27 June 2006

Korean pop culture...

... as a vehicle to infiltrate non-Koreans with fundamentalist Christianity.

I've seen it in college, where Korean-American students put up posters of Korean pop singers' concerts in the New York area, to get non-Koreans to indulge in Korean popular culture and the presence of Koreans. Then fundamentalist Christian brainwashing would follow. By the time I left college, formerly all-Korean Christian ministry groups on campus were full of Chinese and other Asian ethnicities, and they were spewing their hatred and prejudice more, and wider, than ever.

For that reason, I am wary of the current spread of Korean pop culture throughout various Asian-American communities. Anyone in Asia, or with ties to Asia, knows that Korean phenomena, such as actor Bae Yong-joon (AKA "Yon-sama" in Japan) and singer BoA, are hot all over the continent. The problem arises when fans of these performers open up themselves to influences from their Korean-American buddies - including hate-filled fundamentalist Christianity.

I wanted take an exception to the World Cup soccer, since I believe that sports and politics should be as separate as possible. South Korea's soccer team is best known for its supporters, whose wild, charismatic cheering style was a sight to behold during the previous World Cup in 2002; those same cheers carried over into this year as well, and Korean-Americans in major US cities held their own rallies to support the team. The supporters called themselves the "Red Devils," debunking two taboos in the staunchly anticommunist and heavily Christian Korean society; for that reason, many Korean-Americans rejected the Red Devils theming and mentality - until South Korea made it to the semifinals of the 2002 World Cup.

But now, in 2006, those cheers are being used as vehicles to carry fundamentalist Christianity. South Korean soccer matches are now used as opportunities for churches to "bless the God-fearing Korean players" (half the team is indeed Christian) and hope God is on their side. I'm pretty sure something similar happened back in March as well, when South Korea's baseball team visited Southern California to participate in the World Baseball Classic - and the fans used the same soccer chants.

So even sports are not safe anymore from politics and religion - at least when it comes to South Korean squads and Korean-Americans. What's next? A lengthy prayer as the goal ceremony, along the lines of the Saudis and the Iranians? It's a shame, because I've otherwise liked the South Korean soccer team (and considered them every bit worthy of their title as the Most Entertaining Team of the 2002 World Cup) - and especially admired its Dutch coaches, who introduced their Dutch openness and tolerance to the Korean society.

New York Times (registration required)