Yale professor invites K-pop group to speak with class, organizes public fan meeting

Professor Grace Kao's class, "Race and Place in British New Wave, K-pop, and Beyond," listening to TRENDZ speak.
Professor Grace Kao’s class, “Race and Place in British New Wave, K-pop, and Beyond,” listening to TRENDZ speak. Yale credit: Meera Choi

K-pop boy group TRENDZ visited Yale virtually last Monday, speaking with professor and sociologist Grace Kao as well as her class on their lives as idols and their work making music in the South Korean music industry, concluding with a fan meeting open to the general public. The virtual visit follows a broader increase in international efforts at Yale with South Korea, from President Salovey’s visit to South Korea earlier this year to expand partnerships, to Kao presenting her research on the sociology of music at several leading Korean academic institutions, to Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon’s visit to Yale last month.

TRENDZ, composed of members Havit, Leon, Yoonwoo, Hankook, ra.L, Eunil and Yechan, began the visit by answering questions submitted in advance by students in Kao’s class, “Race and Place in British New Wave, K-pop, and Beyond”. These questions centered around the daily professional lives of TRENDZ’s members, such as their work schedules and how much input they have in their music production. TRENDZ also asked their own questions of the students, learning more about undergraduate life at Yale.

Kao, the IBM Professor of Sociology and professor of ethnicity, race, and migration in Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, also organized a larger public fan meeting immediately after the class discussion, which numbered close to a hundred participants attending either virtually or in-person. At the meeting, TRENDZ presented segments of their own music, performing some of the dance moves from the accompanying choreography, as well as introducing and explaining the meaning behind each of their songs. A brief Q&A session followed, in which TRENDZ voiced their plans for a U.S. tour in 2024, as well as their ideal future musical collaborators.

When asked afterwards about the visit, Kao wrote, “I think it’s vital to have empirical data when studying a topic, so while it’s important to read papers on a subject matter, something like K-Pop is vibrant and dynamic, and there is no substitute from experiencing it and talking to professionals in the industry.” She wrote further about how she came to invite them, from first seeing their performances on her trip to South Korea, to meeting and talking with them and their managers. She remarked that she was impressed with their performance quality and the warmth with which they treated their fans.

Kao will participate in a forum on K-pop in the upcoming Yale Korea Week, which will take place from November 6–14 with events across the Yale campus.

TRENDZ performing the opening choreography to their song, 'VAGABOND'

TRENDZ performing the opening choreography to their song “VAGABOND.” (Yale photo credit: Jeff Woodbridge)


To learn more about President Peter Salovey’s trip to South Korea, visit the YATW website.

To learn more about Professor Grace Kao’s research, visit the YATW website and the YaleNews website.