How to break your K-addiction (Part 1)

Hi Guys!

So a do receive a number of comments now and again of people sharing the similar struggle of being addicted to Korean related entertainment: K-POP, K-Dramas, anything related to the Hallyu Wave really.

The people that share these struggles (often Christians) know that other relationships are suffering because of their attachment to consuming this media.

My twin sister is a psychologist and we got talking about this one time and I asked her her thoughts on it (she’s not into Korean pop culture at all though). And I thought I might share some of our conversation in the hope to help all of us. This first part deals with the similarities of K-addiction with regular addictions. The second part will give some suggestions on how to break out of it (if that’s what you want).

9689649 - young asian woman having a headache. isolated on a white background.

First of all, let’s clarify that there’s nothing inherently wrong with enjoying the Hallyu Wave. As I explained in a previous post, there are dangers that we need to be aware of, but that doesn’t disqualify us from watching it completely. We just don’t want too much of a good thing right? But how do you know when our interest has moved from a healthy enjoyment to an addiction?

She says: “In the past, one would only buy a particular pop idol’s CDs, read about them in a magazine such as dolly or girlfriend, and put their posters up on your wall. Nowadays, you don’t have to go to much effort to acquire information and delve into the pop idol world given the high accessibility and various forms of online media related to a pop idols, pop groups.”

My comment: “Yes this so true, even Japanese pop culture is not as accessible as Korean pop culture. Hallyu is extremely accessible to the English speaking world, whereas my previous interests in J-culture and C-culture require a higher command of the language.”

“In general, the individual spends a lot of time on these various forms of media gaining information about the target of the obsession. Gaining information about the target(s) functions provides euphoric feelings but can also function to improve the self-image / self-confidence of the individual either directly through engaging with the the target(s) of the obsession or engaging socially with others who also have interest in the target(s) of the obsession.

The obsession then grows from one thing to a more general obsession aided by the accessibility of a network of media and information on the Internet. For example, it might begin with one kpop group, but then expands to different groups / artists, and then to an obsession with kpop or korean dramas or even to korean culture in general. This in itself is not a big issue; however, given the above stated variety of media and high accessiblity to it, the individual finds them self becoming more preoccupied with the growing targets of obsession.”
My comment: “Indeed, how easy is it to click on a chain of videos on YT! I start watching one MV and then I’m curious about one member of a group then the suggested videos show them in variety shows, or commercials and before I know it, I’ve followed them on their Instagram account!”
“The nature of the pop industry and marketing has also changed, in that kpop permeates not just music but other media as well, such as reality TV shows, clothing, dramas, etc; resulting in an even larger preoccupation with the target and growing targets of obsession. 
This becomes problematic as it takes over one’s life in terms of responsibility and leisure activities, and when the individual finds it hard to control or stop the obsession or use of media to become preoccupied with the obsession. Also problematic is when people’s self-image / body image is tied up with the obsession in that they feel they need to engage with this obsession or emulate some aspect of the target of the obsession in order to be accepted or obtain approval from others.”

Let’s have a look at the Psych Bible the ‘DSM-5’ and see how they would diagnose it. There are 11 criteria and 2 of them need to apply to qualify as a ‘substance abuse disorder’ (like drugs). Here are some relevant criteria my sister highlighted. The full list can be found here:

  • Impaired control: (1) taking more or for longer than intended, (2) unsuccessful efforts to stop or cut down use, (3) spending a great deal of time obtaining, using, or recovering from use, (4) craving for substance.
  • Social impairment: (5) failure to fulfill major obligations due to use, (6) continued use despite problems caused or exacerbated by use, (7) important activities given up or reduced because of substance use. 
  • Risky use: (8) recurrent use in hazardous situations, (9) continued use despite physical or psychological problems that are caused or exacerbated by substance use.
  • Pharmacologic dependence: (10) tolerance to effects of the substance, (11) withdrawal symptoms when not using or using less.* 

Does this sound like you?

Now of course, K-addiction isn’t the same as substance abuse, but unfortunately the Psych world/Bible is not up to date. There’s not even a proper ‘label’ to diagnose someone with K-addiction. The closest ‘label’ I guess for these sorts of addictions would be ‘Internet Addiction’ which is under a broader group called ‘Impulse Control Disorders’ but even then, Internet Addiction is not a broad enough term to apply to K-addiction since we consume K-media not just from the Internet/Computer, but Social Media like following an idols FB / Twitter / Snapchat account, buying their music, watching their videos (which may not be through the net), and also buying their merch or getting plastic surgery as a result of consuming Korean pop culture.

So in summary:

  • K-addiction is in some ways unique as it is extremely accessible unlike other pop cultures (Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan). Not only is it available in English more than the others, it is available on more platforms, particularly YT and other social media platforms.
  • There’s no official ‘label’ as such for such an addiction (the closest official is ‘Impulse Control Disorder’ of which ‘Internet Addiction’ is one but then the addiction is much broader than the ‘Internet’.
  • However, we can use what DSM-5 lists out to show that consuming Korean pop culture can be a very real addiction, as real as being addicted to drugs!

Next post, we offer suggestions on how to handle it

Of course, if you can see a psychologist, PLEASE DO!! In Australia, you can go to your GP and answer some questions. If you are severe then they will refer you (under Medicare) to see a psychologist FOR FREE.

Don’t lose hope! Acknowledging is the first step to resolving! If you’re a Christian I encourage you to acknowledge the problem and ask God for help. If we repent, God can’t wait to forgive us and give us the power to break through!


Published by gracelung

I'm passionate about helping ABC's integrate faith with our ethnic identity as well as developing ethnic / culturally aware churches.

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