The K-pop industry has become a global sensation in the past decade and continues to grow every day. The appeal of great music and a unique fan experience draws in people from all over the world. MTV recently dropped a teaser for a new K-pop centric show on Facebook called #StanAccounts. The video shows various fans talking about what K-pop means to them. In one section, fans talk about how the K-pop community is a family and how K-pop unites us as fans. As a Black woman who has been a K-pop fan for 6 years and has interacted with many other BIPOC fans, I can tell you that that isn’t the case.
K-pop has been a source of joy for me and has helped me through a lot in the past. But it’s also been a large source of frustration and pain as well, not only for me but for many BIPOC fans. One of the biggest issues within the K-pop industry is the rampant cultural insensitivity that groups exemplify. These instances of disrespect almost always come with little to no acknowledgment from the guilty parties. From colorist microaggressions between members to groups wearing Bindis and Black hairstyles and Mexican sugar skull makeup as accessories, to even full-blown black and brownface at times.
Recent examples include artists dancing to a song dedicated to Breonna Taylor and using Islamic prayers as set decoration. Many of these groups strive to become globally loved and often speak of wanting to tour the world and connect with their fans from all over. But that can’t happen if they don’t take accountability for their damaging actions towards the very fans that they wish to meet.
The most common occurrences of cultural insensitivity stem from anti-Blackness. Other K-pop fans, who are nine times out of ten non-Black and racist, insist that these artists don’t know any better. That wearing Black hairstyles and saying the N-word while being non-Black isn’t offensive. That we, as fans, should try to educate them instead of trying to cancel them. And while we do try to inform them, it shouldn’t be our job to do so. There is at least one member in every group that is assigned the position of a rapper. Many companies use Black producers and writers. Many groups putting out music in genres created by Black people, etc. It makes no sense why K-pop groups, who do nothing but profit off of Black culture, can’t take the time to understand it properly.
Harassment from other fans
BIPOC fans also have to deal with the onslaught of other equally ignorant fans. BIPOC fans spend a lot of time trying to reach out to companies whenever an artist does something disrespectful. But we’re often blocked from seeing any progress. Other fans (and sometimes companies) go out of their way to keep these artists ignorant. They will flood comments and clear searches. They tell us to educate these artists but then bar us from doing so. BIPOC fans, specifically Black women, are subject to all types of ridicule, harassment, and disgusting treatment from these so-called “fans.” People will call them anything from “monkeys” to the n-word. Some have even been doxed. The lengths K-pop fans will go to defend, and baby adults who have no idea they exist are shocking, and frankly, embarrassing. You will never see me drop my morals for a man that I’ve never met. But sadly, there are a lot of K-pop fans who can’t say the same.
A call for growth
K-pop has brought a lot of happiness into my life. Surprisingly, I’ve been more into it this year than I have ever before. I’ve met so many friends, discovered so much amazing music, and found genuine comfort in my favorite artists. But the cultural insensitivity that we as BIPOC K-pop fans have to deal with has proven to be too much. If K-pop artists and companies want to continue to grow and receive praise from all over the world, they need to start taking responsibility for their actions. Begin working towards understanding and appreciating all of the cultures of the people that have continued to understand and appreciate theirs.