Japanese vs. Korean production

I start this post with a long, heavy *sigh*. Why, you ask? Because this post has been on my mind for ages now and I've had the theory constantly circling my mind but I've only actually sat down to write it now. Oh well, here we go.

For the longest time, well ever since I got into DBSK, I've noticed a very distinct difference in Japanese and Korean production - to the point where I was pulling my hair out last year trying to figure out why. I haven't figured it out yet, but I do have an analogy that has gotten a few friends of mine (including Mel) laughing their heads off. Was it really that bad? Aish.

Well anyway, my theory/analogy is that Japanese production is like a cheesecake, and Korean production's like a chocolate chip cookie, or whatever crisp, thin cookie you can think of. DON'T LAUGH! lol.

Japanese production is like a cheesecake because it's rich, it's packed, but it's smooth and very, very clean. Like, clean to the point of sanitary but for some reason it's got punch. Like a cheesecake. It also has attention to detail - like in a cheesecake how the toppings and the graham at the bottom make a big difference, it's the little effects/techniques that make a difference in Japanese production.

Korean production is like a cookie because it's crisp, it's thin and what you see, in this case what you hear, is what you get. It's not that smooth either, it's a bit rocky at certain places - like a chocolate chip cookie you have the chocolate chips in the way. You can say that Korean production is a bit rough compared to Japanese production.

I've had a few comparisons in mind, including Mirotic and Purple Line, but there was one song where the difference was unmistakeable. It's not just because of the language or the change in vocals (Although that plays a part too. We'll get to that later.), the over-all sound of the song changed. The song? Beautiful Life - first found in their second Korean album, Rising Sun, and later in their third Japanese album, T.

But before I start rattling off, why don't I just show you guys the difference? Time to get technical, people. OK not really, but I have sound waves to show you and even without them, you guys think I get super technical. Aish. The track on top is the Japanese-produced one, and the track below is the Korean-produced version. Click to enlarge.

So zoom in to the wave at around 0:55 until just before 1:40 and you see that more of the waves in the track above (that's the Japanese one) reach the extremes (top and bottom) than the ones in the track below (Korean) and that the waves are more concentrated on the Japanese version. This pattern repeats throughout several other parts of the song. That proves my point that Japanese production is richer and more packed than Korean production, which is thinner and crisper.

SO what does this mean? I rattle on and on about how Japanese have a focus on the music, while Koreans have a focus on selling, but production-wise I don't think that applies as much as it does with the former because in both countries, there are well-produced songs and badly-produced ones - it's all a matter of taste really.

Take SNSD's Genie - that song has some of the best production I've heard in ages. BUT, it's very Korean - it's crisp and a bit rough around the edges if you compare it to a Japanese song.

Then you have DBSK's Summer Dream and it sounds so damn Japanese. It's rich but once again, it's got punch. And throughout the song you hear these little bells and whistles that aren't that prominent if you don't listen to the song but if they aren't there, the song would sound really different.

So there you go. Comments, violent reactions? Whether you agree with me or not I don't really care, since these are based on my observations.


  1. Interesting topic.
    Love those desert metaphors hahaha.

    I've always thought jpop seemed a bit dated in terms of production. The stuff I've heard seems like it's stuck in the late 90s to early 00s but..

    I probably haven't heard enough Jpop.

    The Jrock production I've heard is awesome though.

    In terms of the soundwaves if I had a choice and I didn't get to listen to the tracks I would choose the k-pop file as there is more headroom and dynamic range. The j-pop file looks like its been compressed/limited pretty hard (I've seen much worse though). Which would give that richer sound. But hey what happens when loud tracks get the volume turned up...they distort, whereas softer tracks start getting punchy :)

    Louder tracks comes more ear fatigue. I'm sure you know or heard about the Loudness war?

  2. Since I've known asian music I realized about this two little world: Jap & Kor.

    I'll start with what you said: "...Japanese have a focus on the music, while Koreans have a focus on selling." I specially like this, well I think that that is the main reason, maybe not.

    Japanese focus on music; they want to make the newest, the wow ballad song, the weirdest song, etc. you've ever heard, they like to taste different sounds, & the other side...

    Korean want to make a song that caught the attention quickly, so they go with a song that has the same rhythm, or so, of an american song, if they do that with a certain twist of creativity and...they sell that song

    Personally, I lisent more Korean music than Japanese, but if you based of what you've read you might think I do not like Korean music...it's not like that xD

  3. Damn it so true...
    Japanese music is a real art..
    where korean is just make the same song all over again, they just want to go international using "No Art" music where most of the famous artist are "good looking" despite all of that are plastic surgery...
    no offence.. but the only time korean song is good is 10 years ago, where the music is not same for all the artist in korea..
    right now.. every band have nearly the same rythm and most of it are electronic..
    in japan music is pure art, where every instrument is use to make a song, when they change 1 part of the song, it feel so weird, but some time it can also make "fresh"


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