K-pop on campus: UMD’s best kept secret and the stigma that comes with it

Members of University of Maryland K-pop dance group G-Girls and the Wasabi Boyz practice for a competition. (Julia Nikhinson/The Diamondback)

University of Maryland senior Patty Pelingon’s laptop is covered in stickers. There’s one for the Mighty Sound of Maryland, a Testudo shell and the national flag of the Philippines.

But in their midst are other emblems that fewer people would recognize at first glance: a young man holding a mug and making a funny face, an artistic drawing of a flower. If you know, you know. And if you don’t, you don’t.

These stickers are references to the Korean pop band BTS — and Pelingon is a big fan. But she chose these stickers because they wouldn’t easily out her as a K-pop lover.

“I still find myself hesitant to admit it in certain contexts. Like, some classes will tell you, ‘Oh, share a fun fact about yourself,'” said Pelingon, an anthropology and biology major. “That will never be my [fun fact].”

Over the last few years, K-pop has spread around the world, fueled by boy and girl bands with coordinated dance routines. But all the while, both at this university and across the U.S., the genre’s sometimes-cutesy, sometimes-flashy style has drawn some derision.

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