Six years ago my family told me this whole “kpop thing” was a phase. I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t a little offended, but a part of me wondered if it was true. This was six years ago. Six years ago kpop in the U.S. wasn’t too popular, especially outside of the Asian communities and especially especially in my home town of Omaha. I remember being teased about liking kpop. People asking me things like “why do you even listen to what you can’t understand?” or just telling me that that the boys all looked like girls. In my high school I only had one real friend who really listened to kpop but she and I were never in the same classes. All of my other friends never wanted to listen to kpop. No one would pass me the aux cord, when I insisted or begged my music be played everyone complained about it. I don’t think anyone was trying to be mean or to be rude really. Not everyone likes kpop and I could understand that. It was just the way people acted about it, as if they never played music I didn’t like. I don’t think many people understood what this music meant to me.
Growing up there was not a whole lot of Asian representation in American media that wasn’t racist or stereotypical. In the music industry Asian representation dropped to almost non-existent. I felt lost, and as a younger person it caused me a lot of pain. Maybe I hid it fairly well but I wasn’t okay. Maybe no one really thought I cared because my family was white american, maybe in their view I had become so whitewashed it didn’t matter that I was Asian. It mattered to me. I had people from grade school who made fun of me, telling me to open my eyes or go back to my own country. As I grew older these insults didn’t go away. People would call me a chink, ask if I was from North Korea, and say things like “oh ching chong ling long!” as if that made any sense at all. So when I found kpop I was surprised at how many non-Asian people there where supporting these men and women. People who called these Asians beautiful and talented, people who wished they could be Korean or just Asian. Suddenly I found a world where I felt welcomed, admired, and loved. I found a doorway to the culture of my homeland that I never knew existed.
Now it seems like kpop is everywhere. In teen magazines, on huge billboards, on American radio talk shows, and all over YouTube. While I am excited about the growth kpop has made even in the last six years, I also feel like kpop fans are becoming more and more hostile towards each other. Now you can barely mention BTS without someone going “OMG yes they are my favorite! Infires Man!” which is fun
I guess. What gets me is that a lot of new kpop fans don’t seem to care about anyone else in the industry but their favorites. Not all new kpop fans are this way, but the ones who are catch most of the attention. Fans like this will drag another group just for the sake of loving their favorites. Now let me make this clear, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LOVE ALL KPOP GROUPS. People act like kpop is one huge genre, it isn’t. Within kpop there are lots of different music styles so its not crazy to think that someone who likes SHINee isn’t fond of a group like BTS, the style of music is totally different. This being said GROUPS AND ARTISTS DESERVE RESPECT. I am a firm believer that no matter if you think an idol is unattractive, or you don’t like a certain group for whatever reason, it does not give anyone the right the be rude. All artists work hard, not just your favorites. If you don’t have something nice to say then don’t say it? I cannot be the only one who learned this growing up. If you are someone who drags groups for no other reason than to make your favorite group look good, then you are not a fan. Think about this, would any of these very respectful idols like seeing their fans drag other artists? Especially ones that are older or came first? Ones they like and also admire as friends and fans? No they wouldn’t. And by making yourself look rude, you make the group you support also look bad.
If you are anything like me you will know and understand what a blessing kpop is, and what a blessing other kpop fans are. Imagine having no one like your music, imagine them judging you and bullying you for it. I am overly happy when I meet new people who love kpop, because I can openly talk about it without being told that no one cares. Remember that there are plenty of fans who share your feelings and can become good friends of yours. Just know we are stronger together than we are apart.
**** Also even though I have been in this game for 6 years, I am still considered a newbie.