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.
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.
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?
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?
Salima: 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…
BKF: 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.