K-pop– I listen to it every day, but there was a time when I did not. Not just that, but I absolutely despised it.
My first contact with K-pop came during one of my summer vacations to Taiwan. Unfortunately, my cousin in Taiwan was a K-pop fan, which probably made me cringe at K-pop even more. When he first showed me a K-pop music video, my eyes bled only after the first few seconds, and I told him to shut it off. To me that time, K-pop was just a bunch of weird freaking guys with make-up on, singing some random jargon in Korean along with very weird dance moves. It was unimaginable for me as to how anyone could love this malarkey. No matter how much my cousin pleaded me to listen to K-pop, I refused. It was just purely disgusting.
Zoom forward to last May, and a bunch of girls are talking about how awesome K-pop is while I’m just sitting there rolling my eyes. Just a few months back I still had the same opinion of K-pop: weird and barbaric. Until one day, while browsing Facebook, I saw a K-pop music video. I accidentally clicked the play button, and the K-pop started blaring out. Whether it was destiny or not, it also happened that my computer wasn’t functioning properly that day, so I could not shut off the music. All I could do was stare and listen helplessly at the music video.
As a result, for the first time in my life, I was forced to listen to K-pop for more than three seconds. I ended up watching the whole music video. Not with disgust, but with awe. Before I knew it, I was contacting other K-pop fans at school—the same people who I once thought crazy—and listening to more K-pop. I had just become the K-pop fan that I didn’t want to become.
I learned, though, that not all K-pop had dancing boys with make-up, and through that, I realized that I had been unfairly stereotyping the genre as a whole just from three seconds of a music video. Even then, I became gradually accepting of the common use of make-up by K-pop males—I realized it was just a different culture, however alien it may be to me. It also wasn’t jargon as I thought it was before. Most importantly, I discovered that K-pop was simply American pop, just in Korean. It was only because of that forced experience of watching an entire K-pop music video that I was made conscious of the unfair prejudice I had for K-pop.
This problem was not confined to just me but applied to many others as well. These days, when I try to introduce K-pop to my friends, I find the tables turned on me. I see them making the same false assumptions I made and applying the same stigma that I applied to K-pop. They do this despite having never even touched K-pop at all. It saddened me that everybody was repeating the same mistakes as I was.
It’s because I grasped the fact that this is not a K-pop problem at all. It is, more generally, the issue of prejudice, a problem that stems all the way back to the Jim Crow Era and exists to this very day now. We constantly judge things even before we delve into them, and as a result, harm is inflicted. There is harm in the aspect of the person prejudiced being emotionally hurt, but even worse is harm done unto ourselves, the one doing the prejudicing. If I had never accepted K-pop, I would right now be losing out on so much beautiful music. Similarly, if society prejudices constantly, it would be closing its doors to so much opportunity. We must all learn to be more open and accepting of new ideas, no matter how bizarre they may seem initially, for it is beneficial to us all.