Monday, January 28, 2019

K-pop in the Age of Cultural Appropriation


I.
“We created them, we taught them how to speak and think, and when they rebel they simply confirm our views of them as silly children, duped by some of their Western masters.”
- Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (1993)

This being the internet, I will state my conclusion first, in the vain hope that it would be impossible for the reader to miss the point of this post:  the idea of cultural appropriation is inapplicable to K-pop, because applying the concept of cultural appropriation ignores the historical context in which K-pop arose and developed.

It would make sense to discuss why stating this conclusion became necessary. Recently on the New York Magazine / Vulture, I, with a co-author, published an article titled: A Brief History of Korean Hip Hop. To my knowledge, it is the first article on a major English language publication that attempted to outline the history of Korean hip hop, a significant force in the global pop culture today. While the article was on the whole well received, two significant objections were raised: (1) the article did not refer at all to the idea that Korean hip hop engaged in a cultural appropriation of African American hip hop artists, and; (2) by arguing that “BTS no longer refer back to American hip hop and worry about how their music measured up to the original[,]” as they “had plenty of precedents within Korean hip hop itself[,]” the article did not give proper credit to the real influence of American hip hop that is affecting the Korean hip hop artists today.

Speaking only for myself and not my co-author, I did not include either point in the article because they are baseless and wrong. As to the first objection, the idea of cultural appropriation is inapposite to K-pop; below, I will explain further why this is the case. The second objection is a simple misread, as the point of the article was not that BTS (or any other Korean hip hop artist) ceased to look to US hip hop altogether, but that they stopped using US hip hop as the golden standard to which they must measure up. Yet both objections are related, in that they stem from the same source: ignorance about the historical context in which K-pop emerged, and the imperial arrogance that thinks Korean hip hop has no existence outside of the US influence.

II.

Registration card for Korean musicians to play for a USFK club.
(Source: 신현준, 한국 팝의 고고학 1960 at p. 27)

Once again, conclusion first: K-pop is a product to imperialism by the West, and in particular the United States. Understanding this feature of K-pop must be the foundation of all intellectual endeavors assessing various aspects of Korea’s popular music.

On some level, this conclusion should be obvious. Clearly, K-pop is not indigenous to Korea. Western music did not arrive at Korea until late 19th century, through the typically hegemonic route: Christian hymns. Since then, the Western, and in particular American, influence over Korea would only grow stronger. At the end of World War II, two low-ranked US military officers* would divide the Korea with an arbitrary halfway line along the 38th Parallel, and the US came to occupy the southern half of the peninsula.

(*The two officers, one of whom was the young Dean Rusk who would go onto become the Secretary of State for John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, knew so little about the country that they used a National Geographic map that they had laying around. Rusk later admitted the 38th Parallel “made no sense economically or geographically.”) 

The division led to the Korean War, millions of Koreans dead, and even more American soldiers being stationed in South Korea. At one point, there were more than 200,000 American GIs in South Korea—roughly the population of Pittsburgh today.

(More after the jump.)

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.





This was the point at which Koreans first encountered with the US style pop music. In a country reduced to ruins, the only gig available for Korean musicians was to play for the Americans. They had to audition before a USO panel, who would give them a license (a literal piece of paper, pictured above) to play at one of the US GI clubs. In order to win the audition, the Korean musicians had to learn the latest American hits, the Elvises and James Browns that the US soldiers liked to hear. New music implanted by a massive foreign army who occupied your capital—cultural transmission does not get much more imperialistic than that.

For Koreans, being within the American sphere of influence meant more than the fact that the US hand-picked their leader Syngman Rhee simply because he was a Princeton graduate who styled himself as a Jeffersonian democrat, despite the fact that Rhee was away from Korea for more than three decades. (He was anything but a democrat, as he sought lifetime presidency while committing mass murder.) It meant that the Americans were in the position to dictate for Koreans what was beautiful and desirous. To Koreans, the American way of life, and American music, became beautiful and desirous. They became alienated from their own artistic history and tradition, as the United States became Koreans’ mental home.

However, this did not mean Koreans were no more than hapless victims after the war, having no agency to shape their contemporary culture. Even in the new reality in which the US aesthetics became the standard to which to aspire, Koreans would add their own style based on their own aesthetics, derived from their own history and culture. It was like an attempt of a woman who, having lost all her possessions in a fire, tried to work the sewing machine to make the donated clothes fit her better. The alteration does not change the fact that the clothes were not originally hers, but the alteration does insert some measure of her own aesthetics.

This was the central struggle that underlay every aspect of Korean culture—the struggle between the directives of beauty that were externally imposed, and those that grew internally and organically. In art, fashion, cuisine, or even in politics, economy and the law, there was a constant tension between desiring to be more like Americans and wanting to draw from Korea’s own tradition. For the most part, the former won out: South Koreans wear American style clothing, learn to speak English, live in an American-style constitutional democracy and emigrate to the United States by millions. Only in the past 15 years or so, as South Korean economy entered the first world status, that Koreans began carving out more space for Korea’s traditional culture as if they were tourists to their own heritage.

Korean pop music, too, has been subject to this struggle. Having learned pop music from American GIs, Korean musicians attempted to close that irreconcilable gap by attempting to re- create American pop music, but in their own style. The resulting body of music would form a spectrum: Korean pop music would range from the ones that look and sound just like the American kind, to the ones that do not at all. Often, the result was awkward and ill-fitting, a sewing job gone wrong, especially to the eyes of the original owners of the clothes. It would take many decades before K-pop would successfully find a style of Western music that would come to be its own, attractive style.


III.

Seo Taiji and Boys, circa 1995.
(source)

I remember my first attempt to proselytize K-pop to my American friends. It was 1997, when K-pop was going through its 90s golden age. Some of my high school classmates from California wanted to listen to the music that the new guy from Korea was listening to. So I would have them listen to my favorite album at the time on my Discman: the fourth album of Seo Taiji & Boys, the tour de force that elevated Seo Taiji from a mere superstar to a cultural icon and the fountainhead of global K-pop.

I also remember the reactions: mocking laughter, over and over again. To my American friends, Seo Taiji’s music was mere derivatives that displayed no creativity. The title Come Back Home was obviously influenced by Cypress Hill; Must Triumph [필승] was a Korn knockoff. This experience would follow me long after I left high school. The dismissive mockery came every time I would write about Korean pop music, about how everything in K-pop was derivative if not outright plagiarized, and the whole pop music industry in Korea is nothing but Koreans trying to be like Americans and failing.

Today, the volume of mockery got much lower, as the aesthetics and creativity behind Korean pop music became undeniable. Beauty sets the trend, which dictates its own course. Now that the aesthetic force behind Korean pop cannot be laughed off,  I am now seeing a different kind of assault against K-pop: that Koreans are not making music the right way, sanctioned by the Americans who originated the culture. The charges of cultural appropriation come in this context, and they tend to come when discussing hip hop, the genre that obsessively focuses on authenticity and “keeping it real.”

Previously when I introduced the pioneers of Korean hip hop—Deux, Jinusean, Drunken Tiger—the American reaction was a dismissive hand-wave, as Korean hip hop artists were mere imitators who never merited a serious consideration. Now, the reaction is more often indignation: by attempting to import America’s hip hop culture, they say, Korean hip hop artists are stealing African American culture. Some make this charge broadly to claim all of Korean hip hop is illegitimate; some attempt to draw the boundaries more narrowly, arguing it may be fine for Koreans to rap, but not fine for Koreans to adopt hip hop’s hairstyle, for example.*

(*I find this argument strange, because it ranks various elements of hip hop and consider some to be too integral to the African American culture to be appropriated, while others are not as important and therefore can be freely given away. If the point is to protect African American culture from being stolen, why is it ok for some elements of the African American culture to be stolen?)

In either case, the underlying premise is the same: it is for Americans to decide exactly how Koreans may perform music, because Korean hip hop has no existence apart from the American kind. To paraphrase Edward Said, Americans think they taught Koreans how to speak and think and perform music, and when Koreans rebel they simply confirm Americans’ views of them as silly children who did not yet reach the proper level of wokeness and political correctness.

IV.

Kathleen Battle
(source)

Let us consider two instances. First, the case of rock ‘n roll. In the 1950s, white American musicians stepped into the musical trend that was being developed by African American musicians. As the white musicians tried to move and sound like black musicians, they eventually displaced the black musicians from the trend. The names like Bill Haley, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash came to represent the history of rock ‘n roll, and it was only through much concerted effort that the names like Chuck Berry and Roy Brown are remembered for their contributions in rock ‘n roll’s development. Next, consider the case of African American opera singers, who step into the musical tradition that is unmistakably white and European. Artists like Kathleen Battle or Eric Owens have regularly appeared in operas composed by Mozart, Verdi and Wagner, dressing up to play roles that the white European composers never intended to give to a dark-skinned person.

The former is an archetypal case of cultural appropriation in music; no one thinks the latter is cultural appropriation. What’s the difference between the two? The difference is the dynamics between the peoples involved. White American pop musicians, especially in the mid-20th century during which rock ‘n roll was being developed, had the power to take an element of black culture and call it their own, cutting off African American musicians in the process. African American opera singers have no such power over classical opera. No matter how iconic Kathleen Battle is—she is considered the best lyric coloratura soprano ever—her presence, or the presence of any African American opera singer, does not make anyone think classical opera is not European. This is so even though a part of Battle’s greatness stems from the fact that she introduced the African American style vocal improvisation into soprano singing. The presence of Kathleen Battle and Eric Owens does not displace the presence of Renee Fleming or Placido Domingo in opera, much less the presence of Mozart, Verdi or Wagner.

It should be obvious that Korean hip hop is not at all like the case of rock ‘n roll, and more like African American opera singers. Ask yourself these questions: can any number of K-pop act displace the black pop music as it exists? Can you imagine a world in which “hip hop” is known by names of Deux and Jinusean, not by Tupac and Biggie? Would anyone ever think CL’s success as a rapper threatens the stature of Nicki Minaj? Not a fucking chance—in fact, you’d laugh at yourself for even asking these questions. As long as the genre of hip hop exists, no one will forget the African American artists who founded the genre, regardless how successful their non-African American progenitors may become. At most, Korean hip hop can only become a noteworthy variation of a genre rooted in the African American music tradition; it can never eclipse the existing history and become the genre itself.

Fundamentally, it is not possible for Korean hip hop artists to appropriate African American hip hop, because the power dynamics between the two groups clearly point in favor of African American hip hop artists. Recall that K-pop is a product of American imperialism: it cannot be theft when the colonized take on the character of the colonizer, because the colonized never had a choice. (No one thinks Indians are culturally appropriating from the United Kingdom by speaking English.) To the extent that African American hip hop is a part of American pop culture (and it clearly is,) it takes a privileged position in Korea, as Koreans did not have a choice to be born into a world in which American pop culture is not the aspirational standard. This is why Korean hip hop artists have been exploring ways to be more like African Americans in terms of rhymes, sounds, and visual aesthetics in the early days of Korean hip hop. This is why Korean Americans like Tiger JK, who grew up in closer proximity with African Americans than Koreans in Korea, have had a particular advantage in Korean hip hop scene at first. Like the rest of K-pop, it took decades before Korean hip hop began to settle into its own style, and that settling is still ongoing.

To Americans, it may be jarring to hear that African Americans are in a privileged position—but this fact is obvious to anyone who is not an American. Of course within the United States, African Americans face systematic discrimination that puts them at economic and social disadvantage, often maiming them and killing them. Indeed, the zeal with which African Americans guard hip hop reflects this discrimination, as they are painfully aware that elements of their identity can be taken away at any time. But it won’t be Koreans who take away hip hop from African Americans, because they simply cannot. It may be true that compared to whites, African Americans hold less power within the American society. But as Americans who shape American pop culture, African Americans’ power is incomparably greater than any non-Americans’, including Koreans’. This is why, for example, the movie Black Panther depicts the fictional city of Wakanda much more vividly than the actually existing city of Busan.

It makes no sense to object that the biggest K-pop groups hold a tremendous amount of influence, topping charts, drawing spotlight and earning a lot of money. Such objection is as tone-deaf as claiming systematic racism does not exist because some African Americans are wealthy and powerful. No doubt some are. After all, an African American was the president of the United States just a few years ago. But what matters is the operation of the whole system. Barack Obama could become president only by strategically targeting the preferences of the white electorate, and BTS could top the Billboard chart only by strategically targeting the American audience. Nor does it make sense to point to anti-black racism in Korea. No doubt such racism exists. It is a healthy development that such racism is increasingly becoming visible to African Americans as Korean pop culture gains more exposure to the world, as it gives Koreans the impetus to cure their ignorance. But that is simply not relevant the operation of the whole system, based on the fundamental power dynamics between American and Korean pop culture.

V.

It frustrates me to no end when I hear the naïve questions from Americans: why don’t Koreans develop a pop culture that is unencumbered by the American one? Why do Koreans play Western music at all, when they have their own musical tradition? Why must they create hip hop music and wear football jerseys and style their hair like African Americans? It makes me want to shoot back: if you don’t like Koreans putting their own touch to Western pop music and to hip hop, maybe you should have resisted the US imperialism. Maybe you should have stopped the Cold War before it began, so that the United States wouldn’t have the chance to tell South Koreans that it is the angelic force that protects them from the evil communists. Maybe you should have gotten America to stay the hell out of the Korean Peninsula instead of dividing in half, or failing at that, maybe you should have gotten the US soldiers to listen to Korean music as it existed in the 1950s rather than having Korean musicians learn to play Elvis and James Brown.

In the end I don’t shoot back, because I accept that this is the world we live in and there is no other kind. Neither the present day Korean nor the present day American can change the history that already happened. Nor do I assign too much blame on American imperialism, actually. Although being under US influence did cause a great deal of misery along the way, in the end it did not turn out too badly for South Koreans. Likewise, Korean pop music turned out fine. While I remain curious about the alternate universe in which traditional Korean music evolved into a mass media phenomenon (and listen to bands that point to that possibility,) I am obviously a fan of Korean pop music as it exists today, regardless of the strong US influence that shapes the contours of K-pop. It could have gone better, but it could have been much worse, and at any rate it's pretty good right now. I am fine with that.

The point is not about assigning blame, or telling people what music to listen to and what not to. It is simply to remind ourselves that our present is rooted in the past, that we—Americans—need to be cautious about universalizing the domestic political standards that arose from a particular space and time.

I will conclude in the same way I began, with Edward Said. After spending a chapter of a book discussing how Jane Austen normalized British imperialism and slavery in Mansfield Park, Said concluded:

It would be silly to expect Jane Austen to treat slavery with anything like the passion of an abolitionist or a newly liberated slave. Yet what I have called the rhetoric of blame, so often now employed by subaltern, minority, or disadvantaged voices, attacks her, and others like her, retrospectively, for being white, privileged, insensitive, complicit. Yes, Austen belonged to a slave-owning society, but do we therefore jettison her novels as so many trivial exercises in aesthetic frumpery? Not at all, I would argue, if we take seriously our intellectual and interpretive vocation to make connections, to deal with as much of the evidence as possible, fully and actually, to read what is there or not there, above all, to see complementarity and interdependence instead of isolated, venerated, or formalized experience that excludes and forbids the hybridizing intrusions of human history.
                                - Culture and Imperialism (emphasis added)

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com

14 comments:

  1. The fact that you think that Korean people cannot appropriate black culture is laughable and undermines your credibility as a journalist. You cannot say that African Americans are more privileged than Koreans when they are a) treated worse than Korean Americans in America and b) treated worse than Korean people in Korea. People like Sam Okyere and Han Hyunmin have attested to this multiple times. So where exactly are black people more privileged than Koreans? Perhaps in terms of pop cultural influence, but not by any significant or serious means.

    Anti-blackness is far too deeply rooted in Asian cultures for you to claim that it does not have anything to do with the K-pop industry. We constantly see celebrities and idols engaging in casual or outright racism; from blackface (Mamamoo, Super Junior, Apink, etc etc etc) to racist comments (exo's Chen, Red Velvet's Wendy). And every time, there are almost no actual repercussions.

    Not to mention dreads, which for some reason you seem to disagree with. At this point in time I think a few things are fairly universally understood: if you are not from a community, you do not use slurs pertaining to that community. If you are not from a culture, you do not dress in cultural attire without reasonable context. And if you are not black you do not say the n-word or wear dreads. As for your argument about "degrees" of borrowing from black culture: if black people are looked down upon for doing something while others are not, it becomes problematic. Dreads by themselves are not problematic. The implications arise when you consider that black people are routinely targeted by institutions and dress codes for a hairstyle that is protective for their hair. Children are told to have "normal" hairstyles in school, and black women are not taken seriously with their natural hair. When Taeyang, Bobby, or Kai wear dreads, they are considered cool, and never as unprofessional or unhygienic. They are not shamed or turned away by workplaces or institutions. It is not that hard to educate yourself about the stance of black people about appropriating dreads. It is resoundingly considered racist, and those sentiments hold up regardless of Korea's colonial past. It is not "universalizing domestic standards". Black people are valid in their criticism of non-black people who wear dreads, because they are a community and not an isolated culture. If Korea is aware enough to know that black people wear dreads, why are they not able to listen to said black people's criticisms of them wearing dreads? And perhaps it IS time that we universalize a standard of respect that a community of people deserve.

    I agree that there is an underlying reason as to WHY Korean people admire black culture, but it doesn't excuse what is quite literally appropriation. It is not the idea of displacement that marks appropriation, but a matter of what is essentially taking an important part of another culture and marketing as your own. I'm sure that as a POC you must be able to acknowledge at least that degree of disrespect. If black people are looked down upon for AAVE, black hairstyles, or clothing, it is inherently wrong for others to use the same things to appear trendy. I am not sure how much more clearly I can explain this generally accepted principle to you.

    I ask that you take some time to actually listen to what black people have to say before defending K-pop's right to taking from their culture. And I ask that you respect a community enough to accept their standards rather than arguing about why exactly a relatively niche industry should be able to freely take from another culture without complaint.

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    1. The equivalent but reverse of what you’re trying to say would be “black people in America shouldn’t be eating Asian food and fangirling/boying over Asian media since a large number refuse to listen to Asians over issues regarding cultural differences and seem to feel like racism/discrimination/prejudice towards Asians isn’t a problem/is only a joke since ‘it’s never going to be as serious as it is for blacks’.”

      If you can agree to that, then sure. Your points are valid. Otherwise they’d be hypocritical. I personally think you’re kinda missing the main points made and getting too personally involved.

      1) This piece is primarily about K-Pop - i.e. a part of pop culture - so your point about African Americans not having the upper-hand, at least in what’s being discussed, isn’t really valid. You even agree to this part yourself in your comment.

      2) I think there’s a difference between anti blackness and cultural ignorance. Asian countries don’t have a history of slavery and segregation between African Americans and the majority ‘race’ (which from a scientific perspective is something that doesn’t even exist). Black people make up a very very very tiny proportion of the population in Asian countries so there just aren’t enough people speaking loud enough to let enough people in the ‘majority’ know that some of the stuff they’re doing is hurtful or offensive. This shouldn’t be an excuse for the behaviour, but there’s a difference between malicious intent and ignorance.
      Besides, black people can be just as ignorant and offensive to Asians with slurs, stereotypes, etc. as well. Have you seen some of the posts about and ‘jokes’ played on Asians posted on social media that have blown up before? But do Asians go around saying that ‘anti-Asian sentiment is deeply rooted in the black community’?

      3) I’m not sure if you’ve watched talk shows, variety shows, etc. but Korean hip-hop artists almost always distinguish between ‘American Hip-Hop’ and ‘Korean Hip-Hop’. They pay respect towards both sides and seem to realise and respect that the African American version is the original. You can tell if you listen to the way they talk about when American artists come on shows, etc.
      It’s kinda like when the Italian guy took noodles from China and made pasta. More or less the same thing but adapted using Western ingredients and over time turned into something very different. But you don’t hear Chinese people complaining about their noodles being stolen.

      4) I won’t say anything against the point about dreads as I can understand your sentiment about this. However, the main point the author was trying to make wasn’t about the dreads. It was 99% about the music itself. If the main argument/point was about the right for K-Pop artists to wear dreads without it being cultural appropriation, then yeah, pretty much most of your argument would be understandable... But it’s not. And for a strong counter argument, you need to actually take on a good number of the points and details made by the ‘opposition’ rather than just focusing on a tiny aspect they mentioned that you don’t like.

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    2. I’m gonna be nit picky, because that’s kind of my thing, but I hope you realize the first example you gave is not equal at all. For instance: Fried chicken is wildly popular in many Asian countries. Though it has Scottish origins, how fried chicken is thought of and consumed today is heavily influenced by African American culture. And yet, we’re not complaining about the fact that it’s eaten in Asian countries. I don’t think the consumption of media is equal either. No one here is proposing that Asian people shouldn’t listen to hip-hop or rap, or that they shouldn’t be fans of that type of music. I feel like you’re comparing apples and oranges here.

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    3. "So where exactly are black people more privileged than Koreans? Perhaps in terms of pop cultural influence,"
      That IS kind of a point isn't it? If black people are more privileged in terms of their musical culture then it's hard for the Korean artists to appropriate those roots.

      "If you are not from a culture, you do not dress in cultural attire without reasonable context."
      Reasonable context here would be that they are Hip-Hop artists. It's not just the Koreans, all Hip-Hop artists around the world copy, in varying degrees, the styles of African American Hip-Hop artists. For the same reason, it's cool! It makes you feel happy. So why the hell not. And just to make sure, if I wasn't a musician making hip-hop music but just a fan of hip-hop songs, I'd still want to dress up in cool attires and styles of those musicians. Would that be also wrong? If not, then why is it okay for a fan of the music to borrow some culture but not for the bigger fan who actually makes the same kind of music?

      "It is not the idea of displacement that marks appropriation, but a matter of what is essentially taking an important part of another culture and marketing as your own. "
      I don't think ANYONE in the world would be stupid enough to market Hip-Hop as their own. Everyone knows where it comes from. And all the non-black people who do create such music are essentially people who love it from its original source.

      "If black people are looked down upon for AAVE, black hairstyles, or clothing, it is inherently wrong for others to use the same things to appear trendy."
      It's wrong to look down upon black people for AAVE, black hairstyles, and clothing. It's the people who do so are wrong. Not the ones who like the culture and want to know more about it by doing things people of the said culture do.

      I am new to the Hip-Hop music and the Korean Pop-Music both. And honestly no matter how many good Korean hip-hop songs I listen to, I will never think it originated from Korea. And nor will anyone else in the world.

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  2. Isn't culture fluid over time? Every group borrows and shapes things from everyone else; clothes, music, food, you name it. People use what works.

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  4. Interesting article. I take issue with the example of Cardi B, because she too isn't black. The fact she was brought up into the discussion is example of the issue being discussed.

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  5. I agree with some of your points but I think you overlooked the global marketplace ramifications and how K-Pop borrows heavily from African American culture to put it in a more acceptable form for consumers across Asia.

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  6. I agree with much of what you said tbh. I did this for my dissertation at uni and my one take away was that it was people are influenced by each other and people definitely buy into what ever the "aspirational" show (case in point: fyre festival) but I think people's issue comes less so from cultural appropriation and more so cultural disrespect. PeolPe need to decide what the actual definition of "cultural appropriation" is. Is it economically charged, socially charged? Does the meaning change with context? Is it a vague umbrella that different interpretations can fit under?

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  7. Honestly...what keeps Korean from creating and developing their own kind of music from their traditional Korean sounds ? Several African countries went through imperialism just like Korea and Africans up to this day are still able to innovate, create new genres of music from African traditional sounds and that's how most of these African countries keep their authentic cultural identity.

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  8. I suppose that the first caveman painting the first cave painting didn’t borrow tropes, concepts, techniques and technology from anyone else. Everybody else, Rembrandt or the Beatles, built on the work of other people: borrowing bits and pieces, often from other cultures to create something new.
    Because historically most inter-cultural contact takes place in the context of conflict and often conquest often -perhaps usually- cultural exchange does not happen amongst equals. It is worthwhile just the same and the alternative of cultural ghettos (African culture for Africans and Korean culture for Koreans) and culture kept in a glass jar in museums to prevent contamination is the death of culture.
    Getting down to cases, SAm Phillips had been trying for years to get while audiences to listen to Black music with zero success until he found a white singer Elvis to perform it. To suggest that Elvis “displaced” black musicians is to suggest that had he not come along black music would have found its audience anyway. The evidence says no. Most Americans hadn’t heard of Muddy WAters until the Rolling Stones visited Chess records. If black musicians did not find their audience it is because of the race prejudice of that audience. The white musicians who recognised the value of black music and performed and copied it, did not prevent black musicians from composing and performing. It’s is likely that many black performers only got the reputations they deserved after other, often foreign musicians brought attention to them.
    TK says that American culture was all powerful in South Korea after the Korean war. US culture was pretty much the single cultural super power everywhere. Even iof US culture wasn’t as pervasive in Paris as in Seoul, after WW II was overwhelmingly dominant at least until the 1960s. The US pretty much invented pop culture so it is no surprise that so much pop culture copies or has its roots in US culture.
    Dominant cultures get copied which is why the game of cricket is played in India and Pakistan.
    So there is no need to excuse Korean K Pop from “cultural appropriation”. The history of K Pop is not the history of “cultural appropriation” it is a history of a culture. Cultural entrepreneurs saw an opportunity borrowing useful bits wherever they found them without much regard for where they came from.
    These days Korea is the cultural powerhouse of south-east Asia. No doubt filmmakers and musicians in Japan, China and Malaysia are busy ransacking Korean films and music for stuff they can use. No doubt too that if they succeed, the product they create will be better for its having been “appropriated”.

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  10. "Now, the reaction is more often indignation: by attempting to import America’s hip hop culture, they say, Korean hip hop artists are stealing African American culture. Some make this charge broadly to claim all of Korean hip hop is illegitimate; some attempt to draw the boundaries more narrowly, arguing it may be fine for Koreans to rap, but not fine for Koreans to adopt hip hop’s hairstyle, for example."
    This is typical straw man argumentation: set up an easily knock-downable opinion, ascribe it to a person or persons unnamed, and then proceed to knock it down. Who is "they"? I daresay somebody has expressed such a view, but then silly views are posted on the internet every minute by "angry netizens" and the like. Is it a widely held opinion, has it been expressed by any s critics, or has the Korean heard it from the kinds of Americans who would, for example, dismiss any film as not worth seeing if it wasn't American?

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