K-Pop between cultures: How Stray Kids are inspiring Asian youth
K-pop fans never thought that they would hear strong Aussie accents in a popular group, but the time has finally come. K-pop is slowly being integrated into the Australian music scene, partially due to Felix and Bang Chan from Stray Kids. The pair hail from Sydney, Australia, and they take pride in their Aussie accents and identity. Even though they consider themselves more Australian than Korean, they were able to make it big in the K-pop industry. Stray Kids is one of the hottest debuts of 2018, and they are already one of the industry’s biggest growing boy groups. Felix and Bang Chan’s success is now inspiring not only Asian-Australians but also young Asians all around the world to pursue their dreams.
K-pop is becoming more accepted around the world, not only in Asia but also reaching to audiences in the West. Korean pop is a genre of music that is in Korean. It differentiates itself as its own genre of music because it incorporates choreography into music. Concepts are an important part of K-pop as the artists’ outfits, visuals and aesthetics have to be in line with whichever concept they are following. K-pop appeals to audiences because of the stunning visuals that boy groups, girl groups and solo artists present in their music. Initially, K-pop was mostly popular in South Korea, Japan and China as artists promoted in these countries and even learned the languages. Many K-pop artists have made debuts in Japan because they have a big following there. However, it soon spread around the world due to social media and Youtube. K-pop groups started to become popular in the U.S., Europe, South America and Australia. This year alone, four of the Top 10 most viewed 24-hour debuts on Youtube are K-pop music videos. Now, K-pop has a huge following all around the world and are achieving world domination in the global music scene.
Because of their unique identity, Felix and Bang Chan are arguably the most popular members of Stray Kids. Stray Kids is made up of nine Korean members under JYP Entertainment, one of the biggest entertainment companies in the industry. Felix and Bang Chan are the only “foreigners” in the group, although some of the other members have lived abroad for a short period of time. Bang Chan is the leader of the whole group. He trained under JYP Entertainment for seven years and was chosen as the leader due to his abilities and leadership skills. At a very young age, he moved to Australia with his family. First, he lived in Strathfield, before moving around the state from Drummoyne, Enfield, Belmore and finally to Greenacre. On the other hand, Felix was born and bred in Seven Hills, Sydney, where he stayed before moving to Seoul to train in JYP Entertainment. He is more confident in English than Korean, which he only picked up after moving to Korea. Stray Kids formed through a survival show that aired at the end of 2017. Subsequently, they debuted in March 2018 and have already achieved massive success in the industry. Felix and Bang Chan play a huge role in their success as they drew attention to the group due to the fact that they are some of the few Australian K-pop idols to exist.
Before the group’s debut, Felix initially struggled with his identity. He got eliminated in the ninth episode of the survival show because he was unconfident with his Korean. Because he mostly used English while residing in Australia, his Korean was not up to par with the rest of the group. However, he was added back into the group in the final episode, thus confirming his place in Stray Kids. Like many Asian-Australians, he questioned his identity as a Korean and an Australian. Felix admitted recently that he struggled with figuring out where he belonged after his elimination. He thought that he had made the wrong choice to move to Seoul after it seemed like he was not going to debut as an idol. To train as an idol, he changed his whole life by leaving his family and moving to Seoul. Even though he is Korean, he was not familiar with the language or the culture. It was hard for him to adapt to life in his “mother country”. To this day, he still makes grammar mistakes when talking in Korean, and it takes him a while to get his words out sometimes. Nevertheless, his group members continue to support him and cheer him on, especially Bang Chan. He seems to be more secure with his identity now.
As some of the only Korean-Australian idols in the industry, Felix and Bang Chan possess a lot of pride for their nation. Whenever they are asked about where they are from, they always answer enthusiastically with “Australia”. Felix even sang the Australian national anthem on a Korean variety show one time, with Bang Chan chiming in. They take pride in their strong Aussie accents, and they choose to display it in every opportunity that they can. When they are alone together, they speak in a mix of Korean and English. Both languages come easy to them. They often talk about how much they miss Sydney and the Australian lifestyle. They reminisce about the good old days, playing pool to pass the time, and eating delicious Australian beef. Bang Chan stated that whenever he talks to Felix, all the fond memories from Australia come back to him. The pair said that if they ever performed a concert in Australia, it would be extra special and meaningful to them. Fans would also enjoy seeing Felix and Bang Chan performing in their home countries. Their Australian pride is truly heartwarming to see.
Felix and Bang Chan are now inspiring young Asians to pursue their dreams. Young Asian-Australian boys are becoming more enthusiastic about K-pop after seeing Stray Kids’ success. They are more eager and motivated to learn the choreographies for songs and to imitate idols’ styles. They see themselves in Felix and Bang Chan, who are Asian-Australian, just like them. If the pair were motivated enough to change their whole life and move to Korea, then they too could step out of their comfort zone and pursue their dreams, no matter how difficult it may seem. Even though Felix and Bang Chan are “between cultures”, they were still able to succeed in their “mother country”. Although it might take them some time to get used to the Korean slang and culture, they will slowly learn to be more comfortable with their identity. Sometimes when the other Korean members in the group are discussing something, they do not understand what they are talking about because they grew up in Australia where the culture was completely different. However, being in “between cultures” has not hindered their success. Instead, it has had positive effects as fans have become more intrigued by their unique backgrounds and have thus supported them. Their courage and success has definitely inspired young Asians to take similar steps in achieving their dreams.
Now, Australia is becoming more accepting of K-pop in its music scene. K-pop is becoming more and more popular among the masses, especially with the emergence of foreign idols that bring people’s attention to the groups that they belong to. As well as Australians, there are also American, Canadian, New Zealander and even German idols. Like Felix and Bang Chan, idols who identify as Korean and another nationality and who are multilingual are catching the eyes and ears of fans around the world, who become fascinated with their astonishing abilities. K-pop is therefore having a greater presence on a global scale. Consequently, idols’ positive influence towards the youth is evident in society. They are setting good examples for Asian-Australians, Asian-Americans, Asian-Canadians and the like to follow and continue to inspire young Asians. Now, the question is: will K-pop continue to have a growing presence in the global music scene?
About the contributor
Lindsay Wong is a Singaporean born in New York City, raised in Tokyo, and now a university student living in Melbourne currently studying a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in History and Asian Studies. She loves sharing her opinions and thoughts to the world.
You can find her on Instagram here.