by Anna Lisa
My goal for COP27 is specifically to study the effects on Indigenous communities of mining different battery materials, the findings of which I will present at the American Chemical Society conference in the Spring. That being said, there’s no reason not to explore some unique events while I’m attending this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
On November 14, I visited the Korean Pavilion to attend a talk on the unique role of K-Pop (Korean popular music) in climate action. Watching this panel of young women present on the problems and potential associated with the cultural phenomenon, I saw the future of climate conversations. While K-Pop is distinct, it presents the same modern elements that are emerging in several industries.
For one, there is a sharp conflict between the labels’ promotion of mass consumerism and youth’s demands for climate action. The companies promoting K-Pop artists encourage mass consumerism by releasing special edition albums, ranking artists by album sales, encouraging physical album sales through raffles, etc. The music streaming time spent by K-Pop fans is about twice as long as that spent by the average user. At the same time, this generation regards climate change as a top priority, and, as one panelist pointed out, they don’t want to feel guilty listening to the music they love.
Generation Z and Millennials hold high standards of moral accountability to the companies they patronize. Whether it’s the record label that signs their idols, the streaming platform through which they play their music, or some other business in the music industry, many young consumers demand that the money they spend doesn’t contradict the issues they care about. As one panelist said, the K-Pop fandoms are “not a follower, but an active partner” with the companies that they patronize.
Finally, greenwashing. For example, although the K-Pop group Dreamcatcher and others sing to the existential fears of their young fanbase, they do not follow this up with strong action in their merchandising. Most K-Pop albums are often physical and packaged in non-recyclable plastic. By giving customers the facade of action, companies are able to dodge accountability. Interestingly, often within the K-Pop industry, the intentions of the singers and those of their record labels are entirely different. Many K-pop idols express genuine concern for climate catastrophe, typically spurring action from their respective fandoms, while their signing labels keep the interest of profits first and foremost.
While K-Pop is distinct, it presents the same modern elements that are emerging in several industries, like the conflict of mass consumerism and climate concerns, high ethical accountability of labels to consumers, and greenwashing. In discussing climate solutions in the K-Pop industry, the panelists were envisioning the future.