Interview With Black K-Pop Fans: The Big Survey

We’ve talked about the K-pop idols that love black people, but what about the idols that black people love? This year we teamed up once again with the Black K-pop Fans tumblog – we gave their audience (which consists of a lot of black fans) a survey to ask who they like – and dislike – in K-pop.

jay park

RESULTS

Please keep in mind, these are results from our survey of 431 respondents.”

FAVORITE MUSIC GENRES: K-pop, R&B, and Hip Hop/Rap

FAVORITE MALE GROUP: Shinee, BAP, EXO

LEAST FAVORITE MALE GROUP: B2ST, Super Junior, 2AM

FAVORITE FEMALE GROUP: 2NE1, f(x), SNSD

LEAST FAVORITE FEMALE GROUP: SNSD (an overwhelming majority)

FAVORITE MALE IDOL: Bang Yongguk, Daehyun (write-in “other” category), Kai

LEAST FAVORITE MALE IDOL: G-Dragon, Kikwang

FAVORITE FEMALE IDOL: Ailee, CL, Amber

LEAST FAVORITE FEMALE IDOL: Taeyeon, Hyuna, CL

MOST PROBLEMATIC IDOL: G-Dragon

Nicole and Salima of TOS discussed results with Black K-pop Fans.

byg

Nicole: Not surprising, Yongguk got nearly half the votes for favorite male idol. But I was pretty sure people found him to be appropriative of black culture.

Black K-pop Fans (BKF): I actually think that for some idols, like Yongguk, their pros outweigh their cons.

Nicole: Yeah – people don’t forgive idols for being problematic but they can still appreciate their work. Like with G-Dragon, I appreciate that he is creative, but I don’t appreciate that it’s at the expense of other cultures.

BKF: Agreed. That’s why when I see that other idols look up to him, I don’t get that mad about it. He IS a decent artist. I won’t pretend that I don’t like his songs or Big Bang for that matter but I still know what’s wrong with GD.

Nicole: Actually, I was surprised over how many people dislike Big Bang. I wonder if it’s because of “GDYB”? I remember someone posted on Tumblr about how the black K-pop fandom is done with Big Bang. I wonder why. Big Bang got me into K-pop.

BKF: I think it’s that people felt betrayed. Big Bang has a large fan base within our followers and amongst other international fans too, but a lot of people were mad at their actions from this past year.

Nicole: What happened in 2013?

20140227_theoneshots_bigbang_gdyb

BKF: Mostly G-Dragon’s repeated blackface, but then the others aren’t so clean either. Taeyang is thrown in there by association with G-Dragon and because of his own appropriative actions, Seungri has made comments that implied black people are dangerous, and Daesung also had an incident.

Nicole: Not Daesung too!

BKF: See? And they had a very large black K-pop following – it’s just repeated actions can get so tiring on a fandom.

Nicole: I wonder, also, if their music is at fault as well?

Salima: Big Bang has been [musically] doing this stuff from the beginning though – let’s not forget their B2K phase.

Nicole: Actually, I think recently there’s been a wave of new fans that haven’t explored Big Bang’s older sounds and just hear G-Dragon’s try-hard swag. So I think it’s all the problematic incidents of 2013 and the swag concepts that made them score so highly in the negative categories.

BKF: True, I think people can put up with the music but then it becomes hard when you see someone in blackface. You can’t pretend like it didn’t happen and that’s what a lot of new fans are being exposed to lately.

Nicole: Looking at the results, I wonder if someone’s favorite genre of music impacted who they viewed as problematic. Like if they listened to hip hop would they find GD or Bangtan Boys more problematic vs. someone who just listened to indie music?

20140227_theoneshots_blockb_zicoSalima: So essentially, if you know American hip hop, would you be more likely to think GD and BTS were trying too hard? I think YES absolutely. Which is why K-­pop fans that don’t listen to hip hop look at Big Bang or Block B or whoever and say, “WOW THEY’RE HIP HOP WOOAH SO COOL!”

Nicole: Actually, I just noticed people who said hip hop was their favorite genre voted Big Bang and Super Junior as their least favorite groups.

BFK: I see how that makes sense. A lot of “hip hop groups” in K-pop have a harder time gaining a fan base with fans of American hip hop or even K-hip hop because they’re not seen as real.

Nicole: Aren’t there some fans that always say that Big Bang is better than American hip hop? And a lot of black K-pop fans are like wait hold up…

20140227_theoneshots_bap_yonggukBKF: It’s usually people who don’t know much about our hip hop, and would rather go to K-pop which they perceive to be innocent.
Nicole: Going back to Yongguk from before,  what’s the hype with him in the black K-pop community? I mean, I love, love, love him but I never realized he was so well received.

Salima: I think an even more important question is, what’s up with the class of guys black K-pop fans like? BYG, Suga, Rap Mon, and even GD….what is it about them? T.O.P. is a dope rapper but BKFs are not checking for him like that. Not like they are for Zico and Yongguk.

Nicole: Kai is also up there too. But I think GD, Yongguk, Zico, etc. fit a certain style that Kai and T.O.P. do not. Actually, T.O.P. used to do that swag thing too but I think he outgrew it for chic vampire.

BKF: I think it’s that they show a clear concentrated interest in aspects of black culture.

Nicole: I think Kai’s up there because of his talent as a dancer and his skin tone. I think the BKF community can relate to him that way, especially since he’s constantly put down for being darker.

Salima: What about the least favorite male idol? Kikwang got a lot of votes. Why do you think that is?

Nicole: He did black face. It wasn’t even bordering good intentions to pay homage to a rapper or someone. It was a full on caricature.

gikwang

BKF: I also don’t think his fan base was strong enough to forgive or to acknowledge it was wrong but still be a fan.

Salima: Do people still hold it against him? Hasn’t it been years?

Nicole: I do think they still do. I think the problem with the whole situation is that it just didn’t seem like he cared what he did was wrong. I think that’s the problem I have with a lot of idols, and famous people for that matter, they just don’t seem to care to learn. K-pop idols need to realize their fan bases are no longer just in Korea.

Salima: What about Shindong?

Nicole: He definitely says and does a lot of stupid things. He’s had a blackface incident AND he’s said some negative things about women. But to me, he’s not very memorable. Like, I know he’s everywhere but at the same time, I don’t remember him.

Nicole: Also, we haven’t discussed any girl groups!

Salima: Why the hate for SNSD and Taeyeon? Is it because of the Alicia Keys incident?

taeyeon
BKF: I definitely think that has a lot to do with it.

Nicole: I wonder if they’re not popular with the black K-pop community because of their image? That aegyo filled, perfect white skin image they keep promoting. But what Alicia Keys incident? Sorry I’m out of the loop when it comes to SNSD.

aliciaBKF: Taeyeon said Alicia Keys was pretty “for a black girl.”

Salima: Do black fans have a long memory? Or would they be forgiving if idols expressed their regrets and apologized?

Nicole: Maybe if they were actually sorry and believed it. Not this “Oh I’m so sorry, now keep giving me your money” thing they always do.

BKF: I think black fans do have a long memory in terms of these issues, it’s important to use these issues as a means to educate. I’m pretty sure it’s too late now for Taeyeon or Kikwang to apologize. I feel like they’ve both already dug their graves.

Salima: Since we’re still talking about the “least favorite idols” wouldn’t scaling back the ignorance make international fans happy? Why hasn’t it happened? Why haven’t groups/idols scaled back the stupidity?

Nicole: Actually, it’s a pretty dominant issue not just with idols but I feel the country as well. A friend of mine who’s from Korea moved to the United States when she was about 17 and she had thought for awhile that black people only lived in America and Africa. That black people in Africa were poor and black people in America were famous. Obviously it’s just one person but apparently a lot of her friends in Korea had developed their notions of black people from what they saw on TV and on the Internet. People forget how much media impacts our lives.

BKF: I think it lies in the hands of the parents to not teach their children this stereotypical way of thinking.

ailee

Salima: But the parents grew up with the same mindset.

BKF: The parents need to learn themselves then. I read an article about some foreign teachers trying to reverse their students thinking, but the parents just went and undid it. If the parents can’t learn, media definitely needs to change so people’s views can change.

yoonmirae Nicole: Last question, Amber, Ailee, Tasha, and CL were some of the favorite female idols voted. Why are they so popular?

Salima: I was surprised about that Ailee thing.

Nicole: I wonder if it’s because they’re different and appeal to black K-pop fans that feel different within the K-pop community?

BKF: I would say it’s pretty much the same reason why those particular guys (Yongguk, Zico, etc.) are popular. The BKF community really loves Ailee; I think it’s because of her voice. She very much has an R&B sound to her plus she’s curvy for a K-pop star.

Salima: The other thing about the artists you mentioned—they all speak English. I think they’re relatable not just because they’re sort of outsiders, but because we’re all on the inside with them. I mean, BKFs probably love Tasha for obvious reasons. She really embraces the fact that she’s essentially a black woman. She doesn’t push that aside at all. I actually see CL as problematic especially since Gizibe came out.

Nicole: Really? Why?

Salima: Because people started questioning whether her whole “hip hop” thing was an act. Is she really hip hop? Or is she just faking it because that’s what YG wants her image to be?

cl

Nicole: I don’t think she ever was hip hop. I think she likes the image. It sells well so she buys into it.

Salima: I actually have one last question for BKF. Did you learn anything about your audience that you didn’t already know?

BKF: Two things surprised us: 1. We didn’t think they’d be so overwhelmingly vocal about GD. 2. We didn’t know Kai was as popular as he is within the community.

Check out our Black History Month articles on Blaxploitation and the K-pop/hip-hop lyrical fusion and read our interview with a black cosplayer.

Follow us on Twitter @the_oneshots and like us on Facebook for more K-pop knowledge!

  • Ke

    I am so happy to see the results of this survey. Of course none of us can say for sure why fans voted the way they did and your analysis that maybe it’s because fans simply won’t tolerate incidents that mock or appropriate black culture may have some truth in it. And if that is the case… then more power to the fans for standing up for what they believe in.

    I can totally see how fans of american hip-hop and r&b (real r&B, not the garbage that’s been playing these last few years) would look at big bang and scoff. Not saying that that’s a good thing, just that that kind of reaction is expected for anyone who knows about the likes of wu tang clan. I’m certainly guilty of this, at least when it comes to girl groups. I keep trying to remind myself that I shouldn’t let my western bias cloud my judgement but every time i see snsd dance i keep thinking the likes of cherish, beyonce and ciara are on a whole other level and then I dismiss them. (But props to Hyoyeon, she can werk tho. When she’s not dancing with snsd. put this girl in a sub-unit with lay and kai). I’m not saying i dislike snsd, just that they don’t impress me because of my personal taste.

    I also wonder if it also has to do with how receptive idols are to black audiences. This is just my opinion and I am probably totally wrong. But besides being a genuine talent and a charity saint, BYG never smiles more than when he sees black fans in the audience. Again I could be totally imagining this and smoking the fangirl weed of delusion, but the boy seems to be genuinely happy to see black fans. Did you see his reaction to the little black kid singing along to a B.A.P song? So cute. And I imagine many black k-pop female fans probably gave him extra points when he indicated he would be interested in dating a black girl. I think that any fan likes knowing that the idols they support at least appreciate them in some way, shape, or form. And we can debate about it being all for show and just as a means of keeping fans interested enough to spend money on them, but fans seem to remember incidents where idols showed they care, and show when they don’t (forever side eying racist casting calls).

    Beast receiving hate doesn’t surprise me in the least. I mean one of the first things I learned when i got into kpop was their racist casting call, Kikwang’s blackface and their leader grimacing at a fat girl. All these things make them seem like jerks.

    And finally Kai…. not surprising either. Aside from him getting the symapthy vote for all the crap he gets on being darker skinned than the other Exo members, have you seen this child move? HAVE YOU SEEN HIM MOVE? Lord…

    Sorry for the long post but all in all I am relieved to see that fans, black or otherwise seem to indicate that they show no love to idols who piss them off.

    • Terri

      “smoking the fangirl weed of delusion”
      ^I laughed so hard reading that.

    • whateverwha

      But what about SNSD being liked as much as they are hated by BKFs? That’s what I don’t understand. CL is also both liked and hated. I guess the love-hate relationhip has to do with some seeing them as “fake” and the others seeing them as aegyo and representing kpop. But that’s just a guess. I dislike them both.

      By the way, if you have links to Kai’s dance moves, please post them here 🙂 or just the name of the performances, to avoid flooding.

    • “put this girl in a sub-unit with lay and kai: – yes please.

    • Chaïmat

      Well i find it soooooo stupid. G dragon’s “black face ” was not even one. For “coup d’État”, he painted his face in a lot of color like red, black and white for that song’s theme. You can see that in coup d’etat’ MV. And if you truly follow g dragon’s activities, you can see that he is friend with black people, work with them, he surround himself with black musician for his concert, M/V, collaboration and stuff. He grow up listening to american black rapper and idolize them like crazy. I think he is the very artist who want to be accept by the black community.

  • jubri

    Wow your Black History Month articles are really interesting. I know nothing about hip hop and R&B, but despite the occasional mindless fangirling moment I’ve always tried to be a reflective, non-ignorant kpop fan capable of looking at my “obsession” critically and reasonably. Since it’s Sunday already I guess this is the last of the articles? More please 😀

  • haengbog

    I found this interesting. I don’t completely agree with the findings, but hey, no one asked my opinion.

    • Lol your opinion is always on point.

  • Xi Zane

    BKFs does not speak for me who is a Black K-pop fan. I appreciate you voicing your opinion, but don’t generalize it to mean every Black Kpop Fan.

    • BKF did a survey on their blog of their fans. And in the article it’s CLEARLY written: “Please keep in mind, these are results from our survey of 431 respondents.”

      So no, they don’t speak for you. But they’re not trying to. The discussion is about the results of the survey.

      • xi zane

        I saw the preface that was clearly written. I also see things in the article that generalize, and that is a very dangerous thing to do.

        saying things like ” BKF: I think black fans do have a long memory in terms of these issues…”

        not some black fans. not most black fans. BKF said black fans. 431 black people isn’t enough of a voice to make these kinda of statements.

        it’s ok if you disagree, it’s ok if you don’t feel that their is generalization in the article. but don’t negate my response by assuming what i did and didn’t read.

        • Thank you. Do you have anything more to add, or just that critique? Because I think despite the fact that you think this is generalizing black fans, the results are at least interesting and worth discussing.

          • That’s not meant to be snarky, btw 🙂

  • It will take a lot more than parents to change the way some Koreans think. Because of the influx of foreigners now entering Korea mixed race children (no matter what the other race is) are just starting to become accepted. Slowly. It’s unfortunate, but because of the history of the peninsula (being occupied by Japan and not wanting to loose their identity as a race ever again) they are behind on accepting other races. I think the infiltration of music and other art from black artists, however, will eventually begin to change that. The thing is, is that you will get some people that overly misappropriate black culture, instead of just appreciating it and being inspired by it. However, we can say the same for some western ‘fans’ that obsess over Korean or Japanese culture and start acting like they are Asian (aka Koreaboos).

    This never excuses the mistakes and uneducated actions of idols. The same for all stars in America (looking at you Bieber) and in Korea (who know they have a ton of int’l fans), they need to watch their actions and educate themselves on other cultures.

  • builtbymachines

    Man, I thought I was the only one holding a grudge against Kikwang. I don’t dislike his group – hell, I don’t even know which group he’s in, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I have like half of their discography downloaded onto my computer – but every time I see his name, all I can think of is that he’s the guy that did blackface and didn’t get much shit for it, meanwhile Brian Joo was getting a whole truckload for his hilarious impersonation of an American girl that was perceived to be black.

    • sillyjilly

      Kikwang is a member of B2ST. And yeah, his blackface is vile.
      Didn’t know that bout Brian Joo though.

  • Chaïmat

    Well i find it soooooo stupid. G dragon’s “black face ” was not one. For “coup d’État”, he painted his face in a lot of color, you can see that in coup d’etat’ MV. And if you truly follow g dragon’s activités, you can see that he is friend with black people, work with them, he surround himself with black musician for his concert, M/V, collaboration and stuff. He grow up listening to american black rapper and idolize them like crazy. I think he is the very artist who want to be accept by the black community.

    • gayheart

      “he painted his face in a lot of color” ….yeah he blackfaced he quite literally painted his face black that is what blackface is you asshole smh

  • nanalay

    black face doesnt hold the same in other countries, so i think its their that americans need to get over it if it isnt in a mocking factor. But I dont beleive asians ( born and raised in asia) acknowledge racism or can point it out. I mean there are tons of white american or european celebs (i.e miley cyrus pulling her eyes for the olympics and olympic players being plain racist and calling racist slurs) who have mocked the way they look act and talk yet they dont call racism when us as americans do!! We have a very sensitive censor for it when others may not believe its racism we do!! We have to acknowledge the cultural differences. I think to say kai is big in the black community becuase of his skin color is rediculous. He is not anywhere in the same range as being the same complexion of a black person. I think why he is popular is he is exotic he doesnt look like a sterotypical asian. Honestly he looks mix race like he could be half white , asian hawaiin or asian hispanic. And he is SEXY so , there you go!! He has a very sexy auroa and a shit load of charisma that why every kpop celeb black or not love him. Ive showed my non kpop fan friends his dance videos and my friends are of all races and mixed races first thing they say when they say him” was who is he”, ” he is sexy”, ” hello, come dance near me!” The boy is sexy and that jaw line, and smooth dance moves only help him. I dont think kpop arrtist are necessarily racist but in there training they need racial and cultural training. let them know what they can and cant say!!

  • ky

    lol black people always claim they hate racism yet many black people look down on asians too

  • Caribes

    “Actually, T.O.P. used to do that swag thing too but I think he outgrew it for chic vampire.”
    LOL. I thought the same. I remember reading just on tumblr that his costume for doom dada was racist or “problematic” because it’s the same costume from Django which is a controversial film among some people in the Black community (which I believe what some ppl on tumblr were upset about, but i’m not sure?
    .