Everything You Need to Know About The Non-Korean K-Pop Group, EXP Edition

The Making of EXP Edition

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EXP Edition started out as a master’s project of one Bora Kim. Growing up in South Korea, Bora Kim spent her high school days listening to K-Pop – the pop/hip-hop, Korean/English blend that has become a cultural bomb that has swept audiences across the world. When she went to the US, in 2014, to study for a master’s degree at the prestigious Columbia University in New York, she started to question the real meaning of K-Pop. The phenomenon of people outside of Korea consuming Korean culture, specifically Korean Pop Culture, was unimaginable to her as a teenager. Her experience in the US really opened her eyes to the fact that K-Pop was really gaining momentum and she started seeing it in a different light.

She started to question whether or not K-Pop is only something Koreans, and to some extent Asians, could do and what kind of limits are there that sets K-Pop from other pop acts around the world. She decided the best way to answer her question was to make a K-Pop band of her own – consisting of solely non-Koreans. This would be her thesis project over her next two years at Columbia. Her goal was to make a K-Pop band that could exist in the real world. “We wanted to pick non-Korean members that would represent New York,” she said. “So the first thing we did was audition for members.”

Through the auditions, Bora Kim picked six candidates that made it to the final line-up. This was done through consideration of their vocal skills, dancing skills as well as their personality. The final hopefuls were: Croatian Sime Kosta, Portuguese-American Frankie DaPonte from Rhode Island, half Japanese-German Koki Tomlinson who grew up in Texas, New Yorkers Hunter Kohl and David Wallace, and Texan Tarion Anderson. This led to their debut in the US with the single “LUV/WRONG.” It wasn’t the success they hoped for but they have trained for too long to give up at this point, thus they started to perform at live shows and started booking events in New York.

When Bora’s MFA programme ended – and she was awarded her master’s degree – the obvious question was: “What’s next?” “The boys expressed to me that they wanted to concentrate on EXP Edition,” said Bora. They decided to launch a Kickstarter – and managed to raise $30,000. They also received an additional investment from a private investor. In August 2016, the band made their official move to Korea. “It was so hard when we moved to Korea,” said Bora. “The boys were learning Korean and their dance and vocal instructors were all Korean… they were waking up at 6 a.m. every day to practice. Whenever they talk about those early days they tear up.” Their Korean debut came in the summer of 2017 when they released a music video and performed live on a Korean variety show.

Live Performances on Music Shows

Controversies Surrounding EXP Edition

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Along with their debut came the slew of criticism and pushback from the K-Pop fandom community, judging the act inauthentic and unrealistic. They branded the group a product of cultural appropriation for taking what is essentially Korean culture and adapting it with no regards to its cultural context. This term is usually used to describe the adoption of much more traditional cultures but in this sense it could work as a way to say that this group did not go through the hardships that are commonly associated with idol trainees, such as rigorous training system and long training periods, that could reach from 6 up to 8 years at the longest.

Another point driven home by the longtime K-Pop fans is that their understanding of the Korean language is still limited, up to this point, making the singing and rapping found in their songs disingenuous and making them unable to appear on variety shows, which is such a big part of the K-Pop fandom culture. This makes to the group feel unapproachable and foreign still in the eyes of both domestic and international fans. It feels as if they are only in it to cash on the hype that is K-Pop and not to actually be apart of the K-Pop sphere, which has been done by foreign celebrities before, such as Korean Englishman, Sam Otswiri, and more.

Netizens’ Reactions

With the hype surrounding their debut as the first caucasian K-Pop group, the jury is out from some of the most popular reaction channels about their debut music video. Check out some of the reactions below!

Instagram Feeds of EXP Edition’s Official Account

EXP Edition’s Instagram is filled with a myriad of posts, documenting their everyday life, let’s take a look at some of those posts below!

On their Instagram, the group often posts updates of their daily life through selfies and group photos. The one above demonstrates one of the instances where they took a selfie to update their fans. Not only that, they caption the post in multiple languages to cater to their international as well as Korean fanbase.

In the photo above, the group promotes an interview they did with the news outlet Quartz. As it is part of their activities, the made sure to promote it on their official account. The interview once again discusses their position as one of the most unique K-Pop acts out there and how it impacts people’s reactions.

Latest News of EXP Edition

Recently, there has not been any new news regarding the group as they are busy guesting on events left and right. There also seems to be no plans for a comeback in the horizon with the group well on their way in gaining fans through those festivals and guest appearances. Will you be awaiting their next comeback in Korea? Or, do you think it will be best that they retreat to their homeland for now? Kindly share your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below!