Reflective Essay

What research you undertook into the job market for your work experience and for gaining a commission for Individual Audio Project.

Since I was a child I always had a strong interest in Korean culture and music and knew that I wanted to head in that direction as much as possible. Although in London there are not many opportunities to work in this area, I reached out to Kimchi Radio, to see if they would possibly take me on. Alongside that I undertook some work experience with The Young Bros company, which specialises in bringing Korean artists to the UK and organising concerts and fan meetings here; with them I took on a lot of the technical challenges such as helping creating the opening videos and promoting them on social media.

Since I already had connections with The Young Bros before coming to London and, in turn, The Young Bros having connections with Kimchi Radio, it was quite easy for me to organise a schedule that would work around university and work. After helping out with the first few concerts over two years ago, I became even more fascinated and curious about the Kpop industry and how it worked. For other research I focused mainly on Korean culture in the UK and how it has expanded in the last few years, with many organisational companies bringing over more groups and giving people more opportunities to see them live, alongside albums being sold in commonplace stores such as HMV.

My forms of research included not only reading as much material as I could find online, but also speaking to people within the industry, as well as Kpop fans of all nationalities about their concert experiences. It was interesting to me, that no matter where the fans were from, they all reported similar concert experiences which were overwhelmingly positive. I have found, in general, Kpop fans are much more appreciative of just how hard Kpop singers work in order to provide their fans with the best experience possible. As part of my research I also attended several concerts myself, and spoke to many fans in person, not just online.

The Young Bros and Kimchi Radio are two very different organisations and they both required two very different skill sets for the work that they do. Kimchi Radio was very calm and easy going, so helping with playlisting and thinking of content for their shows was very relaxing, without many time constraints or set deadlines. The Young Bros work, on the other hand was very hectic and fast paced, as a lot of the work they do required compliance with artists schedules, therefore decisions had to be made quickly and efficiently. It was interesting to see the ways in which different organisations work with the same entertainment companies, and the different procedures they had to follow to gain the same content. Everybody who worked in both these companies had the same passion and interest in korean music and culture and it reassured me that I would have the opportunities to be able to combine my love for radio and Korea as one.

When deciding what I wanted to do for my individual audio project,I knew I wanted it to be Korean related. I knew I had to be realistic, so I decided to embrace my planned holiday over there to utilize my time, and do a piece not only about Korea, but also in Korea itself. I used my connections with The Young Bros to visit SM Entertainment headquarters to speak to staff there, and see if I could get in contact with any of their artists to see their opinions on what it feels like to suddenly have a huge increase in popularity overseas. However, due to busy schedules and the company wanting to protect their artists from any rumours or mistranslations, it wasn’t possible for me to interview anyone. After this I decided to try a different angle and look more towards people training to become Kpop idols rather than looking at already successful groups. With this I planned my trip to visit one of the most famous “Kpop training schools” featured in my audio project. I did a lot of research behind the schools and the training they provide, so that I could have as much knowledge of how they work before I went there. As a stroke of luck I also managed to secure an interview with the Kpop group Jambinal, and although they are not the traditional type of Kpop group that is popular nowadays, it was very interesting to speak to someone from the industry and understand the viewpoint of a performer and not the consumer.

What you learned from your work placement and what you learned from working with an external commissioner for Individual Audio Project

Working with The Young Bros and Kimchi Radio gave me a really big insight to the way that working with different cultures allowed me to become more open minded and taught me a new way of adapting to a different style of work. Although with The Young Bros I did a lot of social media work and not much to do with radio, I feel as if I personally  developed a better understanding of how the entertainment industry works in Korea, which will help me in the future as I plan to work over there. Being a part of the organisation team to help select new groups, contact their companies and then organise venues and timetables for those groups was an amazing experience as I got to experience the behind-the-scenes of it all. As someone who will attend many of these types of concerts, and have an involved viewpoint, being involved in the behind-the- scenes work allowed me to voice my opinion and help make small changes to make the experience more pleasant for the public coming to see the group. As mentioned before, through The Young Bros, I also managed to meet Jambinal (a South Korean music group) and interview them with a translator. This audio I used later on for my commissioned project on the Korean Wave.

With Kimchi Radio I got to experience a new style of radio and take part in it. Due to their connections with Arirang Radio (one of the biggest stations in Korea) I was allowed to visit and observe the way they work during my trip.

I learnt about a lot of the problems surrounding playing Korean music in the UK, regarding getting permission to play songs from certain entertainment companies. Despite previously having had experience of having to contact people to gain the rights to play their music at the Hospital Radio I helped out at in my hometown, this proved to be much more challenging due to facing a large language barrier and many misunderstandings. Due to this I had to often find ways around the language and work out how it would be easier to communicate. I realised that attempting to write everything in Korean myself was not only very hard but very time consuming, and often would ask my friends for help with grammar and formalities. This was a big step for me and the way I have thought in the past, allowing me to practice better time management and using my resources fully to get the best results. Alongside this I got to practice a lot with music policies and deciding what songs fit which playlist. Since I am well attuned to Korean music and keep up to date with all new releases,  this was a great opportunity to see first hand how radio deals with these and incorporates them into their station. Working on this was a lot of fun and gave me more confidence in understanding the thought process behind music playlisting, allowing me to give suggestions and get fully involved.

I have also learnt a lot more on how the business of a radio station runs alongside the business of being an concert and party organisation. Activities such as sourcing sponsors to fund the concerts/ads and getting in contact with the artists was enlightening due to the different styles and approaches we had to use. Working with both of these companies also allowed to me to show off my creativity, especially with helping for advertising concerts on social media or helping out with the opening films used to introduce the groups. Since The Young Bros works entirely by themselves and not as part of a bigger organisation, all of the work they produce is done by a small group of people. So finding new ways to show off the personality or styles of the groups, alongside making it clear and interesting to both new and old fans,  was a challenge. Finding inspiration in small details and being able to apply that with a low budget has shown me that you really can do a lot with a little. My biggest challenge in all of this was time management. Since concert dates would be decided very close to the actual dates of the concert, all digital content had a very small window of time to be created. Also due to the fact that the company isn’t just London based, but also has teams in different countries in Europe, working together to create content that, not only would be able to be used in more than one country but also easily interchanged with different language subtitles, was a challenge in itself. It taught me a lot about the importance of communication and clarity of ideas. I have gained a great deal of confidence in speaking up and giving ideas without worrying about the judgement of others, but also to listen and think through others ideas without dismissing them straight away, and also thinking realistically about the possibilities of certain ideas and finding alternative ways to carry them out.

Many of the things that I learnt working with the companies, I then utilised in my audio project, making sure I had realistic ideas that I could carry out in the time frame given to me. Despite me planning for the project before third year started, as I recorded a lot of the content on site in Korea, I had to plan far in advance how I wanted it to sound and what I wanted it to contain, due to the fact that it would be difficult for me to go back to Korea had I forgotten or thought of something after I had left. I needed to use my way of audience profiling to create content that catered to their interests based on this.  Although it was Kimchi Radio who commissioned my project, I often sent over content to a few of the staff members from The Young Bros to listen to and critique from an outside point of view, but also because the audience targeted for my audio project was the same audience targeted for the concerts they arrange. Therefore they could give me suggestions on what to change throughout the project to allow it to reach its full potential.

Where you hope to go next, what sort of career you are aiming for, drawing on your work experience and Individual Audio Project, and FIVE practical steps which you will follow to help you on the next phase, post-graduation.

My next steps are still a work in progress. Although I would like to continue with radio, I have been leaning towards a different career path. After visiting the school in Korea and speaking to many of the students there, I have decided that I would actually prefer to go down a teaching path; specifically teaching English in Korea. Although this is a long term goal, I have started taking the necessary steps towards reaching it. With the help of The Young bBos I got in contact with a company that specialises in one year teaching contracts in South Korea. Through this placement I would get to not only follow my new found dream of teaching, but also get the opportunity to live there and learn more about the culture and practice the language. Alongside this, I will still be looking into opportunities to join a Korean radio station or entertainment agency and work for them. Arirang radio, in particular, is known for its employment of foreign Korean speaking radio presenters.However,  for this to be a possibility, I will need to improve my Korean speaking and reading. Despite always wanting to work in Korea at some point in my life, working on this audio project has really solidified my dream and has provided me with a realistic way to achieve it.

My next five steps are:

  • Continue to help out with The Young Bros with concerts and events.
  • Continue to take Korean lessons in order to become more fluent.
  • Continue to network contacts in Korea who have connections to radio.
  • Travel to Korea to complete my year of teaching-this will both allow me to earn money and to improve my Korean language skills.
  • Explore the possibility of internships in Korean radio stations.
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