Solo artist Sunmi sat down with Billboard for an exclusive interview while visiting various cities as part of her “Warning” world tour.
Billboard talked about Sunmi’s early career with the Wonder Girls, who held one of the most well-received World Tours back in 2010.
You’re one of South Korea’s most popular soloists but you got your start in the Wonder Girls, who also spent some time in the U.S. How have things changed?
I can’t believe it. At the time, there was no section of K-pop on Billboard.
Sunmi, and the Wonder Girls, was then credited for paving the way for K-Pop’s global popularity. To this, Sunmi humbly disagreed.
It’s partially because of the groundwork laid by you and Wonder Girls.
She then commented on the change in approach to K-Pop, and the rise in its popularity since her time with the Wonder Girls.
We started the column in 2013.
Oh, really? Well, in general the approach towards K-pop has changed a lot, it wasn’t well known. I was an opener [with Wonder Girls] for the Jonas Brothers, but now I’m having my solo concert.
Sunmi’s comments on BTS garnered quite a bit of backlash. Some K-Pop fans disagreed with her views, and credited 2nd generation K-Pop groups as the ones who forged the path ahead in the west.
I think Sunmi didn’t understand what the word “groundwork” meant.. she, WG, BoA, PSY, SNSD etc.. all helped in getting K-Pop known in the USA, their popularity led to the K-Pop BB chart being created in the first place, they made the foundation for BTS, BP’s success here..
— UmaiR [x x] (@loonatheair) March 29, 2019
However, other fans came out to pledge their support for Sunmi and her views.
sunmi has been in the industry since she was 15, she majored in drama, speaks english fluently and is constantly on twitter. it’s insulting for you to tell her how this industry works and act like she doesn’t get the question she has been asked… have some respect
— 🐙 (@hobifIower) March 29, 2019
sunmi: talks about how women have it so much harder in the industry and about how much they struggle, about how much effort she puts into her work
edgy stan twt:😴
edgy stan twt: shes cancelled!! she never acknowledges wonder girls its like she s trying to erase th-
— alexia 🌧 (@yerenexs) March 29, 2019
The WAY y'all being racist and sexist towards sunmi, discrediting her views about an industry she literally works in by saying she didn't understand the question even though she knows English, just cause y'all don't want to admit that bts paved the way,,,,
— no, bts (@promisegukk) March 29, 2019
Sunmi isn’t the first to give BTS the credit.
In an interview at KCON LA last year, TWICE Jihyo thanked BTS for the opportunity to become more well-known.
“We never knew K-pop would become so popular in America but because BTS paved the way and gave us an opportunity to become more known, we’re very thankful and want to promote more in the states.”
KARD also praised BTS for their journey and mentioned the effect of BTS as a “stimulus for others”.
— den #강양이_바라기 (@bts_elz) July 26, 2018