Hallyu messengers must learn etiquettes
The seven-member hip-hop group Block B (Blockbuster) is under fire for joking about Thailand’s tragic flooding. The band and other K-pop stars need to learn manners.
Thai social networking services are abuzz with angry comments critical of one of the group member’s joking about the Bangkok floods which killed 780 and left three missing last July. In an interview, a member said he wanted to help the victims heal the wounds through his monetary donation. He said he only has money. Asked on how much money he had, he answered 7,000 won ($6) while giggling and clapping his hands.
The interviewer expected him to express his sympathy to the victims. The entertainer unintentionally hurt the flood victims although he might ask for the benefit of the doubt. His uneducated sarcasm hurt the Thais still struggling to overcome the disaster.
It was too late for the group to issue letters of apology on YouTube. Its leader Zico shaved his head in remorse.
His slip of the tongue is not a technical, interpretative mistake. It reflects the fact that these singers seldom undergo formal schooling. Their ignorance ascribes to the recent discomforting remarks. Many K-pop idol bands rose to stardom through rigorous training from elementary, middle and high school days at entertainment management agencies.
Like football, baseball and basketball players aspiring to become professionals, these hallyu messengers must receive formal education.
They promote Korea through their thrilling dances, songs and fashion but more important is for them to behave in a polished way. Thailand is one of the 16 countries that sent troops during the Korean War, of which 129 soldiers died and 1,139 were wounded. The Thais have justifiable reasons for feeling slighted for the infantile and immature comments.
In this SNS age, a casual remark travels online in seconds. This triggers instant and sometimes uncontrollable responses. Disturbed Thai fans called for boycotts of K-pop groups and generalized the alleged racism of Koreans.
This is not an isolated case. Two years ago, a K-pop singer had to endure online mockery among Chinese fans when he said that he goes to China whenever he needs to meet production costs. An actress made Fillipinos and Fillipinas blush when she mimicked their indigenous English pronunciation in a disparaging way.
Global fans trace details on what K-pop stars do and how they talk and behave. They are public figures whose influence is, in some cases, more powerful than diplomats. Like diplomats, they must be choosy in their words.
Their agencies must educate them so that they show decorum
Thoughtful statements will impress fans and raise their popularity. A preoccupation only with learning dancing, singing and fashion sense will backfire.
Upgrading the national image is not the exclusive job of the government. All Koreans, including K-pop stars, help to form the national image.