One of the biggest issues that have been raised in K-Pop is the topic of cultural appropriation amongst idols. The definition of cultural appropriation is “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, TO1‘s Chan has come under fire at the recent KCON LA event after netizens deemed that his outfit worn during one of the performances was deemed as cultural appropriation.
The group recently joined many other idol groups in LA for the two-day KCON event, where artists could perform and interact in a setting with fans for the first time since the pandemic.
During their performance, TO1 treated fans to a rendition of PSY and BTS Suga‘s track “That That.” The group gained a lot of praise for their performance skills, considering that it is one of the first times they’ve performed in such a huge venue to international fans.
However, during the performance, netizens noticed that during the start of Suga’s part, Chan took off his cowboy hat to reveal a durag.
For many, the cultural significance of the durag is often forgotten, especially when it comes to incorporating it into popular culture. It is often described as “a cloth band worn around the forehead as a sweatband to keep hair in place.” It is a cloth that origins date back to the 19th century when slave women used head wraps to keep their hair up and out of the way during labor.
In particular, many netizens shared that along with it being inappropriate to wear a durag as an idol, the timing of it was also inappropriate due to the similarities in the Korean word used and an offensive slur.
TO1 just covered“that that” and one of the members had a durag under the cowboy hat and took the cowboy hat off on the line “ya neaga” pic.twitter.com/R4AmPsNUgH
— yj’s wife (@mingisplanet) August 22, 2022
While netizens have used the idea of ignorance as the reason for idols wearing outfits or doing things that are deemed offensive, many netizens have shared evidence that it isn’t the first time Chan has been accused of cultural appropriation.
Back in 2020, the idol came under fire for wearing dreadlocks during Road To Kingdom. He explained how he chose to wear style his hair that way to showcase a “trendier side” of himself on the show.
He has also been seen wearing durags during periods where the group does not have a schedule, including just taking photos.
Yet, after being called out for it by fans, many were angered by his response which wasn’t an apology but rather defending his actions, adding that it was “cool” and that he hoped fans didn’t misunderstand.
When the clip was shared, netizens, including those who are fans of TO1, explained that they did not condone Chan’s behavior. Many also added that it was time that idols were held accountable rather than the blame solely being passed to the company or stylists.
please do NOT defend chan on this. it was his choice, he chose to wear durag KNOWING it's not appropriate. gethers have reached out to him on bubble about the same matter months ago resulting in him playing it off like it was nothing and just "trendy".
— ♡ (@TO1FEED) August 22, 2022
now to1 why yall let that man come out in a durag💀💀
— bree ⩜⃝ mingyu knows he’s my crush! ✿ (@breesangg) August 22, 2022
Despite concerns about other issues, for many netizens, the common occurrence of cultural appropriation by K-Pop idols is becoming tiring. They believe that it should be compulsory for idols to learn all about cultural appropriation so that steps can be made to ensure that these sorts of issues do not keep happening.
At this time, neither TO1 nor their agency, Wake One, have responded to fans’ concerns.