A Bunch of Americans are Trying to Be K-Pop Stars in Korea and It’s Actually Starting to Work Out

After years of proving themselves as a legitimate K-Pop group, EXP Edition could finally be earning the approval of a hypercompetitive industry whose fans expect idols to be no less than perfect.

The group, regarded as the first all non-Korean K-Pop act, debuted under IMMABB (I’m Making a Boy Band) in April 2017 to the tune of outrage from K-Pop fans who questioned their authenticity — including some horrifying death threats.

The brainchild of a Columbia University student, EXP Edition promoted themselves prior to their debut but received a more negative reception.

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Critics argue that the boys — none of which had Korean blood — culturally appropriated K-Pop, a $5 billion industry that takes unimaginably long years to mold idols who are ready to captivate fans with quality performances.

EXP Edition members (Left to Right) Frankie, Hunter, Koki and Šime. Image via Instagram / expedition.official

Interestingly, the tides could be changing for Koki, Frankie, Hunter and Šime, whose latest single “Stress” appears to have gotten more support than hate.

Its music video released in January has over 338,000 views, 20,000 likes and 4,100 dislikes.

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Followers would notice the striking engagement difference between their latest song and “Feel Like This,” their debut music video, which has 736,000 views, 24,000 likes and 25,000 dislikes to date.

“Stress” also received more positive comments.

EXP Edition shared more about themselves and the struggles they face as foreign K-Pop idols in a recent interview with VICE.

Image via YouTube / VICE

In the 25-minute documentary, the four members can be seen taking Korean language lessons, practicing choreography and performing at a Buddhist temple.

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Image via YouTube / VICE

When asked about how they feel about foreigners forming a K-pop group, EXP’s fans had been skeptical at the beginning.

“In the beginning, I doubted whether a foreign group can sing K-Pop or not, but I am now very positive about it since it’s the result of the globalization of K-Pop,” one said.

“I was supposed to be somewhere else, but I like them so much that I am here now,” another commented.

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Image via YouTube / VICE

Still, one pointed out an area to improve but praised members for their delivery.

“Their pronunciation is not that accurate but the delivery of their emotion was very good. So I thought that group might really love our country’s K-Pop, and that’s how I became a fan of EXP Edition.”

Image via YouTube / VICE

The documentary also shows how the group’s harshest critics are not even Koreans.

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“The criticism that EXP Edition got was about ownership of K-Pop,” said Bora Kim, the Columbia student who formed the group after going through academic texts. “So, can EXP Edition call themselves K-Pop? They can’t because they’re not Korean. They can’t because they’re white.”

Image via YouTube / K-POP 4 LIFE

“But in Korea, we don’t have the hate reaction. Korea has a totally different relationship toward cultural appropriation within K-Pop. When you actually look at K-Pop, there’s nothing that’s traditionally Korean in it.”

Kim, who now heads IMMABB, was referring to the fact that South Korea lost a good deal of its culture under four decades of Japanese occupation and that K-Pop has actually taken elements of Western culture.

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Image via YouTube / VICE

“There’s definitely a sense of ownership K-Pop fans have over K-Pop,” said Karin Kuroda, the group’s co-producer. “It’s so interesting because they themselves act as if they’re an ambassador of K-Pop.”

“And so when they see something threatening it or something that they think is threatening it, they’re very outrightly trying to protect it.”

EXP Edition said that the “experimental” phase of their group’s life is now over and that will continue improving themselves.

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Image via Instagram / expedition.official

For now, the group hopes to get more exposure in Korean TV shows to increase their fanbase.

“The bottom of all of this is like very simple, and it could be very selfish, and that is we really do love what we do.

“The only thing that we can do now is to make sure that we present ourselves and our work in the most respectful way possible.”

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Watch the full interview below:

What do you think about EXP Edition?

Featured Images via Instagram / expedition.official

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