K-pop is a music genre that incorporates several genres from the West such as pop, rock, jazz, and hip-hop. K-pop’s popularity has grown beyond the boundaries of South Korea, reaching other countries around the world. In the K-pop industry, articles about cultural appropriation of black culture often spring up. Taeyang, a member of Big Bang, fetishizes black culture when he states in Big Bang’s photobook:
“I’m not black, so I’ll probably have to have more experience and go through more pain if I want to express the sentiments, emotions, and soul that black people have through my music. That’s why I believe that pain and suffering will make my music richer.”
Although Taeyang’s intent is to be open-minded, he is appropriating black culture through commoditization. He wants to experience the pain of black people so that his music can be richer, yet in reality, he appropriates the black culture’s suffering for his own personal gain. bell hooks refers to this as consumer cannibalism which displaces the Other while also denying “the significance of that Other’s history through a process of decontextualization.”
Zico, another male K-pop idol, stated in his song “Bermuda Triangle” that he is yellow but he has a “black soul.” Fans could perceive this as Zico’s appreciation for black culture but in reality, it is more insidious. Perhaps Zico seeks to claim blackness because it is a “metaphor for freedom, an end to boundaries…it invites engagement in a revolutionary ethos that dares to challenge and disrupt the status quo.” Within the context of Zico and Taeyang, blackness disrupts the status quo of the K-pop industry, lending itself as a selling point in the midst of a competitive industry.
K-pop further decontextualizes black culture through their performance of their image onstage, in music videos, and in photoshoots. Many K-pop idols have consistently used hairstyles taken from black culture for their image. For example, 4Minute used braids in their music video “Crazy” to show off their ‘bad girl’ concept. Through the use of braids, they are able to communicate that they are ‘edgy’ and ‘urban’ but they are not tied to the same negative stereotypes that black women experience. When black women wear braids, they are seen as ‘unprofessional’ or ‘messy,’ but when 4Minute wear braids, they are seen as ‘cool’ and giving off a ‘bad girl’ vibe. As a result, while black women are stuck with negative stereotypes, K-pop idols get away with these stereotypes since they do not suffer the same historical consequences that black people have gone through. Black hairstyles are simply packaged into a concept for a song; they are decontextualized and commoditized.
Why does K-pop commoditize and decontextualize black culture in a way similar to white, American entertainment industry? Angela from Seoulbeats states that K-pop, a representation of the East Asian bourgeoisie, falls in the middle; it does not “have the prestige of the white West, nor the exoticness of developing black and brown countries.” As a result the racial middle reinforces white supremacy by “deluding itself into thinking it can be just like the white if it tries hard enough.” In the United States, black culture is seen as ‘cool’ but low ‘prestige.’ In an effort to mimic American entertainment trends, South Korean entertainment companies utilize black culture as a form of difference that can change the status quo of the K-pop industry. As a result, this decontextualizes and devalues black culture into a mere concept for a K-pop group.
 bell hooks, “Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance,” in Black Looks: Race and Representation. (Boston: South End Press, 1992), 31.
 hooks, “Eating the Other,” 37.
 Angela, “Fetishizing Black Culture: Taeyang on Being Black,” Seoulbeats (blog), December 20, 2016, http://seoulbeats.com/2016/12/fetishizing-black-culture-taeyang-on-being-black/.
 Mari Matsuda, “We Will Not Be Used: Are Asian-Americans the Racial Bourgeoisie?,” in Where Is Your Body? And Other Essays on Race, Gender, and the Law. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1996), 150.