K-pop and K-dramas: But Namjoon

Screenshot of Kim Namjoon from BTS’s ‘Dynamite’ MV on Youtube. Copyright goes to Big Hit Entertainment and BTS.

Hi! It’s Annie!

For those of you who weren’t aware, today, September 12th, is Kim Namjoon’s (RM from BTS) twenty-sixth birthday! What’s funny is that I had the idea for this article a while ago and had no idea I would be posting this on his birthday. For those of you who aren’t too familiar with BTS or the fandoms in the K-Pop world, you might be looking at the title of this article and have no idea what that means. “But Namjoon” is a popular phrase coined in the K-pop world, generally used when a K-pop star says something racist. Many hardcore fans of a K-pop artist who is accused of saying or doing something racist will respond with “But Namjoon” because of a few things that he’s done in the past. If this sounds stupid to you, that’s because it probably is. This phrase was most popular a couple years ago, but recently it has gained traction again for unknown reasons. Namjoon hasn’t done anything of this nature for years, even when the phrase was popular a couple years ago it was entirely targeting things he’s done in the past. Before I go farther into this, I want to mention that this is my perspective on this issue and it’s incredibly important to listen to Black voices and validate what they’re feeling as well. As always, please do some of your own research on this topic as well.

The acts in question:

Namjoon was accused by many people of sexism a while ago when certain people decided to revisit one of BTS’s first popular songs; ‘War of Hormone’. I’m going to be honest here, the song isn’t pretty when it comes to sexist undertones. While most of the song is just sexualizing women in general, there are lyrics like; “Women are like an equation, us guys are the solution”. Not great. However, it’s important to talk about how Namjoon reacted when this song was criticized. He took complete responsibility for the song, confessed that he wrote most of the criticized lyrics, and apologized for them. Then he did the best thing he could have possibly done; he never did it again. Not only that, but he now has women oversee lyrics he writes about women in order to make sure he never does it again. ‘War of Hormone’ is bad, but is the music we generally have in America any better? And have we ever gotten apologies from any American artists about how they sexualized women or promises from them to never do it again? This is the beginning of a much bigger conversation about how women are still portrayed in music in general, but we know that Namjoon and BTS will now be a positive part of that conversation.

Namjoon has said the n-word before. There’s really no getting around that fact. He once said it while covering an American rap song and then he allegedly said it one other time on a live, but I have yet to find definitive proof of that. It may be out there somewhere, I don’t know. I am not a person of color, so I can’t say anything definitively on this situation, all I can talk about is how young Namjoon was and what he’s done to change. Not only has he apologized several times for saying this and never done it again, he also has since worked to remove the Korean word “naega” from all BTS songs even though it is a common referral to oneself in Korean. It is not a racist word, but he has still removed it from every song so that an English speaker won’t misinterpret the word and feel uncomfortable.

So, why are people still using this phrase?

I honestly can’t say. A band like BTS that has such a big fan following are bound to have people that don’t like them too. Maybe people are using this phrase to remind people that the newest artist who does or says something racist can turn themselves around as well. I seriously doubt the last one, as this phrase has a notoriously bad connotation. Mainly I see this as an example of people not allowing others to grow and become better people. It would be very different if Namjoon has never apologized or made any moves to change, but he is an excellent example of someone who has done both and has become infinitely wiser because of it. It’s also important to point out that Namjoon was nineteen or twenty when all of the things I mentioned above happened and his turn around occurred incredibly quickly. Because he listened and checked himself. I’m not a big fan of people actively condemning cancel culture, because we’ve always had some form of cancel culture. It’s not anything new, and lately it’s mostly been used to help move society forward. But we should definitely be careful about making sure we acknowledge the people who do change after they’re called out. We shouldn’t keep bringing up someone’s past mistakes if that’s something they have moved past and are still actively trying to become better because of. If anything this proves that Namjoon is an even better role model. Namjoon has gone from those mistakes to saying things like:

“If you can’t respect, don’t even open your mouth.”

and

“No matter who you are, where you’re from, your skin color, gender identity: speak yourself.”

and

“I believe that there’s no improvement if you have an inferiority complex and victim mentality.”

Of course, I’m biased. Namjoon is amazing and I’m a giant fan of BTS. But things like this make me even more proud to be a fan of BTS. They are excellent examples of people with fame who actually care and have compassion for everyone. Their philanthropy is unmatched, including donating to causes like BLM in countries that aren’t their own. Namjoon is the leader of this amazing group, and rightfully so. He is well-spoken, kind-hearted, and an excellent example of someone who listened and became one of the strongest allies for equality we have. I have an immense love for this band and that definitely includes Kim Namjoon. Happy Birthday, Rapmon!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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