Do you need to be Korean to be K-pop?

According to EXP Edition — the first K-pop group to be made up entirely of non-Koreans — the answer is actually yes.

however not everyone agrees.

within the notoriously micromanaged world of K-pop where genuine controversies are rare, the emergence of the “born in fresh York, made in Seoul” group has led to heated debates around issues of authenticity as well as also identity.

“Obviously, you could tell they (EXP Edition) were not Korean, without even seeing their appearance,” added Kim, who likened their accents as well as also style to Coldplay.

His channel’s subscribers, who number more than 41 thousand, have so far agreed. Videos of the multi-racial group have become a lightning rod for fan anger, with thousands posting their disapproval.

Danny Kim (left) as well as also David Kim (right), founders of well-liked K-pop Youtube channel DKDKTV

At the center of This particular furor is actually the issue of race.

Critics say not only are the band cringe-worthy, they are foreign intruders who are taking over what was supposed to be a safe space for Asians artists.

“in which’s definitely interesting in which a crew coming from America is actually trying to figure out how to, essentially, hack the K-pop market,” said Tamar Herman, who covers K-pop for Billboard.com.

“They have definitely figured out what in which is actually in which K-pop fans like — Great-looking, talented men singing as well as also performing sleek choreography.”

however, for many within the K-pop fan community, perfect complexions as well as also polished dance moves are not enough.

“I don’t think they definitely count as K-pop, because they don’t fit into any of the existing parameters of what K-pop is actually,” said Herman.

First white K-pop group

Although EXP Edition is actually not the first to feature non-Koreans — groups like GOT7 as well as also UNIQ include Chinese members in addition to their Korean ones — they are the first to feature white members.

“I never imagined getting This particular kind of backlash coming from people for just doing K-pop,” said EXP Edition member Šime Košta. “I honestly love as well as also enjoy being a part of K-pop. … I expect people see our energy as well as also our music, as well as also don’t just limit everything to our nationality.”

Košta, who is actually Croatian, is actually one of three white members of the group, alongside Frankie Daponte Jr (Portuguse American coming from Rhode Island) as well as also Hunter Kohl (American coming from fresh York). The group’s fourth member Texas-raised Koki Tomlinson is actually bi-racial Japanese-German. All four are in their mid-20s.

They released their first single last month, the dual English-Korean-language “Feel LIke This particular,” which failed to chart, as well as also are preparing to Discharge a second single This particular summer, followed by an album.

While they’ve provoked debate, in which’s not clear whether the group are having any commercial success. They raised $30,0 via a Kickstarter campaign in 2015 before their arrival in Seoul in 2016. As for where the money to cover their living costs comes coming from, the group have been cagey, offering only in which “they have investors,” without giving further details.

An ‘experiment’

EXP is actually an abbreviation of the word “experiment,” a literal play on the group’s origins as a student project exploring global culture as well as also identity.

“I was thinking about cultural flow, originality, hybridity as well as also appropriation,” said Bora Kim, 34, who came up with the idea of forming a K-pop pop act while completing a Masters of Fine Arts at Columbia University.

Three years ago, the Seoul native held auditions for a documentary about becoming a K-pop star. Thousands showed up for six available spots. Last year, under the guidance of Kim, four chosen finalists moved to Seoul to pursue her dream.

A K-pop fan since her youth, Kim’s primary criteria when selecting members of the group was talent.

“We actually made them do a lot of things within the audition, sing pop songs, see if they could act. We asked if they’re okay with wearing a lot of makeup as well as also we expected them to perform.”

Kim teamed up with Karin Kuroda, whom she met at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, to create an entertainment company in Seoul, called IMMABB Entertainment (in which stands for: “I’m doing a boy band”).

As a fellow K-pop fan, Kuroda was also eager to explore the genre’s racial dynamics. The 27-year-old was born in Switzerland, of Japanese descent, as well as also grew up in fresh York.

EXP Edition: (coming from left to right): Koki Tomlinson, Šime Košta, Hunter Kohl as well as also Frankie Daponte Jr.,

No role types

Koki Tomlinson, the group’s only Asian member felt the same way. “There are no Asian pop icons in America, in acting or music or anything like in which. I didn’t have anybody to look up to when growing up … So, This particular was an opportunity for me to do pop, because the chance is actually not available within the states right today.”

however race is actually not the only issue confronting EXP.

Many fans, such as YouTube fan channel administrator Kim, maintain the biggest difference is actually training.

K-pop stars are never discovered fully-formed, instead, they are carefully created coming from a young age, under the watchful supervision of record labels. During This particular period, they undergo a period of rigorous training, preparing the artists for a life within the spotlight.

“(The band) is actually offensive to towards hardcore K-pop fans who know their groups have gone through a lot of pain,” said Kim.

Nevertheless, EXP describe their own training as intensive, often putting in up to eight hours a day, six days a week, with extra Korean classes on top.

Kohl said they are today doing interviews as well as also TV segments in Korean, however “still have a long way to go.”

On June 20, they will be featured on a variety show in which follows the lives of foreigners in South Korea,”My Neighbor, Charles.” They were also invited to the largest music as well as also arts festival in Denmark, Roskilde Festival, happening June 28 to July 1.

“in which was interesting in which a conversation was created about what people think defines a genre of music,” said leader Daponte. “I see music as a universal language in which brings all people together.”

Do you need to be Korean to be K-pop?

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