaction as well as dissatisfaction whenever the situation warrants it — but we have the best intentions at heart. And although there are obvious differences in opinion even within our own team, I love that everyone on the team is open-minded and respectful of other writers’ opinions on various things. Also, I appreciate information that the young’ins or the more informed members of our team share with me on a daily basis to keep me more relevant to the K-pop scene — but who are we kidding? I still think DBSK has five members. Before I get too emotional, I’ll finish off with this — Seoulbeats holds a special place in my heart because it gave birth to some awesome friendships that I know will last a lifetime and they are worth every headache and challenge I faced because of the site to date.