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The Appropriation of Culture in Kpop and the Obstacles in Preventing it from Happening.

As Korean pop music continues to grow in popularity and exposure around the world, it has faced quite the backlash from international communities. One of the criticisms of the genre focuses on the quite often blatant cultural appropriation that occurs. Music videos often feature clothing from a specific culture, which are donned to emulate stereotypes of that culture. This is often seen when Kpop groups attempt to do a music video full of "swag" or to emulate black culture, and imitate what they see in American hip-hop/rap culture. However, we can’t expect them to change over night. Korea itself is an extremely homogenous culture, where people are rarely exposed to cultures in their own daily lives. Due to this, it’s incredibly difficult for them to even comprehend the idea of cultural appropriation. Other than their culture, what other obstacles stand in the way of preventing culture appropriation in Korean Popular products? Are there ways to solve it?

  • I think the whole appropriation thing can go a bit overboard. It’s one thing to borrow from another culture in order to stereotype, mock, or degrade it in some way. It’s another thing to borrow from another culture in order to appreciate or celebrate it. If “cultural appropriation” is simply about borrowing from a culture that isn’t our own, then we’re all guilty. Culture isn’t something that can be owned by anyone and nothing is original or exists without any outside influence. As far as South Korean media goes, it has definitely had issues with the use of blackface in the past. That’s definitely a problem. As you mention, it is a mostly homogeneous culture, meaning blatant racism is more likely to occur. It’s a serious issue worth remedying. However, if a K-pop artist likes hip hop simply because he or she likes hip hop and is respectful about it, what’s the problem with that? – aprosaicpintofpisces 5 years ago
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  • Hey, thanks for your note! I see where you're coming from! Especially with the advent of technology and the globalization that comes with it, it's hard to define culture as a single stagnant thing. In fact, culture should be spread and shared. But I think in regards to this, it's how they do so. To a lot of the many members of the K-pop community, Hip-Hop is view more as an artistic style of expression and an aesthetic. And so their products show this, by reflecting the use of that culture through the use of the culture as costumes and props. There is a general lack of awareness and overall it skirts a very dangerous line because you'll find kpop artists who drop the n-word, without ever realizing that they are skirting a very dynamic and often dangerously racist topic. It's more of an ignorance issue more than anything else. – eugeneleec 5 years ago
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  • You're welcome. Yeah, I definitely agree. It can be a case by case situation. Whether it's the use of blackface or the "n" word or whatever else, there can be a lot of ignorance about what's considered offensive. I just think it's important to distinguish between what's genuine racism and what isn't. – aprosaicpintofpisces 5 years ago
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  • I don't understand Korea nearly as well as I would like to. This is probably a pretty common problem in the west. We're familiar with Japan, and maybe China a little bit, but not much awareness of Korea as a nation or culture. I'd like to see this topic start out with some case studies or examples of what is and isn't actually Korean, just to get a sense of it. – albee 5 years ago
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  • Besides the homogenous culture, Koreans aren't ignorant. They have wide access to social media, and they do know what's going on in terms of racism and cultural appropriation. There was a user who published this article: http://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/66971666.html. After the aforementioned article went viral, Koreans did respond to it on their own forums and message boards. It's not ingrained in their culture for Koreans to be ignorant. Some obstacles: Western media does the same thing. So why do some people think Korean pop culture isn't going to be affected by this? Another obstacle is that, even though many kpop fans refuse to accept it, kpop is a rehash of American hiphop/R&B. – seouljustice 5 years ago
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