The world is still trying to figure out if you need at least one Korean person in your band for it to qualify as K-pop.

Question: What makes a K-pop band a K-pop band? Is it the sound? The choreography? The language of the music? The actual Koreans in the band? The number of Koreans in the band?

No, these aren’t trick questions. As a matter of fact, Colombia grad student Bora Kim, who is an “interdisciplinary artist and sociologist from Seoul, Korea,” asked herself these very things as she began working on her thesis titled “I’m Making a Boy Band”.

▼The name EXP comes from the word “experiment”, an eternal reminder of the group’s origin.

Kim’s thesis project entailed the auditioning and selecting of 6 talented young men that she and her collaborators, Karin Kuroda and Samantha Shao, would train and groom to become the very essence of a K-pop boy band. In addition to exploring themes such as cultural appropriation and whether their creation could still be called “K-pop” without Korean artists, Kim and her team also wanted to discover what it might mean for women to be the producers of a product primarily intended for women and generally marketed to them by men.

Of course, this experiment has already garnered a plethora of commentary from K-pop fans far and wide on some of the very topics Kim and her cohorts wished to examine. As one might expect, a fair number of the comments have been negative. Upon the debut of their first single, LUV/WRONG, one of the band members remarked that a lot of racial and homophobic slurs had been directed toward them. Others have accused them of copying the hugely popular EXO’s style and sound. Despite all of this, the EXP guys are staying positive, believing they can eventually win over their detractors.

It’s been about a year since EXP made what one might call their “debut” and they’ve had two singles released to date; now it’s time for them to head to the homeland of their adopted genre – Korea. To prepare for this move, the guys have been studying Korean language and culture, and taking “cuteness classes”. Once they arrive in Korea, their Kickstarter-funded mini-album will be released and the band has high hopes for scoring interviews, festival performances, radio appearances, and, eventually, their own variety show.

The likelihood of EXP finding success in Korea is contingent upon innumerable factors, but perhaps the most important one is whether or not the music is actually any good.

Do you think they have a chance?

Source: Fusion, NBC NewsKoreaBoo, Columbia University/Bora Kim
Images: Columbia University/Bora Kim