K-Pop Fandom (But Not the Industry) Fights Against White Supremacy

As of late, Korean pop music, aka K-pop, isn’t just choreographed performances and catchy tunes—their fans have been working hard to combat white supremacy.

Just this past Saturday, June 20, Trump campaign officials reported that over a million people had registered to attend its rally and estimated about 100,000 would show up. However, the 19,000-person capacity arena barely made it to 6,200, according to the Tulsa Fire Department.

Why? It could be because Trump’s approval is starting to sink, or that people are just not willing to attend a large mask-optional gathering during a pandemic. But it could be TikTok teenagers and K-Pop fans trolling the campaign by inflating ticket registration and creating high expectations.

This isn’t the first time K-pop fans have swooped in to fight racism.

They also called upon each other to help crash a Dallas police anti-protestor app, hijacked the far-right hashtag #whitelivesmatter, and one of K-pop’s biggest groups, BTS, donated $1 million dollars to Black Lives Matter after constant social media pressure from their fans.

However, despite its crusading fans, K-pop as an industry has its own struggles with social and racial injustices that deserve attention.

Some K-pop artists have donned blackface, like Yesung of Super Junior in 2013, Gikwang of GEAST/B2ST in 2012, and MAMAMOO back in 2017—where one of the members Hwasa, just a year prior, dropped the N-word in a cover of Beyoncé’s song, “Irreplaceable.”

But K-pop artists’ displays of ignorance have gone beyond just Black culture. Fei from Miss A revealed in an interview that she is constantly bullied by people in the industry and fans because she is half Chinese, and popular K-pop singer Shannon reported the same due to her half British heritage.

It’s not just racism plaguing K-pop, though. The industry is blatant about its abuse towards its artists. The girls in K-pop groups are usually forced to get plastic surgery, have daily weigh-ins to keep themselves skinny, and have been reportedly sex trafficked by their own management. Plus, K-pop artists’ contracts are usually harsh, having been previously referred to as “slave” contracts —artists tend to give up basically all of their freedom for over a decade.

And though the industry is much to blame for the backward treatment of K-pop artists, some fans also take their love for the music too far. In addition to their own strain of “stan” culture, there are also so-called “anti-fans” who go so far as attempting to poison members of K-pop groups that they don’t like. But actions of fans are not systemic in the same way as those in the industry itself and most K-pop fans have their hearts in the right place as displayed over the past couple of months, with their online fights against U.S. social injustices.

Overall, K-pop fans should be praised for their efforts to troll the racist Trump administration and combat injustices in the U.S. Still, the abuses going on within K-pop as an industry beyond its fans should not be ignored. Maybe Americans can return the recent favors and come together via social media to help these K-pop vigilantes change the industry and artists they love. You can start by signing this petition putting pressure on Korea’s Fair Trade Commission to end the “slavery” contracts artists are forced to sign and create laws to prevent any further inhumane treatment.