Culture Clash: How WayV is Trying to Break Down Barriers

The complex history that encompasses both China and South Korea has led to a difficult relationship between the two nations. Culture has been one of the main points of contention, with South Korea arguing about the origins of various items of clothing and food and China criticising South Korean entertainers for mentions of their history.

The entertainment industry within South Korea is infamous for its ability to produce exceptional performers that gain global attention. In the past decade, it has become increasingly common for groups to have multicultural backgrounds. Talent has been cast from America, Thailand, China, and Japan allowing companies to extend their reach further across the world. However, companies that decide to include Chinese members within their groups often face multiple complications. Hate, unpopularity, and mistreatment are only a few of the difficulties that Chinese members of K-pop groups face. One of the most prominent cases being between ex-members of popular boy group, EXO, and their company, SM Entertainment. The unpleasant lawsuits that dragged over years highlighted the continuing tensions between China and South Korea.

With the creation of LabelV, SM Entertainment may have found a way to combine both South Korean and Chinese entertainment industries. WayV debuted in 2019 as the first Chinese based subunit of the experimental K-pop group, NCT. Members Kun (Qian Kun), Lucas (Wong Yukhei), Ten (Chittaphon Leechaiyapornkul), and WinWin (Dong Sicheng) had already debuted previously in either fixed member subunit, NCT 127, or rotational unit, NCT U, with Xiaojun (Xiao Dejun), Hendery (Wong Kunhang), and Yangyang (Liu Yangyang) all being introduced through WayV.

Despite SM Entertainment avoiding contract complications thanks to the formation of their own Chinese label, WayV face complex issues on a daily basis. Being neither completely C-pop or K-pop, neither culture wanted to claim them. The group is often subjected to hate from both sides. Most recently, with the release of their single ‘Back To You’, members Kun and Xiaojun have received extreme backlash from South Korean netizens for singing in Mandarin on Korean music shows. Many shows have already banned the use of Mandarin, with WayV songs having to be translated into either Korean or English to allow the group to perform. Communication can also be a problem, with members coming from Thailand, Macau, Mainland China, and Hong Kong. Whilst promoting on Korean variety shows, members must speak Korean, but on Chinese shows, Mandarin is the only language allowed. Whilst most of the members are adept in both languages, it can cause confusion and highlights the extra effort that WayV have had to put in.

All things considered, WayV have managed to work against the odds in order to gain popularity in China, South Korea and internationally. Selling out shows in both countries has been a feat that many groups have failed to achieve, with WayV being one of these few groups to be successful in China and South Korea, despite their heritage. Against all odds, WayV have pushed past difficulties in order to secure their place in the entertainment industry and may have helped to open up the possibility of more multinational groups succeeding in the future. WayV have an incredibly bright future in front of them and are paving the way for the Korean music industry to branch out across the world.

With companies most likely wanting to follow in SM Entertainment’s footsteps, will we see more Chinese labels being created in order to navigate around complex contracts? Will other groups be able to replicate the same success that WayV has or are they a one off case?

Image courtesy of Aditya Chinchure.

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