'K-pop Generation' documentary aims to define the legendary genre

Producers of Tving's latest original documentary series "K-pop Generation," from top left to bottom right: director Kim Moncly,director Lee Ye-ji, executive director Jin Jung, story producer Cha Woo-jin and chief producer Im Hong-jae [TVING]

What is K-pop and who are the people that make it happen? These questions may never be answered in full, but streaming service Tving’s latest original documentary series “K-pop Generation” may be the closest anyone's going to get.

The eight-part series began as the first episode was revealed last Thursday on the domestic streaming service. From fans to artists, music producers, stylists and even investment company analysts, the series aims to crack open the industry from all possible angles.

The first episode, titled “Duckzill,” shines a spotlight on the fans and their duckzill, or deokjil, which is basically the act of stanning, or showing love and support for a specific artist.

The producers and writers of the series sat down for an online interview with the local press to share more details.

“Fans had been considered people who passively take in what they’re given in the music industry, but generations have since passed and now it’s come to a point where they not only pick what they like, but also pitch in with their own creations,” said Jin Jung, executive producer of the series and CEO of production company Patchworks.

“The idea of deokjil is all the cultural and industrial aspects of fan activities put together. What’s interesting is that fan activities change depending on the artist, and artists and fans grow together through each other.”

Scenes from Tving's latest original documentary series "K-pop Generation" [TVING]

The first episode starts by defining deokjil as “an act of passionately liking a certain field, collecting related goods and digging in deeper” and then goes on to highlight major events that constitute a typical fan — streaming songs to bring their favorite artists’ music higher up on the chart, buying albums, buying photo cards and trading them with other fans, renting and decorating a cafe or public space to celebrate a star’s birthday and so much more.

The show features fans from in and outside of Korea who explain why they spend such an extensive amount of time, money and energy on deokjil, as well as the stars on the receiving end of the love who grow to be “like best friends with fans,” according to girl group Le Sserafim’s Sakura.

Contrary to other documentaries or shows that have been made in the past, “K-pop Generation” is aimed at giving the full picture, not just a one-sided story.

The program will feature idols from all of the so-called generations, including Kangta and Leeteuk from boy band Super Junior, Minho from boy band SHINee, Doyoung from boy band NCT, boy bands Tomorrow X Together, Enhypen and 2PM, and girl groups Le Sserafim and IVE.

A total of 53 artists from 22 groups will appear throughout the series, in addition to professionals in other fields that help make the whole industry come to life.

“One of the things we realized while we were filming was that a new generation of fans and producers have come forth, along with a new generation of K-pop artists,” Jung said. “We wanted to talk about the change in all generations with the show, hence the title ‘K-pop Generation.’”

The show was made with the global audience in mind, just like the K-pop bands, according to music critic and story producer of the show, Cha Woo-jin.

Scenes from Tving's latest original documentary series "K-pop Generation" [TVING]

“Many groups are now launched with an international makeup of members, and there are so many consumers outside of Korea,” he said.

“And it’s not just the members’ nationality, but the process of how music is made is also international. Creators from all around the world and from all different cultures take part in the making of a song, and at the heart of it all is the idea of K-pop.”

With more and more singers landing their songs on global music charts and as global sales revenue grows by the day, K-pop is now settling down as more than just a passing fad, according to Im Hong-jae, chief producer.

“The way that K-pop is explained in the world is not just with its music, but as this compilation of music, performance, fashion, food and so many more cultural aspects that make up this one big lump,” he said.

“An interviewee described it as a ‘gigantic house with so many doors open inside.’ The many ways through which people consume K-pop mean that the passion that people have for K-pop won’t just go away even if a group is gone, but that it will live on in its own right.”

The show is currently only available on Tving, which is not serviced outside of Korea. The producers are in talks with overseas streaming services.

When asked about what foreign viewers can look forward to in the future, the directors of the show said that the show can help break down the stereotypes that people have toward K-pop.

“K-pop culture influences so many people — even the people who think they have nothing to do with K-pop,” said director Kim Moncly.

Director Lee Ye-ji added, “Some people have called K-pop ‘factory-made’ or ‘over-the-top.’ It’s not a factory, but a myriad of people who all take part in making it happen. One interviewee said that it’s an industry that deserves more respect, and indeed it does.”