Life in the public eye: The case for STRAY KIDS’ Han and what it says about the entertainment industry

6 months ago  |  2.1M
Life in the public eye: The case for STRAY KIDS’ Jisung and what it says about the entertainment industry

Recently, STRAY KIDS’ rapper Han Jisung came under fire when an old song he had written at the age of 13 years old carrying xenophobic, racist, and ableist notions resurfaced on the internet. The song had been uploaded by Han himself and with time, was drowned out. However, its resurgence years later is a strong indication of the toxic cancel culture that exists especially within the entertainment industry.

The song was written by Han in 2013 at the age of 13 which when you think about it, isn’t as young of an age as one might think, especially considering the type of lyrics he had written. However, at the age of 13, one is as impressionable as a sponge. For a very long time, hip-hop in Korea was predominantly an aggressive imitation of African American hip-hop. However, this did not come with the basic understanding of race relations and why such an imitation could be a toxic and misguided form of cultural appropriation. Hip-Hop originated as a form of protest and revolution. However, what was lifted from it was the notion of abuse, violence, swearing, and so on and so forth.

In other words, in all probability, Han thought that in order to be part of this community, he would have to imitate the culture he saw around him. Even so, the messages he propagated through the song could not have come out of an innocent place. It would have been especially hurtful and heartbreaking if, despite full knowledge of the contents of the song and its existence, little to no effort was made on behalf of either the artist or especially his company to apologize for the same until it was brought up by someone else. It is never excusable when it takes a viral post pointing out the mistakes of the past to elicit an apology for it. However, when his questionable lyrics were brought into questioning in the past, Han sincerely apologized then and he sincerely apologized now with full awareness of his accountability which is truly the bare minimum but an even bigger apology is due from his company.

The brunt of the blame should therefore fall on the company supervising him, especially considering that the song was written well into the past. Han joined the industry in 2014 so it ideally should have been his mentors’ responsibility to educate him on his recent mistake. Being in the public eye, close scrutiny is unavoidable and no one knows this better than entertainment companies themselves. However, choosing not to address these issues from the very start and covering up any personal efforts towards apology is everything but healthy and helpful. Not educating artists over propriety and eventually not even protecting them when they face backlash for their ignorant past is nothing if not an example of mismanagement.

While Han’s apology is no one’s to accept other than those he has hurt (whom he repentantly addresses in his apology), he himself is also a victim of show business and its twisted ways. The last thing public figures, especially in such a volatile industry as the K-Pop industry, need is demonization. While this is in no way condoning his actions, it is also important to note that Han barely had the time to reflect on them before being thrust into the cut-throat competition of the entertainment world. Instead of realizing where he went wrong, he had to skip over it completely and make a “fresh” start regardless of his past. As a result, it was buried alive and is now coming right back to bite him, as it should. Accountability is very real and it can never be avoided.

Now that Han has in fact, directly apologized to the exact people he was abusive towards, he stands the chance to make a real fresh start towards a more positive and responsible future.

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