An Open Letter to S.M Entertainment

We have now entered the danger zone.

We began writing and kept in our drafts an article which addressed the very real debacle currently happening within the K-Pop and general global community in regards to callous, inappropriate remarks made by K-Pop consumers to a female Black American Hip Hop Artist.

In light of the response those remarks have generated, we realize that it is imperative for us to share this message in anticipation of backlash EXO and S.M Entertainment may receive whether justly or unjustly.

Our sole interest is EXO’s continued success.

Please understand that before we move forward.

While many in the general public have their opinion in the debate over whether the Hallyu Wave is still indeed rising or has significantly receded, the fact of the matter is that the careers of active Korean pop artists are at stake when incidents like the one we have cited at the beginning of this article continue to occur.

The market of genuine listeners, and consumers of products of the Korean Entertainment industry, has continued to span the globe. And while the Korean Entertainment industry appears to treasure this vast market, they also do not always respect their consumers nor educate themselves or their artists about how to appropriately interact between/within the cultures of their consumers and of the greater world.

There have been countless incidents involving Korean Entertainment Artists, those in the South Korean media, and those in the general South Korean public displaying blatant prejudice, cultural representation, and cultural appropriation against people who are not South Korean.

The cultures and people who represent those cultures who are so horribly disrespected and misrepresented also happen to be consumers of the Korean Entertainment industry.

While there have been incidents against many racial groups outside of and residing within South Korea, the focus of our article is on Black persons across the globe who identify as Black culturally, and ethnically, and operators in the Korean Entertainment industry who purposefully use images of Blackness through cultural appropriation for material gain while perpetuating anti-Blackness, and prejudice as the most recent incident involved a Black female Hip Hop Artist.

One of the most influential exports South Korea has had since 2008 are the products mass produced by the Entertainment industry. In one word: K-Pop. And again while many would interject that the Hallyu Wave receded significantly since 2012, the success EXO has continued to see since their debut in 2012 counteracts that argument entirely.

Unfortunately, while EXO has achieved significant success globally, there have been numerous incidents that threaten to not only stunt their potential future success but to destroy the representation of the Korean Entertainment industry as a whole.

Below we have provided examples of cultural appropriation, cultural misrepresentation, colorism and discrimination.


  • 120511 – EXO-K The Star Interview


  • “kkamjong”

Wolf Era

  • XOXO Album [Kai described as a “Foreigner” aka a young, “thug-esque” Black football player]

EXO Showtime

  • “Dark one”




EXO Members making Colorist comments









Kai’s Perspective 


EXO-Ls Colorist Comments


Cake by Suho on EXOmentary “Suho is a Pastry Chef”


Drawings by Members Chanyeol and D.O





The War Era
KoKoBop MV [reggae braids]





Lay – Airport Attire Fall 2017


There are other articles we could cite that further illustrate the pervasive problem the South Korean Entertainment industry has with addressing anti-blackness.

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It is unacceptable and it is shameful that S.M Entertainment continues to operate under the premise of uniting the world through music while perpetuating anti-blackness. It is especially shameful that S.M Entertainment allows and encourages their Artists to engage in cultural appropriation while simultaneously working with Black Producers and Musicians to create award winning music.

For a company who encourages their Artists to contribute to charitable efforts across the world through album sales, brand ambassadorships, and personal efforts, it is very telling, and highly suspicious that S.M Entertainment has made no statements on their stance on anti-blackness and discrimination.

There are Black people involved in the production of your products and there are Black people involved in the consumption of your products. Please show some respect and consideration to your colleagues and your consumers.

While we understand that South Korea has historically been a homogenous society with particular values and traditions, it has become apparent that public perception of Black people in South Korea is similar to what is experienced across the world. There is an evident fascination with Black people, Black Men, Black Women, Black Bodies, Black Skin, Black Hair, Black Music, and Black Culture superficially but not deeper Black History which influences all of those things.

Please take the time to educate your staff and concept teams about the history of racism against Black and darker skinned people across the globe.

The discrimination that Black people have experienced historically has costs us our lives and our dignity for generations. It is sickening that you would participate in this discrimination by perpetuating anti-blackness and cultural appropriation while marketing products to consumers globally.

Your consumers take the time to deliberately educate themselves on how to support your company and the legacy of your Artist’s and demonstrate that by buying into your products and brand.

We deserve your support and we deserve a legitimate response.

Please show that same respect to your consumers by recriprocating that effort.

In the current sociopolitical climate, anti-blackness will not be tolerated by the general global public and in particular by black consumers of the Korean Entertainment industry.

We ask that you continue to set the example, S.M Entertainment, and lead a change of cultural magnitude by addressing this very real issue. You have the opportunity to educate your community in South Korea and the rest of the world. You have the opportunity to influence positive social change.

And in some instances members of EXO have been agents of positive social change as we will list below:


Which leads us to question the amount of information already attained by the members on these social issues and causes us to wonder why the past offenses have not been addressed in a public manner by the members themselves nor the company.

With EXO’s recent commendation by the Prime Minister at the 2017 Korean Popular Culture and Arts Awards this November and with their open support of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics Games next February, EXO now truly holds the responsibility of representing South Korea’s interests and image across the world while simultaneously representing S.M Entertainment.

If you fail to take this warning seriously you put at risk the longevity, and respectability of your company.

You risk the job security of your Artists.

You risk losing a significant portion of your consumers.

Again, if you fail to take this warning seriously you risk embarrassing your company the way BigHit has been embarrassed by their consumers’ inappropriate, and violent commentary against a Black female American Hip Hop Artist.

While we are not insinuating that you as a company are responsible for the comments made by your consumers, your company is responsible for the image your employees and Artists represent.

Because of the volume of the disparaging comments made by consumers of BigHit towards that Artist, the untapped consumer market BigHit hoped to reach in their group’s debut at an award show overseas has now been closed off.

The public has begun to look into similar messages from BigHit and their employees/Artists who represent images of anti-blackness against, and cultural appropriation of their own consumers.

The list of offenses is quite long and EXO, as we have demonstrated above, is also guilty of such offenses.

We do not wish to see EXO shamed in this way.

We want to continue to support EXO.

We want to continue to be part of the cultural experience that is Korean Popular Music without seeing images of cultural appropriation and anti-blackness.

However, we do feel that our concerns have gone unheard for years.

It is time for a change.

What you risk, S.M Entertainment, by ignoring our concerns is destroying the image of EXO, and your company.

You also risk losing the trust of your consumers, and ridicule from across the globe.

We ask you to truly consider how continuing to not address this issue will have a very real affect on your brand’s reputation.

We are asking you to be part of making sure that no more scandals or issues arise as much as you can help.

We want EXO to continue on for as long as they can, and as long as they want, forever even.

We don’t want the memory of EXO to be blemished by nonsense like this.

We show our love for EXO by investing in their success and by keeping it real.

We can’t help but wonder what it would look like to actually have the world and more specifically the K-Pop Fandoms of which we belong love their fellow Black K-Pop stans just as much as they LOVE Black culture.

We request a public statement from EXO themselves, their manager, and/or the CEO of S.M Entertainment wherein you apologize for all instances of anti-blackness and cultural appropriation perpetrated by S.M Entertainment, and S.M Entertainment employees knowingly, and unknowingly, and that you will not continue to do so.

Please respect our people.

Please discontinue your inappropriate usage of Black images be that Black hair, Black skin, Black bodies and other representations of Black culture.

Let music truly unite us and let us come to an understanding.