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How It Feels to Grow Up in Korea and Hate K-Pop

Having been born and raised in Korea, I always had a strong desire to reject homogeny. Everybody already looked and dressed like me, so I felt my only way out was by breaking that cultural uniformity—this, for me, meant avoiding K-Pop as much as...
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Κείμενο Kristen Yoonsoo Kim
12.10.12

Girls' Generation, a popular Korean girl group

Having been born and raised in Korea, I always had a strong desire to reject homogeny. Everybody already looked and dressed like me, so I felt my only way out was by breaking that cultural uniformity—this, for me, meant avoiding K-Pop as much as humanly possible.

It's difficult to give you a history of K-pop, especially when I know so little about it myself, but the K-pop we know today pretty much took off in the early 90s—right around the time I was growing up. I immediately hated anything sung in Korean, and turned to music that was anything but K-pop, finding what I could in my dad’s small and incomprehensible CD collection: The Cranberries, Smokie, Tchaikovsky, and Engelbert Humperdinck—don't ask about that last one.

Super Junior—this looks like waaaay too many members

There's more to the psychology of why I wanted to distance myself from Korean culture, which has a lot to do with my family moving back and forth between Korea and the United States and the racial identity issues I developed as a result. As I got older, I became more and more aware of my "otherness" in America, that sense of awareness reaching its peak in my late elementary and early middle school years, when I was living in Arizona.

I was never a victim of prejudice, but I was constantly overcompensating for my "non-Americanness" by exclusively listening to western pop music and studying English with a greater fervor than your average ten-year-old. When I was in middle school our family moved back to Korea. I continued to overcompensate because I think, in a way, I had developed a serious resentment of Korean culture. Even though my parents put me in an international school, everyone was KoreanI think from my graduating class of 77 people or so, there was only one non-Korean, and that really messed with my sense of individuality. You can imagine the teen girl histrionics: "How am I supposed to create my own identity when I'm drowning in a sea of sameness?!"

Similarly, K-pop very much thrives on this idea of sameness—it's like they're in the business of cloning identical looking girls and boys who are all beautiful, have shiny hair, and have mastered the art of winking. I found this sickening, especially because so many people were idolizing them. I remember all of high school thinking K-pop was the lamest shit ever and I despised the fact that my people—not just my classmates, but every person in Korea, it seemed—were so invested in something so idiotic. Of course, I made my own embarrassing musical choices too (we're not here to talk about that), but I think the thing about K-pop that really rubbed me the wrong way—and still does—is that it's less about the music and more about creating an army of perfect-looking girls and boys, usually with the help of plastic surgery (ehem), who have shit talent in music yet make millions and millions of dollars.

Read the rest over at Noisey.