Rap scene or Drug scene?

In Korea, drugs are banned. The word “drugs” is often linked with jail, illegal activity, and prohibition. The public’s reaction to celebrities who get caught taking drugs is harsher than in the States. People who take drugs often lose their reputation in society and are rebuked for setting a bad example. Yet, as much as the restriction on taking drugs is stronger in Korea, the curiosity about experimenting with drugs is greater for the younger generation. It’s the same curiosity that we have about alcohol and clubs as a minor in the States. The problem gets more significant when the younger generation follows the wrong ‘trend’ of society or has a misconception of what is ‘cool’ to do.

Especially in current Korean society, the rapper scene has a tremendous influence on the younger generation. With the spread of rapper competition TV shows such as “High School Rapper’ and”“Show Me the Money,” rappers set the current trend of what is ‘cool.’ This past year, there was a major trend of ‘flexing’ which is showing of to others. For example, one famous rapper Yumdda sold a simple black T-shirt with “FLEX” written on it and earned 400 million dollars in one day. Unbelievable, but not that problematic. Yet, the real problem started when illegal drugs became associated with the rap scene. Even worse, rappers began to exploit prescription drugs such as Fentanyl, making it more acceptable for students to consume drugs. Once respected artists started using drugs, the new generation of rappers and students followed the same path. Some lyrics in rap music would include the word opium, blatantly talking about drug consumption. In one specific incident, the top two rappers of “Show me the money” Season 9 were indicted for taking heroin. 

The impact of the rapper’s drug consumption was especially shown when Da Ba$tard, a participant in “High School Rapper,” confessed his addiction to Fentanyl. After losing control of his life, literally losing his ability to rap, he admitted to drug use and shared about his path to addiction in a documentary. He started taking drugs in middle school after joining the rap scene. He shared that rappers would introduce drugs to new rappers, making them feel isolated if they refused. The younger generation would then start Fentanyl without acknowledging how addictive it was. Yet, some would become addicted after two days, feeling the pain of ripping limbs as withdrawal symptoms. Others would call more than 100 hospitals to get prescriptions. Slowly they became slaves to a drug that they had once hoped would be the direction of their dream as a rapper. 

The problem arises when we ignore the widespread drug use of rappers. It’s easy for society to neglect the fact that students are exposed to drug culture and are becoming addicted. Society lacks the infrastructure to help students overcome addiction and the education to learn about drugs and their actual impact. Also, many medical professionals have too little time to warn patients about how addictive the drugs are. Most hospitals do not have a precise system where drugs can be prescribed for correct usage. As a part of the younger generation, who has friends who follow current rapper fashion styles and culture, it worries me where the current ‘trend’ will lead us. As there is an increase in the Fentanyl crisis, it is more critical for the rappers to acknowledge the responsibility that they have as social figures. Furthermore, medical professionals have a responsibility to develop an infrastructure to better address the severity of the problem.





7 thoughts on “Rap scene or Drug scene?

  1. I really liked how you described the relationship between the rising rap scene and increasing drug usage. I occasionally read a Webtoon called “여주실격!/No longer a Heroine!” that starts off with the young actress heroine getting caught taking drugs and she gets an insane amount of backlash that heavily contributes to her downfall as a public figure. When I read it, I’m remiss to say that I assumed the author was exaggerating for plot convenience, but, now that I’ve read your article, I understand that South Korea has a totally different approach to drug usage than the United States. It’s hard to imagine an entertainment industry where drug usage isn’t normalized especially as I recall public figures like Wiz Khalifa and other people who are super famous despite very open drug usage.
    Something I noticed is that you describe the drug usage as being linked to rappers, a typically male-dominated genre. How do you think gender stereotypes and expectations tie into the way that South Koreans view drug usage, especially as it develops into addiction?


  2. Hey Min Joo, great post! One interesting contrast that stood out to me from your blog was that even though Korean society seems to give drugs a harsher negative connotation and have a more intense reaction to celebrity drug scandals, the younger generation seems to think that it’s cool. Hearing about how young Da Ba$tard was when he got involved in the drug scene was astonishing to me, especially when I think back to what I considered “rebellious” in middle school. Preteens/teenagers will always rebel against the older generations in some way, so I think that this blog post highlights the importance of having good role models, as well as proper education on the dangers of drug abuse. I’m not sure what the current drug education system in Korea is like, but I know that I never received much of a comprehensive education on illegal drugs — we were just told to never do drugs. Without learning about the specific dangers that accompany drugs like fentanyl, I can see why some people would feel an influence from rappers, who serve as cool role models for these young teenagers, to rebel against the parents/teachers and try those drugs. This piece raises a lot of issues on policies surrounding education and media censorship as well.


  3. This is a very interesting blog post! I didn’t know much about the drug scene in Korea, so it is very informative to have a little dive into the drug scene and how it affects the community. I appreciated how you connected the drug scene to the alcohol scene here in America, I feel as though it really allows me to better picture and try and garner an understanding on what it’s like.

    From your blog post I see that the rappers in Korea have a large influence on how the younger generation views drugs and their interaction with them. It seems as though there is a commonality between popular musicians and their influence on their audiences. Just how in Korea and America many younger people almost idolize celebrities, but specifically people in the music industry. Most artists don’t do much to positively influence younger people either, just as the artists in Korea almost glamorize drugs, I feel as though artists in America do that as well. They glamorize mental health issues, drugs, alcohol, and violence. Even though this can be unintentional and the intentionality isn’t behind it, it doesn’t matter because viewers don’t really pay attention to the intentionality. I agree with you that these public figures need to acknowledge the narrative that they’re spreading and take on the responsibility of not giving misinformation and trying to help fix the younger generation!

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  4. I really enjoyed reading your blog, I completely agree with the take on the glorification of drug use in the media and more specifically in the rap scene. Its interesting drawing contrast from the United States vs Korea, especially since the use of recreational drugs seems a lot more normalized here. I think in the US, we as a population have been somewhat desensitized to drugs. It is rather common to hear about drug related crimes, and celebrity overdoses on social media. It is interesting to hear about the situation in Korea, especially due to the reputation drugs have had up until recently. Musicians are regarded as highly influential people in society, and rap usually attracts the attention of younger people. Seeing how this art form can be used as a conduit to glorify drug use is definitely a concern that needs to be addressed.
    Celebrities are trend setters, and the normal trends we witness revolve around fashion or lifestyle, but it is unsettling to know that these “trends” could cross that surface level territory and transition into something like drugs. As you mentioned, drug use becoming a trend within the younger generation could have catastrophic implications, resulting in the rise of addiction and overdose cases. People who have major influence in society have a moral duty to their audience, especially younger audiences, to be mindful of the narratives they put forth.

    -Preethi Edara

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think that this description, as well as those of other comments, emphasizes the concept of desensitization and normalization of drug use in a way that is equally prevalent in our country. Normalization can lead to a stark increase in use, regardless of antagonist standards that existed prior. Just as Korean youth have had drug use normalized for them due to their rapper influences despite a heavy drug deterrence in Korean history, the same can be said of other drug trends such as the opioid crisis. Despite these drugs claiming the lives and dignity of many people in areas such as the midwest, new generations continue to take and prescribe these medications. This phenomenon of continued normalization can be attributed to desensitization, which makes new generations see previously discouraged practices as nothing more than the new norm.

    While social media and the spread of usage-related content can exacerbate this phenomenon, I think that it can also counteract it. For example, the normalization and reluctant acceptance of a negative norm described in the opioid scenario can be avoided when people are exposed to other healthier environments. Similarly, just as social media can make Korean youths see drug use as cool, it can also demonstrate the consequences such as in example of the rapper above. I think that we often overplay the negative influence of examples set by social media and ignore the eye-opening effect that these examples can facilitate.

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  6. This is a very interesting blog. I think the cultural comparison between the United States and Korea is particularly important to examine. At the beginning, you mentioned how public opinion around drugs is much harsher than in the States. However, in other ways it seems the culture around rap mirrors that of the US. Many rap icons, define what is “cool” and trendy. One example is Travis Scott. Glancing at his social media account, one can see pictures of him smoking, and many of his songs talk about being high. This certainly could be considered a promotion of drug use. The idea of FLEX greatly reminded me of Supreme, a popular streetwear brand which is sported by many rappers and can be purchased resold online for thousands of dollars. Drug use in the rap scene and its influence on adolescents has been problematic in the United States for as long as I have been a consumer of rap music (which I guess is not that long) and longer. It seems this is a relatively new problem in Korea. I wonder what culturally has changed outside of the rap world to influence this newer attitude of cultural acceptance towards drugs. In order to solve this problem, could we look to past cultural values or policies in Korea that may have influenced this less accepting attitude.

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  7. Min Joo, thank you for your article. I think you are onto an important point about how modern problems are so often tied to modern culture. As the popular expression goes, “Life imitates art.” In this case, art can unfortunately be used as a means of justifying or even glorifying dangerous substances that should only be used for medical purposes. Rap, as a genre of modern music, has taken its fair share of criticism for promoting not just drug use, but also mass consumerism, greed, and even domestic violence. (Certainly, there are other musical genres that have similar problems as well.) It does seem necessary for there to be a cultural shift in order to change the younger generations’ attitudes towards Fentanyl, but that is easier said than done. I wonder what artistic actions or movements you think could do the trick? I personally do not know much about Korean pop culture, so I am not sure how this attitude could be most effectively challenged and diminished. I would love to hear your thoughts.

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