P1Harmony’s Keeho Speaks Up About Cultural Appropriation in K-pop

It’s about time K-pop idols took accountability for the cultural appropriation that often runs rampant in the genre.

On June 2, P1Harmony appeared on the Zach Sang Show to promote their latest song “Do It Like This.” During their discussion, host Zach Sang brought up the topic of cultural appropriation in K-pop. “Is [cultural appropriation] on your mind while you’re coming up with your look, while you’re sharing your story with the world?” Zach asked.

“Oh my God, of course, of course, of course,” answered P1H’s leader Keeho with no hesitation.

Fans of the group and K-pop more broadly were surprised to hear Keeho speak candidly on the issue. “I believe it’s a responsibility and I also feel like if you’re gonna have that big of a platform, you need to be able to respect and appreciate all cultures without appropriating them,” Keeho continued.

“Whenever it comes to our styling, our music, or whatever — it’s always a sensitive topic that we always have to think once, three times, four times about in every step of the way, visually or musically or the language itself,” he said. Keeho, while other P1H members nodded in agreement.
“Obviously there’s AAVE and a whole bunch of other cultural stuff that is very sensitive and so we need to respect that, and I feel like it’s a responsibility to, so I feel like it’s something that we’re always thinking about and taking action about .”

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On the surface, what Keeho said was not groundbreaking. His comments were instead a sign of human decency and respect for their diverse fanbase. But in the world of K-pop, an idol speaking so openly about the importance of cultural appreciation versus cultural appropriation is practically unheard of.

For years, predominantly black and brown K-pop fans have endured idols saying the N-word, wearing blackface, and donning Black hairstyles for “Hip Hop concepts.” Despite K-pop being built on Black Hip Hop culture, the list of cultural appropriation offenses is — sadly — quite long. If one chooses to dig back far enough into the history of most of today’s K-pop groups or soloists, they will find scandals of cultural appropriation.