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The K-pop Industry Also Voices The ‘Climate Crisis’ With Fans

The K-pop Industry Also Voices The ‘Climate Crisis’ With Fans

All over the world, the MZ generation is taking the lead in responding to the climate crisis. Future generations want a life where they can enjoy culture and art, such as K-pop and Korean dramas, that they love, as well as the survival of the earth and mankind. In the entertainment industry, there are attempts to respond to this trend and seek change. <The Hankyoreh> introduces movements in various parts of the entertainment industry that have embarked on a journey to respond to the climate crisis.

The K-pop Industry Also Voices The ‘Climate Crisis’ With Fans

From last year to this year, 'climate change has emerged as one of the key keywords in K-pop. In March of last year, K-pop fans from all over the world gathered to create the climate action platform 'K-pop for Planet'. They put up the slogan "There is no K-pop on a dead planet" and demanded climate action from entertainment agencies. In the same year, Blackpink was appointed as an honorary ambassador for the UN Climate Change Convention (COP26) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In other words, K-pop stars and fandom communities have emerged as powerful channels for responding to the climate crisis.

The K-pop industry, where young people and future generations are the main consumers, has also responded. The Korea Music Contents Association (hereinafter referred to as Music Consortium), which represents the rights and interests of the industry, took the lead by announcing that it would create a new 'eco-friendly (clean) chart' that prioritizes the environment in popular music popularity rankings. MCONHyup is an incorporated association with major domestic entertainment agencies and music distributors such as Hive, SM, YG, and JYP as members. On the 19th, I met Choi Kwang-ho, Secretary General of the Music Conhyup, at the office of the Music Conhyup in Bangbae-dong, Seoul.

I'm curious about when and how you came to recognize the connection between K-pop and the issue of climate change.

“Since last year, some K-pop fans have been calling for an improvement in the K-pop industry in relation to climate change.

In March, 'K-Pop for Planet' was created, and it seems that the K-Pop industry gradually became aware of it as Blackpink and BTS put out global messages related to climate change.

However, it is also a difficult problem for individual member companies (belonging to the association) to respond to one by one, and responding to climate change is not just a problem for a specific agency, but a problem for the entire pop music industry to consider, so from the beginning of this year, the association thought that it should step in. All right.”

In February of this year, while dealing with the issue of opposition from fans related to Hive's entry into the non-fungible token (NFT) business on the YouTube channel operated by Mconhyup, the Mconhyup first announced that it was considering a plan to create a new 'eco-friendly (clean) chart'. you made it public (Reference: At the end of last year, when Hive, the agency of BTS, announced that it would change physical photo cards, etc. to NFTs, some of the fan club 'Ami' said, "There is a lack of consideration for the carbon emission of non-fungible tokens. The agency gave BTS speech at the United Nations. It shows a move that contradicts the message.”)

"yes. Artists openly appeal for climate change response, but if the agency's management goes against it, the fans will feel a gap and demand improvement measures. Most of the people in the industry agree with the principled argument that we need to respond to climate change, and we want to respond to the demands of our fans. It is part of such efforts that each entertainment agency has started releasing eco-friendly material albums and goods. Since the MCONHyup is running the chart business at the same time, I thought we could lead such eco-friendly efforts further by changing the chart policy.”

What was the reaction of the industry?

“Even though each company is putting out various idea products, there is no common 'standard' for eco-friendly albums and goods. It is difficult for a few companies to follow such guidelines. So, it was a welcoming atmosphere for most of the members.

From an individual company’s point of view, when an eco-friendly album is released without a CD, I’m also curious about how it will be reflected on the charts. From the album planning stage, the music conhyup receives inquiries asking, “Will it be reflected on the circle chart even if it is made in this form?” Even after announcing the plan to establish a clean chart, there are many related inquiries.”

Last July, at the Vision Declaration Ceremony of MCONHyeop, it was announced that the development of an 'eco-friendly (clean) chart' would be carried out together with the KDI Graduate School of Public Policy and Management. How is your progress?

“The process of creating detailed rules was not easy. If we make a hasty decision because we are pressed for time, it will be easy for member companies to accept it as a regulation, so we are going to proceed carefully.”

The MCONHyup is an organization that represents the interests of the music industry, and the board of directors includes large agencies such as Hive, YG, SM, and JYP. Are there any conflicting interests?

“The chart business is an area where we work independently so that we are not influenced by the original promoters. Most of the large agencies are listed on the KOSPI and KOSDAQ, so ESG management is a hot topic. ESG-related business strategies are becoming an important competitive advantage, so it can be said that it is rather necessary to prepare standards that can be applied to the entire industry.”

The reason why the music conhyup organized a conference on 'K-pop and climate change for the first time this year is to collect various voices from inside and outside the industry. This conference is part of the MWM Festival, which Mkonhyup is launching for the first time this year. It was scheduled to be held on the 3rd and 4th of next month but plans to postpone the schedule to mourn the 'Itaewon Disaster' that occurred on the 29th.

Officials from international organizations such as the United Nations and OECD will also participate in the conference. These are the participants who were completely unexpected when the conference was first planned a year ago. Secretary General Choi said, “In the process of preparing for the conference, I learned that international organizations that have experienced the influence of BTS and Blackpink are also interested in the efforts of the K-pop industry. He helped me connect at KDI, and when I asked for participation at Mkonhyeop, he readily accepted it.”

Resource circulation experts and environmental groups point out that the structural problems of industry marketing and music charts that encourage 'overconsumption of albums' should be changed first rather than shifting to 'eco-friendly album production'.

“I also think that the problem of duplicate album purchases is a different problem (from responding to climate change). Of course, the explosion of physical album sales in the digital age may seem irrational. From the perspective of people who don't know much about K-pop fan culture, there may be aspects that they don't understand. Now, fans buy albums in terms of goods and souvenirs rather than music products, and they buy a lot of albums because they want their favorite artists to top the charts.

It wasn't our chart's intention (overconsumption of albums), but I thought of changing the chart policy because I thought there was an industrial responsibility. We will try to lead the competition between fandoms and agencies in a more positive direction. We see fandom as collective intelligence. I think if we listen to the voices of the fans and move with sincerity (in the industry), good competition and good competition will become more active.”

Just as global music companies listed their names in the ‘Music Climate Pact’ at the end of last year, do you have plans for the K-pop industry to declare carbon neutrality by 2050 and measure and disclose carbon emissions?

“I think we are currently gathering the focal points so that we can go that far. There are many and diverse stakeholders.”

Can you tell me if you have any other plans?

“As in the past, ‘Live Aid’ concerts were held in the US and UK to solve refugee and hunger issues, wouldn’t it be possible for K-pop to prepare a concert in response to climate change and publicize it to the world? I think it would be nice to have a concert for the earth as a Korean-style Live Aid.”

At the 11th Gaon Chart Music Awards held in January of this year, the MCONHyup provided eco-friendly paper bottled water instead of disposable plastic water bottles to the cast and audience to reduce plastic usage. “All we could do was think 'let's start, even if it's a small thing, so we did it. Seeing that a K-pop fan picked bottled water in a carton as the best thing at the awards ceremony, I felt that it was important for fans to feel the sincerity, even in small things.”

Secretary-General Choi said that he wanted to correct the problem that the entire industry was perceived as the 'main culprit of the climate crisis because of the high topicality of K-pop. Secretary-General Choi said, "I'm not claiming that the K-pop industry is not responsible for climate change, but it seems to tend to be viewed more negatively than other industries." I will try to make next year and the year after that better than this year, so please support me.”