So you wanna stan a Kpop group? You’ve watched their MVs, you’ve bought their merch, maybe you’ve even picked up a word or two in Korean along the way. But around you you’ve seen people call their faves “Oppa” and you’ve seen others try out Korean beauty trends in an attempt to mask their decidedly-not-Korean ethnicity. So what’s the deal? Where do you draw the line?
There is nothing cute or funny about pretending to be from another culture. As much as anyone is welcome to love Kpop, there are boundaries that we as outsiders have to adhere to. It is not the responsibility of any Korean person to teach us better; we should seek to better ourselves.
We are not their target audience–live with that
I’ve touched on this in a post before but the first thing you have to remember about Kpop is that it is first and foremost Korean music. Made in Korea. By Korean people. For Korean consumption. As a non-Korean person, I’ve made my peace with that and enjoyed Kpop respectfully without feeling shunned or cast aside or excluded in any way. Because I understand that for all intents and purposes, it’s not about me.
That said, I don’t how many times I’ve seen people talking about their faves not speaking English enough or not giving the international fans any love or whining about how they don’t have enough tour dates in X country. I mean, of course we want them to pay attention to us–that’s normal–but when you start to get malicious with Korean fans because they get “more attention,” that’s when it becomes a problem. You’re allowed to be a little sulky, you’re not allowed to be petty.
If you are not Korean, don’t pretend you are
I don’t have enough time or energy to explain why you shouldn’t fetishize Korean culture. I don’t even know why I have to explain it at all. People should assume that it is bad to turn an entire country of people into a cute style trend, but there are still people out there floating on the internet misusing romanized hangeul to be cute.
Frankly, it rubs me the wrong way when I see people using romanized hangeul in any context, but it’s especially gross when they use it to talk to their idols, either by Tweeting at them or commenting on Vlives “Saranghae oppa.” (That was painful to type out.)
The other thing I frequently see is people using Korean beauty trends to make their face look less like their face and more like a Korean person’s face. To be blunt, it’s a form of yellowface. If you don’t know what yellowface is, I invite you to peruse this Wikipedia article. It’s one thing to try out a new K-beauty product or maybe try a look from an idol’s comeback, but it’s another thing to pretend to be Korean when you’re definitely not.
Final thoughts: BE RESPECTFUL
With touchy topics, I normally like to soften the language in my blog so that no one feels offended and people are ready to listen and maybe learn something to change their behavior, but there’s no tiptoeing around racism. Because that is what it is when you fetishize a culture. Korean culture exists like any other culture does–for its people. When you treat it like a product for consumption, you’re engaging in racism.
There are respectful ways to be a part of the Kpop community and I think we all as non-Korean people should always take a moment to look at our behavior and double check ourselves. Because if it makes you a little uncomfortable, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it.
So go out, listen to your favorite groups, buy their albums, support their comebacks, but just remember: be respectful and don’t be a koreaboo.