‘In the West, people just don’t get it’, Kim Nam-Joon, leader of world’s biggest music group, BTS, exclaims when asked if the cult of perfection and over-achievement are Korean cultural traits. Here’s our attempt at an explanation.
‘Korea is a country that has been invaded, razed to the ground, torn in two. Just 70 years ago, there was nothing. We were getting aid from the IMF and the UN. But now, the whole world is looking at Korea. How is that possible? How did that happen? Well, because people try so fucking hard to better themselves.’
RM’s powerful answer comes to a question posed by a reporter for a recent interview of the rapper, producer, and artist, on behalf of the Spanish newspaper, El País.
Not backing down on calling out the repercussions of colonialism, the 29-year-old continues, ‘You are in France or the UK, countries that have been colonizing others for centuries, and you come to me with, ‘oh God, you put so much pressure on yourselves; life in Korea is so stressful!’ Well, yes. That’s how you get things done.’
‘And it’s part of what makes K-pop so appealing, although, of course, there’s a dark side. Anything that happens too fast and too intensely has side effects.’
The whole interview and these parts, in particular, have made rounds across the world, not only inside the boundaries of K-Pop fandoms and stan Twitter but also to a much wider audience.
Many, especially from the nations mentioned as colonizers in the reply, have offered alternative views. Others meanwhile, including the author of ‘Pachinko’, Min Jin Lee, have shown their praise for RM’s impassioned answer.
"Anything that happens too fast and too intensely has side effects." RM, the leader of K-pop sensation @BTS_twt talks to price of success, the history of his country and collecting art https://t.co/NHZ9GuIHX7
— El País English Edition (@elpaisinenglish) March 15, 2023
Nam Joon’s response rings true to a larger stratum of people for the bitter truth it carries: the aftermaths of colonialism and why acknowledging it even today after years is so important.
Being from a country like India whose tryst with British colonialism lasted for more than 400 years and only ended mere 75 years ago, the horrors of colonialism remain and it is clear that we suffer from it.
From anglicized education to a work culture where the West demands a kind of perfection that we must achieve, from colonial law structures to social mindsets like queerphobia, there are wide-reaching consequences that any colonized nation bears for hundreds of years since independence.