For many, K-Pop is more than just music: It’s a lifestyle. People choose different music for a variety of reasons, but the main reason is because it speaks to them in a whole different way other genres cannot. But why dislike a person or a particular genre just, because it’s something you may not listen to personally?
Dear K-Pop, We Hate You Because…
Many international K-Pop fans greet this issue. When some say K-Pop is their favorite genre or name a Korean artist as their favorite singer or group, sometimes this is met with sneers and snarky comments.
“I hear ‘how can you listen to that ching-chong music?’ all the time from my family. ‘How can you understand it? It’s not in English,’” a commenter said via an anonymous Survey Monkey survey. The survey drew over a hundred responses from people between the ages of 13-30 years-old. The majority of participants were female (80%), but some of the male participants also had plenty to add.
“I had a friend once who said he loves all music,” a male participant said. “I asked him if he liked K-Pop like I did and he said ‘heck no! Ew, who listens to that crap?”
Over the past decade, K-Pop’s popularity has grown with international fans. Many of them jumped onto the K-Pop bandwagon through listening to J-Pop and K-Pop artists who’ve crossed-over into that market; whereas others learned of K-Pop through Starcraft, online radio, and YouTube. However, while the international fandom continued, and continues, to grow, so does the number of “haters” who feel K-Pop is “over-processed,” “plastic,” “disgraceful,” and “not music.” With this, those who dislike the music extend the disdain to the fans, calling them “close-minded,” “racist,” “annoying,” and “defensive.” Online, many Facebook groups, Tumblr pages, and online forums document people’s dislikes.
On one Facebook anti-K-Pop page, some of the many reasons they list for hating K-Pop and its fans include:
- How some male performers look female
- Plastic surgery the idols undergo
- Auto-tuned vocals
- Fans are viewed as narrow-minded, “delusional,” and racist toward other country’s music
- Annoyed by fans using Korean words
- Annoyed by fans who feel K-Pop is superior to other genres
- Dislike how obsessed fans get over their idol biases
Only Connected to K-Pop?
Many of the issues brought up on many hate-forums are often issues that are not solely unique to the K-Pop industry, though.
For decades, all music genres have experienced their share of fanboys and fangirls. For example, when the Beatles and the “British Invasion” occurred in the 1960s, women would swoon over John, Paul, George, and Ringo and dress in British fashion; men would have their hair and clothes styled after many British boy bands for a touch of cool. During the 1980s when “hair bands” and glam rock were all the rage, men grew their hair to mimic the likes of Poison and Guns n’ Roses. And, Bon Jovi posters graced the walls of many females.
Today, most music is processed and auto-tuned so artists can bring their best voices forward; and young fans scream and cry over the likes of Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, and One Direction, even avidly defending them for their missteps. In fact, even non-Korean stars have their share of “sasaengs” and people who will do anything to feel closer to their idols.
“Plastic Barbie Dolls on Stage”
For many, K-Idols seem to go too heavy on plastic surgery. Even K-Fans will agree that the K-Pop industry and their need for idols to look perfect and fit a certain beauty ideal is a bit excessive.
Destinee, 36, a Reddit commenter, said “While I like the music, I can’t stand the plastic surgery. There’s too much! A lot of these people are nice-looking pre-debut. K-Pop is a business, yes. But, why take the business to people’s faces and bodies? This is what turns me off to K-Pop a lot of times. Why not just let talent speak for itself?”
South Korea is the leading market for plastic surgery, so it’s no surprise many idols undergo plastic surgery to achieve the right “look” from double-eyelid surgery, jaw shaving, cheek implants, and eye-widening surgery. Many feel that the image South Korean artists bring forth helps perpetuate impossible beauty ideals, especially for K-Pop’s preteen and teen target demographic.
“Each country has ideal beauty,” K-Blogger Maria Sanchez said on Tumblr. “While many see K-Pop as plastic Barbie dolls on stage, the same can be said for Hollywood actors and actresses. Even singers from across the globe may feel pressure to look or act a certain way by their companies. I do feel the K-Pop industry should allow more artists to be natural. It would be nice. In fact, if this happened, perhaps people will take K-Pop seriously as a musical genre as opposed to a fad.”
The Polarizing Genre
In the Survey Monkey poll, many participants said friends and family made them feel weird for liking K-Pop. Many said they had parents who felt K-Pop was the new “stage” for kids growing up; parents who commented were confused by the whole concept. As one participant said, “I am really not a fan of K-Pop. It all sounds alike to me. Is K-Pop, like, how the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC were for us in the 1990s? If so, kids will grow out of it in a few years, and this conversation won’t matter. If these kids turn out like me, they’ll laugh someday and wonder why they even listened to it or spent money on the merchandise.”
One comment that cropped up often was how listeners were made to feel as if they were turning their backs on their own country’s artists and music. Those who experienced these comments said they felt like they weren’t supposed to enjoy something they loved in fear of being ridiculed or bullied. Sammy, 18, was one of these people. She took down her K-Pop-related content on her Tumblr and Facebook pages because of the comments she received.
“Because of some attitudes people have with K-Pop, I feel like I should be locked in a closet,” said Sammy. “If I say anything or post a video on Facebook from B1A4, my bias group, I get teased. ‘Oh, that one looks like a girl!’ ‘The lyrics make no sense!’ Why should any of that bother anyone? I also, hear ‘Sam, why don’t you listen to American music?’ I do listen to American music! Just because I like K-Pop, it doesn’t mean I don’t like everything else.”
“I guess I’m one of those fans antis hate,” said Tumblr user D’Ante, 22. “My half-sister introduced me to Epik High about, maybe, five years ago? Since then, I haven’t listened to any American music. People stare at me funny since I am 6’2” black man in college, but who cares! I’ve even had my friends razz me and say I turned my ‘back on my roots’ according to them.”
But, K-Pop-hater Yumi feels differently: “People who like K-Pop act like they’re elitists, like they are cooler than everyone else. No, you’re not cool. You’re trying to be something you’re not. You’re not Korean. Your country has its own music, you should be supporting that and trying to make that music number one. Then, everyone is like ‘Oh! K-Pop is so cool! Saranghae, oppa!’ These idols aren’t your ‘oppa.’ And because of K-Pop’s rise, everyone forgets about their roots. Other countries’ music is forgotten too. A lot of these people who are like ‘wee, K-Pop everywhere!’ used to like J-Pop, now they hate it and act like Korean is perfect.”
Yumi’s comments are echoed on many anti-K-Pop sites, too. A lot of antis do not like how some K-Fans place K-Pop above other music, often without giving another music genre a chance or being open-minded toward other country’s music. Anti-fans would like to see K-Pop placed on a pedestal,l less. With this, they hope fans will not force the music upon them.
It’s Okay to Hate It… to a Point
While some of the anti-fans have great points in asking K-Pop fans to be more open-minded and less forceful, on the same token, many K-Pop fans feel antis could be nicer about stating their opinions.
Kelsey Pierce, 17, said “I respect anti-fans. I have many friends who are antis. However, these ones who hate for shallow reasons, these ones who call those of us who are fans ‘stupid,’ ‘blind,’ ‘deaf,’ and ‘foolish’ are the ones who get to me. Why am I all these things because I like Korean pop? If you have a good, valid reason for hating the music that makes me feel so happy and alive, then I am willing to listen. But don’t insult and put down others. What are you trying to achieve by being nasty? Are you hoping your meanness will make me stop loving my music?”
While antis feel those who love K-Pop are far from open-minded, this is also a sentiment shared with fans as the feel those against K-Pop should be less close-minded.
“My way of being open-minded is to make it a goal to figure out why a group is liked,” one survey responder said. “Open-mindedness is a much better alternative to hating other groups for getting so much attention. We could do with less hating in this world.”
Another responder said, “I don’t like K-Pop. I don’t want to like it. Don’t force it upon me. If you don’t, then I will accept your taste in music more.”
Find a Common Ground
Like with anything in life, there will be lovers and haters. Just because people are on opposite ends of the K-Pop-Love spectrum, it doesn’t have to be a fight to the death. If someone doesn’t enjoy it, don’t force them to, but on the same token, don’t make someone feel bad for loving something. Music doesn’t have to be polarizing.