Although we love and support celebrities and idols in the media, we also have to be aware that they aren’t perfect and they are allowed to make human mistakes. Just because they are well known and have to upkeep this image, it doesn’t mean they can’t slip up and make mistakes.
Especially if they are kpop idols.
This isn’t something that many kpop groups and idols haven’t dealt with before; Kpop as a genre of music is now on a worldwide scale which comes with the responsibilities of being more aware of the things they say, post, and do in the media. Fact of the matter is that South Korea isn’t the United States. They aren’t as open and vocal about the things that we are here. There are some topics an subjects that are not widely known in South Korea; to the commoner, people may not see what these kpop idols do wrong when they do or say insensitive things. If it directly doesn’t disrespect their own culture, why bother? Well, Kpop idols are not just commoners. They are people in the spotlight, they are targeted to a larger audience, and no matter what – people are watching them, even across the world.
I think a lot of kpop groups don’t realize just how big they really are sometimes. That includes Victon, a kpop boy group that slid under the radar for the first three years of their career. They are slowly but surely being a household name in kpop, and although for them as people may not see that, their fans see that, and because of it, it’s about time they start to take in for consideration that they now reach a larger audience outside of Asia.
For context: about a week and a half ago, Sejun posted a video on his Instagram page of him, Seungsik, and Subin dancing with a choreographer.The song they were dancing to was Toby Nwigwe’s “I Need You To”, which is a song about Breonna Taylor, an unarmed Black woman that was fatally shot in her own home earlier this year. It has caused an uproar in the media with people demanding justice for her death by convicting the police officers involved. This story was a big thing here in the United States and it’s something that is still happening here.
When Victon’s Sejun posted the Instagram video, he had taken it down immediately hours later, on the same day. Of course, the internet still had opinions and thoughts about it, how insensitive and ignorant it came across for these boys to dance to a song that had such a deeper meaning to it and no doubt many people had emailed Play M, Victon’s company, to express their outrage on this matter. Days later, Sejun came onto VLIVE, the live-streaming site for Kpop idols and K-related media, and spoke briefly about the situation and how sorry he was for not being more aware on the meaning of the song. It wasn’t greatly executed since the atmosphere of the VLIVE was more chill and laid back, which made the apology more so lackluster.
Two days later, Sejun posted a proper apology video on his personal Instagram page, Subin (who was also in the video clip) apologized on his personal Instagram story, and Seungsik apologized on the official Victon Instagram account.
Here you can find the original posts and translations of the posts:
Here is the real issue behind this whole thing, in my opinion…
These boys, were present with their choreographer when this video was posted; you can tell this was their choreographer because this person was the one counting them down before dancing, the one that was looking over their dancing while they did it, and if you know the group, they are clearly not one of the members of Victon. Now, I totally understand and respect that people were upset that these boys would willingly dance to a song that was made for awareness, but we have to realize that this song is in English, which these boys are not fluent in. Also, the subject matter (although some idols spoke out about the BLM movement during this time) was most likely not advertised in Southeast Asia, so even if they knew what the lyrics meant, I don’t believe they would’ve put two-and-two together and realized this song was about an actual event going on.
While as idols that are being widely popular and well-known throughout the globe (meaning they now have a solid international fanbase in a place like the United States), it is their job to now start thinking about their actions and their words on a universal scale. They are now being observed by more people; it’s not just Asia that knows their existence. Personally (and this is outside of Victon because although they are getting bigger, they aren’t on a BTS/ATEEZ level of popularity), companies need to realize that if they want to target larger audiences with their groups, they need to become aware of the issues and the culture difference that is across the world. I’m not saying that they have to know every little thing happening here in the U.S (it’s simply impossible for kpop groups to know everything happening in the countries that have huge fanbases in), I’m simply saying that in circumstances where they are given something to dance or sing to or even wear, they need to be more aware of the message they are sending to their international fans. We’ve been here with Jihyo’s Halloween costume back in 2018. We’ve been here with Hongjoong’s hairstyle in ATEEZ’s comeback during the summer. We’ve been here with so many other kpop groups and while some of them are the idol’s responsibility to learn and be more sensitive to what they say and do, we need to realize just how constructed the kpop industry is.
People dress them. People make their music. People come up with the dancing of said music. People do their hair and makeup. These idols, as sad as it many seem, are just programmed to follow the rules and their agency because it’s how they were brought up in this industry. They were trained and trainees to be this way and as debuted idols, they follow the same lifestyle.
While people are upset at Sejun for posting, Seungsik & Subin for being present in that video, and all three of them for not saying anything until people said something, it’s not their fault. I’m not even saying this because these boys are my absolute everything in this group, I’m saying this because it was the job of the choreographer to not let shit like things slip up and make their people look bad. As a company, you would think they would whatever it takes to not make their talent slip up like this, y’know?
But no one is on this choreographer for listening to this song, coming up with choreography, giving it to the boys to learn, have the boys learn it, and then thought it was a good idea for someone to come in and record it for them. No one is literally talking about how as a choreographer and a person who works within the company, it is their responsibility to know these things before they give these things to their idols.
We can’t expect kpop idols to be fully aware of the things that are happening around the world, just how we aren’t “expected” to know things that are happening in other places outside of the United States. While yes, we we do have people that can inform us and we have social media to keep us inform of the things that may be happening around the world, we may not know every little thing happening, and we aren’t expected to as shitty as that sounds. So, why do we expect those in non-Westernized entertainment industries to know? They need to be respectful and aware enough that sometimes their actions have consequences, but in this situation, it was more of their choreographer’s responsibility to have that awareness before they decide to teach their idols a lesson.
I’m in no way giving my boys in Victon an easy pass just because they are my favorite kpop group to date. I think that something should’ve been said as soon as that video was taken down and I think Sejun shouldn’t have tried to apologize through VLIVE the other day without proper PR guidance. I’m glad that these boys came out and apologized for what happened, and I really do hope that in the future, they become more aware of the fact that these things exist in the world and as someone in the public eye (whether or not they understand to what extent their popularity expands to) and that as public figures in the entertainment business, you should be cautious about the things that you post and allow yourself to do.
No, we shouldn’t cancel them, because cancelling people for having a language and cultural barrier doesn’t solve the issue at hand. What does, though, is educating their idols that there are certain songs, styles, and situations that are simply not meant to be interpreted in song or dance and are not meant to be expressed by them. Allowing your idols to educate themselves on issues like the Breonna Taylor tragedy is not just an “American” thing. It’s a human rights thing. At the end of the day, no one’s life should be jeopardized due to the color of their skin, their culture, or how they identify. This isn’t something that just happens here in the U.S; this can literally happen to anyone.
Those are the type of things our kpop idols need to be educated on.