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As K-POP Spreading Globally, It’s Time to Look Again on Cultural Appropriation

PS: All written in this article is purely a translated version from Newsen article

K-POP both music and idols are loved by many globally with various culture, as result, the ‘cultural appropriation’ issue emerged within.

According to 2020 Korean International Cultural Exchange abut Global Hallyu Trend, consumers picked K-POP as the most associated image when they think about Korea. Around 18.5% rate, comparing to other keyword such as K-Drama, food, and IT industry.

In addition, according to Gaon Chart, overseas consumer contribute to a large portion of Kpop MV views on Youtube. Popular group such as BlackPink, BTS, and TWICE, at least had 90% of share on Youtube views outside Korea. BTS named as the 1st Korean singer to ranked #1 on Billboard main chart and their overseas sales of their album also increasing day by day.

As K-POP showed its popularity and influence around the globe, the issue about cultural appropriation began to emerge from various fields. ‘Cultural appropriation’ refers to the use of cultural/traditional culture of any group (Cambridge dictionary: the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture). For example cultural appropriation including blackface make up, whitewashing, and Native American makeup.

In the MV of Oh My Girl, YooA, ‘Bon Voyage’, the styling and props reminiscing the Native Americans with the pristine forest in the background. It was intended to sing about the purity and fresh nature, but some K-POP fans pointed out that they lacked pf understanding of the cultures. Not only because ‘Bon Voyage’ borrowed the image from indigenous culture, but they portrayed them as a mystical beings compared to others.

Styling with Reggae hair also receive backlash from overseas fans several times. HyunA was criticized of mocking black man after she posted a picture with reggae hair on her SNS. ATEEZ also criticized for using the reggae hair concept. Their agency responded that they have no intention to depreciate other cultures or making commercial use of them and said that they will revise the hairstyle in future activities.

BLACKPINK also deleted the scene where one of Hindu Gods, Ganesha, sculpture appear in ‘How You Like That’ MV. Recently, WOODZ (Cho Seung Yeon) also wore Indian hair as decoration in his new album concept photo. Overseas fans immediately requested the agency to fix it and his agency also recognized this problem and deleted all the photos with the headdress.

The reason why K-POP idols were criticized for ‘cultural appropriation’ is simply because they bring and use the elements from the other cultures to make the atmosphere and for artistic reason. The movie “Parasite” also features Indian culture and make up but it was not criticized for being a cultural appropriation. The contrast between the American Indian culture which shown on the wealthy Park (Lee Sun Kyun) and his son Dasong (Jung Hyun Joon) and the poor Gitaek (Song Kang Ho) is due to the life of Indians, who have driven out the natives and have fallen into the lower classes of society.

Overseas countries are campaigning to avoid the cultural make up as the awareness of this cultural appropriation increases. Korea still lacks on social awareness on cultural appropriation. The controversial reggae hair, Native American make up and hair decorations, Hindu sculpture, were said as “too sensitive” “it’s unusual, but they were not used for bad intentions.”

On the other hand, there’s also a growing awareness on cultural appropriation. On August, Sam Okyere criticized Uijongbu High School for its blackface make up and setting up forum for a public discussion. Recently “Shining Nicky”, a game produced by a Chinese game company, ended their game service in Korea after they accepted a Chinese user’s claim that Hanbok is traditional Chinese culture and causing uproar. Some netizens carried out a challenge on Twitter to spread the message that Hanbok is a traditional Korean costume. Having both positions of cultural appropriation, I felt the need (for Koreans) to respect other cultures.

K-POP is showing explosive growth. The impact of K-POP and idols on various cultures in many countries is also huge. As person who spreads and enjoy one culture called K-POP, it’s time to understand and respect other cultures more that anything else.

Park Eun Hae Reporter


About Vanessa (610 Articles)
Accidentally drown into this KPOP ocean. Designer, Photographer, Writer :)

1 Comment on As K-POP Spreading Globally, It’s Time to Look Again on Cultural Appropriation

  1. Another phrase for this is cultural imperialism. The western ideology of critical race theory (a basically dishonest philosophy or solipsism) is used to force other cultures to see the world through western eyes. All music and all art involve mixing concepts and ideas from other cultures.

    To take the idea to its illogical conclusion, musical notation was invented in the 1500’s by an Italian Nobleman. To avoid “cultural appropriation”, all Kpop groups should be forced to have an Italian.

    In essence, cultural appropriation is a racist concept to force western thought on other races and should be discredited.


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