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Why Does Korean Pop Culture Irk So Many Pakistanis?

Have you ever heard any of these phrases before:

"They all look the same."

"They look like girls."

"They must be gay."

"They wear makeup and jewelry."

"How do you differentiate between them?"

"You don't even understand what they're saying, what's the point?"

"Korean sounds funny."

Obviously most of these comments are either racist, sexist, homophobic, or all three, but why is it that Pakistanis still use them? It is no unknown fact that we are living in an age of the Korean Wave, which is a term used to describe the increased consumption and popularity of Korean pop culture. May it be through K-pop, K-dramas, or Korean cultural festivals, Korean electronics, cosmetics, beauty products, or fashion, you may have known at least one friend/acquaintance who is an ardent fan of the Korean culture. In Pakistan mostly, it was the popularity of BTS that brought fans into the Korean blockhole (read = paved the way don't fight me on this). However, the number of people who "oppose" the Korean wave is no less than those who are big fanatics.

The biggest cultural shock that people receive is because of the appearance of the K-pop idols - they wear makeup, jewelry, unique costumes, and dye their hair in a plethora of popping colours - which, in the Pakistani context, translates to being "too girly".

It may come as a surprise to many people, but makeup and dying hair is not reserved for Korean idols and actors only, it is a common feat! Not only do boys wear jewelry and makeup, it is common in Korea for heterosexual men to openly show affection to their male friends and "hold hands" in public. It just goes to show that different cultures have different definitions of what is considered "masculine" or not. But a funny instance to remember is when BTS fans in Gujranwala hoisted a billboard for a Jungkook's birthday, but a Jimati Islami politician of the city brought it down because it promoted homosexuality. I mean.....

Do give this a read if you want a good laugh:

Other than appearances, many find the language itself to be a barrier, not realizing that music is a language in of itself (or that translations exists you know). If language were such a problem, why is it that K-dramas and movies are gaining so much popularity? Other than the storyline itself, Korean dramas/movies have the best cinematography and graphics, and the emotions that actors put into their characters is just Oscar-worthy. Speaking of which, here's what Director Bong Joon-ho had to say when he won FOUR (yep, you read that right) Academy Awards for his movie "Parasite" in 2019:

Not only this, but K-pop has been making history on many fronts by having its "first ever Korean/Asian to...." moments. BTS have been achieving it all - from receiving the highest Korean Merit Award to performing in the United Nations to becoming UNICEF's Ambassadors to selling all of Wembley to becoming the BIGGEST band on the planet (this is just 0.1 percent of their achievements). Their message of self-love and anti bullying has resonated with so many that their achievements have shown all of this was not possible due to just a bunch of "crazy fangirls" as is the image of their fandom amongst haters. There is still this concept in our desi households, "ye bhi One Direction ki tarha ek phase hai, utar jaye ga". Well Mama Baba, it's been five years and the "phase" isn't over.

In fact, the Korean wave gained so much popularity for their insanely robot-level synchronized choreographies, music theories, concepts, and hidden messages, that fans started finding Western music bland.

And so, there is the problem of Western media exploiting the Korean popularity to gain viewership for their own award shows, T.V shows, music videos, and much more. Even Pakistani news pages, that once criticized and passed racist remarks on K-pop, have taken to forming headlines for as trivial a thing as "BTS Jin Took a Selfie Today". Still, I find it upsetting how Geo Pakistan with Huma and Abdullah (two people I considered very woke and sensitive) hosted a show on BTS and passed remarks like "ye tou koi Pakistani larkay bhi apnay baal dye karke kisi basement mai ja ke dance kar len this is good." Not to mention the judgy faces people make if one tells them that they are Korean culture fans. If only we had the basic decency to accept and respect people's choices of the kind of media they consumed, AND also understood that that which is different is not necessarily bad.

Despite all the racist behaviour , however, I do appreciate the Pakistani fans of K-pop/K-dramas who have formed communities that host fund-raising projects and conduct fanmeets. It is interesting to see how the embassy of South Korea in Islamabad itself hosts a prestigious K-pop festival every year.

It must also be said that nothing is completely rainbows and unicorns. Despite all the amazing things it has to offer, the South Korean society is considered "conservative" in the sense that it is still intolerant towards LGBTQ and the toxic culture of upholding an idol's "image" has resulted in various idols losing their careers over baseless scandals. The toxic and unrealistic beauty standards, cruel trainee life, sexualization of underage idols, bullying scandals, forbidden dating, and sasaeng (stalkers and creepily obsessive fans) are some of the many issues that remain unresolved in South Korean Pop culture.

That being said, the Korean wave is still a phenomenon to marvel at, for how it ceaselessly keeps growing and soaring on new heights.

I don't know how to end this blog so here's a catchy song with amazing choreography I guess. Enjoy!

P.S it's called Cheers by Svt

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Rafay Abdul Razzaq
Rafay Abdul Razzaq
Aug 07, 2022

Ayesha I absolutely LOVEEE this blog! Before being introduced to Korean culture, I always thought it was pretty absurd that people threw hate at something they didn't understand. Just goes to show that people will not like things they dont understand. Just yesterday I was about play some video games and my mom was like why are u playing again u played yesterday? and I said aap bhi tou roz drama dekhti hain? and she said woh aur cheez hai. So it just shows that people need to accept different media for what it is - different.

I love K dramas and I think there's no going back to western media once u start. I think the relationships are much…

Replying to

HAHAHAH Rafay all desi moms are the same xD And yes! Kdramas are a blackhole there is no going back from them. You talked about relatability in my other blog and that applies here too. We relate to kdramas more because as you mentioned, there are similarities in our cultures like all the hype around having good careers, studying "good" subjects, respecting elders, and other various social norms. Yes even the romance is halal core xD we can relate to that. Perhaps that is why we learn that when we open ourselves to different media, we realize that perhaps the narratives are not so different than our own. What is then the point to act hostile towards that which one…


Thankyou Ayesha! For writing this up I thought that poor MPA didn't know about BTS but to satisfy the people and to show agreement with most of them who have little knowledge ( that is dangerous,D) and they mistook BTS fame as something against Islam ,he took those actions (I even heard someone saying that its a propaganda hahahah that doesnot make any sense)

But I agree I watched few korean drama they are very empowering and they show great respect toward women.


A blog that is relevant across the discussions in social circles!


Hello Army! It's great to meet you.

Not just once, but thousands of times, I've heard these remarks from civilized people, and from far more vulgar ones. I'm super sensitive to BTS, and we have a lot of disagreements at times (Haha), but I really appreciate you sharing this.

Therefore, there are equally as many haters as there are fans everywhere, and they only have a few poisonous and irrational reasons to dislike BTS or K-pop culture. You also mentioned the primary justification for their use of makeup. Who in Pakistan does not wear cosmetics, I mean? Each boy gets dressed and applies makeup.

Even I have frequently heard that they don't have manly personality, which is another reason to…

Replying to

Hiii fellow Army! You are correct Bushra I share the same sentiments. If only people would understand that the hype around BTS would not have been so great if they were "just a bunch of androgynous musicians" as is their image here in Pakistan. People should understand it is their massive achievements that gets them where they are, and that is the power of media, isn't it? A message of self love resonated with millions and billions to an extent that BTS have become the voice of many!


Hi Ayesha!

I resonate with this blog so much because, as a Kpop fan, I faced a lot of criticism for listening to Korean music and following my fave Kpop bands. Like people would literally tell me: "Gaari mein Aimen ko aux cable nahi deini hai, she will put on some random ching pong songs from her favourite girl band". By girl band, they were referring to BTS and thought that they were being funny. This statement in itself highlights many of the levels on which Pakistanis hating on Kpop is problematic. Sexist, racist and homophobic. There is not an easy acceptance of Korean music in Pakistani society, and let me tell you, most of the time it doesn't even…

Replying to

YES, YES, AND YES! Aimen if only people would read this comment of yours, I think they will understand why we love Korean culture and why we are sick of being shamed for it. You have perfectly summed up all of our sentiments! My openness to kpop/kdramas is what has made me a woke enough person (hopefully) to be open to other cultures too. As the classic saying goes, do not judge a book by its cover. Props to you Aimen!

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