Ostracized for listening to music: The struggles of liking KPOP in the west

Kpop World Festival

Lauren Shade / Contributing Writer

 

I first noticed it while I was waiting in traffic; my front windows were rolled down letting in a soft breeze and pouring out one of my favorite songs “One of a Kind” by the infamous Korean idol Kwon Ji Yong, better known by his stage name: G-Dragon. We were at a standstill on the Turnpike in 7pm traffic cluster when I looked over to the idle vehicle beside me to see a pair of curious dark eyes and lips that formed a frown as they took in the foreign sounds that were in every way similar to Western music save in speech. When after a few minutes the passenger didn’t look away but still stared inquisitively into my car, I rolled up my window’s embarrassingly. I was glad that they were tinted. Of course, this scenario can be looked at from many different angles–the driver could have been looking at me, or was interested in my car, so on and so forth.

However, these scenarios in which attention suddenly surrounded me each time my ringtone sung out EXO’s “Mama” or I tuned Pandora to my Kpop Beats station, played over and over in my head. One occurrence became two, two became three, and so forth until I couldn’t help but trace back everyone’s curiosity to the second I pressed play and the music started drumming out in creative beats, or the Youtube video’s pumped with ostentatious colors and animated themes on my MacBook.

The first negative comments I received in response to my listening to Korean Pop was from my co- workers. Mind you, I work with a very diverse group of people whom I’ve known forover two years. Their music tastes vary from country, pop, rap, hip hop, metal, rock, electronic, alternative, etc. When I played Korean music I’d get everything from prejudice remarks about North Korea to accusations about being “obsessed” with Asian culture. Others would refer to me as “the girl who listens to that Asian stuff,” a title that did no justice to my taste in music. Yeah, I like Big Bang and BTOB but I also like Led Zeppelin and The Strokes. So, why did my affection towards Korean pop music suddenly overshadow every other genre of music that I prefered?

For months I only heard responses like: “Korean music? Don’t they want to bomb us?,” ” But you can’t even understand what they’re saying.” “They sound weird.” “I can’t take them seriously.”  “They all look the same.” “They’re trying to be too much like America.” Listening to Korean music has solidified my belief that a majority of people in the West are closed- minded to things and even concepts that they are unfamiliar with. People in many parts of the East, Latin America, and even in various countries in Europe openly listen to American music. For instance, in Germany, English isn’t a native language, yet, as someone with first hand experience I know that when Germans listen to American music they aren’t indiscriminately judged and automatically labeled nor do they have to turn down the volume or roll up their windows.

Though, I’ve found support for my love of Korean music in the form of small, select groups that dedicate themselves to Korean sub-culture it hasn’t changed the looks I get or the whispers that are tossed around me when I play some of my favorite Korean pop songs. I wondered if I were alone until I spoke with the Vice President of FIU’s Korean Culture Club, Stephanie Montes De Oca, “It [KPOP] definitely has changed my opinion on music. I had people judge me because I like Korean culture and music. They would think it was weird and just make fun of me. [But] They don’t have a passion for something they really love to talk about. So, I don’t let it get to me because it makes me happy.”

It took me a long time to embrace the differences between South Korean music and Western music. It’s different–I get it. But, Skrillex did a track with G-Dragon and CL from 2NE1, Block B is having a showcase in Miami, and this year is the first opening of KPOP Convention in Miami. Give or take a year or two, I think Korean pop music will be popular in the States. I’m not ashamed to say that I love KPOP and I shouldn’t be judged for it. I’m coming out of my proverbial KPOP closet. Don’t be so quick to judge because before you know you may be listening to it too.

opinion@fiusm.com

6 Comments on "Ostracized for listening to music: The struggles of liking KPOP in the west"

  1. All of the criticisms in the article (“Korean music? Don’t they want to bomb us?,” ” But you can’t even understand what they’re saying.” “They sound weird.” “I can’t take them seriously.” ) are inane–except one: “I can’t take them seriously.” I’m American and when I first came to Korea to live and heard that music, I said, “You can’t be serious. Is this a joke? Wait, maybe I’m listening to some kind of radio station that plays music for kindergarteners.” But no. People actually like it here. Just incredible. And lamentable. And even more lamentable that it’s taken places like China, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam by storm. It led a guy I met at a bar to make the bigoted comment (which he also applied to the schlocky, childish TV dramas that have also taken those countries by storm), “It’s for children and Chinese.” No need for such bigotry, but there’s no serious adult who’s into K-pop.

    • “No need for such bigotry, but there’s no serious adult who’s into K-pop.”

      You get the irony of what you just said, right?

      And gosh. I’m 45, I run my own company, I have my own apartment. I have a degree in music/literature in which I studied ethnomusicology, amongst other things. I’m well-educated, well-travelled, all that stuff. I pay bills, work with clients, call my mother– basically live as adults do. And I adore K-pop. Just love it. Your definition of “serious adult” is ludicrously narrow if it somehow means, “Someone who doesn’t listen to music of which I approve.”

  2. @jim
    Korean music in general is known as Kpop outside of Korea but there are many genres besides what the popular radio stations in Korea play that caters to younger audiences.

  3. @Bobby

    You are more fight than you know! I produce and host a weekly Internet radio show that features every other genre of Korean music that you can possibly think of, and several that would probably surprise you! There is such an amazing variety of Korean music that I am able to do this for two hours each week without playing the same song twice. I am also able to find guests that are surprisingly connected to Korean culture and music. And I am a white male in his late 40’s who has lived in Korea for five years, working as an actor, writer and photographer.

    To hear the truely wide variety of music being produced in Korea today, tune into The FlyingBurrito Music Show!

  4. @Bobby

    You are more fight than you know! I produce and host a weekly Internet radio show that features every other genre of Korean music that you can possibly think of, and several that would probably surprise you! There is such an amazing variety of Korean music that I am able to do this for two hours each week without playing the same song twice. I am also able to find guests that are surprisingly connected to Korean culture and music. And I am a white male in his late 40’s who has lived in Korea for five years, working as an actor, writer and photographer.

    To hear the truely wide variety of music being produced in Korea today, tune into The FlyingBurrito Music Show!

  5. I’m Nigerian and I love kpop and kdramas and whenever I play any kpop song in my room, my roommates would be like, “you’ve come again” or “what is this noise? you don’t even know what they’re saying” It’s very funny because I don’t like kpop alone..I also love Nigerian and American music too but the fact that I like something different and strange overshadows everything else..The funny thing is that there are many people that actually like kpop but they’re afraid to be labeled as weird or strange, so that don’t listen to it or even acknowledge it in public. The irony of it all is that when Gangnam style was released, everyone was dancing to it and it was a hit, but when i tell people that it’s actually korean , they’re like,”really?” All in all, I love kpop and I don’t care if people judge because of that…that’s their own problem

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