Actors Kevin Woo And Abraham Lim Call Out The New York Times For Allegedly “Racist” Review Of “KPOP”

Many felt the review was highly critical and used racially insensitive language.

The New York Times defended its review of KPOP and the critic who wrote it.

The New York Times is under fire for an allegedly racist review of the Broadway show KPOP.

Male cast of “KPOP.” | Playbill

KPOP is an original musical about the trials one must overcome to become a K-Pop idol. The musical previously started as an off-Broadway show in 2017. Previews started on October 13, 2022, and the show’s official opening was on November 20, 2022.

“KPOP” ad. | Seatplan

It features an all-star cast including real K-Pop idols such as f(x)‘s LunaMiss A‘s MinSPICA‘s Bohyung, and former U-KISS member Kevin Woo.

“KPOP” ad featuring cast | TodayTix

Since the show had its official opening, reviews have been pouring in, including The New York Times. Chief Theater Critic Jesse Green published the review titled “In ‘KPOP,’ Korean Pop and Broadway Meet (Too) Cute.” At first glance, one can already tell that the review will not be complimentary.

‘A lot of people come to these things and they don’t even understand the language,’ says Harry, a filmmaker who passes for the villain in the noisy yet skimpy new musical ‘KPOP.’ ‘So what are they watching for?’

Good question.

For the record, the answer provided by Tiny, a member of a Korean pop group called RTMIS, is delivered, unlike a lot of the show, in English: ‘Perfection, Mr. Harry. OK?’

And it’s true that if you enjoy the precision-drilled dancing, meticulous melisma and auto-tuned sentiments that have turned K-pop into a worldwide sensation over the past 10 years, you are likely to be among those cheering the musical’s Broadway incarnation, which opened on Sunday at Circle in the Square.

But those who aren’t hard-core fans of the genre or don’t understand Korean — let alone those who saw the radically different and far superior Off Broadway version in 2017 — will have a harder time enjoying this one. For them, the musical is less an eye-opener than an ear-pounder, assiduously drowning out any ambitions it may once have had to be more.

— Jesse Green via The New York Times

Asian American actor Abraham Lim, who appears in KPOP, reposted a quote from the article, describing the show as “squint-inducing.” He called out the writer for using language with racist connotations about a show with a predominately Asian cast.

By then, if you are not a fan, you may feel worn out by the aggressive mimicry of the K-pop performance style, not just in the mostly electronic arrangements but also in the minutely detailed choreography by Jennifer Weber, the squint-inducing lighting by Jiyoun Chang and the hundreds of can-you-top-this costumes by Clint Ramos and Sophia Choi. In that environment it’s hard to say whether Brad’s ‘Halfway’ and MwE’s ‘Mute Bird’ — acoustic songs simply staged and feelingly delivered — are actually lovely or merely a relief.

— Jesse Green via The New York Times

Some didn’t see Green’s wording as problematic, believing he only meant it in reference to the light design. Yet, many found it highly inappropriate to use the term “squint-inducing,” considering racist stereotypes against Asians.

Lim also pointed out that Green was consistent in his tone and language throughout the article. It was definitely not a positive review.

Lim has since posted a video response to Green’s review. He spoke about the racist and xenophobic undertones of the review.

I also want to say that when you can’t intelligently presume that there will be some Korean sprinkled in throughout a show called K-POP… It stands for Korean, then that’s just dumb. Lastly, with regards to that comment, I don’t care what element you were referring to when you say ‘squinty eye,’ it’s… When you’re talking about a show that’s a first of its kind, that is a wholly original Broadway musical that is about a Korean story that is comprised of a mostly Asian or Asian American cast… You can find better words.

— Abraham Lim

Lim added to his message to Green by encouraging the writer to be more thoughtful in the future, challenging him to be curious about Korean culture even when going out for a meal. He concluded by saying, “disrespect is disrespect,” and told Green to do his job and “do it better.”

| @therealabraham/Instagram

Abraham Lim’s KPOP co-star Kevin Woo weighed in by not only reposting Lim’s video but sharing his own observation about the audience.

| @kevinwoo_official/Instagram

While a review might claim that people were not “enjoying a show,” Woo witnessed hundreds enthusiastically reacting throughout it. One can only presume, based on the context, that Woo is also tweeting about Green’s review considering the critic wrote, “But those who aren’t hard-core fans of the genre or don’t understand Korean — let alone those who saw the radically different and far superior Off Broadway version in 2017 — will have a harder time enjoying this one.”

At this time, the review has not been edited despite readers’ and the cast’s voiced concerns.

Source: realabrahamlim and The New York Times

What's Happening Around The World