Dear K-pop Fans

I remember the first time I heard about K-pop. I was visiting a new friend’s blog when I came across this: “My interests include pizza, superheroes, and K-pop.” I paused. K-pop? What’s that?

I clicked open a new tab and did a quick Google search . . . which led to a longer Spotify search . . . which led to several months of me filling in the gaps and steadily creating a deep interest in and eventual love for K-pop myself.

So What Is K-pop?

K-pop is short for Korean pop music, a genre born and bred in South Korea. Its sounds and flavors vary depending on the artist and could be described as a hybrid of multiple genres—including hip-hop, rock, gospel, electronic dance, and classical. While it’s borrowed from Western styles, its roots are distinctly Korean and the majority of lyrics are Korean (though many contain a smattering of English).

For the past several decades, K-pop has been rabidly popular in South Korea and neighboring countries, but it hasn’t spread much further. The last ten years have changed all that. K-pop is increasingly become a worldwide movement, with millions of fans in the west. Last year, the K-pop boy-band BTS became the first Korean band to win a Billboard Music Award. When they arrived in America, so many enthusiastic fans met them that Ellen DeGeneres compared their arrival to the Beatles’ visit to America in the 1960s. And those K-pop fans were almost entirely made up of teenage and twentysomething females. (That’s us!)

K-pop is a huge trend for our gender and generation. So as Jesus-loving, critical-thinking, serious and passionate young women, how should we think about it? Can we listen to K-pop to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31)?

Instead of telling you what to think (or listen to), I want to help you evaluate this issue for yourself. If you want to figure out whether or not to listen, I’d encourage you to ask yourself three questions. (Psst . . . these questions apply to any music you may be streaming through your earbuds.)

1. Do I know what I’m listening to?

This first question may sound strange, since most of us don’t speak Korean. Because of that, of course you won’t know the meaning behind every lyric you hear. I think that’s okay, to an extent. I personally like listening to K-pop when I’m writing or studying because the lyrics don’t distract me. Instead, they allow me to focus.

But if I find out that a song is explicitly glorifying sex, drunkenness, or drugs, I don’t listen to it (even though I can’t understand the lyrics) because the song is now associated with that in my mind. The good news is that a lot of K-pop is pretty wholesome. There are stricter broadcasting regulations in South Korea, meaning that much of the graphic content you might hear in American music won’t be in K-pop. But it’s not only wholesome; it’s beautiful. There is an inescapable sense of wonder and imagination and art in this genre.

Even so, it’s tremendously important that your parents know what you’re listening to. You know what your parents’ standards are and so you need to have conversations with them about what you’re putting into your head. Communicate and be willing to obey, even if you disagree.

A quick reminder we all need often: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise)” (Eph. 6:1–2).

2. Am I spending too much time listening to this?

In South Korean culture, a sasaeng fan is known as someone who is utterly and entirely obsessed with K-pop and engages in unhealthy and even stalkerish behavior. You don’t have to be stalking BTS to be investing way too much time in fangirling over them.

K-pop can become an idol if you aren’t willing to surrender it to Christ.

If you’re neglecting relationships or reading God’s Word or praying or memorizing Scripture or spending time with friends or reading good books or doing homework so that you can listen to K-pop or binge watch Korean dramas or stalk K-pop stars online or post on their social media accounts, it’s entered into idolatrous territory. That’s a sure sign it’s time to step back.

If you needed to, could you stop listening to K-pop today? Or have you become dependent on it and desperate for it? Have you possibly even become addicted to it? Has K-pop become an idol?

If it has, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14).

When we read Scripture and hear warnings about “fleeing from” idolatry, we’re tempted to think that if we’re not bowing down to metal statues, we’re safe. But idols come in different packages, shapes, and sizes for different cultures, generations, and genders. And K-pop can become an idol if you aren’t willing to surrender it to Christ.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil (Eph. 5:15–16).

3. Am I only listening to this?

Our time is valuable. It’s limited. How we spend it matters. K-pop isn’t bad, but it is a lot like bubblegum. It’s sweet, fun, and fine in moderation as long as it’s balanced with more substantive and healthful fare, like music about the character of God and His work. If you’re listening to K-pop (or other secular genres), I hope you also listen to hymns or worship or even Christian pop music (with meaningful lyrics).

While there is K-pop that wrestles with deeper and tougher subjects, a lot of it is sweet but shallow, and if you refuse to listen to anything else, you’re spiritually starving yourself.

Colossians 3:16 urges us, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

We guard our hearts, minds, and headphones because Jesus is too valuable for us not to.

We are not shallow young women. As Christ-followers, we are deeply committed to truth. We’re willing to do hard things. So when it comes to K-pop, listen to it if you can do that to the glory of God—embrace and enjoy it! But don’t let it waste your time or encroach on your worship. We are lights in our generation. We are meant to stand out from the young women around us. That means we are discerning, we are thoughtful, we are humble, and we are careful.

We guard our hearts, minds, and headphones because Jesus is too valuable for us not to.

About Author

Jaquelle Crowe

Jaquelle Crowe is a twentysomething writer from eastern Canada. She’s a graduate of Thomas Edison State University and co-founder of The Young Writers Workshop. She is author of This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years (2017). You can find more of her writing at JaquelleCrowe.com.

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