From the far-away land of South Korea comes a musical phenomenon that has now become the biggest cultural wave of the past five years: Korean pop music, also known as K-pop.
With the rise to global fame of artists such as BTS, BLACKPINK, NCT and TWICE, it is safe to say that K-pop has now taken over the world, with millions of fans from all over the globe tuning in to listen to their favorite Korean titans. This globalization of K-pop was an extremely positive occurrence, drastically boosting Asian representation in the media and allowing people from rather small countries to discover and contact new and diverse cultures. Yet, K-pop becoming mainstream for sure has its many downsides, which are particularly apparent once you enter the world of K-pop stan twitter.
Twitter has been known since the first appearance of the ‘blue bird’ for being a pretty abrupt and cruel place on the Internet. However, current K-pop fans have managed to take its toxicity to a whole new level, turning it into what can only be described as a battlefield. The music industry has always been some kind of never-ending popularity contest, but nowadays the competition has gotten tougher, dirtier and in a way more confusing.
Ever since international (i.e. not Korean) fans got involved, K-pop has basically turned into a race of who has the highest number of sales, who has more views on YouTube, who has the most streams on Spotify, and, ironically, disregarding the actual quality of the artists’ content. Nowadays, fans seem to believe that if they stan the most successful group out there, that automatically makes them better than anyone else.
You may think that this habit of ‘basking in reflected glory’ has always been perceived as a common denominator amongst fanbases. However, nowadays the situation has escalated dramatically, as people seem to be more emotionally involved with their chosen artist’s career than ever, creating a parasocial bond with them that is progressively spiraling into toxicity. Some fans appear to consider their faves’ accomplishments as if they were their own, feeling almost a sense of ownership over their successes and achievements, but especially over their struggles.
Wins and Losses
All K-pop idols have had to go through massive hardships – considering how cut-throat the K-pop training system is – and surely no one had their debut handed to them on a silver plate. Unfortunately, this knowledge does not stop millions of people from having heated discussions over it on Twitter every day.
What is even more absurd is realizing that the vast majority of those arguing are international fans who have never had to go through a single day as a K-pop idol trainee, and surely cannot even imagine the hardship behind the climb to stardom. I really doubt that Becky from Oklahoma knows what or how it’s like to become an idol, no matter how loud she wants to argue on social media. And this is not the only ridiculous and borderline idiotic topic fans argue over.
I really doubt that Becky from Oklahoma knows what or how it’s like to become an idol
Who’s the Most Woke?
The hottest ongoing debate on Twitter right now seems to be the discussion over who is the best idol – not the best in terms of talent, but in terms of ethics – the most woke. As western society has gotten increasingly aware of cultural diversity in the past five years, celebrities of all kinds are under a scrutinizing microscope now more than ever, especially regarding their moral conduct. Nowadays, people (rightfully so!) don’t get a pass anymore when they say culturally ignorant comments, instead, they will have to face backlash from their fanbase. However, when international fans became interested in K-pop and obviously applied this same mindset of holding people accountable for their ignorance of the new music community, things got a little bit dicey.
Even though everyone seems to be woke right now, there is still a lot of ignorance around the world, especially in smaller countries where the majority of the population does not speak English – countries like K-pop’s very own. South Korea.
A large cultural awakening can be achieved primarily by coming in contact with Western users of social media, whose main language is English. Therefore, if you are not a fluent English speaker, it can be hard to fully grasp the seriousness of these complex ethical topics. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that issues such as Cultural Appropriation (CA) are the focus of a lot of debates right now on K-pop Twitter, as many idols still commit these mistakes. Nevertheless, the way it is being discussed by Twitter users is somewhat… odd.
This selective outrage is contributing to the increasing and stifling hypocrisy that is now dominating K-pop stan Twitter
The majority of international fans don’t seem to actually care about CA, as they conveniently only use it as a cheap escamotage so they can cancel a certain artist who rubs them in the wrong way. Yet, they don’t find CA offensive if their favorite idol does it. This selective outrage is contributing to the increasing and stifling hypocrisy that is now dominating K-pop stan Twitter, creating such a toxic environment that it is, for many, ruining an experience that should just be funny and entertaining.
Music liberates artists by allowing them to express themselves freely, so the community they create should be a positive place that brings only joy to the fans. Yet, it has stopped being enjoyable and has turned into a real, nasty battle. Now, people are just pointing fingers and throwing accusations and insults, just so that their favorite idol can climb to the top. An idol who – if I may state the obvious – does not even know who these fans are, and surely would not be happy if they found out about the awful things said in their name.
At the end of the day, K-pop Twitter fans need to realize that discrediting an artist’s work behind a phone screen won’t do anything but waste their time and money, and being a fan of someone rather than someone else’s makes you neither better nor worse. Let’s face it, we all like K-pop – we’re all losers here.
Cover: Flickr/Jann Shi