JYP Sheds Light on Korea’s Deep-rooted Racial Divide
On the April 8 episode of SBS “K-Pop Star,” Park Jin Young, the producer better known as JYP, made a comment that is sure to generate lots of discussion.
During the show, Lee Michelle, the half-Korean, half-African American contestant with exceptional vocal skills, was eliminated by Lee Seung Hoon, the phenomenal dancer who’s shown flashes of brilliance despite being labeled as the “least talented” out of the TOP 5 contestants. The result came as a surprise as Lee Michelle’s stunning performance of Soul Society’s “U Just” earned her many compliments from the judges, and a higher judge score than Lee Seung Hoon.
Lee Seung Hoon, however, showed a lackluster cover performance of Psy’s “Champion,” which was not received as well by the judges, amounting to the lowest score out of the TOP 5 contestants. Judging from the score and evaluations, as well as the crowd’s response, it almost seemed like a no-brainer for Lee Michelle to advance to the next round.
However, the final cut on SBS “K-Pop Star” each week is decided by a combination of different factors, including the judges’ scores, pre-show online poll, and viewer text messages during the show. Surprisingly, Lee Michelle has not been able to earn the love of the viewers, as she consistently ranked at the bottom for all online polls, while Lee Seung Hoon has become the fan-favorite, rounding out the top two or three on most weeks.
This week was no different, and as a result of a lopsided viewer response during the show, Lee Seung Hoon was able to overcome his poor performance (and low score) to eliminate the clearly more talented singer, Lee Michelle.
As JYP announced the winner between Lee Michelle and Lee Seung Hoon, he seemed to show his frustration at the results, as he emphasized, “JYP will be casting Lee Seung Hoon because it’s the viewers’ choice.”
[video of results]
At the closing moments, JYP went on to highly praise Lee Michelle for overcoming the racial barriers in Korea’s conservative society. He said, “I have one thing to tell Lee Michelle. I kept asking her (during our training) why she couldn’t clearly express her true feelings. But she just said, she couldn’t express herself because growing up she’s been hurt so many times by so many people.”
“I strongly believe that all the parents (in Korea) must continuously teach and educate their child not to make fun of someone, or make derogatory comments, just because of that person’s skin color or race. I wonder if there’s any other country than Korea that’s so close-minded and oppressed in that manner. And I would like to applaud Lee Michelle for overcoming all the barriers and showing a new possibility with her performance today.”
In case you haven’t seen any of Lee Michelle’s performance, here’s a clip of her singing Gummy’s “Forget Me” and Beyonce’s “Halo” on “K-Pop Star.” We hope to see her again with her own single soon!
[video of her performances]
11:51 pm • 11 April 2012 • 433 notes
#race #racism #south korea #privilege #jyp
“Like most women, I currently live in a society where violence, harassment and scary shit can break out at any moment, just because I told some random asshole “no” without bothering to be nice about it. Doing that is so dangerous that most women don’t dare; after a few scary incidents, they learn to make up excuses, to smile, to be sweet and welcoming, to act as if every single random asshole on the street is a precious new friend that they would just LOVE to stand outside of the Chipotle and chat with FOR HOURS, if only cruel fate had not intervened. That’s what it’s actually like, being a woman: Playing nice with every random asshole, because this random asshole might be the one who hurts you. And then, if he hurts you anyway, they’ll tell you that you led him on.”
— Tiger Beatdown
(Source: nimfeach, via reverend-green)
8:27 pm • 17 January 2012 • 30,202 notes
#feminism #sexism #privilege #not kpop
Seoulbeats: Is K-Pop Ruining Idol English?
Before you say anything, I’m not linking this article because I endorse it, but because I want to point out why it stinks.
It stinks because earlier this year another Seoulbeats writer pointed out the ethnocentricity of laughing at “Engrish”, which is an article I do endorse. To wit:
The thing with “English-speaking privilege” (akin to white privilege, straight privilege, etc.) is that as English speakers, we expect the world to be suited towards our English-speaking needs, and we try to measure all usage of the English language by our own narrow standards. And why? Well, to us, we feel that English has been widely accepted as the “norm” – the supposed “standard” for modernization. As English speakers, we expect English to have one purpose and one purpose only: as a vessel for the coherent and syntactically-and-semantically correct communication of words, thoughts, and ideas. So when we see English used in an unfamiliar context, we treat it with the same regard as any other example of English we see in our everyday lives, instead of acknowledging the possibility that to others, the entire concept of the English language may hold a different meaning than that of our own.
Granted, that’s not entirely the same conversation - she’s talking about the use of English in Korean lyrics, while the writer of “Ruining Idol English” is talking about how fluent English speakers (native or otherwise) are reduced to being English-sound vending machines, thus supposedly chipping away at their language skills (though the article does briefly invoke lyrics like Rainbow’s “easy access line”, presumably to point out the low fluency standard for English in K-pop/the kinds of things these poor native speakers are forced to say).
It stinks because it takes the fact that language proficiency - or really, proficiency in anything - atrophies with disuse and makes it out to be controversial, problematic, and/or artificially imposed (“your company hacks away at your English”). It’s a fact, and it’s only a problem if you view English fluency as something precious and valuable that must never be corrupted by using Other languages, and I do mean to capitalize that. It has little to do with K-pop, other than the fact that idols are people who more or less need to speak in Korean in public all the time with fewer opportunities to speak non-Korean languages in public or in private.
And finally, it stinks because it says Jessica and Tiffany “sound like bimbos”. (How does a bimbo sound, pray tell?) The video the writer cites is not a real interview in which they have to give their opinions, but a promotion for a smartphone application. Despite the article’s title, here the writer is not concerned with their grammar or fluency, but with their “cotton candy for brains”. I think any vapidity in the video (which actually sounds like casual conversation to me, not exceedingly stupid) comes from a lack of improvisational skill, not intelligence.
To associate English proficiency (the article’s main topic) with intelligence is WAY ethnocentric, and anyway it’s a different, longer, and way more tired argument: Why do pop stars all sound like airheads?
2:21 pm • 26 November 2011 • 16 notes
#language #privilege #culture
"Don’t be offended."
Here’s how the game goes: Someone makes a music video, or a piece of art, a remark, or anything, really, that invokes imagery that could be construed as culturally offensive. If you are playing the game, you make a comment (usually on a website, in response to someone’s posting it) that contains your opinion about and evaluation of the quasi-offensive object.
Your opinion can only fall into one of two categories: either you are Offended, or you are Not Offended. There is no middle ground. Being Offended includes any reaction that happens to mention disapproval of or discomfort with the cultural insensitivity present in the work. By default, it is also considered to be an attack on the artists themselves. Reactions of the Not Offended range from simply ignoring the offensive part to outright denying it (usually phrased as “I don’t see what’s offensive about this”).
The winner, according to who fights the hardest and most indefatigably, will always be those who are Not Offended. Rarely are these people marked as ignorant or containing discriminatory biases themselves; instead, they are seen as having “risen above” the possibly offensive content and able to enjoy the work itself, therefore possessing a more refined level of artistic/cultural appreciation. The Offended, on the other hand, get trapped in their own need to argue convincingly and bogged down in trying to communicate in terms the other side will understand, and are ultimately defeated as soon as someone utters the words: “Don’t be so offended.”
Being Offended is the worst! It means you are over-thinking simple cultural entertainment, or being negative, or - worst of all - being too sensitive. Indifference is the key to survival nowadays, and it is the only state that guarantees that you will win every time. (Note that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For instance, indifference is one of the few ways to win against a bully, whether of the schoolyard or Internet troll variety.)
The game is a paradox: it is born out of the ambiguity of potentially offensive content (in order to divide the sides), but its whole purpose is to defeat ambiguity in order to decide, objectively, whether something is Offensive or Not Offensive. It doesn’t work, for example, with anything pertaining to the Holocaust. It is very hard to say “I think you’re making a way bigger deal out of this than it has to be” about the Holocaust. (Though I’m sure it’s pretty possible in 4chan-type circles, where people usually instigate the Do You Find This Offensive game rather than just play it in response to something.) (Hitler, on the other hand, seems to be fair game.)
Though I hardly think I’m an objective viewpoint, I think that there are people who take the wrong approach on both “sides”. (Obviously I’m closer to one side than the other - take a guess at which it is.) Overall, I think that the game is pretty much pointless. Instead, what needs to happen is dialogue. Both sides need to be able to communicate with each other and share their opinions. (In the past I’ve used my authority to take away spaces for people to have dialogue and discussion, and I very much regret doing this.) Instead of trying to “win” by having the last word and silencing each other, it should be seen that ambiguity is just that, and more than one opinion or point of view is possible. But this also doesn’t mean everyone should just state their piece and be done with it. By sharing opinions, who knows? Maybe some of the Offended people will be less quick to blow the whistle on everything, and the Not Offended will be okay with acknowledging feelings of discomfort with something that might not sit right with them.
Respond here if you’d like.
7:27 pm • 8 December 2010 • 14 notes
#privilege #not kpop
Re: “Too Asian?”
I don’t really have much to say about that Macleans article - you know, the one in which my pursuit of higher education causes certain [white] people to recoil in horror. But then, the borderline inflammatory way the article is phrased is not particularly inviting of the dialogue and further discussion it was perhaps intended to prompt. As it is, you either agree with it or you disagree (as most I’ve heard from do). Of the varying public responses in disagreement, Jeet Heer’s is probably the most clear-cut, insofar as it puts the racism of the article in terms people who otherwise don’t see it can understand.
The only part that I have something to say about that I haven’t seen discussed as much is this “fact”, at the top of page 2:
Asian-Canadian students are far more likely to talk about and assert their ethnic identities than white students.
The moment I got to that part, I wanted to stop reading. OF COURSE Asian-Canadian students are more likely to talk about their ethnic identities, when articles are being written about them that question their presence in Canadian universities based on their ethnicity (and behaviours assumed to be tied to their ethnicity)! If “Canadian” is assumed to equal “white” unless preceded by an ethnic marker (i.e. “Asian-“, “Chinese-“, “African-“), then OF COURSE white students aren’t going to assert their ethnic identities, because what do they have to assert? As far as they have been taught, they are the status quo, the cultural majority, and all they have to do is go around pointing out the difference of others. How many Canadians of Asian descent have been asked by a white person, “What’s your background?” (thus being PROMPTED to assert their ethnic identity by a white person), only to respond in kind and be told by the other person, “I’m Canadian”? Not having to think about your identity is the definition of privilege. This is not something that should be used to point out the difference between Asian-Canadians and white Euro-Canadians, or at least not in the way it’s presented.
Other things that went through my head, but which I don’t want to expand upon right now due to the probability of rage clouding my ability to be articulate: why the ethnic person has to be accommodating of the white person’s expectations and not the other way around; how associating behaviours with ethnicity obviously leads to racism; why for the first half of the article, Asian-Canadians interviewed are given full names, first (not-ethnic) and last (ethnic) but the white women interviewed at the beginning have protected identities; why this article subtly infers that meritocracy is letting in too many undesirables, when the whole argument against affirmative action is that meritocracy is superior; etc., etc.
Respond here if you’d like.
12:05 am • 17 November 2010 • 14 notes
#race #racism #identity #personal #privilege #not kpop