While the earliest K-Pop stars were all Korean, the landscape of the industry has changed so much over the decades. Now, there are numerous foreign idols making their debut in K-Pop groups, and some acts labeled “K-Pop” have no Korean members at all. But what does K-Pop really mean to non-Korean idols? In a new BuzzFeed News interview, CRAVITY‘s Allen shared his thoughts.
Born Mǎ Shì Quán in Taipei and later raised in Los Angeles, California from the age of five, Allen is one of several Taiwanese American idols in the K-Pop industry, alongside stars like GOT7‘s Mark and f(x)‘s Amber. Up until the age of 17 (when he joined former agency JYP Entertainment), it’s believed he had little experience of South Korea. Now, he’s part of one of the fastest-rising groups in K-Pop.
Today, Allen is fluent in English, Mandarin, and Korean, living full time in Seoul while he chases his dream. But what drew him to K-Pop and his idols like SHINee‘s Taemin in the first place? Allen revealed what K-Pop means to him in a new BuzzFeed News interview.
First and foremost, the allure of K-Pop to Allen can’t be boiled down to just one facet of the industry. Instead, he says K-Pop is represented by all it has to offer. “To me,” says Allen, “K-Pop is like a giant melting pot consisting of a wide spectrum spanning from genres of music to the style of clothing and dance.”
Allen went on to say that he also sees K-Pop as being particularly “inclusive” in how it brings people from various kinds of backgrounds together. In his view, he explained, K-Pop “appreciates — not appropriates — many different cultures.”
Ultimately, Allen shared, “As a non-Korean member of my group, I feel comfortable and grateful to be in this kind of environment.” He also added that he believes fans of K-Pop share his sentiment—”thereby furthering the support that K-Pop is truly a global phenomenon.”
During the interview, Allen also opened up about the difference between his life as a K-Pop idol compared to those he knows outside the industry. “I honestly can’t relate to my peers who may be studying in college or searching for full-time jobs,” he confessed. That said, he also explained that can still relate to the “uncertainty and uneasiness” everyone his age feels about the future, furthering K-Pop as something people around the world can relate to.