Apologies, Please

I don’t apologize unless I mean it.

More people should be like that.

Especially when it comes to minor to major antiblackness in media like the kind we constantly do see from Korean pop and hip-hop artists. If you don’t mean it when you apologize, why are you apologizing in the first place?

As you may remember from my absolutely normal response to Amber’s twitter apology for supporting and making excuses for police brutality back in November or Sorn’s apology for posting a selfie with her friend wearing a racist mask in December, I absolutely hate half-assed apologies for racism. Unfortunately, that tends to be what we get from artists and companies when it comes to apologies.

When we get any acknowledgement, that is.

Most of the time, when an artist active in Korea is racist in minor to major ways, we don’t get an apology.

Sometimes we get an apology if it’s something we’d consider really bad – like a racial slur or blackface. However, it’s rarely a good apology because the artists rarely acknowledge what they’re apologizing for in the first place. Additionally, what usually happens in these cases is that the artist’s people may just delete the social media posts or stop hyping the video of the content that contains it and pretend as if that is an apology.

When it’s minor-to-them racism, like cultural appropriation and other insensitivities like “talking Black” or doing caricatures on variety shows?

The general response is… nothing.

No apology. No deleted content.

No accountability.

And neither that nor the Notes App apology are satisfactory as Korean-based idols reach out to a global audience aware of themselves and what they deserve from artists held up as idols. We deserve better than silence or an apology that isn’t backed up by meaningful action.

Because the issue is that many of the apologies that we have gotten are unsatisfactory because they rarely say exactly what the artist is apologizing for (i.e., specifically naming the antiblackness inherent in blackface or the dehumanizing nature of that one “curry song” all those idols keep singing) and are rarely delivered by the artist themselves directly.

Additionally, these apologies never provide a concrete plan and they are never backed up with signs that the artist and their company are taking steps towards educating themselves about cultures around the world and how to respect their fans everywhere.

How can any of us be satisfied with an apology that feels insincere or pressured and isn’t followed up by anything?


2020 has actually been full of apologies that have yet to go anywhere.

Most of the ones I’ve clocked… have been for Korean pop stars or rappers saying the n-word.

Yikes.

I think the earliest apology for this that I remember came from MCND – a rookie group with TOP Media – apologizing for mouthing or saying the n-word during a showcase. One of the latest, was rookie group PRECIOUS who, in a now deleted video had their members do a cover of Dababy’s “Rockstar” including… the n-word.

In an apology, the member responsible writes that:

I apologize for not recognizing the lyrics and meaning of the uploaded video in advance. Also, I will always think about your feedback and try to listen to it. I will try to be a more careful artist.

Two weeks later, the apology is nowhere to be found.

So much for trying to be a “more careful artist”, huh?

(Other idol apologies include Hinapia’s Yaebin after she rapped along to Nicki Minaj on “Monster” including the n-word (and calling fans upset with her, “sensitive”) and VAV’s Jacob apologizing doing the same to a different song in one of his lives.)

Outside of the idol industry, even “Wannabe Rapper” San E got in on the game, apologizing “sincerely” for his use of the n-word in his song “pride” back in 2012. I’m not sure why he thought apologizing now makes up for that oversight, but we’ll see if he keeps that energy for the future since he’s still making hip hop. That this came right around the time that rapper veiniyfl used the word in his audition for Show Me The Money Season 9 – and then apologized via IG Stories as if that helps anything – is just… incredible.

Especially because Veiniyfl’s apology is actually just bad beyond the fact that IG stories vanish within 24 hours of posting… In his apology, the rapper wrote that:

“I’m aware of the current issues in the United States. So I should have been more careful. I want to apologize to everyone. I sincerely apologize. It won’t happen again I promise.”

Aside from the fact that his apology makes it sound like the issue with him using the n-word wasn’t that it’s just not his word to use, but that racism is a hot button issue suddenly in the US –

It’s just… not a good apology.

He also doesn’t name what he does, just that he did something that was wrong… because of the current issues in the United States. (Fun fact, as we covered in the piece on blackface… antiblackness also exists in Korea and harms Black people there and elsewhere.)

We also had an entire rookie member of FNC Entertainment’s P1Harmony have to drop a half-assed apology for being an asshole on stan twitter – including harassing and insulting Black women in a fandom he wasn’t a part of and disliked. (It is really not a good apology.) The official Stray Kids account even posted a sort of vague apology after member Hyunjin’s costume as Go Eunae on a “Finding SKZ” episode back in July gave many international viewers minstrelsy vibes – a far cry from their previous silence in response to criticism over cultural appropriation from last year.

How many of those apologies will hold up in 2021? Probably not the deleted one for sure…


Look, I want good apologies more than anything else.

When my options appear to be limited to artist silence or a half-assed (and later deleted) apology?

There’s a part of my mind that prefers the silence.

From idols and my fellow fans.

But since that isn’t happening, let’s look quickly at some action items that fans can do to at least keep themselves and their co-fans from looking like fools when an idol or their company does apologize… or when silence is the only response:

In case of an apology

  • If you’re not a part of the community, you can’t accept the apology. Period. Resist the urge to comment in the replies to the twitter link or fancafe post thanking them for something you literally cannot accept.
  • If you are in the community, your acceptance of the apology doesn’t count as blanket acceptance for the fandom. I know it’s hard, especially when you really do believe the idol is going to do better, please but resist the urge to make your personal acceptance more than that.
  • Tired of seeing people say they don’t accept the apology that you have in your hearts? Just mute them. You don’t have to comment on their comment to reinforce your right to be The Person Who Matters. You can just move on because guess what: the idol isn’t going to thank you for pushing at another fan.
  • For the love of god, please stop telling the idols any variant of “you didn’t need to apologize, those fans are just being sensitive” over any level of racism regardless of whether you’re in the community being apologized to. Go stream for your faves, please. It’s more productive and less embarrassing for us all.

When silence is all we get

  • If you care about the issue being talked about, send an email to the company or artist’s listed contact urging them to speak up or educate themselves. Use the hashtags other fans have provided. If you have the ability to get your message translated to Korean so it may have a better chance of reaching the artist, go for it.
  • If you don’t care about the issue, no actual judgement unless you’re being an ass about it. Just mute the trending hashtags, the artist and company name, and go do something else. There is no reason for you to spend your time fighting people because you don’t think something is racist – especially if you are not part of that community.
  • Resist the urge to be like “well I’m [Black, South Asian, Indigenous American, etc] and I don’t care about this”. Because no one cares that you don’t care. And I personally will mock you for it if I see it. And then block you. While we don’t all have the same views on things like cultural appropriation or idols saying the n-word, the least we can do to be better in our fandoms is not publicly or privately dismiss our peers’ concern. Because what’s “just my opinion” gets used as an excuse to be actively and aggressively racist toward our peers in fandom and shout down their opinion.
  • Please stop saying everyone upset is an “anti”. I promise you that excepting a few, weird people, the majority of people talking and thinking about appropriation, racism, insensitivity, and the like from idols… aren’t antis. Because most people don’t have the time for this shit. Do your research and figure out who is doing what before you brush off folks because they “have” to be antis.

At the end of the day, no apology alone can be perfect.

What many fans want – and all fans deserve – is an apology that is coupled with action. It doesn’t have to be fully public, but it does need to be happening. As Korean artists aim to go global and pick up dedicated, paying fans, they and their company need to think about the different ways that culture comes into conversation and how ideas they’ve learned about other cultures aren’t… great. And as these Korean artists build momentum worldwide, it’s important for their fans worldwide to recognize that the diverse fanbases should mean that everyone gets heard. It’s important that they get that critical conversations and requests for sensitivity from other POC do not exist to harm the artist.

They exist, for the overwhelmingly large part, to help the artist grow and move towards something great in their lives.

So, do better, y’all.

About Zeenah

Zina writes about comics, nerd history, and ridiculous romance novels when not working frantically on her first collection of short stories and complaining about stuff. One day, she'll settle down and write that novel.
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