Let’s face the truth here. The K-Pop industry is an industry based on looks. Or for a lack of better word, lookism exists in Korea. Lookism is defined as when discrimination occurs when looks or appearance is considered.
With K-Pop currently making an impact in western pop culture, there are a few issues that we need to set straight if we want K-Pop to be successful and different from western pop music.
Earlier last week, my colleagues Brandi and Xiaolong wrote editorials exposing shocking increases in plastic surgeries among teenagers and extreme male diets in Korea and the K-Pop industry, an area of subject which I am passionate about. As a personal trainer and an advocate for fighting childhood obesity, the facts in these editorials were alarming.
My colleague Brandi reported that South Korea was not only the most ‘cosmetically-enhanced nation on the globe,’ but she also reported that more than 41 percent of teenagers were willing to have plastic surgery for beauty.
Now, I obviously love K-Pop, and I’m not only going to push the blame onto the Korean Pop industry alone. Western popular culture also has been contributing to body images issues for many decades. However, as the K-Pop wave begins to pick up in western culture, we must make sure K-Pop does not contribute to the underlying issue of body image and childhood obesity.
Here are some interesting facts and studies about body image from DoSomething.org:
- Body image is the way that someone perceives their body and assumes others perceive them. This image is often affected by family, friends, social pressure, and the media.
- People who are unhappy with their bodies and do not seek healthy nutrition information may develop eating disorders. Eating disorders are unhealthy relationships with food that may include fasting, constant dieting, or binging and purging.
- Approximately 91 percent of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape. Unfortunately, only 5 percent of women naturally possess the body type often portrayed by Americans in the media.
- 58 percent of college-aged girls feel pressured to be a certain weight.
- More than a third of the people who admit to “normal dieting,” will merge into pathological dieting. Roughly a quarter of those will suffer from a partial or full-on eating disorder.
- Body image is closely linked to self-esteem. Low self-esteem in adolescents can lead to eating disorders, early sexual activity, substance use, and suicidal thoughts.
- In a survey, more than 30 percent of women and 20 percent of men agreed they would consider cosmetic surgery in the future. The statistics remain relatively constant across gender, age, marital status, and race.
- 95 percent of people with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that more than a billion adults were overweight in 2008 and more than half a billion were obese. And those figures were from five years ago. The WHO not only found that 40 million children were overweight by the time they entered pre-school but that marketing from pop culture influenced the rapid rate of obesity around the world.
K-Pop stars appear everywhere – on billboards, TV, radio, endorsements, etc. and nowadays, we even see idols Gangnam Stylin‘ it in the western media. Whether they like it or not, they have a duty of care to their young fans to not only demonstrate appropriate behaviour but to also be a good role model.
Still, every so often, we’ll hear about the latest celebrity diet, such as Sandara Park’s watermelon diet, JYP’s nut diet, or even the Girls’ Generation 800-calorie diet. How many young boys and girls flock to try these diets after hearing their idols have achieved perfect pop star bodies? How many will starve themselves? The answer is many.
Then we have the focus on ‘looking good’ to become ‘an idol’. Lookism exists in both the fans and the companies themselves. Because majority of K-Pop fans are, in fact, young girls, you don’t have to go far to find comments about idols looking ‘hot’ or ‘cute’. This not only encourages the record companies to produce only groups that look somewhat appealing to the masses, but also influences young hopefuls to undergo extremes to fit the criteria of an ‘idol’.
The focus on appearance is dangerous to K-Pop. Back when I first started listening to K-Pop, it was all about the interpretation of the good music that filled in the gaps of Western music, but now, there’s almost no difference between western pop music and K-Pop. K-Pop will truly be just a ‘trend’ if fans and companies continue to place such a heavy emphasis on appearance.
The one and only way you can truly be healthy forever is to maintain a balanced diet, and by diet, I mean anything you want to eat in moderation, and combine that diet with a sensible regime of exercise. The Center for Disease and Control Prevention from America recommends 75 minutes of aerobic exercise a week, combined with muscle strengthening activities two times a week targeting all major muscle groups.
With all this emphasis on looking like -insert K-Pop idol- and following their crazy diet, I’m certainly concerned for K-Pop, but mostly I’m worried about the future of our children. We don’t want our children to grow up feeling insecure, depressed and obese. Still, these are the wrong messages we are sending to our kids. So, if this is the way it’s going, then my future children will not be listening to K-Pop.
Having difficulty in accessing to the latest Korean Indie music online? Fret not, YouTube is now your resource to the world of K-indie.
After Google launched a dedicated K-pop YouTube channel back in December 2011, it has now finalized agreements with indie producers that aims to promote Korean indie music to international fans and viewers.
The two new YouTube channels are the result of the collaboration between YouTube and the Korean Independent Music Labels Association, and the other site with Mirrorball Music. These sites will feature various contents such as concerts, music videos and interviews by the indie artists.
With the Korea’s leading entertainment agencies such as YG, SM and JYP, having their individual official YouTube channel, this marks a new breakthrough for the lesser popular music genre as it can now look forward to receiving more exposure to fans around the globe.
A spokesman for Google Korea added that the interest in Korean indie music will now be able to grow out of the country easily to all K-pop fans, and that a talented indie artiste may stand good chance to be the next YouTube Star.
Still google-ing to feed your indie dose? People, just youtube, youtube it now.
Watch the latest videos from the respective indie channels below:
INDIE K-POP Official Channel
Mirrorball Music Korea channel
Now that their leader Sun Ye is married, the members of Wonder Girls are focusing on their own solo activities. Wonder Girls’ lead rapper, Yubin, will make her acting debut through OCN’s thriller series The Virus. She will portray the role of the genius hacker Lee Joo Young. Her tough charm and fierce look fits the role that she will be portraying. Park Ho Shik, production director, said that:
“Yubin’s Lee Joo Young is both easy-going and feminine. Yubin’s tomboyish feel and her beauty made her one of the first candidates we were considering for this role.”
A representative from JYPE also agreed that Yubin’s actual image is so much alike of Lee Joo Young. They’ve confirmed that :
“Her character is so much like Yubin’s actual image, so we believe she will be comfortable with the role. Because her first role is a substantial one, she is showing great determination to leave a strong impression to the viewers.”
Alongside Yubin, Eom Ki Joon, Kim Hyun Woo, Park Min Woo and Lee Ki Woo will also star in this ten episodes thriller mystery.
Sources: (News and Photo) – Soompi
2013 is finally here. I hadn’t thought the year 2012 would be over so quickly. A lot has happened, in the real world and the world of Kpop, both good and bad (and sometimes a bit questionable). 2013 is a new year and so a blank slate. A lot can happen in the next 12 months. I myself have created a bucket list and hope to cross off a few more things this year. What will you be doing in the new year? What wishes do you have for the future? Here are my Kpop wishes for 2013:
1. JYJ performs on music shows again/getting the entire story of the rift between DBSK and JYJ
Now that the lawsuit battle with SM Entertainment is finally over, the members of JYJ are free to appear on music shows again. And I must say I’m very anxious and excited to see them perform again. They have had concerts of course – and trust me those were amazing – but it’s still not the same. Performing on music shows is a kind of promotion, which they haven’t had for three years.
And though I loved to see them in dramas and commercials, I am ready for them to take to the stage again and fire it up. (Maybe there will even be a new album in the making). Also a few variety show appearances wouldn’t hurt. I remember the people from Come to Play being enticed by Jaejoong‘s humor, right after their Mirotic comeback.
But what I’m wishing for the most right now, is some kind of recap from the boys themselves about all that has happened during and before the lawsuit. I’m really curious to what caused the rift between the five members of DBSK and why Yunho and Changmin chose to stay with SM. And I’d like to know if that beautiful brotherly bond they all had, will be able to mend now. Seeing how hurt all five of them were about being on opposite sides, I wish for them to heal their wounds and become friends once again. Whether or not that will actually happen, I can’t tell. A lot has happened and a lot of things have been said – and not just by the five involved.
2. Global recognition of Kpop – but not entering the mainstream
Now that Psy has unintentionally but successfully broken through all the different culture barriers in the world and united everyone with his hilarious horse dance in Gangnam Style, people are becoming more interested in Kpop. And that is both a good thing and a bad thing. Good because that means Kpop might become a bit more accepted by the global community, which means no more annoying side-eyes for Kpop fans. Kpop might even get recognition for its perks: no drugs, sex and rock ‘n roll, catchy tunes, and often fun synchronized choreographies.
But with global acceptation and recognition, it will be harder to hide the uglier side of Kpop. The suicide petitions, Black Oceans, sasaeng fans, slave contracts and sometimes ignorant and hurtful remarks by people from the Korean entertainment scene. Think of the instances when Blackface was used quite innocently (at least so it seemed to the Korean population) that got international fans upset and hurt. If the eyes of the world are now tuned to Kpop, Kpop will have to think about the cultures of the world. And that means the Korean public and its entertainers will have to get more educated about the rest of the world.
And let me be honest here: I want global recognition for Kpop, but I don’t want it to become mainstream. It might be a bit selfish of me, of course, but I feel that if Kpop becomes mainstream in the rest of the world, it will lose that special something – that ‘X’ factor if you will – and it will become normal. It’ll be just like liking Beyoncé or Coldplay or Britney Spears. There’s nothing special about that. And let’s not forget that the people who are now interested in Kpop because of Psy will be in for one hell of a shock. Because as Kpop fans know: Psy isn’t Kpop and Kpop certainly isn’t Psy. And people are now led to believe that.
3. 2NE1‘s Minzy finally gets a solo
I’m still waiting for Minzy to have a kick-ass solo single or album. This girl has it all: amazing vocals, good rapping voice, dancing abilities one just has to respect and the attitude of a pro. The maknae of 2NE1 hasn’t gotten as many opportunities to show off her skills as the other girls have and I think that’s a shame. She is very talented and I think she’d do great on her own. I can see her being the new Taeyang or GD&TOP of 2NE1 – if she were to team up with Bom perhaps – and her material would sell like hot cakes. If she were to have a solo project, I’d love for it to be R&B or hiphop. She’s very suited for those genres of music. She could even tackle a mournful ballad without breaking a sweat.
I don’t really care what kind of music it is, as long as Minzy gets a solo project of quality. It’s about time, YG Entertainment! Let the maknae be more than just the maknae.
4. A stop to the enormous rookie group debuts
I know I’m probably not the only one who is getting a bit tired of all these new rookie groups entering the South Korean music market. There seems to be a new amount of them debuting every year! And it just won’t stop. So now I’m saying STOP. Just stop. Enough is enough. Even if I were a very dedicated Kpop idol not wanting to miss out on any new groups, it would just be too much. I could never keep up! Instead of providing Kpop fans with more and more new shiny stuff, how about labels and entertainment companies just let the groups and solo acts they already have on the market establish themselves?
Let the rookies become veterans of the Kpop scene, before debuting another group. Give them a chance. So they might not get the record sales you’d wished for when you put them together. Give them time. If they have actual talent and the will to go on (dramatic turn of phrase, I know) then they will eventually become that stellar group or solo act you were hoping for. Give their fan bases time to grow and time to get to know each member as an individual. This might mean you can’t give them all the same outfits and hair color – B.A.P. I’m looking at you! – and you might have to spend more time letting them be themselves than having them conform to the image you want, but it’ll be for the better.
So please, labels and entertainment companies, give your idols some slack and let them become who they were meant to be in their own time. This way everyone gets what they want. No more rookies. More time to establish themselves. More money. How does that sound?
5. More expanding of idols’ skill sets when it comes to lyrics and composing
I’ve always liked it when artists write and compose their own songs, mainly because I get the feeling I can glimpse into their unconscious. To know how an artists or idol really feels about something, it’s always interesting to listen to the songs they’ve created themselves. And make no mistake: there already are idols who have been writing and composing their own songs, and some have been elevated to ‘artist status’ because of that.
I’m not saying every idol has it in him or her to compose and write masterpieces, that’s absurd. Not everyone is skilled in that area. But some are and I’d like to hear their songs and their thoughts. Taking JYJ as an example, I’ve come to realize that many of the songs th members have written and/or composed themselves are my favourite songs of all time. Think of Pierrot, Nine or In Heaven. Those songs have meaning, because the artists themselves have poured their hearts and souls into them.
Some rookie groups have already gotten the opportunity to present their own work, like Block B and B.A.P. I’d love to see more idols develop their writing and composing skills, if they have any.
6. 2NE1/Miss A collaboration
Doesn’t the picture really say it all? These two groups have always been putting themselves forward to empower women. Though both groups do it in different ways: 2NE1 has developed a more in-your-face kind of style, while Miss A keeps it a bit more sophisticated and ladylike, both groups are very successful in what they do. Whenever I think about female empowerment I think of those two groups (and the Brown Eyed Girls, of course).
JYP and YG would probably have a blast with trying to mix the groups’ styles, not just musically but in terms of wardrobe as well, and the end result would be amazing. All the members of Miss A and 2NE1 are vocally talented (some maybe less than others) and I think they could really make a collaboration work. They might even set a trend of similar groups collaborating!
If it were up to me, I’d have a 2NE1/Miss A collaboration album, filled with all kinds of songs: from up-tempo beats, to electric pop, to soulful ballad and perhaps even a bit of opera. We know Suzy can sing opera, as she showcased in Dream High 1.
7. Less pop, more hip hop and R&B
Now I know it’s called Kpop, but I must say I sometimes miss some nice R&B and hip hop thrown in the mix. It’s out there, of course, but it’s never very much in the limelight. And that’s a shame. Because these two genres have so much to offer, as well as the artists who make the music. Take BIGBANG‘s Taeyang for example, he’s dabbled in those two genres – especially R&B – and look at his international fan base now!
If you are talking to people who aren’t Kpop fans, the one name they might now is Taeyang. Both R&B and hip hop are very popular genres and if tackled right, idols and artists could really put out some amazing and quality work. It might even help establish or build international fan bases, because as a fan of hip hop and R&B before I was one of pop, I can tell you that it doesn’t matter what language it’s in. If the beats makes you want to dance or bounce and if the artists have great timing and rhymes, I’m going to listen to it.
With Tablo under YG right now, it might make hip hop a more popular genre in Korea. YG Entertainment is the go-to-label for all things hip hop (though what BIGBANG and 2NE1 have been putting out isn’t really considered hip hop any more) and they might be able to create some sort of comeback for the hip hop and R&B genres. There are a lot of underground artists; they might want to collaborate and make that happen.
8. SPICA goes big
Say what you want about the last two comebacks of SPICA, you can’t deny that this is one talented group. Every woman in this group has vocal talent and some of them have the most powerful vocals I’ve ever heard in the world of Kpop. Boa, Jiwon, Juhyun, Narae and Bohyung deserve a lot more recognition and praise than they have gotten so far. In my opinion idols need to able to sing and boy, can these ladies sing!
I can see these five young women going places, while kicking ass and taking names. They have it in them to become one of the biggest groups in Korea and if they were managed properly, maybe even of the Eastern hemisphere. Because we all know you don’t have to be able to understand a song to be touched by it. SPICA is very good at bringing out emotions in people, by providing the emotions with their voices. I have not once looked up the lyrics for Painkiller, and I don’t have to. I know what they are singing about, because of the emotions these girls portray.
And that is a very special ability that not just anyone has or can utilize. But the members of SPICA can, and I’d love to see them capture hearts from all over the world with it.
What are your Kpop wishes for the year 2013? Sound off in the comments below!
Sources: Photos – colorguard.org, seoulbeats, all-about-korea18.blogspot.com, confessyourkpop.tumblr.com, allkpop, unfinishedman.com, en.korea.com, cellobello.com, koreaboo; Videos: officialpsy, LOENENT, s3adolphin
K-Pop has become a global phenomenon thanks to the Internet and websites like YouTube, so do K-Pop artists really even need to use mainstream media to promote their songs in the West, and if so, could this tactic harm them in the long run?
Simply put, no. K-Pop doesn’t need to use mainstream media like television appearances to further push themselves into the Western market, because the majority of their fan base is already on the Iinternet, and it’s the Internet and digital distribution that will push them directly into consumers’ pockets in the West. The biggest downside of mainstream media is the price these artists might have to pay to garner a spot on television.
But let’s take a look at the pros and cons for a moment.
The internet, with its Wild West mentality of anything goes, has proven to be a boon for the infectious K-Pop jingles that are pouring out of South Korea. As fast as SM and JYP upload one of their artists’ new songs to YouTube, it spreads like wild fire through the many fan sites, entertainment news and online forums that have sprung up that are specifically geared for the genre and individual artists.
Type in ‘Big Bang fan sites‘ in any search engine and you get a choice of over 36 million results. Yes, you read that number right; 36,000,000. Of course, that’s globally, but even if you search specifically for ‘Big Bang English Fan’ sites, the number still comes in at 946,000. Talk about a marketer’s dream world!
The problem with traditional mainstream media in the West, and more specifically here in The States, is that mainstream marketers have no idea how to package K-Pop artists and sell them to audiences. Couple that with the fact that these bands don’t look like what audiences usually see on mainstream media outlets, and these corporations really have no clue how to handle them properly. Which, let’s be completely honest here, is the goal of these large corporations who own mainstream media networks like NBC or CBS. What’s really in it for them, unless these bands can become a product that is easily recognizable and can be promoted effortlessly on their radio stations nationwide?
In a recent article in The New Yorker, an author remarked on SHINee becoming popular here, “…there is no way that a K-Pop boy band will make it here in the States. The degree of artistic styling is much more Lady Gaga than Justin Bieber. Perhaps there is an audience of ten-to-twelve year old girls who could relate to these guys, but there’s a yawning cultural divide between One Direction, say, and SHINee.”
The major problem with this mentality is that it completely overlooks the subculture that already permeates here. There are fans frothing at the mouth to promote their favorite artists, but mainstream media is slow to catch onto Internet trends. The biggest mistake that this reporter made was assuming that these artists would be catering to prepubescent girls. They seriously have no clue what type of fans these artists enjoy, and this is what I’m afraid will hurt K-Pop if they try to adjust themselves for mainstream media here in The States.
Not only do they risk hurting their already built fan base here, but they also risk altering the artists in a way that creates a hybrid that nobody really wants. Take for instance, Swizz Beatz who has openly talked about collaboration between YG’s Big Bang and Chris Brown, or even one between 2NE1 and Nicki Minaj. In a statement to magazine, The Fader, Swizz Beatz contends that, “[b]ridging the gaps with collaborations can be the start of a global phenomenon.”
Personally, I don’t buy it. I think this approach is dangerous to both artists, because there is a possibility to turn away fans of both sides who don’t want their favorite artist and/or genre mixing. I know I don’t want to see Nicki Minaj anywhere near my K-Pop.
Still, I think the biggest hurdle that K-Pop artists face in mainstream media, and the biggest reason I think they should tell mainstream media to kiss their sparklies, is that the reporters and interviewers, are already biased against them. Yes, I said it. The media, especially Western mainstream media, is biased.
The bias here, though, is that many Western mainstream reporters don’t think that K-Pop stands a chance. They don’t understand the music or the phenomenon, and therefore, they have no clue about the fans themselves, who are really the ones that are spreading K-Pop here. When The New Yorker reporter made the comment above about SHINee, he completely overlooked the adult women who enjoy the music and hip gyrations that come with this genre. His mistake was that he mistook K-Pop as a fad, which I hate to tell him, it is not.
I don’t believe that K-Pop stars need mainstream media for anything other than bragging rights. The fans are already here waiting on the Internet and the artists’ own entertainment companies could very well push the envelope with new online channels directed solely at the fan base here in the West. But if they are concerned about losing potential large scale exposure, then utilize more channels like MNet and devote more channels, both online and off, where content is sub-titled in English and other languages.
US rapper will.i.am with 2NE1 Photo: allkpop
The whole point of mainstream media is to enlarge the fan base, and I believe that there is enough of a momentum toward K-Pop now that mainstream media access isn’t as relevant as it would have been five years ago. There are plenty of online distribution access points, like YouTube and Twitter that have the same power and influence that old mainstream media use to have.
Fans are going to come to see their favorite artists, especially here in the West where it’s hard to get close to our idols, but if record labels and the mainstream media begin to force them to change or alter themselves in order to follow set program standards, then I’d rather see them online.
I don’t mind using social media to converse with them, or rather, get the feeling of conversing, and I firmly believe that social media and the Internet is where the future is for artists–especially international artists.
So K-Pop, embrace those alternative methods of media and please retain yourself and your music, because I really don’t want to wake up confused when I see Nicki Minaj skipping through a music video with Minzy. That would just make my heart bleed.
What are your thoughts? Does K-Pop need mainstream media?