KCON 2013 | Proof That Kpop is Not Just For Koreans

I first became interested in Kpop with the release of DBSK’s Hug in 2004. Like any young fangirl, I blew up my social media sites with pictures and videos of my newfound love. At the time, however, I received an overwhelming amount of criticism from friends:

“But you’re not Korean?”
“Why are you into this? You don’t even speak Korean.”
“Korean music is really weird.”
“But you don’t understand what they’re saying.”

Fast forward 9 years and the rise of Kpop has become a world-wide phenomenon. The very same people who questioned my interest towards Kpop were jamming to Big Bang and now criticizing me instead for not hearing the latest song a week after its release.

The point is, times have changed and this weekend was quite the eye opener. I realized that a lot of my non-Korean friends were fans of Kpop, but when a Korean co-worker said, “Most of the hardcore fans are not actually Korean Americans,” I assumed she was joking.

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I was obviously proved wrong.

This past weekend was the 2nd annual KCON- a Kpop music festival held in the United States which presents an opportunity for American fans to come together and share their love for Korean Music. I expected the crazy fangirls, the intense cosplay, the neon-colored fan signs, and the korean food galore. What I didn’t expect, and was pleasantly surprised to discover, was the cultural diversity of the event.

Upon entering the festival, I was met with a sea of color. No, not the bright pink Mnet bags and the neon green Bibigo balloons. The palette of ethnicities was beyond impressive. Because of my initial experience with Kpop, I had expected this festival to largely consist of Koreans along with a handful of Pan-Asians. I assumed that I would meet the same criticism that my friends initially gave me about not being able to understand the language, but a visit to the dance workshop area proved otherwise.

The stage was covered with Caucasians, Latinos, African Americans, and various other non-Asian folk. Not only did East Asians show their presence, but Southeast Asians and South Asians did as well. Fans who clearly stated they were not Korean were singing every single word of their favorite songs and impressively showcasing the intricate dance moves to these songs. Yes, these fans took time out of their lives to memorize lyrics to Korean songs without actually knowing Korean. Now that’s dedication.

The more time I spent at the festival, the more I came across cultural diversity. I came across a Caucasian man (well into his 30s) who excitedly purchased a heart-shaped fan with the pictures of 2am printed on it. I came across a group of Latina girls sporting G-Dragon hats, shirts, and even sneakers. I came across a non-Asian boy (who couldn’t have been older than 12) perform the choreography of Growl so well that even EXO would have been impressed.

I came out of this KCON experience realizing that the beauty of this festival was not in the performers and the pretty concert. The beauty was in the fans who attended. Never once was anyone criticized for their racial background or their inability to speak Korean. This was a place for fans, whatever color that may be, to get together and celebrate their fandom. This was a place where it didn’t matter where you came from and how you looked — you were accepted because you loved the same thing.

As Korean American rapper, Dumbfounded, mentioned during his panel “Asian Americans in Hip-Hop”, Kpop is special because of the different kinds of people it can bring together. Clearly, Kpop should be applauded for the array of fans it has been able to captivate.

Good job, Kpop, you’re doing it right.

Korean Woman Harassed by Caucasian Foreigners

A disturbing video has gone viral and has created a storm of online debates. The video clip is a mere 78 seconds, but within that time we are able to see two Caucasian males openly harass a female in a nightclub in Korea. It only takes 78 seconds for us to be disturbed by the manner in which the Caucasian men are treating the Korean woman.

The video begins with the Korean woman in what appears to be a drunk state. One of the men has his arms wrapped around her while the other begins filming her legs and moves up to her chest. The man on the sofa pulls her hair back for the camera to get a better look at her chest. During this time, the men make vulgar and sexual statements about her.

As the woman tries to pull away, the man on the sofa aggressively grabs her face and begins throwing insults at her. He puts a finger up her nose then shoves the same finger in her mouth. The two men burst into laughter and call her disgusting.

They then notice some discoloration in her teeth and begin aggressively pulling her lips back to get a shot of her teeth. She tries to protest, but they continue and throw more insults. At this point, she has become an object of ridicule for their entertainment. They call her “rancid” and “disgusting”. One of the men shouts “Why the f**k don’t you get plastic surgery like every other f**king Korean little b**ch” to her face. The Korean women shouts back some insults of her own before finally escaping the verbal and physical harassment.

The video was first posted on Youtube on June 8th, but was taken down for its content. Since then, the video has been found on multiple Korean sites . It instantly sparked online debates. Some viewers were angry at the men noting the many instances that Caucasian foreigners come into Asian countries with a feeling of superiority. Yahoo News reports Facebook user Rhys Flinter commenting, “Wow, utterly disgusting… The [Western foreigners] arrive at countries like Thailand, Korea and China to teach English and all of a sudden, women find them attractive and they are treated well just for being white.”

The angry comments are completely understandable. What shocks me is the number of comments where Korean natives actually blame the Korean woman for getting herself into the situation. Washington Post reports that a number of online commenters blame her for what happened. “She went crazy over white guys, lived at a club, and ran into trouble,” says one Jagei.com commenter. Another wrote, “After that, I think she’s going to go clubbing to meet white guys again.” Its unbelievable to see a women being verbally and physically tormented by two foreigners only to be verbally abused afterwards by her own countrymen. I most certainly expected the online comments to focus on the mistreatment of Asian women, but I didn’t expect it to become a debate about who’s fault it was. It is beyond me to understand why anyone would actually think “she was asking for it”.

This issue is one that extends beyond Korea. The Washington Post article points out that South Korea has one of the largest gender gaps in the world and “according to an annual study by the World Economic Forum… women have less equality in South Korea than they do in India, Burkina Faso or the United Arab Emirates.” They then point out that this may actually be the reason for Korean women seeking Caucasian men in hopes of equality. I would argue that this is an issue which extends beyond the Korean community and is one faced by the majority of Asian countries. It would be wrong to say that South Korea is the only country which places Caucasians on a pedestal.

I have heard Pilipino, Chinese, and Vietnamese women discuss how their family supports and even pushes the idea of marrying a white man. There is simply no denying it- Caucasian men are treated differently when they enter an Asian country and unfortunately some, like the men in this video, get a false sense of superiority.

I argue that the issue to be addressed is not whether this Korean woman was asking for it. This is an issue of the perception of Caucasian men and the way they treat Asian women. We understand that not all Caucasian men act that way, but this has happened enough times to inflict fear among the women in my Asian community. Yes, we are angry and rightfully so. Too many times have we been taken advantage of because of this false sense of superiority. Too many times have we been mistreated and objectified. These actions are simply not acceptable.

Let us know what you think and comment below.

Beat the Summer Heat: Naengmyun

Koreans love the refreshing noodle dish called naengmyun. Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.

It’s the prime of summer and food is always a great way to rejuvenate oneself during hot weather.

Curious as to what my peers were enjoying this time around, I asked a few friends and, to my delight, the top pick was a dish that I had almost forgotten about but was soon ecstatic to re-explore: Korean cold buckwheat noodles or mul naengmyun.

Thought to have been made since the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897), mul naengmyun (or naengmyun for short) is a traditional Korean noodle dish that is made up of cold broth, thin buckwheat noodles (or other various noodles), julienned cucumbers, sliced beef, boiled eggs, and sliced Asian pears. Vinegar and mustard are common condiments used for extra flavoring.

These fresh, tangy and refreshing noodles are served cold, and is not only a favorite among Koreans but it’s also gaining in popularity among many non-Koreans.

Mr. Li, an investment banker of Chinese descent, was introduced to naengmyun by his Korean girlfriend and now calls it his favorite summer dish. He frequents Yu-Chun in L.A. to satiate his appetite for these noodles. (His visits to Yu-Chun have led him to try out other Korean dishes). Ms. Yoshida, a fashion market researcher of Japanese descent, says that she has had a great experience trying naengmyun and wishes to try the other spicier kind that her friend had last time at their dinner.

The positive reviews from both native Koreans and other ethnicities have quickly allowed naengmyun to become a dish of first resort to beat the summer heat.

Have you had your naengmyun yet?

Some popular destinations for naengmyun if you’re in the L.A. area:

Yu-Chun Chik Naeng Myun

3185 W Olympic Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90006

Chil Bo Myun Ok Ulsacc

3680 W 6th Street Los Angeles, CA 90020

P.S. Most Korean BBQ joints other than the aforementioned will also serve naengmyun. It’s a great accompaniment to your hot grilled, savory meat.

Happy Summer!