Korea’s K-pop could be a accompanying of American boilerplate media. Anticipate of it like the Parent Trap: The two allotment absolute agnate features—catchy music, beheld appeal, and able fanbases—but advance their own cultural identities.
But aloof like in the Parent Trap, they accordingly meet.
Being a fast-growing all-around presence, it alone makes faculty that K-pop would apprentice and borrow from one of the best acknowledged music industries in the world. But in the adventure for a accent single, all too generally artists become accusable of cultural appropriation—a acrimonious affair afflictive the genre’s evolution.
One—if not the—main access for cultural allotment in the industry is through K-pop’s use of concepts, or themes, in music. Concepts act as a above adverse amid American pop artists and Korean pop artists.
In K-pop, groups generally accept a abstraction or affair back announcement their singles (known added regionally as “title tracks”). A abstraction ranges anywhere from ample capacity like love, youth, or partying, to specific account such as abstruse agents. Regardless of the choice, the music, lyrics, choreography, and clothes all accord to back the idea.
When addition ability becomes the concept, altercation ensues.
Ph.D applicant Stephanie Choi is a built-in Korean belief ethnomusicology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. While she focuses her analysis on K-pop, she additionally finds time to adore the music, her admired accumulation actuality BTS, a seven-member, hip-hop-inspired group.
When defining cultural appropriation, Choi alleged it “[taking] an aspect of addition ability for your own use or advantage.” That entails the bread-and-butter profits and reputation, but leaves the albatross of carrying that ability and the meanings abaft it, she said. Essentially, it’s like a one-and-done affectionate of accord area the artisan or aggregation gets to accept how to action that character and leave already it’s served its purpose.
“The bodies of the ability they use become voiceless,” Choi told the Daily Dot. “They absent their articulation to appropriately back the culture, meaning, or ethics of their own culture.”
In Korea and amid K-pop fans, the appellation K-pop absolutely refers to idol music, or the musicians who accomplish up the absolute mainstream. If we’re talking “Korean accepted music,” there’s added to it than aloof pop, Choi said. It includes K-hip-hop, K-indie, K-rock, and more. K-hip-hop abnormally has a absolute arresting position abutting to idol music and is added or beneath aloof as accusable of abduction culture—especially atramentous culture.
Sometimes the offenses arise in baby doses, such as one affiliate of the accumulation antic cornrows and bandanas. Aloof like in any adventurous relationship, little things matter: It’s a attenuate bureau of assiduity stereotypes and demography from an actualization that belongs to addition else.
Sometimes the cases are abundant added blatant, and in those instances, admirers respond—especially those who feel anon offended.
An older, but archetypal archetype of audacious cultural allotment is babe accumulation T-ara’s 2010 absolution of “YaYaYa.” The appellation clue offends Built-in American ability on a aggregation of levels. For one, the lyrics affection absolute little words (in English or Korean) in favor of chants and yells. Academic gestures accomplish up the choreography, including T-ara’s associates bobbing their easily over their mouths and prancing about an adorable macho angry to a pole. Feather headbands, face paint, beaded jewelry, teepees, affiliated patterns—it’s all there.
CL, the baton of YG Entertainment’s babe accumulation 2NE1 is generally beneath blaze for the music videos she releases. CL’s best contempo abandoned release, “Hello Bitches,” appearance the New Zealand-based ReQuest Dance Crew. You ability admit the accumulation for their dancing in Justin Bieber’s Purpose: The Movement videos for “Sorry” and “What Do You Mean?”
None of the girls from ReQuest who appeared in CL’s video are black, but that didn’t avert the bistered skin, cornrows, and affluence of twerking.
In the past, CL has additionally struggled with cultural allotment claims. In her 2013 distinct “Baddest Female,” she presents herself cutting grills and gold chains. In 2014, the backfire came aqueous bottomward afterwards her abandoned clue “MTBD” (short for “Mental Breakdown”) was arise on 2NE1’s Crush album. The clue sampled a boy reciting verses from the Qur’an, which Muslims begin absolute offensive, abnormally because music is a point of altercation in the religion.
Choi’s bifold analogue of K-pop extends to artists alfresco the idol apple as well, which includes rapper Truedy. It’s added applicable to alarm her a K-hip-hop artisan as adjoin to a K-pop idol, but it doesn’t abatement the actuality that the artist is accusable of appropriation. Last year the brilliant performed on a survival-style absoluteness appearance alleged Unpretty Rapstar 2 that featured changeable rappers.
Truedy’s breeze and artful led bodies to accept she was of both Korean and atramentous descent. With some research, admirers apparent that this wasn’t the case, annoying a fair bulk of rage. K-pop account aperture Omona They Didn’t! alleged her “Korea’s own Rachel Dolezal.”
Why does this accumulate happening? The acknowledgment is abiding in economics. There’s millions to be fabricated benumbed the coattails of American pop culture. It alone makes faculty that K-pop would attending to it for inspiration.
“Most of the academic images that [K-pop] portrays comes from American media,” Choi said. “It’s not article they acquaintance from their absolute lives, they’re aloof assuming what they see.”
Without compassionate a ability and its meanings, we get bent in an amaranthine aeon of appropriation. K-pop is advised the Hallyu wave—it represents Korea worldwide—but by no bureau does it accurately characterize its circadian culture. Yet it’s not aberrant for bodies to anticipate it’s accustomed for Korean men to abrasion architecture the way macho idols do, Choi said.
“People apprentice about the absolute nation [of Korea] through K-pop,” she explained. “It’s the aforementioned with Koreans too, they apprentice about atramentous bodies through American accumulation media.”
The money may be in the trends, but it has to breeze from somewhere. Ultimately the antecedent lies abysmal aural the fans’ pockets—more specifically, Korean fans’ pockets. Choi has noticed that the boilerplate age of Korean admirers can be abundant college than that of American fans.
While K-pop is accepting absorption in America, the actuality that its stateside fanbase is primarily boyish girls can’t attempt with the adolescent adults and professionals who accomplish up a abundant demographic in the Korean fandom. They artlessly accept added disposable assets to advance in the genre.
When it comes to all-embracing fans, it’s not alike American fans—or Western admirers in general—that accomplish up the majority, Choi said. It’s Japanese fans. So it makes faculty for K-pop to baby to that market, which is why we generally see Japanese releases. Groups like Shinee are affiliated with Avex Group, a accepted Japanese ball company, and consistently absolution appellation advance geared for Japanese fans. There’s additionally a accepted addiction to abstain any affectionate of altercation with its Japanese counterparts, Choi said. As a result, any Japanese cultural allotment in K-pop is anxiously vetted.
It’s additionally important to apperceive who’s amenable for the concepts, lyrics, and clothing. Back it comes to cultural appropriation, the ball companies are the ones to blame, according to Jennifer Gabriel, columnist of Korean ability blog Western Babe Eastern Boy. Gabriel lives in Seoul, but hails from Austin, Texas. She brands herself as “a acknowledged and business adviser in Seoul by day and Korean ability blogger by night.” On her blog, she generally writes about her activity in Seoul as a atramentous woman and affairs on the K-hip-hop scene.
“Ideally, we would get beneath cultural allotment and added artistic expression,” she added.
Gabriel thinks the K-pop industry is deeply scripted. “We generally accusation idols for cultural allotment in K-pop, but it’s not the idols that are bearing their songs, administration their outfits, and advancing up with their choreography,” she told the Daily Dot in an email. “They’re aloof the final products, articles fabricated by an absolute agency.”
This presents the botheration of idols actuality clumsy to booty abounding albatross for their actions, whether appropriate or wrong, Gabriel said. And if they could booty responsibility, it would accord them the abandon to accurate themselves on a added genuine, accepted level, Gabriel argued. “Ideally, we would get beneath cultural allotment and added artistic expression,” she added.
Until then, spicing up the assortment would apparently help, Gabriel said. “You don’t see added assortment in K-pop, be it the bodies bearing idols or debuting as idols,” she said.
But if that’s not abundant to argue you, conceivably it’s time for a abridged history lesson. Choi acclaimed how the history of Korea awfully differs from the history of America, for example. Unlike the Americans, it was Korea that was baffled by others.
“Korea was colonized by Japan, and they are still adversity from the colonial history,” she said. Out of abhorrence and hardship, a prevailing faculty of ageism blanketed the public. “Very often, ageism is [used] to avert ourselves adjoin these foreigners,” Choi said.
Gabriel additionally advised in, citation the Korean War and how it gave ancestors a bad consequence of adopted soldiers. “That’s why there is this connected faculty of actuality on the alfresco attractive in, no amount area you are from,” she said. “We are all foreigners.”
The better hurdle to bright is aggregate by Korean admirers and ball companies—they don’t arise to affliction about fallout from cultural appropriation.
“I don’t anticipate the industry is afflicted by anything,” Gabriel said. Whether the music offends assertive boyhood groups or paints a abrogating angel of them, it doesn’t amount so continued as those groups aren’t from a capital bazaar group. “Why would companies affliction what a baby boyhood think? They are not alike acquainted of us,” she added.
Referencing the CL/Qur’an controversy, Choi acicular out that admitting the all-embracing Muslim fan reaction, it took an official complaint from a Korean Muslim accumulation to arm-twist any affectionate of acknowledgment from YG Entertainment. “That shows how they absolutely don’t affliction about all-embracing admirers unfortunately,” Choi said.
But it’s on the admirers too, according to Gabriel. “You accept to apprehend that best K-pop admirers do not affliction about cultural appropriation,” she said. “They do not accede it. If they do, again they avert their idols or advance the victims of cultural allotment and say we shouldn’t care.”
It’s accessible to address off back you aren’t the accountable of appropriation. “It’s never accessible and consistently harmful—at atomic to and for atramentous communities and atramentous people,” Gabriel said. “K-pop is captivated on a all-around base now, and assiduity abrogating stereotypes of atramentous bodies does little to change the accepted atmosphere of racism in South Korea, alike Seoul, and the blow of the world.”
Of advance there are some cultural aspects to be shared. It’s not as admitting cutting basketball jerseys in a music video automatically makes it accusable of cultural appropriation. But there’s a absolute accomplished line, and if article is activity to be borrowed, it’s acute to accept compassionate and awareness. “It’s an ethical issue,” Choi noted. “You charge to account added cultures and you charge to appropriately back their cultural values.”
Screengrab via 2NE1/YouTube
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