More Than A Koreaboo

Music is everything. It’s a way of escaping the unpleasant reality we face everyday, a way of relaxing our minds from the daily pile of homework we have to complete, and a way of enjoying our free time. Music genres range from rock to country, from R&B to Hip Hop, and from western to international. Music is universal, bringingeveryone together through many genres or just one, like Korean pop. Kpop, although foreign to most of our Western ears here at Grove, is fully expressed, embraced, and loved.

However, there’s a lot of negativity towards this style of music. Many ‘haters’ view Kpop as weird. They label many of Kpop enthusiasts “koreaboos” the minute one reveals their love for Kpop. Closed-minded, they criticize that Kpop fans are trying to become Korean and they’re replacing their cultures. They don’t realize that each Kpop fan has had a unique start into the fandom which convinced them to listen to this music, to understand it beyond its unfamiliar language.

Everyone’s first experience listening to Kpop is different. Anh Hoang (11), president of Korea Club, for example, first encountered Kpop near the end of fifth grade, but it was eighth grade when she officially joined the fandom. She shares, “It was different from American music. There is a clear distinction between Western music and Korean music I liked.”

Chelsey Nguyen (11) also fell in love with the music in a way that is unique from Anh’s experience. It was after she “bought a 방탄소년단 (BTS) sweater without realizing it was Kpop and had people complimenting [her] for it. [She] was confused when she first listened to Kpop due to the language barrier, but [she] overcame it because music is music, with or without that obstacle.”

Not only are students attracted to this music, but also teachers like Mr. Doan enjoy it. He shares that he first listened to Kpop on one fateful night of procrastination during his freshman year of college. What began with one Kpop music video accumulated to even more music videos. He, like Chelsey, thought the music was “weird because it was repetitive, but [he] loves it to this day.” This just goes to show that anyone can fall in love with and continue to love whatever music they listen to.

A lot of these fans like Kpop because “it’s different from American music, and also because it’s well-rounded. These idols dance, sing, act, and model for a living so it’s cool to see how they develop” (Anh Hoang). Alan Vuong (11) and Kevin Tran (11) also enjoy the music because “the melodies make you feel happy (like those of AKMU) and it gives an upbeat and fun vibe.”

Not only that, but it’s satisfying to see Asians succeed in Western-dominated areas such as music. Mr. Doan shares that “back then, there weren’t as many Asian musicians, actors, or singers as there are now. Now there are more Asian people staring in dramas and succeeding in music like Korean idols. It’s awesome to see more and more Asians growing along with the media.”

Other people like Kpop because the music reveals a deeper meaning. Chelsey Nguyen loves Korean music because “it highlights and targets important aspects of life, like the happy moments of youth; environmental problems everyone seems to ignore like pollution; and above all else, loving yourself before you love anyone else. This is why Kpop has gained a massive and loving community worldwide- it covers any subject that speaks to anyone.”

But, like all great things in life, there is some negativity directed towards Kpop. When non-Kpop enthusiasts discover someone they know who listens to Kpop, their reactions are critical: “Why do you listen to this? They all look the same. Why do the boy band members look like girls? Are they gay?” Another common reaction that Kpop lovers get, expressed by Mr. Doan whenever he jams to Day6 or TVXQ in a room full of students, is “really, you don’t even understand the language.” But the most frequently heard reaction every single Kpop fanatic gets is being labeled a “koreaboo” – when all these fans do is express their profound love to people who have spent many years building themselves and their musical platforms to share their views, their hardships, and their stories.

Despite all the negativity, there is a supportive community of Kpop fanatics with open arms to anyone who would like to join the fandom. Chelsey shares “the best days of her life were the moments she spent with the community. It’s a whole new environment with new people that helped me get out of my comfort zone which had a huge impact on my character.” Anh also expressed a similar experience despite “losing many hours and money for Kpop. I don’t regret anything because it brought new opportunities to meet others with the same interests and experiences that helped shaped who I am today.”

Like Alan says, “Don’t grow afraid of what others say about Kpop or what their reactions are. Express yourself. Don’t hide yourself because at the end of the day it’s what you like.”

Kpop is more than the pretty faces, more than the film quality, more than what people say.

Above all else, it’s more than a “koreaboo.”