It’s Friday night (or in Korean, Bool-Geum (불금), literal translation; Fire Friday). You could either sit at home and watch a movie or you could go out with your friends. While these two activities are actually two of my favourite pastimes, there is one particular thing that I adore doing, and that is (you might have already guessed it!): karaoke (or Norabang (노래방)).
What makes karaoke so attractive is that you can let your inner singer self out.
Feeling like a rock star? Try singing one of Yoon Do Hyun Band’s songs. Or how about like an idol? Then EXO is perfect for you. Or just maybe some good ol’ trot (트로트), then in this case, Tae Jin Ah.
While it’s no question that we Koreans love singing, we really haven’t begged the question: Why?
Why do we love singing? Why do we feel the urge to rent a private room, grab a few friends, and sing (as if we don’t care) in front of everyone?
I think the simplest answer is this: We were born this way.
Well, okay; that is an overstatement. We don’t all love singing. Although to be fair, I have not met anyone yet who does not enjoy showing off their vocal skills. Actually, I can’t even say “we” anymore because that is plain ignorance to exclude anyone who is non-Korean. That being said, though, I can proudly make this subjective claim, “Although Japan invented karaoke, the Koreans perfected it.”
Oh yeah, I bet you did not know that. Karaoke was originally invented in the ‘70s. It’s a portmanteau of two Japanese words: kara (“empty) + oke (short for orchestra).
But that’s just fancy talk.
Allow me to explain to you why Koreans love karaoke. My empirical reasoning tells me it’s because Korea is still deeply entrenched in idol-crazed fantasy. While the Backstreet-Boy-N’Sync-era faced a time hiccup, the vogue never stopped in Asia, or specifically speaking, in Korea.
I made a short trip to Korea last year. It was short but memorable. And back there, all I can remember is karaoke bars left, right and center. Actually, it wasn’t even called that anymore, it was actually termed as, “singing practice rooms (노래 연습방).” The most ridiculous but perhaps the coolest thing I experienced was when I saw a small cubicle on a train that was designated for karaoke. Yeah. You read that right.
I am not going to give you convoluted, scientific reasons about why Koreans love karaoke. Instead, I am going to invite you to find out for yourself. If you have any Korean friends, wait, pause, I should not even say that anymore. Sorry! If you have friends to go with or even by yourself (but take my advice on this one, it’s more fun to go with your friends: the more the merrier, right?) to a karaoke bar, I highly encourage you to do so.
Because really, it’s not about who is good at singing or what culture they are from. It’s about just enjoying yourself with others. If I still haven’t convinced you to go out this weekend, here are some convoluted, scientific facts you wanted to read about anyway (but totally irrelevant to why Koreans love singing):
- Singing can surpass the effects of yoga on your heart rate, breathing, and general well-being. It has proven to be a helpful treatment for depression, anxiety, and fatigue.
- It is a good way to cope with stress, and is associated with a lower risk of stroke and heart disease.
- It boosts the immune and nervous system