For as long as I can remember, I have loved pop music and more specifically boy bands. At the tender age of 6, I was already showing fangirl tendencies when I proclaimed to anyone who would listen that I would definitely marry Jordan Knight someday.  As a teenager, I got my first job to supplement my ‘N SYNC habit, because babysitting money just wasn’t cutting it when it came to fulfilling my concert and merchandise needs. Eventually, the musical landscape of America changed; Justin Timberlake went solo, and everyone else faded into oblivion.

A few years ago when I discovered K-pop on the internet, it was like finding a long-lost friend, that musical security blanket I’d packed away with my childhood.  I was so happy I’d found a place in the world where the boy band model was flourishing with the likes of DBSK and Big Bang.  They even had a king-sized group in Super Junior;  I was hooked.  In the beginning I kept this new-found fascination to myself as I familiarized myself with the genre and developed biases.  Then one day when I got into my car with a friend and T-ara’s “Bo Peep Bo Peep” blared from the speakers when I turned the ignition.  I was mortified!  Why was I so embarrassed about the music that I liked? I have always been one to freely admit that I had questionable taste in music, and loved most anything pop, so why would pop music sung in Korean be such a big deal?

When I finally started telling friends and family about K-pop, I received mixed reactions.  Some people were perplexed: “Why would you listen to something when you don’t even know what they are saying?” while others were at least mildly curious: “This song is pretty good…13 members?!” and still others were just downright ignorant: “All these Chinese people look alike.  Are they gay?”  The negative reactions outweighed the positive ones to the point that I didn’t really feel like mentioning it anymore, because I didn’t want to have to explain myself anymore.  I became extremely frustrated with the superiority and isolationism exhibited by my society.

America regularly exports its culture around the world, from movies and music to McDonald’s, but generally, there is no reciprocal importing from other areas in the world.   However, the internet is closing the cultural gap between the United States and the rest of the world making foreign films, television & music more accessible, and I think that the younger generations will continue to be more globally exposed and open-minded than the previous ones.  Until then, I think I’ll keep K-pop as my little secret.

Are you a k-pop fan in hiding, or are you loud and proud?  What reactions have you received when telling others about you love of this musical genre?

(P H Yang Photography, Submerging Markets)