A few weeks ago (God, this is a timely blog) a hardworking BBC translated some Korean netizen comments onto OneHallyu, and one of OneHallyu’s patented anti-Block B fuckwits got annoyed by it. (Yes, because someone did a translation, which wasn’t the approved hate. I would like to take this moment to not only thank that BBC for her hard work, but also to commend her for her willingness to put up with the idiots on that site. She is a better person than I am.) Anyway, another BBC made an eminently logical reply, pointing out that a lot of positive news about Block B never makes it into English.
And that’s very true.
I don’t think that’s because all the English-language K-Pop sites have this terrible bias against Block B or anything–but that filter against translating positive stories does exist, and it exists all the time. Even if what’s going on isn’t egregious, in general the English-language K-Pop sites do focus on the negative, simply because they do fewer stories and tend to pick out the really juicy ones.
I think this creates the impression that the Korean K-Pop press is hugely focused on scandals–which it kind of isn’t, for reasons I’ll get to in a moment. And things can be really confusing for English-language observers, because it seems to us like one minute, say, IU is a vicious pedophile who everyone hates, and the next she’s a painted saint who everyone loves and who is being unfairly targeted by the evil LABOUM, who everyone hates. This time.
But that’s because we see only what comes through the filter.
What isn’t there?
A whole lotta stuff!
This is a screencap of the results of a Google News search for “피오”–these are most (not all) of the results from May 5, and these stories focus P.O’s appearance on the pilot of Secret Variety Institute.
Here’s the thing: Very few of these stories are what I’d consider actual news. A handful of them mention the show’s ratings (which were pretty good–yay!), but the vast majority of them are the Korean equivalent of those stories you see in American news outlets that say, “Saturday Night Live did a skit about Kellyanne Conway!” and then the story itself just tells you that…Saturday Night Live did a skit about Kellyanne Conway. Like, yeah, the skit was funny, and I don’t like the Trump administration any more than anybody else does, but writing a story about what was on television last night is not exactly what I consider serious reporting.
You can really see what I mean in this case because AllKpop actually did two English-language versions of these articles. Their titles are, “Block B’s P.O Confesses He Is Lonely These Days” and “Block B’s P.O Reveals Whom He Would Date on ‘Secret Variety Institute’.” Neither article tells you anything you wouldn’t learn by actually watching the show (which I totally recommend–I saw it here but there are also English subs here now), and both focus on P.O’s dating life (of course).
There were dozens of these kinds of articles in the Korean K-Pop press. Dozens! For just one day!
This is what English-speaking K-Pop fans don’t see, and this is what makes what might seem like a big scandal here just a blip in Korea. When P.O wore clothing with Japanese writing on it to a Korean Independence Day festival, those stories were promptly buried by stories about Zico appearing in a photograph with Hyorin (THEY MUST BE DATING!!!!) and Paloalto (…we’ll just crop him out). When Zico dissed his haters while he was dating Seolhyun, it got pretty much equal coverage with an Instagram photo Jun Hyun Moo posted of him standing with Zico and Park Kyung (…but are they dating?).
That was in the Korean K-Pop press.
The fact of the matter is that the Korean K-Pop press is massively lazy. (I know I keep saying that, but that’s because it’s always true.) The laziness makes it easy to plant negative stories, of course, but it also results in a ton of positive stories–if you’re going to just write about what you saw on television and on celebrities’ social media without doing any additional reporting, then of course you’re going to produce a huge number of stories that read, “P.O was so cute on that show! He smiled and laughed!” or “Zico looked so fashionable in that photograph! He wore a sweater!” Pretty much the only twist that you can put on these things is to speculate about dating, so that’s what they do. Hey, it beats reporting!
For the most part, the English-language sites don’t translate more than a fraction of these kinds of stories, and I don’t really blame them–these stories are so repetitive and so trivial, and there is just a blizzard of them. They are the reason why, years ago, I turned off my Google News alert for “블락비,” and I’ve never, ever been tempted to turn it back on.
But it also means that, yes, what you see in English isn’t truly representative of what’s appearing in the Korean press. It’s skewed towards the negative and away from the positive, most definitely. Likewise the volume of stories is far less. If all that truly bothers you, I’d suggest creating a Google News alert for “블락비” (or the Hangul name of any other Korean group or celebrity)–your desire for a flood of positive stories will soon be satiated.