Commenters were divided after a TikTok user went viral for her January post about Koreans, claiming they “love to think they’re the superior Asian race.”
TikTok user Vivian Nguyen (@phuongviviyam) has recently gained attention for her short video where she talks about the “lookism and racism” in South Korea by referencing Hanni, the Vietnamese Australian member of NewJeans, and Lisa, a Thai member of BLACKPINK, as examples. In her video, which has been viewed over 668,000 times, Nguyen notes that many Korean people were surprised after learning that Hanni, whose real name is Pham Ngoc Han, is of Vietnamese descent after she debuted in NewJeans, a group under Hybe’s subsidiary label ADOR.
Earlier in the clip, Nguyen claims that Hanni is perceived so well in Korean media because she is “East Asian-passing” or “Korean-passing.”
When (Hanni) first debuted, a bunch of Korean people were like “Oh I didn’t even know that you’re Vietnamese because you look Korean.” And by saying that is such a backhanded compliment because it’s basically saying that because you look like us, who they perceive to be like this visually superior race… you look good.
The TikTok user then talks about BLACKPINK member Lisa, who she claims to be the “most popular international member” but the least popular in South Korea.
It’s because she’s Thai and she looks Thai,” the TikTok user explains. “Like she looks Southeast Asian. And I’m saying this from my experience living Korea for over two years, the lookism and racism there is insane.
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Many TikTok users in the video’s comments section agreed and shared some of their similar experiences in South Korea and other East Asian countries.
“Lived in Seoul for a year and got so many backhanded compliments when they found out I’m Viet and not Korea,” one TikTok user shared. “‘But you’re so pretty!’ stop rn.”
“You’re so right bc I have Viet friends who are mistaken as Korean,” another wrote.
“Nah this makes so much sense to me,” another user commented. “I had no idea she was Viet?? Theres DEF lookism taken into consideration for success.”
“I’m Japanese/Filipino and went to school in Japan so I definitely recall these experiences,” one user shared.
Some Korean users on Korean social media platform TheQoo criticized Nguyen for her video, with users accusing her of having a “victim mentality.” “This is f*cking forced. Who said that we think that we are visually superior? Her victim mentality is amazing,” one user wrote in Korean.
“Saying that Lisa isn’t popular is ridiculous. Jennie gets mentioned the most so that’s why. Lisa is also f*cking popular. Since when was she the ‘least popular’ member?” another user commented.
“She knows nothing about Koreans’ preferences and what we like but is speaking on our behalf which is hilarious,” a user wrote.
In a follow-up video responding to a comment on the original post, Nguyen explains that she was not referring to all South Korean people.
“As someone who has lived in Korea for over two years, I think that I can make comments about a culture with people knowing that it’s not going to pertain to every single individual,” she says in the video.
But that being said, I do understand that there is a culture and air about how they are that people don’t realize or recognize because people only view Korean people through media alone. Which is faulted…Generally speaking, from my experience with East Asians, they all think they’re the best Asians [and] that Southeast Asians are below them.
She further added in the description of her video:
I’ve lived in all 3 East-Asian countries before so this is what I’ve observed. I have CLOSE FRIENDS FROM ALL 3 COUNTRIES whom DON’T believe these things. Didn’t think I’d have to put a disclaimer. If you’ve seen/heard the things I’ve seen/heard/have been asked, you might feel differently. #colorism #lookism