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Blackpink's Lisa among K-pop stars starting to talk about racism

In a recent virtual conversation with a fan, Blackpink’s Lisa addressed the issue of cultural appropriation by wearing a braided hairstyle which was deemed associated with black individuals who have been experiencing racism and prejudice.

Lisa was called out by fans for her actions and they said that she is being culturally insensitive by utilizing hairstyles from outside of her race. She then apologized for her mistakes and also spoke out about the prevalence of appropriation in the industry.

In this Asiaone news, we are discussing some of the responses of the artists regarding the issue.

Appropriation in K-pop

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The K-pop superstar is one of the several South Korean idols that are now vocally addressing the issue of cultural appropriation in the entertainment industry whereas it was largely ignored and not addressed by celebrities in the past.

Korean pop has a long history of adopting elements from other cultures and ethnic minorities, especially black culture or utilizing religious symbols and incorporating them into their music videos as a decoration without carefully studying its cultural significance. 

This insensitivity towards other cultures outside their own was addressed by Lisa and it is one of the rare moments in which a globally known artist is aware that there is something wrong with the industry that she is in.

Public Apologies

If there is a fan call-out addressing these issues, it is mostly addressed by the entertainment agencies in private to reduce public attention. For example, in 2020, Blackpink was accused of using Indian religious symbols of a Hindu deity in one of their music videos. Although there was no public apology issued, they removed the part where the figurine was seen.

In some cases, however, they also issue an apology, like what happened to Mamamoo and Stray Kids. Like Lisa, they publish a formal apology for using the same braided hairstyle which was deemed culturally insensitive.

In an interview with Buzzfeed, Allen Ma, a Taiwanese-American member of K-pop group Cravity, recently apologized for his statements when he said that the K-pop industry does not appropriate other cultures but rather appreciates them. However, despite the good intentions, the star still has met with backlash over the statement.

Due to the public apologies made by K-pop stars regarding the issue, many fans are urging their idols to educate themselves about other cultures.

New Advocates of Change

Now that the issue of racism and cultural appropriation was brought to the surface, many K-pop idols have been advocating the change in the industry.

One of these advocates is Keeho, a Korean-Canadian member of the band P1Harmony. After a fan call-out last year that nearly derailed the release of their debut album, he has been educating his fellow members about racism and other cultures.

He said that he has been educating other group members about his experiences growing up in an ethnically diverse community since his fellow boy band members grew up primarily in South Korea and Japan where the cultures are much more homogenous.

“It was very surprising to me how the other members responded because not everybody takes it that seriously, but ever since we were trainees, I talked to the other members about cultural appropriation and other racial issues, and they tried to educate themselves when we spoke about them,” Keeho said.

“They were really open and if there was something they didn’t understand, they’d ask me and we’d have conversations and learn about these topics and issues,” he added.

Keeho’s bandmate Theo responded upon learning these issues from Keeho, “Growing up in Korea, I never really was aware of these issues. Hearing about them from someone like Keeho, was really surprising and it was an eye-opening experience for me to learn about all these issues.”

Upon learning Keeho’s experiences, the group also started to educate themselves about the origins of the music and art form that inspires their performances like hip hop music which originated in African-American culture.

Conclusion

Racism and cultural appropriation is still prevalent in South Korean showbiz. What’s important is that artists and agencies are now aware of the issue and they are making efforts to solve them.

For more entertainment posts like this and other stuff, go to The Straits Times.