How K-pop has changed my life, for better or worse
As a K-pop fan of 11 years, here are four ways K-pop has impacted my life.
I first discovered K-pop in 2010. Back then, Girls’ Generation and SHINee were all the rage among my primary six classmates.
Initially I didn’t understand the hype surrounding K-pop, but after watching the music video for Girls’ Generation’s Oh, I was sucked into the Korean wave (Hallyu) and haven’t looked back since.
Over the past decade, I’ve been a fan of Girls’ Generation, KARA, T-ara, Big Bang, Super Junior, EXO and BTS, just to name a few. Although I am no longer a die-hard fan of these groups, they (and the many other groups I’ve stanned) will always hold a special place in my heart.
I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to say that K-pop has played a part in shaping who I am as a person today. Looking back at all my years of being a K-pop fan, here are four ways that the genre has changed my life.
1. Forging close friendships
In secondary school, junior college and university, I’ve formed many friendships through K-pop. Personally, I find K-pop to be a great conversation starter as it is very popular in Singapore and chances are, whoever you’re talking to would have some knowledge of the genre.
Some of my closest friendships were forged by a shared interest in the same K-pop groups. For instance, when I was in university, I bonded with one of my dearest friends over our love for the popular boy group BTS.
Back then, we would gush over the latest BTS content and discuss our favourite tracks off their newest album.
Although we’ve moved on to different boys, I don’t think we would’ve become such good friends if it weren’t for these seven men.
2. Sparking an interest in Korean culture
K-pop played a significant role in introducing me to Korean food. Seeing my idols eat dishes such as tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), bibimbap (mixed rice) and jajangmyeon (black bean sauce noodles) deliciously led me to try Korean cuisine.
It did take me a while to warm up to Kimchi and admittedly I wasn’t a fan at first. But after my constant cravings for spicy and sour foods during circuit breaker, I eventually grew to like this pungent Korean staple.
I was also motivated to learn the Korean language so that I could understand what my idols were saying without the need for translation or subtitles. Plus, I wanted to sing K-pop songs at karaoke without the need for romanised lyrics.
Thus, I took Korean classes in university. Not only have I become pretty good (in my opinion) at reading Korean, I have also gained a basic understanding of the language. I hope to take more Korean lessons in the future and improve my skills.
3. Bringing comfort in tough times
K-pop has not only provided me an escape from stress and anxiety, but also brought me comfort in hard times. Beyond the catchy tunes and iconic choreography, there are plenty of K-pop songs with meaningful lyrics that fans can relate to.
One of my favourite K-pop songs is My Page by NCT Dream. In this song, the members (who were teenagers at the time) express their worries and anxieties about growing up but vow to bravely venture into the unknown and forge their own path.
Even as a young adult, I can relate with the lyrics. Having just graduated from university, I am faced with the daunting realisation that I don’t know what I want to do in life. This song lets me know that what I’m feeling is normal and the hopeful message encourages me to face life’s uncertainties head on.
4. Influencing my views on beauty standards
It’s a well-known fact that K-pop male idols aren’t stereotypically masculine. While men wearing make-up is typically considered feminine in many parts of the world, including Singapore, it is the norm in K-pop.
Many male idols also have androgynous features and styling. In fact, my mother used to say that my favourite male idols looked like girls.
K-pop undeniably challenges male beauty standards and has made me more open-minded to non-stereotypical expressions of masculinity.
However, with regards to female beauty, K-pop tends to reinforce more stereotypical female body ideals.
Female idols are mostly slim, have small waists and are usually underweight.
When I was younger, I envied female idols and felt like I needed to be skinny to be considered beautiful. Not having this “ideal” body severely affected my self-esteem and confidence.
Although I no longer feel this way about myself, the fact remains that K-pop can negatively affect one’s perception of body image.
While K-pop has generally changed my life (and many other lives) for the better, I think it is important to remember that our lives shouldn’t revolve around it.
Keep in mind, you are just a fan and you’ll never truly know what your idols are like behind the cameras. It is okay to support your favourite groups but don’t neglect your real-life responsibilities in the process.