Oops. Guess I’m officially done with all k-pop now. Fuck all those crushes I said I had. I’m done.
A huge discussion when it comes to not only Korean pop culture, but also Korean society s that of anti-Blackness.
The discussion usually devolves into kpop fans taking up the “YOU SJWS YOU. SHUT UP” and anti-racists ignoring the societal context of Korea and trying to yell over Koreans, who they group in with kpop fans.
So here are my 2 cents because I got this link sent to me about 7 times yesterday.
What do I like about this article/thread?
First off it points out an important issue, the issue of anti-Blackness which plagues not only kpop culture, but Korean culture in general. It’s an undeniable fact that anti-Blackness is widespread in Korea and that this has formed a large part of kpop, which in turn serves to further enforce and spread anti-Blackness, as I’ve somewhat touched upon during my discussions about YGE, who have many artists pointed out in the link above.
So if you’re familiar with Korean society the above examples of anti-Blackness are not surprising to a certain degree with the widespread nature of anti-Blackness in Korean culture, so the article, in pointing these examples out, does a good job of bringing this discussion to the forefront and forcing the discussion to be had.
What’s wrong with this article? It refuses to take a lot of historical and socio-cultural context in to the picture.
First off Korean history of race dynamics is extremely different with the Western hemisphere.
Korean history and race dynamics in the sense of as they are discussed in the western hemisphere or pretty much non-existant until the 18th century at the earliest, with contact with African American culture being established during mainly the 6. 25 War period. The dynamics of Korean history have always focused on relations of different Asian ethnicities, such as the dynamics between Koreans and the Japanese, rather than race.
Where does this come from? The fact that Korean history is dominated by a predominantly homogeneous population of Asian people, most specifically of the Korean ethnicity. Thus, when there are no people of differing races it’s hard to establish a history of racial dynamics.
So why is this important? Because it helps, on a certain level explain why anti-Blackness is so widespread in Korea. There’s no history of oppression of Black people in Korea and thus certain actions do not hold a historical context in which it’s seen as racist and bigoted in Korea.
Fast forward to the Korean war when the US army came into South Korea, carrying the hierarchy of white soldiers being held in higher esteem than Black soldiers and what happens is that that mentality was transferred to the Korean population. The media contact between Korea and the western world further enforced that notion, as positive and accurate portrayals of Black people in western media is overpowered via racial stereotyping such as Black people as “gangsters” and “poor” and “ghetto”.
Because of this lack of accurate contact and communication, the education of Korean people on certain racial issues has also been delayed and denied.
For example, Korean people view Blackface as nothing more than a costume methodology to more accurately portray a Black character because the history of blackface is not widely known. There’s a lack of educational material as to why Blackface is a racist action and why it shouldn’t be done.
Same goes for the n-word, which I’ve already discussed a bit in this post.
So what are some steps that need to be taken to alleviate the issue of anti-Blackness not only in kpop but also in Korean culture?
First off, direct contact between the Black community and the Korean community needs to be established. Most of the contact between the Black community and the Korean community, from the Korean side, comes from the western media plagued with whiteness and white supremacy. Because of this, incorrect and bigoted views of the Black community are formed and enforced in the minds of Koreans.
Of course you could say that there are plenty of resources on the internet explaining the history of Blackface, why the n-word is an unacceptable word for those who are not Black to use, or what not, but the question must be asked, how many of those resources are accessible to Koreans? The language barrier of English is still very large in Korea and thus when these resources are only in English or other European languages, they become inaccessible to a large portion of the Korean population.
Once contact has been established and education has started, it’s very much important that Korean anti-racists work toward making sure that kpop stars and other parts of Korean society do not, to be blunt, fuck up.
The issue of anti-Blackness in Korean culture is an important issues, but it must not be one that further widens the gap between the Black and the Korean community. It must be an issue faced by the Korean community and Black community forming a direct relationship and contact that throws away the whiteness plagued media of the west in which currently the only contact exists.