Telum Talks To... Tamar Herman, Senior Reporter, South China Morning Post

Telum Talks To... Tamar Herman, Senior Reporter, South China Morning Post

The South China Morning Post recently launched a new section about K-pop. Please tell us more about the new product.
We previously, and still do, had K-pop and other Asian entertainment found together on our website, but with the growing interest from our readers in K-pop, I was brought on at SCMP to help bolster up our reporting. Shortly after I joined, we launched a dedicated K-pop section on the site where readers can find various K-pop and Korean entertainment-related content. We also recently launched our K-Post newsletter, where people can find our biggest stories each week, including exclusive interviews and analytic pieces that I’ve worked on. 

Congratulations on your first book "BTS: Blood, Sweat & Tears", which was released in August 2020. It explores the music, inspiration and cultural influence of BTS. Why did you decide to start writing this book? What do you hope your book will bring to its readers?
I’ve been covering BTS more or less as a fulltime job since I started working with Billboard, and I had been studying abroad in Seoul when BTS debuted there in 2013. It felt like a perfect storm, watching them rise to the top and nobody really doing a deep dive into their career and musicality simultaneously. There are some books out there already that do one or the other, but I felt there was no true look at who BTS are, what they’re singing about, and their impact, so I broke the book into a triptych of sections, each of which attempts to highlight those elements of their career. 

How is your day life as a Journalist at the Culture Desk? Is there any routine you follow when you write a story?
I spend a lot of time on social media to keep up with K-pop trends. I’m a fan myself so this isn’t too difficult. It’s a common misconception that K-pop audiences for media outlets are young readers. It’s actually more likely that K-pop stories will be of interest to young professionals, often post-grads and twenty-somethings, so I keep an eye out on my peers to see what they’re talking about and discourses. K-pop fans are especially engaged online, so there’s a lot of discourses that touch beyond just K-pop content and go into things like appropriation, gender, race issues, and social justice, etc. I try to stay on top of those conversations and bring them into my work when I can. 

In your views, how did Korean culture storm the world? Why did K-pop become a global phenomenon? 
You can read my book to find out ;) Nah, I’m just joking. It’s honestly a really interesting subject that a lot of people are writing about, with many individuals studying the phenomena across academia. But, to make it brief, K-pop has arrived as an alternative to western pop that is far more engaging than typical modes of popular music familiar to many people around the world. In addition, globalisation has become more popular, with western hegemony in culture fading; Korea is becoming a counterpoint to it. It’s not a coincidence that both BTS and Parasite dominated in 2020; it’s a sign of the times. 

What is the best way for people to get in touch with you for stories?
My email, tamar.herman@scmp.com, is the best way to get in touch with me for stories. 

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