Over the past 17 years, K-pop has exponentially gained more and more international exposure and popularity thanks to its role in Hallyu or the Korean Wave. It is by far the most popular way of expanding Korean culture internationally. However, with such an exponential expansion, K-pop acts now have more crowds to cater to than just Koreans. This, in turn, means that certain sensitivities of these countries must be learned.
When it comes to K-pop fans in the United States, many acts have to learn the people’s sensitivities to racism, especially towards the Black (or African-American/Haitian-American) community. Taeyang of Big Bang was suddenly thrust into the limelight when he wished K-pop fans, especially V.I.P.s (official fan club of Big Bang), a Happy Lunar New Year back in 2016. He used a facial simulator to make himself look like Kanye West saying “Happy monkey new year.” As many Americans know, there is a derogatory association between black people and monkeys.
Now it seems that a K-pop act has fallen victim to utilizing racism for entertainment purposes, though it is most likely accidental. Mamamoo recently did “blackface” at one of their shows, much to the disdain of many international K-pop fans, especially those in the United States. Since then, both the girl group and their label, Rainbow Bridge World (RBW), have released official apologies.
During one of the “Moosical” concerts, Mamamoo prepared a video cover of Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” featuring Bruno Mars. The video clip has created quite a bit of controversy as the members of the girl group used dark facial makeup to “darken their skin tone.” A lot of people have called out Mamamoo for blackface, a highly-offensive form of theatrical makeup used by non-black performers to represent a black person, primarily in the United States. An image of the video clip was initially uploaded to the discussion forums at OneHallyu, but is now making its rounds on the internet.
Since then, RBW has released a statement on the matter, as reported by Soompi. It includes a formal apology, the reason why they did the bit for Mamamoo, and made it clear the bit will no longer be used in the “Moosical” concerts.
“Hello. This is RBW. Mamamoo’s parody video of Mark Ronson’s ‘Uptown Funk’ at their encore concert has been misunderstood as a performance that belittles African Americans, and the controversy has been spreading through online community and social media sites.
“We had the intention of doing the [parody] in order to show a different side of Mamamoo through a popular music video that is known by everyone. However, it has become a controversial issue and so we will be taking it out starting from the second round of concerts.
“We apologize for releasing a controversial video and we will pay attention to even the smallest of details [from now on]. We apologize once more.”
Eventually, Mamamoo themselves released their own apology on their official Facebook page. They released the apology in both Hangul (Korean) and English for international K-pop fans. Once again, it primarily centered on K-pop fans in the United States.
Despite the apology and the fact that they admitted they were ignorant of blackface, many K-pop fans are still crucifying Mamamoo for their actions. It has started an “international war of words” on numerous news sites that reported on this news and on Mamamoo’s social media pages. Many U.S. fans are trying to explain why it is offensive, while many international fans outside of the U.S. are sympathizing with Mamamoo, stating that in their country, utilizing blackface for entertainment was never associated with racism.
Right now, Mamamoo is in the midst of a their second concert known as the 2017 Mamamoo Concert Moosical Curtain Call. Their last K-pop comeback was in November of 2016 with an extended play (EP) or mini-album titled Memory.
[Featured Image by Rainbow Bridge World/Mamamoo’s Official Daum Cafe]