In celebrating Harmony Day, we want to celebrate cultural diversity, so we're sharing some K-Pop artist's stories about racism and how they dealt with it. They've bravely shared their experiences from growing up in Korea, and/or working in the K-Pop industry.
Somi opened up during an interview, while competing on JYP Entertainment's survival reality show Sixteen, about her racism experiences growing up.
"People teased me as a mutt (or crossbreed)," she said.
During a segment on Standby I.O.I, while talking about primary school days with fellow I.O.I member Yoojung, Somi made an offhand comment saying, "I was bullied. I was a total outcast. But I powered through it.”
Vernon from Seventeen mentioned in a pre-debut video from when he was younger about being made to feel like an "outsider" while travelling in public due to his appearance.
Singer Shannon brought up an experience she had when singing the Korean national anthem at a baseball game for work, on the My Neighbour, Charles show.
Although Shannon has a Korean mother, many people considered her a foreigner and wrote many negative comments about her.
Fei from Miss A recalled the prejudice she faced during her early debut days. Being Chinese, people thought she wasn't hygienic and only showered once a week, making her feel embarrassed by the stereotype.
On a recent episode of Hello Counselor, Michelle Lee said, "When I was young, no one sat next to me on the bus. My friends' parents would tell them, 'Don't touch her, she's dirty'."
Other famous musicians from Korean and African-American backgrounds such as Insooni and Yoon Mirae, have also often faced being called "dirty," and experienced other forms of bullying and discrimination due to their mixed heritage.
Michelle also mentioned on the show, "The reason I was able to overcome all my hardships is because there were people who loved me. Live for them. It'll make you happier. "
Michelle Lee was a bi-racial contestant on Kpop Star Season 1 who made it to the top 5. Her elimination on the show was controversial. Although her performances had high scores and good evaluations from the judges and crowd response, she was unable to gain viewer votes. Many thought this was because of the closed conservative ideals of Korean society.
Fun fact: She was born and raised in Korea and has admitted her English is not very good as she has rarely set foot outside of Korea.
Alex Reid, the African-American member of K-Pop girl group BP RaNia gets as much negative criticism as she does praise for championing diversity and pushing the boundaries of K-Pop. See more about it in our article here.
Unfortunately, as the host on My Neighbour, Charles said, "Korea is still prejudiced against foreigners. That's the reality."
It is not something that is exclusive to Korea. This is a concern faced by many countries including our own, in Australia.
Vernon, who is half-American half-Korean faced racism while in the US, as did Shannon when in the UK. Being of mixed descent, these young stars are faced with identity issues as they struggle to fit in from both sides.
It's great that K-Pop artists are speaking out about these issues, whether on talk-shows, interviews or through their music like Michelle Lee did with her debut single, 'Without You.'
It's good that they are able to share their own personal experiences. As public figures and role models to young people, they can help to change society's viewpoints to be more open and accepting of foreigners and people from all backgrounds.
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