One of the most significant issues that have been raised in the Korean entertainment industry is the topic of cultural appropriation.
The definition of cultural appropriation is deemed as“The unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.”
Recently dance group CocaNButter has come under fire for cultural appropriation.
The group first debuted in 2018 and recently signed with MLD Entertainment after gaining attention when they were one of the dance teams on the reality show Street Woman Fighter.
CocaNButter officially debuted as a music group with their 1st single album called “Mi Deh Yah.” Yet, since the music video and concept images were released, netizens have raised concerns that the group was doing cultural appropriation.
For many, the name CocaNButter itself was deemed offensive, particularly as places like West Africa, South, and Central America, as well as the Caribbean, are where the large majority of cocoa is created
In West Africa, where more than half of the world’s commercial cocoa is produced, and in parts of Central and South America as well as in the Caribbean – countries to which they are indigenous – Cacao beans have been harvested for centuries to create Cocoa Butter.
— New Directions Aromatics
Other netizens pointed out that in promotion photos, the members were dressed in ways that could be deemed as cultural appropriation, including wearing headwraps.
In one of the past photos, ZSun was seen wearing a headwrap styled in a way that is common in African culture. Yet, while it was for fashion in the photo, head wraps can express a woman’s marital status or age at a glance. Beebi also wore braids that were deemed to be cultural appropriation.
When the song itself was released, anger continued to be shared on social media.
The name of the song is “Mi Deh Yah.” As soon as the title was released, it was clear that the title was not Korean. Many believed it was using Patois, which is a regional dialect that is seen as non-standard.
Within the track, many also believe they heard phrases such as “Wagwan,” which is a Jamaican creole.
When the group shared a video on their TikTok, netizens shared their views on the song, including the lyrics and dance moves used.
Many netizens thought the group used a huge amount of influence from African, Caribbean, and Jamaican music and dances, yet couldn’t understand why it was being done by Korean dancers. Along with the name of the group, song, and collaborating artist KOONTA, they raised anger on the amount of cultural appropriation.
While netizens always want to educate idols and those in the Korean entertainment industry, it seems like it continues to occur despite many celebrities being called out.
CocaNButter and MLD Entertainment are yet to respond to the allegations.