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The Rise of K-Pop and the Fetishization of Korean Men

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Korean Pop, or K-pop,  has been steadily increasing in popularity in the past couple of years.  Events like KCON (“dedicated to bringing ‘All Things Hallyu’ to the American fan base”), multiple fan meets, and concerts all come together to bolster the musical movement.  Though the success of K-pop has done wonders for Asian representation, improving cultural awareness, and overall giving this amazing music genre the recognition it deserves, the movement has brought along some drawbacks, most notably the fetishization of Korean men.

The Korean Wave hit my school last year and before I knew it almost a quarter of the girls in my class were submerged into the music genre. Some had been followers since their middle school years, while some had only listened to a couple of songs; however, the overall effect was the same.

“How do they dance so well?”

“Hey! This is actually kind of catchy!”

“Wait, hold up, that one’s really hot.”

These initial reactions led into an avid, growing interest and in some cases, an obsession. After a couple months, I began to overhear some disturbing comments.

“Korean is the best type of Asian”

“I want to date a Korean guy so badly!”

“I wish I was a Korean girl, so my bias would like me”

Comments like such may seem appealing or flattering to Korean culture at first, but the fact is that the root of such comments is fetishization. These remarks strip the individuality of Korean men. Every race, every nationality, every ethnicity comes with people of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Korean men are no exception; so shouting phrases like “All Korean guys are so cute!” lumps all Korean men into some sort of stereotypical, twisted beauty ideals one has created.

“Basing beliefs of Korean men’s attractiveness based off a few idols paints a black and white picture of Korean male beauty and fails to consider the diversity they actually have to offer.”

The thing is, that not all Korean men look like K-idols. Just like how not all American men look like Ryan Gosling. Basing beliefs of Korean men’s attractiveness based off a few idols paints a black and white picture of Korean male beauty and fails to consider the diversity they actually have to offer.

Having an interest in Korean culture and men is totally normal, but there is a fine line between appreciating and fetishizing. This is not some sort of “yellow fever” or “koreaboo” thing nor any other misnomer given to fetishization. This is the glorification and the demeaning treatment of Korean men and must be chided.

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Sameera Khan
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Sameera Khan is a 17-year-old Muslim, Pakistani-American living in California. She is passionate about education reform and race relations. Check out her Arts + Culture articles here: http://culture.affinitymagazine.us/author/sameerakhan/

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