Hours ahead of their August 7 debut, YG Entertainment‘s new boy group TREASURE held a media showcase introducing themselves to the world of K-Pop. While many of the members were praised for their mature answers to press questions, vocalist Yedam came under fire for a comment likening TREASURE to Christopher Columbus.
Given that TREASURE’s debut album is called The First Step: Chapter One, Yedam explained the group is “taking [their] first steps to change the world in [their] music” with this debut. However, things went south when he compared TREASURE’s passion to that of voyager Christopher Columbus “discovering” America.
Just like how Columbus discovered the new mainland, Edison discovered electricity, and Armstrong first landed on the earth, these ordinary people changed the world through things discovered in their daily lives. Us too, we encapsulated that passion from taking our first steps to change the world, in our music.
Throughout history, Columbus was credited with discovering the Americas. However, many today know that he was not even the first European to venture to the “New World”. When Christopher Columbus reached America, there were already indigenous people living there; his arrival marked the beginning of their colonization and exploitation.
As such, Yedam quickly came under fire for his comment. Many K-Pop fans on social media announced that he should be “cancelled” for comparing TREASURE to such a controversial figure with links to genocide and slavery. Several demanded that YG Entertainment issue a statement apologizing for the comparison Yedam made.
However, early fans of TREASURE were just as quick to come to Yedam’s defense. Given that Yedam was born and raised in South Korea and only knows a small amount of English, fans say it’s unrealistic to expect that he would be fully educated on U.S. history.
the same people mad at Yedam for not knowing american history is the same mfs that live here and thought christopher columbus discovered america until they downloaded twitter in 2018
— makayla♧ TREASURE ROTY (@hagwooya) August 7, 2020
Many argued that while the sentiment was problematic, it’s unlikely that a performing arts school in South Korea would have the truth about Christopher Columbus as part of its curriculum. Yedam, who recently turned 18 years old, attends School of Performing Arts Seoul (SOPA), one of the two main schools most K-Pop idols from big companies attend.
Y’all canceling Yedam a 18 year old Korean teenager who’s from SOUTH KOREA because he mentioned Columbus “discovering” America like he would be well versed in topic outside of what he probably learned in a textbook. He had no ill intentions in that statement.
— 𝐇𝐎𝐆𝐔 (@FAMILLENIUM) August 7, 2020
One fan from Arizona, U.S.A, said they weren’t even taught the realities of Columbus in school. Others agreed that they only learned about his controversial legacy after becoming active online.
im jealous of everyone saying their schools taught that columbus sucked. i had to learn that shit from the internet
— FIND YOUR TREASURE (@lgbtsuk) August 7, 2020
Some of those who believe Yedam should be “cancelled” are rightly calling on fans to listen to the perspectives of those who were targeted by his statement. As expected, opinions among indigenous Americans differ greatly. One explained that the issue was more than just black and white. While they don’t agree with Yedam’s perspective on Columbus, they believe he “just needs more education“.
i love yedam a lot, but as an indigenous individual i do not agree with what yedam said about columus being innovative, and nobody should. columbus tortured and enslaved my race, but please take in account that his intention wasn’t to offend anybody. he just needs more education
— BEST THINGS THAT HAPPENED IN KPOP (@fentysahi) August 7, 2020
But ultimately, many indigenous people on social media expressed that they felt hurt and offended by Yedam’s choice of words. As such, regardless of whether they believe he should be cancelled or not, many fans are in agreement that YG Entertainment needs to do more to educate artists on the cultures and histories of people around the world.