Recently, more and more idols have been getting into hot soup with international fans, due to their comments about skin color. SHINee‘s Key and Taemin recently got into controversy for mentioning Minho‘s skin tone after he got tanned from golfing. Taemin and Key have since uploaded apologies to their official Instagram accounts.
On the other hand, this is not the only instance. ITZY‘s Lia once came under scrutiny after commenting on Chaeryeong‘s skin. Chaeryeong had indicated a wish to tan, while Lia discouraged her from it, claiming that she wouldn’t end up super tan (thus giving off a sexy image) nor would she be fair-skinned.
Of course, this is not limited to idols. Single’s Inferno‘s Moon Se Hun came into controversy for his comments on Shin Ji Yeon‘s skin tone. The contestant had commented on a girl’s skin, saying that her impression was “white and pure.”
After recent controversies blowing up in international waters, Korean netizens have also been taking stock, debating about the importance of sensitivity with such matters. As K-Pop takes the global stage, some may feel that they need to cater to the sensitivities of international audiences, while others feel that it does not matter as much. A post with several examples of such matters went viral on an online forum. The post pointed out that celebrities did have a tendency to mention such comments about skin color, mostly without malice.
Seolhyun once expressed in an interview that the part she does not like about her looks is her dark skin.
Girls’ Generation‘s Sooyoung also jokingly mentioned that she doesn’t love seeing Taeyeon due to her pale skin.
On the other hand, Korean netizens also feel that many foreigners tend to impose the impression that all idols are forced into becoming paler to fit Korean standards. They also take issue with the assumption from Western waters that Southeast Asians or Asians are not naturally pale. One example brought up was BLACKPINK‘s Lisa. As Lisa became paler comparatively after making her debut, Western fans often assume that she purposefully underwent whitening treatment to fit into Korean standards. Whereas lighting and exposure to sun can dramatically influence skin tone naturally.
Some netizens also felt that foreign audiences were asking for too much, given that they silently imposed an opposition to the use of the Korean word “niga.” The word simply means “you” in the language, but was often misheard as the highly offensive n-word. Korean idols began switching to “neoga” instead, which is an alternative for “niga.” Some more extreme international fans previously even insisted that Koreans stop using the word “niga.”
- When I think about how they kicked up a fuss about “niga,” I think that we really need to nip them in the bud once and for all. I’m so annoyed how idols recently all switched to “neoga” instead. Why do we have to destroy our own language just for them, while minding how they feel? They just use words like “several” (sounds like Korean swear words) without care.
- i-Roaches are so hypocritical. They fuss about whitewashing while saying “you should love yourself” about yellowed skin, but they also claim that [comments about] darker skin is a problem on a separate issue. But I also think that there’s nothing bad to come from being careful about saying things like “I’m darker so I don’t like it, you’re paler so good for you,” and “if you turn off the lights, you only can see your eyes and forehead.” But I’m not saying that if you say that, you’re colorist.
- America and Korea is totally different, so we just can’t understand each other. We’ve only lived seeing Koreans, so of course we’d think differently from Americans, who lived seeing all sorts of races in their lives. But it is still right for us to respect them. But I hope that they stop fussing about whitewashing.
- In my bias group, the other members also keep picking on the palest member in the group, but the foreign fans especially keep saying that we shouldn’t whitewash, and they also uploaded edited photos where that member ended up looking more yellowed than the others. If it’s really true in real life, no one would say a thing. But that idol doesn’t have yellowed skin in real life. They’re actually the ones being racist, assuming that asians have yellow skin, while they edit the photos like that. They should fix their own biased thoughts first, thinking that asians can’t have white skin.
- I think that if someone feels uncomfortable, we should be considerate of them. If I was in their shoes, I’d make similar requests.
- Well, do they think that all we have to compliment people about is their skin color? They also say shit like “melanin~ natural skin is beautiful~” when they see photos of idols where they come out looking especially dark and yellowed. Especially those up in the South, they edit the idols to the point of changing their race. While being so obsessed about skin tone, they call pale pictures ghostlike, or corpselike, and say it is disgusting. Seeing what they’ve been up to, you can tell they’re so illogical and mentally ill. I can’t count how many fansite masters closed after they got mass-bullied so bad by those i-Roaches obsessed about skin tone.
It looks like opinions remain rather mixed, with some agreeing that Koreans should begin to be more sensitive about some issues, while others remain stout that they have not faced similar consideration and understanding from the foreign audiences. Korean netizens and fans are also highly sensitive about the “whitewashing” issue that has been plaguing K-Pop for years.
While foreign fans often take issue with how fansites edit their photos, Korean fans claim that the edits are not far from the truth. As lighting often plays a huge part in how photos come out, this seems to be a core issue that fans on both sides cannot come to compromise with.