The Truth about Kpop-Percieved Innocence and Such

Alright here it is: I’ve been a Kpop fan since late 2008. Yes, that was 8 years ago (long before Gangnam Style appeared on the scene. I was a Freshman in college at the time and just starting to discover the awesomeness of YouTube. One day, my friend and I stumbled across the song “Mirotic” by top boy band at the time DBSK. For some reason, it took one viewing of that music video for me to want to know what Kpop was all about and ever since then, I’ve been trying to figure out the global sensation that is Kpop.

 

Now during my time as a Kpop fan, I’ve seen a lot. Fans of Kpop are known to be a little crazy (to say the least). From new school Koreaboos to old school Sasaeng fans I know very well how misguided, stubborn and persistently blind Kpop fans can be. After living in Korea, I can no longer sugarcoat the effects that Kpop has on kids in Korea (especially young girls). Keep that in mind as you read:

Kpop can be polarizing to foreign people who make the journey to live and work in South Korea. Here is this mass produced, seemingly innocent, group dominated music genre that plays everywhere you may go in Korea. Kpop idols start training at a young age, and during their popular years, they work their behinds off to be “successful” (which doesn’t necessarily mean rich). These idols have to withstand grueling diets and extreme schedules to make it in the Kpop world. If there is even one negative moment, or one scandal, it can be career ending (thanks to those crazy fans I mentioned before). For many foreigners, the hype that seems to follow Kpop seems foolish.

Of course, there are the foreigners who are not only fans, but believe that Kpop is somehow the innocent and perfect choice of the musical world. They believe that Kpop is the very way music should be done. They also believe that Kpop is not as violent and sexually explicit as western music.

So is it true? After being a long term Kpop fan and teaching in Korea for a year and a half, would I say that Kpop is as innocent as some believe?

Well….

Here’s my honest answer: Kpop is full of sex, but it isn’t presented in the same way that we are used to seeing in western music. Kpop girl groups still dress in sexy outfits and they still do sexy dances. I’ve found, however, that since Korean women are not as curvy as the likes of Nicki Minaj, they tend to get a pass on their sexy dancing and skimpy outfits. Kpop male groups still thrust their pelvises harder than Michael Jackson, but because they aren’t considered “thuggish” or “too aggressive”, they also get the Kpop Innocent Pass.

The funny thing is, Kpop songs tend to be full of sexual innuendos and it only takes a look at the English translations of some songs to see it. In recent years, there has been a rise in “sexy” concept music videos where seemingly innocent girl groups have changed their images to become more sexy.

While we can argue that because Kpop doesn’t blatantly discuss sex or violence, it is indeed more innocent than western music, you have to remember who the main consumers of Kpop truly are: My sixth grade female students and the millions of kids just like them in Korea. In Korea, Kpop is kids’ and teens’ music. These kids have no concept of western music’s concepts of sexuality and only see what is presented to them by their favorite girl and guy groups in their home country. As much as I would like to say Kpop is innocent, I can’t. The first time I had to turn off a Sistar video in my upper level afterschool English class for being too damn sexy, I knew I could never look at Kpop the same again.

When you see Kpop through the eyes of young people who are still trying to figure out their place in their society (and what loving, sexuality, and dating will mean to them), you realize that Kpop is just as powerful as the western music we listen to and that our western opinions over its innocence are pretty much pointless. What matter most are the opinions of the parents and adults in Korea who are attempting to guide their kids through the process of consuming media and growing up into Korean citizens.

 

 

Take a peek into my TaLK life!

Maybe you’ve wondered what there is to do while living on a small island in South Korea…Well here’s a video that shows a few of the (fun) things I’ve done between Spring and Fall 2015. (More videos to come soon) 

Enjoy and leave a comment below! Could you live the Jeju Life?

Click Here —> My TaLK Life Video

My Honest, HONEST Feelings about Dating in Korea

Warning!!!!

If you are highly sensitive about race and gender (and the intersections between the two) this post may not be for you! For those who are open to understanding the dating game in Korea for Black women (from what I’ve observed after a year here) please read on and comment below! (Keep in mind I don’t live in Seoul. I live in a small city and other cities may be different) (For tips on dating in Korea as a Black woman see my last paragraph)

One of the FIRST things I noticed when I moved here was the (foreigner) male infatuation with Korean women. It started with the constant talk about how Korean women are beautiful or sexy or sweet (etc.) and how foreign men dreamed of  dating them. When you live abroad in Korea, Korean women are considered some sort of prize to be won. While for many guys, dating a Korean woman is a bragging right, something to high five and something to boost their egos, to others Korean women are datable because they simply are KOREAN and KOREAN= WORTHY in their eyes. 

On the other hand, many Korean guys want to date white women, simply because they are white women. I’ve seen no other reasons given for this dating preference. No Korean guy has ever said “Oh I date white women because they have this set of characteristics that no other group of women possess.”  The whiter, blonder, and blue eyed the woman, the more likely the Korean men are to jump up and want to date her and often, it’s considered more acceptable to date a white person if a Korean wants to date a foreigner. (Notice how many white dancers and actresses are featured in Kpop videos)

Now, with all that said, where does that leave a Black woman in the dating game in Korea? Well, oftentimes both situations leave us out completely. While Korean women and white women will receive a man’s interest simply for being Korean and white, the same sort of attention and consideration is not passed along to Black women. Now, this is not to say that my friends and I want to date some foreigner or Korean man with a Black girl fetish or simply because they want an ego boost.  This is to say that we want to be considered simply because we are human beings. We want to be considered because we are interesting people with great personalities. We don’t want to constantly be overcoming barriers that no other group of women has set before them.

Oftentimes, I feel that where white and Korean women are offered love simply because of who they are, Black women must constantly be trying to prove our value to everyone to be offered any sort of love. We have to prove we are NOT the stereotypes that many people hold about us. It’s almost as if I need to hand out resumes to make men understand that I have value too! It’s beyond annoying!

As my friend likes to say “I’m an awesome person, why can’t that just be enough for guys?” – Honestly, I don’t know why we have to work so hard as Black women to be seen as worthy of consideration as possible dates or partners. It’s an issue we experience at home in the U.S., but in the small foreigner community in Korea, we feel it with a stronger sort of intensity. Seriously, I’ve had to endure stories about how awesome a guy’s ex Korean girlfriend was or how many dates with Korean women they’ve had or are going to have. While most people will say “Everyone is entitled to their preferences” or “It’s really not as bad as you make it out to be”, I say “Well, do you want to constantly be considered a last resort for romantic relationships?”

None of this is to say that I’m bitter for being single in Korea. I am just pointing out what I’ve seen here. My main goal for coming to Korea was to teach English and I’m happy I’ve been able to do that this long. As a 25 year old person, however, I do expect to be able to date sometimes and being in a place where that isn’t really possible is frustrating. If I was planning to stick around Korea for another year or so, I’d consider moving to a bigger city where there are more options for friendship and dating.

Tips:

So if you are a Black woman planning to come to Korea, don’t let this be a discouragement. Be aware of the issues you may face and also know that if you live in a bigger city (Daegu, Seoul, Busan, etc) your dating prospects will most likely be more open. Also, consider learning Korean, because that will also open up more possibilities for you. Don’t simply come to Korea because you want to date here. Come here with a purpose so that if the dating game proves to be dead, you still want to be in Korea! Also know that you are valuable simply as a human being and remind yourself of this every single day and surround yourself with people who do the same! 

What Teaching Has Taught Me

I’ve always talked about what South Korea (or Korean culture) have taught me since arriving in this country in July 2014, but I haven’t really reflected on what teaching has taught me.

So here are a few things that teaching has taught me:

  1. Kids are kids, no matter where you go- I’ve heard many English teachers say that when they decided to come to Korea to teach family and friends said something like “Oh you’re going to Asia? The kids are going to be quiet, smart, and well behaved all the time,”. Okay, truth time- Korean children are just like the children you’ve observed in your home country and culture. They are loud and energetic and they want to have FUN! Luckily, I came into a teaching program that told me “You’re going to teach in the country/rural area. The kids will have big personalities,”- and for me, that has been a wonderful experience.
  2. Teaching is hard but it’s awesomely rewarding too- Teaching children to speak English is difficult sometimes. Since I don’t speak Korean, I have to rely on examples, repetition, acting, making silly sounds, singing silly songs, and anything else I can come up with. I also have to rely on the help of my Korean co-teacher, who assists with translations and class management.  There are challenges in the classroom. A kid may not understand the material or they’re tired and don’t want to participate. I’ve dealt with tears, angry outbursts, and meltdowns too. But for all the difficulty teaching has presented, I can say that it’s a wonderful feeling when your students actually understand something new or you see their ability to speak and understand in English begin to grow overtime. It’s the days when you say something in English to a kid, thinking that they won’t understand, only for them to answer you. As one of my most energetic third graders has said (in Korean to my co-teacher) “I understood what Tabitha teacher told me to do”. He couldn’t respond in English but he comprehended enough to follow my directions with no help or translation. And trust me, for a kid who jumps off desks and runs laps in my classroom at 9 am, that made me feel great!
  3. When you teach, you will feel OLD!- My students are the MASTERS of making me feel old! I keep telling myself “I am NOT old! I just graduated high school 7 years ago! Things haven’t changed that much right?” Well, turns out things have changed that much. I asked my 5th and 6th graders when they thought the very first IPhone was made and they said “2002”. These kids think smartphones have been in existence for as long as they have been. They have no idea that Spongebob Squarepants has been on air longer than all of them have been alive (whereas, I still remember its debut on Nickelodeon). They don’t understand why old flip phones did nothing but call people. They also don’t understand why I’m outraged at them having smartphones in the 1st grade (I didn’t get a flip phone until 16!). And most of all EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE SO MUCH TECHNOLOGY, THEY STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH IT.  I still have to say “Hey why don’t you use that translator app on your phone to help you write in English,”- they understand smartphones are for playing games and texting friends, but they’re still kids. They still don’t understand the amazing technological capabilities they carry around in their pockets every single day.
  4. Teaching has taught me to love the “little kids”- Before coming to Korea, I was extremely concerned about teaching elementary school students. Before even applying, I always saw myself working with high schoolers because, in my mind, little kids where just not much fun. Now, I love the little kids. I love teaching the ABCs and shapes and colors and watching my students learn to say their first English phrase and be able to answer their first questions in English. It’s amazing! The enthusiasm of a first grader is contagious! It MAKES you want to work hard to teach and engage them! And hey, they’re also the only students who tell me they love me on a regular basis. AWWWW <3!
  5. Teaching and education make you a critical thinker– I’m always considering the “why” of things- it comes naturally to me. Teaching makes you consider the very purpose of education. You find yourself wondering why what you are teaching is important and how will it help your students throughout their lives. You are constantly thinking about your lessons and how they will help your students learn the material, and even why that material is important in the first place. Teaching is very much a field for critical thinking and learning new skills and new ways to help your students.

So there they are. These are a few things I’ve learned from teaching English in South Korea over the last 15 months!