Let K-Pop Idols Date and Talk About It

Imagine there’s freedom of dating in K-Pop

Hi, it’s Ari, your friendly Korean source! I’m back from my vaccine vacation 🎉 I feel protected 💪 Today’s newsletter is different than usual ones. From time to time, I’ll share my thoughts on K-Pop or K-Drama or my country here. It starts from now. Hope you enjoy!

🎧 You can listen to this newsletter on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or other your favorite podcast platforms.


Let K-Pop Idols Date and Talk About It

This Instagram post was a trigger for me. Tom Holland, the Spider-Man actor, recently uploaded a mirror selfie with his actress girlfriend, Zendaya. Its caption goes, “My MJ, have the happiest of birthdays. Gimme a call when your up xxx.” When I saw this post, I suddenly felt a huge gap of celebrity relationship culture between Hollywood and K-Pop (actually, not just K-Pop, but Korean actors & actresses as well). Korean stars rarely upload a couple photo. Dating is a taboo between K-Pop idols. “My MJ” post made me think about how it’ll be like to see this kind of heart-warming photo in K-Pop.

There’s no freedom of dating in K-Pop

Some might argue that idols are already dating freely and we just don’t know about it. Of course there must be many idols who are having a great time with their boyfriend or girlfriend. But many K-Pop agencies have a dating-ban policy especially for rookies. And many fans don’t hide their bad opinions about dating idols. The result: they can’t say they’re in a relationship openly. This is a problem because it means they can’t be honest with their fans. They have to lie that they’re not dating anyone when they actually are and the lie can backfire when they get caught by Korean media or fans.

My confession

I used to think that it’s not really ‘appropriate’ for idols to date. Many Korean fans think dating is the one and only luxury that K-Pop idols, especially the newly-debuted, can’t and shouldn’t have. It’s a time for hard-work and full-commitment to their career, not for having fun or enjoying life, fans argue. I used to agree with this until I realized it’s a bs and why we became to think so.

Under extremely competitive education system, many Korean students are grown up being told, “Don’t date anyone if you want to go to a good college,” “If you’re in a relationship, you can’t pass the exam.” Dating is a distraction, we are told, and this thought affects us for a long time, even after finishing school. For fans who are eager to give their idols the 1st place trophy at a music program, dating means ‘breach of contract’ between idols and fans.

The meaning of freedom

Of course, dating is an idol’s private life and fans shouldn’t and don’t need to know all about it. But there’s a strong bond between K-Pop idols and their fans which makes K-Pop special. At least, idols shouldn’t have to lie to their dear fans about their life for fear of losing them and feel guilty about it. So it’s not about sharing their personal life, it’s about being okay to be honest and to be themselves in front of their supporters. I believe this can fix some toxic K-Pop cultures and make the K-Pop world a much-better place for idols and fans.

Imagine there’s freedom of dating in K-Pop

If there’s freedom of dating in K-Pop, a new era will begin. Imagine there’s a K-Pop version of “My MJ” Instagram post. (Imagine how many good fanfics will be born out of it!) We will just be happy to see them being happy with their loved ones. Imagine there’s a K-Pop version of “Drivers License☝” or “Good 4 U.” (Because they could … break up?) We’ll have a ton of great songs that we can relate to.

And this is just my theory, but I think freedom of dating can fix ‘sasaeng’ or stalker problem. Sasaeng is one of the most toxic K-Pop fan cultures and it was born partly because of too much secrecy. Some sasaengs follow idols hoping to make their idol their boyfriend or girlfriend. If they know their idols are dating or whom their idols are dating, many of them will stop.

Happy for their happiness

I often saw that Korean fans and international fans clash over idol’s dating or marriage issue. While many international fans welcome dating/married idols, many Korean fans don’t. It’ll take time but I believe many Korean fans will change eventually. (I heard that less and less Korean students are listening to ‘If you date, you’ll fail’ bs.) In the end, no matter where fans come from, we all wish for our star’s happiness. I hope all fans can be happy not just for idols’ career success, but also for their personal happiness.

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❤️ Learn Korean with Crash Landing on You

Crash Landing on You (2019) will probably be the most popular K-Drama yet in the world. It’s a love story between a heiress of a conglomerate from South Korea and a soldier from North Korea. The leading actress and actor became a real-life couple after shooting the drama. The series is romantic, funny, sad and heart-warming. It’s a rare K-Drama where you can pick up North Korean language which is a little different from South Korean language. Today, we’re gonna learn some Korean (South) with a quote from the series.

난 아직도 깜짝 놀라거나 무서울 때 그래요, “엄마야”

The quote means, “When I’m freaked out or scared, I still say ‘Mom’.” I picked this quote because, like the quote says, Koreans really say “엄마(야)” meaning “mom” when we are freaked out or scared. We often look for our mom, not dad or God when we are in need of help. I made three daily Korean sentences using the expressions in the quote. Check them out,

  1. 아직도 비가 오고 있어요 It’s still raining.

  2. (깜짝 생일 파티)를 준비했어요 I prepared (a surprise birthday party).

  3. 인생에서 (가장 행복했던) 때가 언제예요? When is (the happiest) time of your life?

Change the bracketed word to make a different sentence! You can practice speaking the sentences with my podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or other your favorite podcast platforms.

👂 I Have Voicemail

Send me your Korean voice message! If you’re a beginner Korean learner, speak the three sentences you learned today. You can change the bracketed word in the sentences if you want. If you’re a more advanced learner or adventurous, send me your voice message about today’s newsletter (your opinion about idols’ dating, etc.).

If you send it by September 27th, Monday, 9 pm ET, your voice could be on the the week after next podcast episode. If you want my feedback for your Korean speaking, leave a comment after submission. Deadline is by the week after next Thursday and I’m all ears!

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🍳 Egg Tteokbokki

Following the last newsletter, I introduce another new and easy way to cook tteokbokki at home. If you’re not great with spicy food, but you still want to try tteokbokki, you’ll love this: Egg Tteokbokki. You’ll probably have most of the ingredients in your kitchen: egg, onion, olive oil, butter, salt, parsley and tteok. Watch how-to video and cook for yourself!

Next week is Chuseok holiday which is similar with Thanksgiving! It’s one of the biggest & longest holidays in Korea. So I take a break next week 🙏

Thanks for reading! Share this newsletter and leave a comment! Your share, like, comment, and voice message give me energy to keep creating the newsletter💕 See you in two weeks! 안녕👋