Tao encounter reveals a form of racism

By Nadine Kam I

Recently, former EXO member Tao (Huang Zitao), got into hot water with some BTS ARMY members when he became agitated after some girls in Iceland—who believed he was “somebody” but didn’t know for sure—asked him if he was a member of BTS.

He explained he had been in EXO, information that drew a blank.

After the girls left, he went on a rant to his cameraman, telling him to cut out that part because it was embarrassing to be mistaken for another group’s member, and how EXO was much bigger than BTS at the time he was in the group, but now all of a sudden he was assumed to be a member of BTS simply because he was Asian. It didn’t help that he is isn’t even Korean, but of Chinese descent.

👁 Tao’s encounter:

ARMY was riled by his rant, but let’s look at the situation from Tao’s point of view for a moment.

I get that there are times when people say you might look like so-and-so if you happen to actually resemble a certain person, but in this cases, no, Tao doesn’t resemble any member of BTS, not even if you squint or are partially blind.

Anyone who’s woke would be agitated by the racism at play here.
It happens when K-pop groups promote themselves in western countries. There are videos of groups passing out fliers in L.A. and New York, with people asking them if they are BTS. When they answer no, the people are suddenly disinterested and walk away. So rude.

Huang Zitao
Former EXO member Tao has sharp, hard, distinctive features that have little in common with any BTS member.

The take-away when these kinds of things happen is that there are people who think all Koreans, or Asians in general, look alike, and these people can’t be bothered to really look at them and take note of their individual features, personalities and charms.

To these kinds of people, BTS is not Jin, J-Hope, Suga, RM, V, Jimin and Jungkook, but a featureless mop-topped Asian mob that descends in unison down red carpets and onto their small screens.


I’ve seen this in my friends as well, who cannot even distinguish the members of a much smaller group like Shinee, with only five members who look drastically different. One friend said she could only recognize them by hair color and I had to explain that is no basis for recognition because K-pop stars change their hair color all the time.

BTS, from left: V (Kim Taehyung), Suga (Min Yoongi), Jin (Kim Seokjin), J-Hope (Jung Hoseok), RM (Kim Namjoon), Park Jimin and Jeon Jungkook, don’t resemble former EXO member Tao at all.

Is it really that hard to just look at a person? Granted, South Korea does have a largely homogenous society, and combined with rampant plastic surgery, many of their features are more similar than that of a multi-cultural nation like the United States. But failing to look beyond ethnicity makes someone less of a person, and more of a curiosity or object to be ignored. And maybe that is the insult Tao was really reacting to.

A friend thinks all Shinee members look alike. They don’t. From left, Lee Taimin, Onew (Lee Jinki), the late Kim Jonghyun, Key (Kim Kibum) and Choi Minho.

BTS ‘Map of the Soul: 7 Shadow: Interlude’ shows Suga’s power

By Nadine Kam I

HONOLULU — In my corner of the world, people seem to need three weeks to recover from the holiday season, as slowly the social calendar is beginning to fill up with events.

But K-pop never rests, and in my anguish over the terrible treatment of X1 and their disbandment and the excitement of Treasure being liberated from its prison at YG, I overlooked the Jan. 7 announcement that BTS will drop the next chapter of its “Map of the Soul” series on Feb. 21.

Pre-orders for “Map of the Soul: 7” is going on now, and two days later Big Hit Entertainment released a beautiful comeback trailer, “Interlude : Shadow,” featuring Suga (Min Yoongi). This song makes me feel really sad to think of all that he and BTS have been through to get where they are, only to find how lonely it is at the top.

Ah, it’s so good, but I’m glad I didn’t know this was going to be out ahead of time. I probably would have tried to record a reaction video and end up crying as soon as his singing kicked in.

So instead, check out this explainer from DKDKTV’s Danny Kim on the Jungian perspective that defines the “Map of the Soul,” and a music producer’s perspective on the song.

SHINee’s next phase: service to country

By Nadine Kam I

Last year was a triumphant, bittersweet year for SHINee, which celebrated its 10-year anniversary while still trying to heal from Jonghyun’s suicide on Dec. 18, 2017.

This year has also been one of exhilaration and change, bittersweet for Shawol—the group’s fandom—who on top of losing Jonghyun has seen the departures of leader Onew and rapper Key for their mandatory military service in December and March respectively, and rapper Choi Minho will also be joining the Republic of Korea Marine Corps in mid-April. This leaves only the group’s maknae Taemin to solo music pursuits.

Last month, Taemin, left, and Minho, right, sent a shaved Key off to the military.
At top of page, the members said goodbye to Onew in December.

In light of their 21-month absence, they’ve been hard at work to present their individual gifts of music to fans to keep them in our hearts while they’re away. It’s been great to hear the first solo recordings by Onew, Key and now Minho, but there is also a sadness associated with the end of an era.

For myself, new to the works of K-pop, it’s sad that they are gone just after I got to know them. I don’t know how 10-year Shawols feel, the fans who grew up with SHINee ever since they were unpolished teens.

It’s a lonely time for the members as well. They seemed to have become more reflective after the death of Jonghyun and last year’s anniversary gave them reason to look back at their whirlwind career.

After their anniversary events ended last summer, their group activities slowed down considerably. Although I was happy to see them pursuing other interests, it saddened me to see them spending significant time apart.
I imagine they must have felt somewhat unmoored to be apart from the people they once spent 24/7 cohabiting, working and training together. Minho, who along with Taemin, is one the more stalwart members of the group, is only now beginning to feel the loneliness that consumed Jonghyun, and talks about it here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BvTYUANnmXa/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

No doubt their time in the military will give them even more time to reflect, and think about what they really want in life. Everything up until now has been thrown at them, and almost every decision made for them. It’s said that joining any military outfit turns boys into men. It will be interesting to see how they emerge and what life they will create for themselves when they emerge nearly two years from now.

Onew in his Korean army uniform.

The boys were really sweet in the naming of their albums. It started with Taemin’s first mini album released in 2014, “Ace.”

Jonghyun’s answer to that was “Base” in 2015. Key released “Face” on Nov. 26, 2018, and following in that somewhat rhyming tradition, Onew released “Voice” on Dec. 5, 2018, just five days before joining the Korea army.

I wasn’t expecting to hear something from Minho, a rapper who arguably has the weakest singing voice in SHINee. I mean, it’s pleasant, but not as defined as the others. Two years ago he talked about wanting to put out a solo album but worried that his flaws would show during solo promotions. He surprised fans with a solo song, “I’m Home,” released on March 28. It’s about seeking comfort in light of the loneliness of day-to-day life.

👁 🎧 Watch and listen to the solo songs

Key”s song “I Wanna Be” might be taken as a love song, but the lyrics suggest it is about Jonghyun. A lot of SHINee’s “Story of Light” songs were also about Jonghyun.

The lyrics in part:

“Because I will raise this earth straight up and give it to you (give to you!)
On top of your palm (shiny!)
I put that star (bling bling!)
While everyone’s asleep, only we’re awake on top of this universe.”

Bling bling was Jonghyun’s nickname upon their debut. They came to be embarrassed by their nicknames, but they stuck over time.

Key’s video also seems to echo Jonghyun’s last video in color and set design, his red suit and blond hair.