Over the past week, the K-pop community — both the industry and fans alike — have been arguing over the upcoming debut, or re-debut, of EXP Edition. The reason why the aforementioned K-pop boy band is such a hot topic of discussion is the fact they are recognized as the first all-American, non-Korean K-pop boy band let alone K-pop act ever made.
The majority of the K-pop community have panned EXP Edition, showing tantamount loathing for the four-member boy band. A lot of them are rationalizing their hatred by using the racism angle. Apparently, many of them are upset with EXP Edition as they “whitewash” K-pop. However, if we were to look past the overused excuse of racism, one might actually find that despite it all, EXP Edition has put in more effort to become K-pop idols than other non-Asian foreigners pursuing the same dream.
Before explaining why EXP Edition is actually showing more emphasis and effort to become K-pop idols than other non-Asian foreigners who also want to be K-pop idols, it is best to report on the news that brought about the current arguments among the community. Just recently, EXP Edition released a teaser trailer for their upcoming release, a song titled “Feel Like This.”
Along with the teaser trailer for “Feel Like This,” it was also revealed that EXP Edition moved from New York to South Korea recently, as reported by AllKpop. It was the next step in officially kicking off their careers as K-pop idols after almost two years of preparation and hard work.
The outrage and hatred spewing from K-pop fans have increased tenfold after EXP Edition released the aforementioned teaser trailer. Among that huge mass of negativity, there has also been confusion and small slivers of support. According to PopCrush, much of the negativity, as mentioned earlier, is being linked to racism or “white people appropriating something else made popular of people of color.”
Sad to say this but using racism as an excuse to hate EXP Edition is lacking. For starters, EXP Edition was spearheaded by a Korean Columbia University graduate student, Bora Kim, when she turned her thesis into a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising money to form a boy band, as reported by DramaFever. Let’s not forget there used to be a person of color in the group too. Tarion was the Black American (or is it African-American despite the fact that not all people who are Black are African but can be from Haiti, Jamaica, etc.) member of the group. For reasons unknown, he is no longer a member but the fact he was in it in the first place can be enough of a reason to say EXP Edition was never intended to “white wash” or “appropriate” K-pop.
And if you really want to utilize the term “appropriation,” and if you know anything about K-pop, then you know that the Korean music industry took popular cues in the U.S. music industry, made it their own, repackaged it, then promoted it back to the world especially the U.S. That is more appropriation than non-Asian foreigners going into K-pop and trying to make it.
If you actually look back over the past two years since EXP Edition was first revealed, you will see they are actually working hard to become K-pop idols. They took singing and dancing lessons, learned how to utilize the K-pop idol look and style, and more importantly, took the time to study the Korean culture and learn the Korean language.
The latter part is of the most important because first and foremost, anyone who wants to be a K-pop idol will cater firstly to Koreans. Skipping that part of training can result in some serious issues. Just look at Alex of BP Rania. She is another non-Asian foreigner who pursued being a K-pop star and from what we can see, she lacks training. Many K-pop fans actually argue she has become a gimmick for the girl group as DR Music really pushes her as the first African-American girl to be signed on to a K-pop girl group.
And that is another thing. If all you “high and mighty” K-pop fans who believe K-pop should remain with Koreans or at least with Asians, why is there no outcry for Alex? From what we know, she is a non-Asian girl who is signed on to a K-pop girl group. Why isn’t she being questioned? Does it have to do with race? How about gender?
Please note I am not trying to build up EXP Experience or bring down Alex. What I am trying to do is show that the whole argument of race is a faulty one. Instead, why don’t we critique EXP Experience for how they are in K-pop? I honestly don’t think they’ll make it. Their accents are way too thick and their songs haven’t been that catchy. Actually, I think their debut song’s music video mocked K-pop. Still, I can not argue against the hard work and dedication they put over the past two years to try to become K-pop idols.
Ultimately, I know my explanation will fall mostly on deaf ears. Many K-pop fans are driven by their feelings and what they personally know, not by rationale or overall details and facts. Still, if one person is able to understand that EXP Edition, despite how horrible they sound (especially to me), put in the time and effort and they shouldn’t be judged because they are non-Asian foreigners, I’ll take it.
[Featured Image by EXP Experience’s Official Twitter Page]