Oli London is facing immense online backlash for announcing they "identify as nonbinary Korean."
On Monday, the white British influencer posted a YouTube video elaborating on previous tweets, in which they said they were now using they/them pronouns, in addition to "kor/ean" and "Ji/min" neopronouns.
"I am Korean whether people accept it or not this is how I identify, this is what makes me happy," they wrote at the time. "This is who I am. It's in my DNA."
As someone who actually has Korean DNA though, I can say that some white fetishist — as proven by those 18 surgeries to look like Jimin — suddenly deeming themself "Korean" is incredibly offensive, especially since it effectively trivializes our identities because they're suddenly "trendy."
Apparently though that doesn't really register for Oli, who's continually been a notable example of the Western fetishization that's objectified South Korea based on it recent contributions to global culture. As such, what they're doing is an appropriation of only the good (K-pop and food) without acknowledging the way our lives are still affected by all the racist, discriminatory and historical baggage caused by the West (being used as pawns in an anti-communist agenda which led to the separation of our families, the negative effects of being constantly pressured to assimilate, legislative "Othering", etc. etc.).
So yeah, obviously it's pretty sus that a white person is saying they're Korean.
Not only that, but more people, including members of the LGBTQIA+ community, were also not too happy about Oli's announcement, including those who pointed out that it made "neopronoun users look a bit like a joke" and made them "feel quite invalidated," while others argued that while "you can be nonbinary... you are not and you will never be Korean."
"I am a person belonging to the nonbinary umbrella, and this offends me A LOT," as one person said. "Being Korean is a nationality, not a gender, you are making fun of all the nonbinary umbrella, the neo pronouns and the entire LGBTQA+ community! really stop please."
cw // oli london— blue | 2PM MUST (@fluxhwa) June 16, 2021
oli london came out as non-binary , cool , idc but they really said this on their ig . . .
kinda makes us neopronoun users look a bit like a joke and i feel quite invalidated ngl pic.twitter.com/VSjBe8iXrA
You can be non binary that's who you are but you are not and you will never be korean.— ᖴᗩRᏆᗩ⁷🇵🇹 (@park_fariaa) June 19, 2021
i am a person belonging to the non-binary umbrella, and this offends me A LOT, being Korean is a nationality, not a gender, you are making fun of all the non-binary umbrella, the neo pronouns and the entire lgbtqa + community! really stop please— ` felix lvs yuyu SKZ ARE 8 (@kowgmii) June 19, 2021
To add further insult to injury, Oli also decided to post what they called their "new official flag for being a nonbinary person who identifies as Korean," which features the South Korean flag in rainbow colors — another extremely offensive move given its national, cultural and historical symbolism.
After all, as many pointed out, while "it's okay to make a NEW flag and support the LGBTQ+ community," you cannot "change a flag that represents a whole existing country and break what the flag means."
"A flag that represents a country holds their souls and spirits. I am very offended and angry. DO NOT CHANGE OUR FLAG," the commenter continued, while a second added that it was "cultural appropriation to change an official flag."
"Do you realise how offensive that is?," they wrote. "You've disrespected THEIR culture and you've embarrassed the UK."
This is my new official flag for being a non-binary person who identifies as Korean. Thank you for the overwhelming support it was so hard for me to come out as Them/they/kor/ean 🏳️🌈⚧ #olilondon #nonbinary pic.twitter.com/5uJp2dBQU5— Oli London (@OliLondonTV) June 18, 2021
It's okay to make a NEW flag and support the LGBTQ+ community but do NOT change a flag that represents a whole existing country and break what the flag means. A flag that represents a country holds their souls and spirits. I am very offended and angry. DO NOT CHANGE OUR FLAG.— 🍬💛LafFytAffY🍋🍭《--요놈 시험기간임 (@CatusEmily) June 20, 2021
Cultural appropriation, also how can you change an official flag?! Do you realise how offensive that is? You've disrespected THEIR culture and you've embarrassed the UK.— Liv Orben (@LivBrewer1) June 19, 2021
Amid the backlash, Oli has apparently remained firm in their stance, addressing the flag controversy by insisting the rainbow version was the "official flag of Korea LGBT." However, as the Daily Dotexplained, the flag's origins are unclear, though the image first surfaced on Reddit in 2015. The flag also exists on a Wikipedia page, but as others also pointed out, the crowdsourced site isn't exactly the most reliable source.
Additionally, Oli's manager, Scott, also reiterated to the publication that it was the "official LGBT flag of South Korea and therefore the official representation of those who identify as LGBT from Korea" — which, again, feels weird because they are literally not from Korea.
"Therefore, people's criticism that Oli created the flag and dishonoured Korea are false, incorrect and hurtful," Scott added, before the influencer themself said in their YouTube video that the dissenters were "disguising their homophobia."
please, Wikipedia was never a reliable site, it is free to be edited by literally anyone YOU CANT BE GIVING THIS REASON— ♡ (@_bobakoo_) June 21, 2021
"Besides from identifying as gender fluid and nonbinary for the past several years, Oli has also felt strongly attached to Korea and the Korean culture and feels much more connected to this than his own culture," Scott went on to say. "[They] hopes that people will accept and love [them] for who [they] is without judgment." Funny when your own manager misgenders you, but okay.
This article has been updated with new information.
Photo via YouTube