Last month, K-pop singer Sowon of GFriend posted on Instagram a photo of her hugging a Nazi soldier’s mannequin. She immediately came under fire, the posts were deleted, and GFriend issued a profuse apology. Apology accepted? Negative. The problem with K-pop’s embracing Nazi symbols is broader and runs deeper.
GFriend is managed by Big Hit Entertainment—the same South Korean mega-entertainment group that manages BTS, the biggest K-pop group of all time. BTS is a global cultural phenomenon. Pre-COVID, they filled stadiums all around the world. Starting with the boy band H.O.T. in the mid-’90s, K-pop “idol” culture took off in the early 2000s. K-pop has taken the world by storm, creating a vast empire of hearts and minds among teenagers and young adults worldwide.
Success aside, K-pop management corporations have a serious issue: embracing racism and neo-Nazism to boost ratings. Sowon of GFriend rightfully came under fire for the Nazi Instagram postings, but Sowon likely didn’t come up with that move. Every aspect of a K-idol’s life is controlled by upper management, lower management, road managers, creative personnel, and many others. Under the draconian management of a mega-cultural force that is mainstreaming its K-pop stars and music, it is hard to believe that any public posting is ever random. Every social media post is part of global marketing campaigns. K-pop management corporations are the Samsung of the entertainment industry. They bring massive cash inflows into the Korean economy. Whenever a pro-Nazi incident occurs, there is a creative food chain that came up with the idea, not just the K-Pop star. Putting Sowon on the spot allows other potential culprits to evade responsibility.