Mirror Mirror (거울아 거울아) by 4Minute (포미닛): Lyrics, Translation, and Explanation

(Source, all screenshots)

For many Korean girl groups, debuting a new song on a music program seems to follow a set script these days:

  • First, it will include some provocative lyrics, choreography, and/or outfits that deliberately push the envelope
  • Then, despite presumably knowing that well in advance, the producers of the program will still allow the song to be performed, only then to disassociate themselves from it and claim shock and surprise at the ensuing reaction
  • Next, those songs will be will be banned from future broadcasts unless changes to the offending parts are made
  • Equally absurdly, the performers themselves or their entertainment companies will claim shock and surprise that people find them sexually suggestive at all
  • Finally, despite those protestations, the groups will have modified versions of the song available to be used suspiciously quickly

It’s really quite a farcical process, and very patronizing to viewers.

Nevertheless, while nobody emerges unblemished from all that, it’s the entertainment companies that I’m most critical of. For rather than actually admitting to the sexuality in their groups’ performances, thereby placing the onus on the music program producers and public to explain just what is it that is so problematic about that exactly, instead they even force their own performers to be complicit in a long-held narrative of female virginity and innocence in K-pop.

Granted, they may lack the clout to challenge terrestrial broadcasters on that point, nor is there much evidence that they possess the feminist motivations to do so. However, even just for financial reasons one would expect more of a challenge to systematic double standards in the Korean music industry, as the various restrictions on girl group performances can often be quite costly.

(Source)

As for how that all recently played out with Mirror Mirror (거울아 거울아) by 4Minute (포미닛), see the links in the list above, while Mixtapes and Liner Notes has more on Rania’s (라니아) performance of Dr. Feel Good (닥터 필 굿) specifically. Two of the three controversial songs that debuted on Music Bank on April the 8th (the other was Do You Know/아나요 by the Brave Girls/브레이브 걸스), unfortunately Mirror Mirror is the only one of them I like enough to listen to – yes, sans eye-candy – on my MP3 player!

Yes, however crass, it does indeed sound like Hyuna is saying “4 minute slut” at the beginning. As for the translation, the vocabulary and grammar were relatively easy for a change, and the song mercifully short and repetitive too. But some unclear breaks between sentences and strange word orders definitely complicated things:

Let’s go

4minutes left 4minutes left Ah! Ah!

4minutes left 4minutes left Ah! Ah!

대체 왜 그땐 날 거들떠 보지 않고

매일 날 그대만 바라보게 만들고

오늘은 좀더 예쁘게 나 나 나 날 (오늘도)

보여줘 너무 멋진 너 너 너 너 너에게

거울아 거울아 이 세상에 누가 제일 예쁘니?

거울아 거울아 이 세상에 내가 제일 예쁘니?

오늘만은 내가 제일 예쁘다고 말해줘 봐

Let’s go

4minutes left 4minutes left Ah! Ah!

4minutes left 4minutes left Ah! Ah!

Why on Earth didn’t you notice me back then?

Everyday, you made me gaze only at you

Today, show me me me me a little more prettily  (today too)

To very cool you you you you

Hey Mirror, hey Mirror, who is the prettiest in the world?

Hey Mirror, hey Mirror, am I the prettiest in the world?

Just for today, please try saying I’m the prettiest

Here, “대체” is short for “도대체” (on Earth), and a new one for me was “거들떠보다” (not even notice/look). Otherwise:

  • the “바라보게 만들다” in line 4 is a long causative, which there’s a lot of in this song (see p. 368 of Korean Grammar for International Learners [KGIL] for more information)
  • See Seamus Walsh’s comment here for more on the “니” ending in lines 7 and 8
  • And of course the last line is some simple indirect speech. Although it’s awkward in English, I include a “try” in it (and similar sentences in later verses) because technically, “보다” added to a verb stem does indeed mean “try to do [the verb]“

All basic stuff by this, my twelfth song translation for the blog. But lines 3 and 4 were a bit of a stumbling block until my wife pointed out that actually a break falls between “오늘은 좀더 예쁘게 나 나 나 날 (오늘도) 보여줘” and “너무 멋진 너 너 너 너 너에게”.

너를 생각하면 더 거울에 비친 내 모습은 마치

너무 예쁜데 너는 자꾸 왜 다른 생각만 하는지

왜 날 보지 않는건데

내 거울아 (거울아 거울아 거울아 거울아)

거울아 (거울아 거울아 거울아 거울아)

내 거울아 (거울아 거울아 거울아 거울아)

거울아 (거울아 거울아 거울아 거울아)

It’s as if my reflection becomes prettier the more I think of you

Why do you frequently think differently?

Why do you not look at me?

My mirror (Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror)

Hey Mirror (Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror)

My mirror (Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror)

Hey Mirror (Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror)

Again, Lines 1 & 2 become much easier if you know there’s a break between “너를 생각하면 더 거울에 비친 내 모습은 마치 너무 예쁜데” and “너는 자꾸 왜 다른 생각만 하는지”, but this time the location of the “더” complicates things even further. Ideally, it should be placed before the “예쁜데” in line 2.

Update: With thanks to J.Goard for pointing out it, actually that pattern is perfectly acceptable in Korean, and quite common.

대체 왜 언제나 본 체 만 체만 하고

매일 밤 너는 날 가슴 뛰게 만들어

언제나 너무 멋진 너 너 너 너 너

내게로 다가오게 더 더 더 더 더 Ma boy

거울아 거울아 이 세상에 누가 제일 예쁘니?

거울아 거울아 이 세상에 내가 제일 예쁘니?

처음부터 마음에 들었다고 내게 말해줘 봐

Why on Earth do you always pretend not to see me, and

make my heart pound every night?

Always so cool you you you you you

Come more more more more and more closer to me Ma boy

Hey Mirror, hey Mirror, who is the prettiest in the world?

Hey Mirror, hey Mirror, am I the prettiest in the world?

Please try to say that from the beginning, I was the one for you

And here, again there’s a long causative in line 2 – “가슴 뛰게 만들어” – but the “날” before that (me [object]) is I think ungrammatical, and it should really say “내” (my) instead. Before that, the phrase “본 체 만 체” (pretend not to see; show indifference to; slight) was a new one on me, and it didn’t help that I forgot that “[verb] + (으)ㄴ/는 체하다” was the same as “[verb] + (으)ㄴ/는 척하다” (to pretend to [verb])”! (see p. 58 of KGIL)

Next, it’s just the chorus again.

너를 생각하면 더 거울에 비친 내 모습은 마치

너무 예쁜데 너는 자꾸 왜 다른 생각만 하는지

왜 날 보지 않는건데 예~

내 거울아 (거울아 거울아 거울아 거울아)

거울아 (거울아 거울아 거울아 거울아)

내 거울아 (거울아 거울아 거울아 거울아)

거울아 (거울아 거울아 거울아 거울아)

It’s as if my reflection becomes prettier the more I think of you

Why do you frequently think differently?

Why do you not look at me?

My mirror (Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror)

Hey Mirror (Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror)

My mirror (Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror)

Hey Mirror (Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror)

Oh mirror shine Let me fix my make up

Break it down Break it down

Baby I like that Baby baby just I like that

Baby I like that Baby baby just I like that

더 더 더 내게 빠져들어

Shine on my face 모두 놀라지 Oh

거울아 거울아 이 세상에서 누가 제일 예쁘니? It’s me

Oh mirror shine Let me fix my make up

Break it down Break it down

Baby I like that Baby baby just I like that

Baby I like that Baby baby just I like that

Become fallen into me more more more

Shine on my face everybody surprised Oh

Hey Mirror, hey Mirror, who is the prettiest in the world? It’s me

In line 5, I was confused by how “빠져들어” is different to “빠지다” (to fall into/for), and the best explanation my wife could provide was that it means “become fallen for”. Which is just fine with me, but it does sound a little awkward.  Can anybody do any better?

Update: With thanks again to J.Goard, see here for a much fuller description of how they’re different exactly.

And suddenly it’s already the last verse:

좀더 너에게 다가가서 난 1,2 step 1,2 step 1,2 step

Let’s live it up Let’s make it up

나를 보면 니 마음 흔들릴수 있게

내 거울아 (거울아 거울아 거울아 거울아)

거울아 (거울아 거울아 거울아 거울아)

내 거울아 (거울아 거울아 거울아 거울아)

거울아 (거울아 거울아 거울아 거울아)

거울아 거울아 거울아 거울아

I’ll come a little closer to you, I 1,2 step 1,2 step 1,2 step

Let’s live it up Let’s make it up

If you see me I can make your heart shake

My mirror (Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror)

Hey Mirror (Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror)

My mirror (Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror)

Hey Mirror (Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror Hey Mirror)

And on that note, here is an alternate translation by Chris @4-minute.com, which you can use to follow-along with the video:

As you can see, fortunately our versions seem pretty much the same, although his(?) sounds rather better because he hasn’t been quite so literal with his choice of words!

Meanwhile, apologies to any readers that may have been expecting a promised(?) translation of Can’t Nobody by 2NE1 (투애니원) instead today, but unfortunately my finally getting tired of that after listening to it for probably the 100th time(!) coincided with me getting heavily into this one, and besides which I wanted to do something more recent for a change. Having said that, next I’ll actually be doing the 2005 song Girls on Top by BoA (보아), because a reader sent me the following intriguing email:

…I have been following your girl group lyric translations but there’s one song I am really curious about, mostly because I’d like to know if it’s as overtly feminist as I suspect it is. The song would be Boa’s “Girls on Top”…

…It’s not only the gold lamé and skull ring that’s tough but the part at the end where she fake kicks her male dancers into submission in a Take Back the Night inspired bit of of pop choreography. I know you’re focusing mostly on girl groups, but I think this one’s interesting in the context of K-pop because it seems to fall outside the two ever present concepts of “sexy” and “cute.” I have tried to find the lyrics in English but most of them are poorly done. What I’ve gleaned so far is that she may be talking about the myriad conflicting expectations a modern girl must fulfill and might even be bemoaning the constant pressure to embody male views of sexiness (!). Or it could be a girl power-lite anthem conceived by greedy business men; but either way I’d like to hear your views.

Until then, I hope you a good weekend, and as always I’d appreciate any feedback on the translation and/or your thoughts on the song!^^

Update: I’ve just found these profiles of the group members on korean lovers photoblog, and thought they might be useful for future reference:

(For more Korean song translations, please see here)

40 thoughts on “Mirror Mirror (거울아 거울아) by 4Minute (포미닛): Lyrics, Translation, and Explanation

  1. Idols are programmed to not complain about things, be it censorship or other struggles, but Hyuna did let this slip last year and I might have quoted it before:

    “I think as a singer, one should be able to pull off various types of stage outfits. On the international stage, outfits and costumes are just a part of a performance, but it is sad that in South Korea where the culture is more conservative, outfits like these become controversial.”

    I’ve always liked 4Minute’s lyrics, although my reasoning does not apply to this song. In all their big singles — Hot Issue, Muzik, I My Me Mine, HuH and even Hyuna’s solo song ‘Change’ they’ve avoided singing about men or relationships at all – it’s all self-empowerment or losing oneself in the music. It was sort of their thing, until this tune, which still isn’t that much about a man, admittedly.

    • Thanks for passing that on, and sorry if you did mention it somewhere earlier but I forgot about it. Regardless, of course I’ll have to find out more about Hyuna to see how genuine her statement is, but I’ll try to keep an open mind.

      I’d have to admit to having my doubts though, because I strongly disagree that 4Minute’s lyrics are all about self-empowerment. While I don’t think I’ve seen Muzik, and haven’t looked closely at Change, those to Hot Issue at least urge fans to follow their example on the one hand, yet proclaim that any fans that do will still never be good enough to dethrone them on the other. Moreover, in that song and also I My Me Mine and HuH, while I agree that there is certainly talk of freedom, being in control, and acting 내 마음대로 and so on, if you look closely the picture of freedom their presenting is rather narrow: in short, simply to be hot and sexy, and/or to have equal access in competing with one another in Korea’s beauty – and consequently consumerist – ideals. On top of that, while men might not be mentioned in the lyrics, their music videos do often have them performing in front of large groups of men, who implicitly confer their approval of this message.

      Sorry to come down so hard on your comment(!), but, well, that’s how I personally feel about 4Minute, and so of course I think Mirror Mirror is very much in the same narcissistic vein as their previous songs.

      • Oh a difference of opinion is just fine of course.

        “if you look closely the picture of freedom their presenting is rather narrow: in short, simply to be hot and sexy, and/or to have equal access in competing with one another in Korea’s beauty – and consequently consumerist – ideals”

        Where do you find this picture, though? Any specific examples of this? I don’t see it. It’s ignorant of how youth culture to claim that a pride in “the way I apply my lipstick” or “shoes I wear” is not a very real way of forming an identity – anywhere, in any society, regardless of ideals.

        As for the narcissistic boasting, I was reminded of a quote by a history professor about hip-hop:

        “The reason why braggadocio and boast is
        so central to the history of hip-hop is because you’re dealing with the history of black
        men in America. And there’s a whole lineage of black men wanting to deny their own
        frailty. In some ways you have to do that… like a psychic armor.”

        No doubt some of the same apply to women. In particular, where my interests lie, female hip-hop MCs, some explicitly feminist, co-opt the braggadocio images originally exclusive to male rappers and find a new power through that.

        As for performing in front of men, I looked back on the videos. None in ‘Hot Issue’, none in ‘Muzik’ back-up dancers in ‘I My Me Mine’, in HuH – labelmates from Cube Ent to prop up their hip-hop cred, some random men mixed together with other girls in the same crowd. I think it’s a bit much to demand total segregation of sexes in music videos!

        • @abcfsk

          “It’s ignorant of how youth culture to claim that a pride in “the way I apply my lipstick” or “shoes I wear” is not a very real way of forming an identity – anywhere, in any society, regardless of ideals.”

          it seems like a very weak form of self-empowerment to be dependent on material goods and outward appearances for identity. Outward appearances can help one identify themselves, but that can also put pressure on youth to dress a certain way – most times to conform to the mainstream, consumerist image of what’s “in”. and that can manifest itself as discrimination against others because they aren’t wearing a certain brand of clothing or style of shoes. i think 4minute’s lyrics about their own beauty, talent and clothing can be both empowering and discriminating. maybe because i’m no longer a “youth” per se (I’m 22) but when I hear lyrics like that, such as in American artist Keri Hilson’s recent song “Pretty Girl Rock” –

          – I can’t help but think about the stacks of money that help her keep up her appearance, and I don’t find it empowering at all – just vain. (the video however, which pays homage to various black female entertainers, i do like).

          (James: edited ever so slightly to embed the video)

          • Well as for 4Minute it’s not “the maybelline lipstick I wear”, but “the way I put on my lipstick” – it’s not about brands, but a style, a personal swagger.

            Not that I mind songs that namedrop brands or cash stacks as status symbols either. Mostly because so many great songs with so much great poetry have centered around that.

            Doesn’t really matter whether you or I find it “a very weak form of self-empowerment” either, it comes from a real place – if you know kids, youth, it’s reporting how their lives are, for real, not some idealized utopia where symbols don’t matter. Pop songs aren’t motivational speeches – the lyrics should capture some aspect of life that rings true, not a world of flowers and rainbow. Lennon’s “Imagine” is after all a very sympathetic idea and a trite travesty of a pop song.

            • Thanks for the comments guys. I’m a bit busy with another post at the moment (translating this if anyone’s curious), but I’ll make sure to refresh my memory of 4minute’s songs and music videos, and will get back to you later in the week.

            • personal swagger i can get with :) if i have the time, i’ll definitely look at 4minute’s lyrics and see where that comes up. it’ll be interesting to see what the breakdown of k-pop audiences. apparently, the music is marketed to an older audience (that actually holds the purse strings which pay for CDs, concert tickets, fan club membership, etc). but who actually listens to it? and can identify with this self-empowerment we speak of? Are 4minute fans mostly older men, like most other k-pop girl groups? or are they similar-aged/younger women/girls?

              • I think the fan base for almost any pop star in Korea consists of mostly girls. Even for SNSD, although they’ve always been sold as a male-baiting group in Korea… when they landed in Japan 80% of the audience were girls. The exception may be the icky sweet, fetish-like groups such as Orange Caramel- at least girls SEEM to be more vocal fans of ones that are a bit ‘tough’.

                Certainly the 4Minute fan shouts are girly

                This doesn’t exactly count as PROOF, but it is an indication of who k-pop fans are — the voter breakdown for the Mnet Awards 2010: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_SwhFimWYrQU/TMp7Xa5bkfI/AAAAAAAAAC8/90v1-23hqY4/s1600/Best+Female+Group.png

                  • I’ve had a lot of stuff on the last few days so am slow to enter here, but there are a lot of important points raised to engage with esp. from ABCFSK. First of all, thanks for the stats from the voting: interesting material there, and although the differences are subtle, it does seem clear that 2NE1’s fan base is the youngest and the most female. I’ve often felt that the estimation of the male fan base of K-pop within Korea has been overestimated but it still remains hard to tell, and at least the entertainment companies themselves have professed that the main fan base of SNSd is male and were very surprised by what happened in Japan Even the stats here have to be used with caution as they really tell us about those who’d be inclined to participate in voting for the MNET awards, which is different from determining the fan base (which is itself something that I’ve come to the conclusion is pretty much impossible to quantify, even though we need to make some attempt at headway here—what level of participation/enjoyment is needed before one actually counts as a fan?)

                    On 4Minute more generally, I take your point fully that if they want to assert identity formation through certain consumer choices—the careless way they put on lipstick or the shoes they wear—well, that’s fine and “real.” I try not to get too hung up on issues of authenticity in my enjoyment of pop music if I feel like I’m getting the voice of the artist. My issue with 4Minute, however, would be the extent to which those lyrics are their own or simply the marketing experimentation of their managers at any given moment. I don’t know who writes their lyrics. Do they have any input? (This is a genuine question on my part, not rhetorical). If you look at their evolution over their career, though, they seem to me to be being pushed towards whatever trend looks as though it may sell best at any given moment. Have you seen the video for the early “What a Girl Wants”?

                    It’s almost hard to believe it’s the same group—might as well be early SNSD or something. And both Heart to Heart and Mirror, Mirror seem to show a real turn away from Huh, I My Me Mine and Hot Issue as well.

                    I’m inclined to agree with James, though, that the lyrics of these latter songs are offering a pretty dubious form of empowerment for their fans: In “Hot Issue” their swagger reduces fans to wannabe status and they still are promoting the usual standards of contemporary Korean beauty based on thinness: “my waist is more slender than yours/I’ve got long, slim legs.” And maybe it’s just me, but I’d find it hard to think of a more narcissistic title than “I My Me Mine”. You’re right that the male validating presence isn’t always there—just present in a couple of places.

                    If I really thought that the members of 4Minute were consciously controlling all of these image changes (and I’m very, very happy to be shown evidence that that is so), then I’d find it easier to applaud it all, but I’m still inclined to think that these are managerial decisions.

                    But while I’m here I’ll note that I think that Heart to Heart is a pretty darn catchy tune, and that the section of “Mirror, Mirror” that begins 너를 생각하면… before the chorus is one of the best little melodic portions I’ve heard in any K-pop, full stop. Really good stuff.

                    • I guess I’m just a fan of narcissism in my pop stars.

                      I don’t think the “the male validating presence” is there at all. Are you saying men can’t be a part of a group of people in girl group videos without them being a ‘validating presence’?

                      The guy who’s produced most of 4Minute’s records is Shinsadong Tiger, an artist who just released a new single himself. The Korea Music Copyright Association’s site only gives me one 4Minute song where any of the members are credited for lyrics (Jihyun for ‘For Muzik’). The lyrics are otherwise credited to S.Tiger and a host of others I don’t know.

                      Image otherwise – we know from accounts that stylists, choreographers (sometimes from outside the company or even country**) work with the artists with a pretty great degree of freedom forming their identities. Behind the scenes footage suggest as much; like footage of 2NE1 out shopping, picking outfits and accessories themselves. I don’t know how Cube does it, I assume there’s a dialogue going on*. 4Minute aren’t singer/songwriters – yet, anyway- and we can’t really say if their style is their own, except choose to trust what they say about inhabiting these roles or not. That’s a returning question, right? With Britney now going through the motions in her videos, there’s that doubt that she really lives for this pop star life.

                      *Ofc there are cases when there isn’t – and that leads to clashes like Kara’s lawsuit against DSP.

                      **an excuse to post a video of Rino Nakasone, the awesome dancer who choreographs SM Ent artists:

                  • Completely disagree (update: with abcfsk, not dogdyedblack!). Just because 80% of their Japanese fans are girls doesn’t mean that 80% of their Korean fans are, and indeed their unusually large female fan-base in Japan wouldn’t have been highlighted by the Korean media (see here, here, and here) if that was just the same as here. Also, in this video from last year (discussed here and here) YG Entertainment executive Jinu Kim stressed that 2NE1 was different to normal girl groups because as many as 70% of their fans were female, and presumably he’d know more about such things more than most:

                    I do admit that the voter breakdowns for the Mnet Awards 2010 that you passed on contradicts that though, and for that reason they certainly need to be examined more closely…which in turn raises the crucial question of what exactly is meant by a “fan” exactly. I personally think that while there’d be many more male than female fans of girl groups in Korea (there certainly is among my university students), they’d be much less fanatical than female fans. After all, I – and I’d wager most guys – like Girls’ Generation simply because their songs are okay and I’d like to have sex with (most of) the members, which would probably be sufficient motivation for me to buy their CD and attend one of their concerts if I was much younger. This is a minimalist definition of a fan for sure, but I think it would still qualify me as a fan nonetheless, and that this is what is usually meant when it’s said that most of their fans are male. But – now that you’ve got me thinking about fandom – then I think there may be different public perceptions of what constitutes “true” fandom depending on the genders of the fans and the singers themselves, and that standards for female fans of girl groups are higher than what they are for male fans (and vice versa) . Unlike female fans, obviously I can’t dress like SNSD for instance, and certainly don’t subconsciously or deliberately see them as a role model, and/or want to use various skin creams simply because they’re endorsing them, and so on. But if I was a woman and loudly proclaimed myself to be fan, then what excuse would I have not to?

                    As for female fans seeming to be the most vocal…well, they do have higher-pitched voices, yes?^^ But more seriously, it was interesting seeing this video of a Girls’ Generation concert in Beijing recently, about which the China Smack blog – which I hear does this sort of thing all the time – laughs at an enthusiastic male fan in the audience, and insinuates that he’s making sexual noises and/or is so excited that he’s ejaculating…whereas he’s really just enjoying the show and reacting as any female fan would, and for which they wouldn’t be made fun of.

                    Anyway, thanks for the comment: like I said, it raises interesting questions of what we mean by a fan exactly. And I probably – but don’t mean to – sound dismissive of the voter breakdowns you passed on (I changed my mind about the topic a lot as I wrote the comment!): for the reasons I explain, I do think female fans of girl groups are more likely to be motivated to vote for their (literal) idols than male fans are, but I can’t dismiss the low numbers of men voting simply on that very subjective basis. Maybe girl groups do indeed have more female fans in Korea than everyone previously thought, including myself!

                    • Hmmm… I think what I most curious about with regards to this matter is: are people listening to the lyrics of these songs? if so, what do they think about them? and do their opinions of the lyrics affect their choices to watch these performers on television, purchase their albums or go to their concerts?

                      with regards to gender and age breakdowns of k-pop fans: all k-pop groups have fanclubs for which you have to pay a membership fee to join. They also have online fan cafes at Daum – these could be places to get some of this information, as information about appearances and fan events will likely be posted here, so anyone interested enough would be a member of one or the other or both. also actual consumer sales figures, but i assume those would be harder to come by – with all the ruckus recently about management companies buying back albums of girl groups to push them up the rankings i assume sales breakdowns aren’t readily available to the public. also because i think most companies looking for this sort of information would do so in the form of surveys, not by recording the age and gender of buyers at the time of the purchase. though in this day and age, i wouldn’t be surprised if they do just that…

                      also, James, interesting that you mention the male vs. female fan thing. do you think there’s a difference simply because female fans are of the same gender as girl groups and males are not? or are there other reasons? i would like to think that male and female fans would have the same “requirements” – male fans buying chicken endorsed by SNSD and female fans buying clothes or face creams….

                      …but then the point of using, for example, Yoona in an Innisfree CF isn’t necessarily to make her female fans buy the product, right? you often say that “beautiful people holding a bottle” is the essence of Korean advertising, but if that’s the case how come the popularity of a celebrity and the number of CF filming offers they get are so often correlated? apologies if you’ve answered this elsewhere and i just haven’t read your blog thoroughly enough…

                    • Just about to hit the sack Mellowyel sorry, but just a quick note to say you’ve got a point about the (possible) gender differences I discuss – I was really just thinking off the top of my head, and clearly need to think about them a little more! I’ll get back to you tomorrow night on Thursday whenever I can.

                    • Sorry for my constant delays: have been writing one of those posts that got much much bigger as I wrote it. Hopefully once it’s finally up tomorrow then a) all will be forgiven^^ and b) I’ll be able to reply properly to comments!

                    • First up, sorry again for the long delay Mellowyel: just one of those weeks. And unfortunately, despite that in the end I can’t really think of all that much to say I’m afraid!

                      About the lyrics, your guess is as good as mine as to if people are actually listening to them or not, and how those lyrics affect their fandom and/or consumer choices. I can say, though, that when we translate them my wife too often struggles with trying to figure out what the hell the lyrics mean, even though she’s a native speaker. So, just like how English speakers can sometimes struggle with the lyrics to English songs, I think sometimes they go over people’s heads unless they’re really concentrating on them and/or take time to look them up.

                      As for the male vs female fandom thing, in hindsight it’s certainly a lot more complicated than I thought (as you and other commenters have made me realize), but I guess I do still think that female fans of girl groups have a greater capacity for fandom than male fans, and vice versa, just by dint of having more opportunities to wear and/or use the products that they endorse (ie., women can buy the clothes and face creams and the chicken!). Having said that, I still think that in most societies – even Japan – female fandom is more socially acceptable than male fandom, and especially when the group involved is of the opposite gender. Teenage girls and then women being avid fans of male bands is considered fine and normal, whereas men who are fans of female bands are considered a little creepy (although perhaps it’s okay for teenage boys).

                      (Update: Oops, only just noticed that aec said much the same thing below)

                      Please, by all means point out where I’m wrong and/or way overgeneralizing etc., I’m just thinking out aloud on this sleepy Sunday night here! But finally, and sorry, frankly I really don’t understand your last points at all, as “the popularity of a celebrity and the number of CF filming offers they get…so often [being] correlated” doesn’t at all contradict “‘beautiful people holding a bottle’ [being] the essence of Korean advertising”, but rather reaffirms it (the “beautiful people” term means celebrities really). And sure, the point of “Yoona [being] in an Innisfree CF isn’t necessarily to make her female fans buy the product”, and rather it’s because she is one such celebrity, judged to have a wide appeal to the public…but I don’t really know how that at all relates to the previous points about fandom sorry.

  2. In the chorus, I think it should be

    “Hey Mirror, hey Mirror, who is the prettiest in the world?
    Hey Mirror, hey Mirror, *am I* the prettiest in the world?”

    rather than repeating the line twice.

  3. Of course “hey mirror, hey mirror, who is the prettiest in the world” is an allusion to Snow White’s “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?” You could copy the Snow White wording a bit more closely, if you cared to.

    It seems to me that the thrust of 대체 왜 언제나 본 체 만 체만 하고 is that I can’t really tell if you saw me (본 체) or you didn’t see me (만 체), that’s all you do (~만 하고)

    • Thanks, and I agree that changing the lyrics to match what is said in Snow White is the most poetic and appropriate in English. But, alas, there’s no “on the wall” in the Korean version, so however inelegant I think it should be kept as it is (at least for the sake of learning and understanding the original Korean).

      I don’t agree with our translation of “대체 왜 언제나 본 체 만 체만 하고” though sorry, as it lacks the “Why on Earth” nuance given by the “(도)대체” at the beginning.

  4. In line 5, I was confused by how “빠져들어” is different to “빠지다” (to fall into/for), and the best explanation my wife could provide was that it means “become fallen for”. Which is just fine with me, but it does sound a little awkward. Can anybody do any better?

    That makes sense. 들다 “enter” as an auxiliary is metaphorically emphasizing the resulting state. I think it’s pretty clear that “become” (or more colloquial “get”) doesn’t work so well in English because “fall” focuses on action and path, whereas 빠지다 is more connected with change of state (see its range of meanings related to sinking). The cases where English does use “fall” for a change of state are with “into”, not “in” — fall into debt/a coma/a life of crime — and 빠지다/빠쪄들다 seems to cover these meanings as well. So, for your translation, you might consider ditching the conventional “fall for” and going with “fall into me”…

    And here, again there’s a long causative in line 2 – “가슴 뛰게 만들어” – but the “날” before that (me [object]) is I think ungrammatical, and it should really say “내” (my) instead.

    No, I think this pattern of an affected (inalienable) possessor in the accusative is normal in Korean. Google reveals a lot of examples just like the one in the song, as well as examples like this gem…

    인생을 경험이 뭔상관. 여자들 가슴 만지겠지…

    Where English can also make the possessor a direct object: touch a woman on the breasts.

  5. Examples that actually have the accusative marker (doh):

    날 심장뛰게 하는 사람

    자유 치킨얘기는 왜 꺼내서 날 배고프게 만든겨

  6. The guy definitely manage to out-shout girls if they’re there – take a look at some early Orange Caramel live recordings!

    I’m absolutely open to the idea that SNSD have more male fans than female in Korea, but not because of how Korean media react to Japanese demographics: Korean media often report erroneously on k-pop or stars, they make assumptions out of thin air and generally create their own version of the truth: And indeed my argument was that the image of SNSD as a male fans’ group is created partly by the media: Perhaps there were statements from SM at the beginning, and some truth to it, but by now it’s just repeated ad infinitum in the media that they “make men go crazy”, as a sort of general introduction, and the result is an exaggerated image.

    Mr YG is of course participating in a PR game himself — everyone tries to make their group out to have their own image, and there’s an obsession with ‘concepts’ in Korean pop.. he’s found a catchphrase for 2NE1. Now 2NE1 probably does have more female fans (percentage-wise) than SNSD, but but I do not accept that having a majority of female fans is unique for 2NE1. I’m pretty damn convinced of the opposite, until someone gives me real numbers pointing out the opposite.

    What constitutes a ‘fan’ is interesting, yeah. We have no real way of knowing how many casual fans are out there. We can look at the fan cafes and the voting and the surveys, and assume this ithe core fan base- the enthusiasts. What strikes me is that in Korea pop music is more openly enjoyed by a larger age group – and perhaps the more adult, the more male girl group fans / female boy band fans? There’s a whole ‘nother chapter to discuss here, one that goes beyond this and to the music industry in Korea. Among the top 20 biggest markets in the world Korea is the only one with more profit from digital sales than album sales. Albums have become limited to merchandise bought by the most zealous idol group fans, while the digital rankings more accurately depict the mainstream. It would be amazing if Gaon released stats on who bought what, digitally.

    I’ve tried my damndest to find the latest fancafe rankings with full stats – there are plenty that just list the clubs and visitors, but these nice ones give us a breakdown of who the visitors are: http://cfile225.uf.daum.net/image/123B1F234BF1109504F64E <– random one from 2010, which is the only year that shows up with this amount of info. More confusingly, the percentages fluctualte wildly from week to week.

      • Sorry about the comment location: WordPress.com only allows a maximum of 10 nested comments (but it makes sense with everything scrunching up towards the right).

        As for the comment itself, dogdyedblack has more than covered anything I could say in reply, so I’ll confine myself to saying thanks very much for all the information you’ve passed on and interesting issues you raise!

    • To jump in on the male vs female fan debate, I think SNSD has a lot of appeal to the general public (including teenage girls), which explains their great success on digital sales, but also a rabid core fan base that are willing to buy their albums, which ensures their relative success in the shrinking market for physical albums in Korea. That core fan base is probably mostly male, but there are a lot of females invested in them that don’t get mentioned, for instance Elle magazine recently featuring them on nine different covers, a move which I’m sure they wouldn’t do unless they knew their female audience had interest in the band. I think that interest probably lies in enjoying their music and desiring to emulate their fashion and makeup; ie enough to spend money on a magazine featuring them or their single, but nothing beyond that.

      But I think the particularly passionate fandom that exists in Kpop (and leads to sasaeng fans, letters written in one’s own menstruation blood and other delights) relies simply on really, really wanting to have sex with an idol, and the music and lyrics are just adornments. So I would assume that the core fan base, who is willing to seek out SNSD’s album and pay for concert tickets even though they can see easily see them on a gayo show, would constitute hormonally driven males (excuse my heteronormative-ness as I don’t know how the gay community in Korea and Kpop intercept– although I have often wondered if SHINee were secretly created with them in mind).

      To sum up, it’s quite clear that SNSD sell so well digitally and attract so much media attention that surely people besides ahjussi have to be interested in them, although whether that interest extends to being a paying fan club member is unclear. I think this rule extends to all Kpop: that girl groups will always have a smaller fan base yet appeal more to the general public, while with boy groups it’s the opposite, as exemplified by boy groups having higher album sales and lower digital sales than their female counterparts. This makes sense when you think of it, as it’s not quite acceptable for males to have an even passing interest in male idols, yet no one would bat an eyelash at a teenaged girl having 4minute or T-ara on her iPod even if she isn’t the typically imagined audience for either band.

      Further, the fact that TVXQ have a 700,000+ fan club that has barely dwindled even after the wankfest the band has descended into, while SNSD have half that as one of the most successful girl bands ever to hit Korea, lies in cultural conditioning. Girls are much more likely than boys to sacrifice significant amounts of time, money, and love to people they have never met. Women are taught from a young age that the way to fulfilment for them is through love and nurturing others, and that they will remain naggingly un-whole until they find Prince Charming, the ideals of which are perfectly realized in almost every male idol ever to grace Korean televisions executing slick dance moves in skinny jeans.

      One final thing– as the reader who requested the ‘Girls on Top’ translation, was Boa aimed at older men when she hit the scene? She seemed like she ticked most boxes for a “Korea’s little sister” type: young, pretty, tummy baring, etc, although I’ve never heard her explicitly referred to as such.

      • About to fall asleep sorry, so to compensate for taking so long to (not) reply, I’m emailing you “Playing the Race and Sexuality Cards in the Transnational Pop Game: Korean Music Videos for the US Market” by EunYoung Jung, from the Journal of Popular Music Studies, Volume 22, Issue 2, Pages 219-236 (June 2010). I was planning to refer to it a lot when I did the translation, so if it doesn’t answer your question then I’ll be very surprised!

        Anybody else that would like a copy, please just let me know.

      • “So I would assume that the core fan base, who is willing to seek out SNSD’s album and pay for concert tickets even though they can see easily see them on a gayo show, would constitute hormonally driven males (excuse my heteronormative-ness as I don’t know how the gay community in Korea and Kpop intercept– although I have often wondered if SHINee were secretly created with them in mind).”

        I find it funny that you have to single out SHINee – is it because they apparently conform to the mentality of what gay people should represent? Admittedly flamboyant clothing and skinny jeans? I cannot really understand this assumption, especially considering that I don’t see how a company like SM Entertainment would ever deliberately create concepts to market to a “gay audience” within South Korea, when it is still debatable what this minority group’s position in society is. I’m just being a little nitpicky.

  7. @James

    lol don’t worry, you’re making sense – though it seems I wasn’t when i wrote the last point in my previous comment. I was trying to figure out whether Korean advertising by using celebrities in their ads targets people who are “fans” of the celebrities specifically, or just use a familiar face with popular appeal, which both you and aec have pretty much clarified for me. Thanks to you both!

    And if you don’t mind, I’m interested in that article by EunYoung Jung too – please send me a copy as well!

  8. This is definitely a solid article. I dug it a lot.

    I’ve been thinking about the male vs. female fanbases around K-pop groups too. As a person living in Seoul, it is quite shocking that many male fans like their favorite female groups, such as SNSD or T-ara, just for the fantasy of having sex with them. It’s distributing, but at the same time, I definitely believe it.

    Many of the K-pop groups, from personal experience, feel they have at least a 80% female fanbase. At the recent Inkigayo and Music Bank shows I attended, I felt I was one of only 10 guys in an audience made up of 300 or so screaming teenage girls in each show. I would have to say this trend stands because of what many posters said before: that it’s acceptable to be a teenage girl and like your favorite female or male band. Yet, if you’re a teenage guy and you like girly groups, it looks weird.

    I wanted to ask: do you know the most popular Korean boy band with the most male fans? I would guess it would be BigBang or DBSK, but this is pure speculation.

    Also, if you still have that article by Eun Young Jung, I would definitely like to take a look at that. Thanks!

    • Thanks for the comment, but I don’t know who is the most popular Korean boy band sorry (although how would you define “most popular”?). But I can send the article at least, and will do that now!

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