“We are singing alone” : norae bang (Korean karaoke) and contemporary Korean young people



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This paper explores the phenomenon of singing alone by Korean young people in 'koin norae bang,' a new type of karaoke that recently emerged in South Korea. Assuming that the popularity of the koin norae bang singing among these young people is deeply associated with the socioeconomic circumstances confronting Korean young people today, I investigate the meaning of this leisure practice for these young people as a reflection of their negotiations with the circumstances constraining their lives. I draw on contemporary youth research, which stresses the structural forces that influence the cultural lives of young people and notes specifically the impact of the changed structure of youth transitions on their leisure experiences. With the high rate of youth unemployment alongside the growth of the participation in higher education, Korean young people today are suffering from the exacerbated living conditions, and their leisure lives are becoming more impoverished. Thus I argue that the leisure form of koin norae bang represents the status of contemporary Korean young people as socially isolated and economically marginalized.