What did Depraved Oppas do to Girls’ Generation? Part 2

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This translation of part of this Korean article follows directly from Part 1. If you haven’t already, please read that for the background:

An ‘Oppa Industry’ Founded on Powerless, Frustrated Men’s Desire / 무기력한 남자의 욕망에 기초한 ‘오빠 산업’

‘오빠’ 노래가 최근 처음 등장한 건 아니다. 하지만 여자 가수들이 약속이나 한 듯 동시에 ‘오빠’를 불러대는 모습은 과거에도 보기 드문 장면이었다. 대체 어떤 연유로 ‘오빠 강풍’이 불기 시작했을까?

This is not the first time that there have been Oppa songs. But, just as you’d expect, it was rare to find female singers [actually?] saying the word in past songs. [So] what on Earth was the origin of this Oppa Craze?

물론 ‘오빠’ 소리를 듣고 싶은 남자들이 많기 때문일 것이다. 걸그룹에 열광하는 남자팬들의 다수가 연애조차 하기 힘든 비정규직 세대라는 점을 기억할 필요가 있다. 이들이 걸그룹에 환호하는 이유는 소위 ‘초식남’이 만화주인공과 사랑에 빠지는 이유와 비슷하다. 그들에게 걸그룹은 ‘망가걸’의 실사판인 셈이다.

Of course, the reason is that there are many men that want to be called “Oppa”. We need to remember that the majority of enthusiastic male fans of girl-groups are a generation of men who work hard at irregular, [dead-end] jobs, and [so?] have difficulty even getting a date. The reason they cheer girl-groups is similar to the reason so-called “Herbivore Men” fall in love with the main characters in manhwa comic books: to them, girl groups members are like real-life versions of “Manga Girls”.

James: jumping ahead to a point I’ll make again in the conclusion, things like this mean we should be very wary of such sweeping statements about the demographics of K-pop fans, not least those made by myself. But I do find Kang’s arguments compelling overall.

한국 걸그룹이 외환위기 이후에 등장했다는 사실은 의미심장하다. 특히 한국 경제가 장기침체로 들어선 2000년대 후반 등장한 원더걸스나 소녀시대는 1990년대 후반의 에스이에스(S.E.S.)나 핑클 등의 ‘1세대 걸그룹’과 구별되는 특성을 보인다. 훨씬 어리고, 노출 정도가 크고, 몰개성적이며, ‘리드보컬’ 개념이 매우 약하거나 존재하지 않으며, 대규모 오디션과 ‘연습생’ 제도에 의존한다.

It is telling that Korean girl-groups first appeared after the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-98. And [in turn] the Wondergirls and Girls’ Generation that appeared in the second half of the 2000s, after years of economic stagnation, can be distinguished from those “First Generation Girl-groups” such as S.E.S. and Fin.K.L. in several ways: they were way too young; they exposed their bodies a great deal more; they were de-indivualized, with the “lead vocal” concept not existing at all; and they depended on intensive audition-processes and practice and training-sessions.

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James: Matt at Gusts of Popular Feeling has two great posts on the differences between the two generations of girl-groups here and here, and Mellowyel at Mixtapes and Liner Notes has an equally interesting post here that deals with those and other differences, including less stress on vocals by later groups. But while I certainly agree with all those differences, and would be the first to admit that many girl-group members are essentially faceless and interchangeable to all but their most ardent fans, nevertheless I think saying that they’re “de-individualized” puts it a little too strongly, masking an important point. Specifically, consider what Philip Vannini and Scott Myers wrote about manufactured Western bands a decade ago (in “Crazy About You: Reflections on the Meanings of Contemporary Teen Pop Music”, Electronic Journal of Sociology, available online here):

Producers’ control extends from songwriting to image-packaging and personality development. Any boy-band act is put together to appeal to various personalities and life outlooks of fans as each band includes a member portrayed as cute and sweet, one funny, one good-looking and mysterious, one creative and goofy, one talented and motivated, one dark and tough, and such. Bands are created with the consumers’ demand in mind…

Then compare what allkpop wrote about Korean girl-groups last year (the first source I could find sorry!):

Osen recently pointed out that cute members of female groups tend to generate widespread interest and bump up a group’s popularity singlehandedly. Every member has their own individual role in the group, and every group has a member in charge of being the ‘cute’ one. In Korea, fans call this certain member “Kui-yo-mi (귀요미),” meaning “the girl with the cute image (귀여운 이미지를 가진 이).”  This member is in charge of garnering fanboy love with her cute/lovable/girly charm, which will result in a bigger fanbase for the group. In this report, Osen identified four girl group members that fit this role.

So sure, while many girl-groups are large, and some are getting larger all the time, who’s who in them does still have some relevance. (AKB48 they ain’t!)

Back to the article:

Caption: 한국 걸그룹은 ‘망가걸’의 실사판 이미지에 가깝다. 리본, 분홍, 천진한 표정이 드러내는 유아적 여성 이미지와 검은 눈썹에 금발을 한 인물의 탈국적성 등은 일본 만화캐릭터에서 보편적으로 발견되는 특성이다.

Caption: Korea girl-group members are close to being real-life Manga Girls. There’s the ribbon; the pink; and the naive, innocent expression, which combine to give an infantile image. Add black eyeliner and blond hair, and you’re left with an figure devoid of ethnicity, i.e. the universal Japanese manhwa character.

나머지는 ‘세대착취’ 부분에서 자세히 다루기로 하고, 우선 ‘어린 나이’와 ‘노출’에 대해 살펴보도록 하자. ‘롤리타 콤플렉스’라 불리는 소아성애는 약화된 남성성과 관련이 있다. 경제적 능력이 남성 권력의 토대인 가부장제 사회에서 경제력의 상실은 곧 남성성의 상실을 의미하게 된다.

I will talk more about the exploitation of this generation in detail later [in Parts 3-5]. First, let’s examine the issue of exposing the bodies of young people. [In short], there is a relationship between this pedophilia called the “Lolita Complex” and weakened male sexuality. And in a patriarchal society based on economic ability and male power, accordingly the loss of economic power equates with a weakening of male sexuality.

한국경제가 장기침체에 들어서며 어린 ‘2세대 걸그룹’이 등장했듯, 일본 역시 1980년대 경기침체를 겪으면서 ‘로리콘(ロリコン) 캐릭터’가 급부상했다. 한국 걸그룹과 일본의 ‘로리콘 캐릭터’의 속성은 동일하다. ‘어린 얼굴에 성인의 몸을 가진, 위협적이지 않은 성적 대상’이다. 약화된 남성들에게 성숙하고 당당한 여성은 감당할 수 없는 위협이기 때문이다.

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When the Korean economy entered a period of long-term stagnation, the second generation of girl groups-appeared. Likewise, Japan also went through a period of long-term economic stagnation in the 1980s, and “Lolicon” characters quickly appeared. Korean girl-group [members] share many characteristics of these Lolicon characters. With childlike faces with adult bodies, they are non-threatening sex-objects. Because to weakened men, mature and confident women are too threatening.

<게으름뱅이 정신분석>의 저자 기시다 슈도 비슷한 맥락에서 성범죄를 분석한다. 그에 따르면, 성범죄자는 남성성이 넘치는 사람들이 아니다. 이들은 정상적인 교류상황에서는 성능력을 발휘할 수 없는 ‘고자’ 혹은 ‘불능남’이기 때문에, 여성을 위협해 무기력한 상태로 만들거나 아예 저항 능력이 없는 연소자나 장애인을 택해 범죄를 벌인다는 것이다.

Syu Kishida, author of “A Psychoanalysis of Lazy Bastards”, made similar lines of connection with sex-criminals. According to him [her?], sexual criminals are not [exactly] men overflowing with male sexuality. [Rather], because they are “eunuchs” or impotent men who can’t develop sexual ability through normal [life and] interaction, they prefer to threaten or make women powerless, or choose to commit sexual crimes against the young or disabled because those groups are unable to reject them.

스티븐 엡스타인과 제임스 턴블이 잘 정리했듯, 한국 걸그룹은 ‘순진’, ‘애교’, ‘수줍음’, ‘수동성’, ‘도발’ 등의 특성을 갖는다. 얼핏 보면 ‘순진’, ‘수줍음,’ ‘수동성’은 ‘(성적) 도발’과 대치되는 듯 보이지만, 사실은 모두 ‘도발’을 위한 장치일 뿐이다. 무기력한 남성을 도발하기 위해서는 순진하고, 여리고, 수동적인 여성 이미지가 필요하기 때문이다.

Stephen Epstein and James Turnbull summarized this well. Korean girl-groups’ shared characteristics are naivety, aegyo, shyness, passivity and sexual provocation. While at a glance those first personality traits seem to contradict the last, in fact all are simply a device for sexual provocation. To powerless men, a naive, weak, and passive image of women is required for this.

한국에 등장한 ‘꽃미남’, ‘화장하는 남자’, ‘초식남’은 일본이 앞서 경험한 현상이다. 그렇다면 한국 걸그룹이 해외에서 얻는 인기는 경기침체로 인한 ‘롤리타 콤플렉스’ 및 일본 ‘로리콘 캐릭터’의 보편화와 떼어 생각하기 어렵다.

Trends for men that have emerged in Korea, like “Flower-Beautiful-Men” (Kkotminam), “Cosmetics-wearing Men”, and “Herbivore Men” are all things that Japan has also experienced. On that basis, it’s very difficult not to think that there’s something in common with the popularity Korean girl-groups are gaining overseas [Japan surely?] and the popularity of the Lolita Complex and Lolicon characters there that arose with long-term economic stagnation (end).

James: I think Kang’s central point about the economic and consequent cultural parallels between Japan and Korea is valid, and that it’s certainly true that some Japanese men’s liking of the Lolita Complex and Lolicon characters would predispose them to also liking Korean girl-groups. But with this final paragraph, I think he extrapolates a little too much, for two or three reasons (source, right):

1) There are huge differences between Japanese Herbivore men and Korean Kkotminam (I’ve never heard of “Cosmetics-Wearing Men”), the latter of which would by no means be considered powerless. But I concede that Kang may simply have been pointing out yet more similarities with Japan here, rather than making a connection to those particular groups of men and male fans of Lolicon and Korean girl-groups per se.

2) More to the point then, has any actual research been done to confirm these alleged tastes in Lolicon and so on of Japanese male fans of Korean girl-groups? (While it does makes sense, like I said we should be very wary of taking it as a given, particularly considering the next point)

3) And crucially, the vast majority of Japanese fans of Korean girl-groups are in fact girls and young women, as – ironically – Korean girl-groups reportedly provide a much more mature image than their Japanese counterparts. If so, then rather than embracing Korean girl groups, logic dictates that in fact powerless Japanese men would positively reject them.

Which again demonstrates the need for more research into the demographics of Japanese K-pop fandom. Or perhaps it has already been done, and readers can point me in its direction? (Hint hint)^^ Meanwhile, see Part 3 on The “Irregular Generation’s” Double-Exploitation / ‘비정규직 세대’의 이중착취 to continue the discussion!

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Caption: 일본 ‘로리콘’ 캐릭터. 1980년대 일본 경제침체가 심화되면서 ‘위협적이지 않은’ 어린 소녀를 성적 대상화하는 현상이 두드러졌다. ‘롤리타 콤플렉스’는 무기력한 남성의 정체성을 반영한다. 외환위기 이후 등장한 한국의 걸그룹 현상도 같은 맥락으로 볼 수 있다.

Caption: Japanese “Lolicon” characters. With the deepening economic stagnation in Japan in the 1980s [1990s?], the sexual objectification of unthreatening young girls became noticeable. This Lolita Complex reflected the identity of powerless men, as does the rise of Korean girl-groups.

35 thoughts on “What did Depraved Oppas do to Girls’ Generation? Part 2

  1. i don’t remember reading about any analysis about Kpop Japanese fans but this blog posting by a Malaysian non fan girl who went to the concert does a good job analyzing the crowd composition.

    http://mottohadeni.net/blog/2011/06/29/20110628-girls-generation-arena-tour-2011-yoyogi-national-gymnasium/

    There’s one big difference between Japanese and Korean male fans of idols be it Korean or Japanese.
    Japanese male fans of idols are considered social outcasts particularly if they are above 24 years old (i.e. working adult)

    Korean male fans are not considered social outcasts based on stuff that I read on your blog. At times it would seem there is a mainstream acceptance on the ground (i.e reality/not TV land) for these older male fans for Kpop idols.

    • Sorry for not thanking you for that link earlier. As for Korean male fans of idols not being considered social outcasts, hmmm…probably I should be a little more specific when I write about such things in the future. Let me briefly sum up both some facts and my opinions about that topic now then:

      a) At the very least, SM Entertainment head Lee Soo-man has explicitly stated that Girls’ Generation is aimed at 30 and 40-something men. But I don’t know if other heads of other entertainment companies have said the same about other girl-groups (in the same article, JYP, for instance, says that the Wondergirls are aimed at both sexes and all age groups, which I seriously doubt {and that may no longer be true now anyway}), although that’s something I definitely want to find out.

      b) There is a widespread perception that most girl-groups in Korea do indeed mostly have older male fans, which is presumably why YG Entertainment executive Jinu Kim chose to show how different 2NE1 were by stressing that as many as 70% of their fans were women:

      c) Statistics suggest that this perception that Korean girl-groups fans are mostly men may in fact be completely wrong (and raise issues of how we define fans exactly)

      d) After some original debate when girl-groups emerged in 2007ish, Korean academia and the media soon settled into a narrative of male fandom of girl-groups being brotherly or avuncular, and downplayed any sexual elements to that interest. This narrative is still dominant, but now being seriously challenged in the wake of a perceived spate of sex crimes against minors, which in turn is drawing belated attention to the sexualization of minors in K-pop (which the commissioning of this article by Kang is part and parcel of)

      e) Officially at least, entertainment companies have been very surprised by the popularity of girl-groups among Japanese women. It’s interesting reading these comments and learning about how they’re being marketed differently there (or not – seems to be quite a debate about that)

      f) I’m going to take a wild guess and assume that regardless of what the Korean media says of idols and fandom, most Korean women still have pretty dim views of guys that are avid fans of girl-groups (whatever those guys’ ages)!

  2. Weirdly, I think one of his problems is that he seems to have a mistaken idea of “herbivore men” and their role in Japan, confusing them with otaku. Herbivore men are just dudes who aren’t that into sex and dating and taking on traditional masculine roles. Otaku are the ones hanging out with their pillows and fantasizing about comic book characters – and unfortunately for his argument, I don’t think otaku are prevalent enough to account for a huge chunk of Kpop’s audience, nor do I think that most Korean men interested in the girl groups are very similar. Otaku are fairly extreme. That said, I think he’s right in that overal, the male fans of girl groups view them in a way that is similar to how manga characters are sometimes percieved in Japan – they present slightly differentiated versions (spunky chicks? sexy chicks? innocent chicks? We have just the right variation of the stereotype for you!), but still within very set paramaters that hinder seeing them as actual people.

  3. Weirdly, I think one of his problems is that he seems to have a mistaken idea of “herbivore men” and their role in Japan, confusing them with otaku. Herbivore men are just dudes who aren’t that into sex and dating and taking on traditional masculine roles. Otaku are the ones hanging out with their pillows and fantasizing about comic book characters – and unfortunately for his argument, I don’t think otaku are prevalent enough to account for a huge chunk of Kpop’s audience, nor do I think that most Korean men interested in the girl groups are very similar. Otaku are fairly extreme. That said, I think he’s right in that overal, the male fans of girl groups view them in a way that is similar to how manga characters are sometimes percieved in Japan – they present slightly differentiated versions of women (spunky chicks? sexy chicks? innocent chicks? We have just the right variation of the stereotype for you!) without presenting them as real, multidimensional people.

    • Not that I think you’re saying that just because of the shot of the pillow guys, but I’ll remove it just in case anyone gets confused. My fault – only the 2 pictures with captions are actually from the article.

      • ^^ I will stand behind the idea that I think he’s right in that there’s some overlap between the way manga and anime characters are often constructed* and consumed by male fans. It’s an imagined, created and packaged femininity that panders to a very insecure version of masculinity.

        *note to anime/manga lovers – I know that there are lots of great series with lovingly constructed, three dimensional female characters who grown and change over the course of the series. But there’s a hell of a lot of formulaic tripe out there, and a hell of a lot of really disturbing presentations of women as characters, too . . .

        • Thanks as always GG. But for the sake of avoiding even more confusion, could you clarify where he says that about the overlap exactly? Not that I don’t completely agree with the argument, but I just can’t find it in the article myself sorry, so I’d be a bit hesitant in attributing that to him.

          • “Caption: Korea girl-group members are close to being real-life Manga Girls. There’s the ribbon; the pink; and the naive, innocent expression, which combine to give an infantile image. Add black eyeliner and blond hair, and you’re left with an figure devoid of ethnicity, i.e. the universal Japanese manhwa character.” is I think his most explicit underlining of this, but I think he’s been hard at work creating parallels between “herbivore men” (really, otaku) and their consumption of manga and how girl groups are characterized and sold to male fans in Korea.

  4. Three things (one about the original article, two about the comments made about it):

    1. I know that it looks great as an argument to link men losing their position on a patriarchal society for which they have been built to pertain to due to economic crises and stagnation making him losing the economic power to maintain that position, and so linking this process to men directing their lust to lolicon characters. But it is false. The Japanese economy went into stagnation due to Japanese asset economic bubble and the reaction of the Bank of Japan generating a liquidity trap. This happened at the end of the 80’s and through the 90’s. Lolicon characters started to appear around the mid-70’s, and developed as a niche, with magazines dedicated exclusively to it, at the beginning of the 80’s. You can read it here if you want:
    http://www.imageandnarrative.be/index.php/imagenarrative/article/viewFile/127/98
    Or if you prefer (there are images accompanying the text):
    http://www.imageandnarrative.be/index.php/imagenarrative/issue/view/10

    2. If girls are de-individualized in groups like AKB48, why people read their blogs?
    http://official.ameba.jp/ranking/day/accessRankingCategory0-1.html

    3. Having read the same argument made in that article coming in another press bit from the mouth of Universal Japan executives (the label behind KARA or SNSD in Japan), and I mean word by word, I would put in doubt the relevance of this assertion (having in mind that SNSD girls are marketed in Japan as models because they can’t really sustain a conversation in Japanese (or at least the ones that occupy the speaker role in the group) and usually when they don’t sing just sit there smiling and showing their legs, so I would put in doubt what is so “threatening” about them).

    • For ease of reading, I’ve backdated this comment to just after anhh wrote it, which is when I meant to reply(!). Really it was written at 5pm on July 15 though, and sorry if my last point is covered in later comments (which I’m just getting through now).

      Thanks very much for those links, and for anyone interested but who doesn’t have time to read the article itself, the relevant article in the second link (the first doesn’t open for me sorry) is Lolicon: The Reality of ‘Virtual Child Pornography’ in Japan by Patrick W. Galbraith, and particularly relevant for our discussion is p.97:

      The so-called ‘lolicon-boom” came in the early-1980s. This was a time of extreme consumption, when the market ripened enough to support niches. Specialty magazines appeared, among them publications dedicate to lolicon such as Lemon People (from 1981) and Manga Burikko (from 1982). There was a general outpouring of lolicon art, both professional and amateur.

      And p.105:

      …the ingrained need to expand the consumer base did not simply disappear. Selling adult sexuality to children and youthful innocence to adults was far too profitable to abandon. As Akagi comments in the early 1990s lolicon imagery (i.e., sexualized girls who appear underage) actually expanded and became acceptable in manga.

      So Kang may well be wrong about the timing of that lolicon boom, but that second quote I gave suggests that the connections he’s making with lolicon imagery at least may still be valid, and needs further investigation and/or confirmation from other sources.

      As for #2, I’m sure that some people do indeed read AKB48 members’ blogs, but I think it’s safe to assume that there’d be far more potential fans willing to make such an emotional and time investment in identifying with a member or members if they weren’t constantly coming and going…seriously, I think ABK48 is probably the worst group in the world with which to argue that girl-group members these days aren’t all interchangeable robot clones with different facemasks. But we can agree to disagree, and indeed please recall that in fact it was me saying Kang goes much too far with his “de-indivualization” argument!

      Finally, again I’m sorry if you’ve covered it in later comments, but with #3 I really don’t know what argument you’re talking about exactly. Could you please be more specific?

      • I suppose that it is explained below but yes, my main contention is with the timing of it. Another thing would be if lolicon images overlap with kawaii/cute culture (my conversation with Dave was cute), but I don’t see that addressed here. The other thing is that the interpretation that tries to explain why girls like K-Pop girlgroups in Japan is more a PR spin than a reality. There is a quote floating around taken from Hiroshi Aoyagi’s “Islands of Eight Million Smiles: Idol performance and symbolic production in contemporary Japan” that I’m not going to reproduce because I haven’t read the book, where a fan clearly states that he likes a certain group because of their pure image against the image of women feminists are “producing”. For the groups he is referring to I think is a quote from 1990. Is a reading from that “youthful” image/values that I stated below. So I think hard to believe that people are “discovering” that J-Pop idols have a “younger” style when is something so self-reflective, discussed or laughed about.

        I’m not really sure if I should talk about AKB, but will try to keep it “short”. Yes, I see why people uses the “de-individualization” argument, their sound (wall of voices instead of solos), their image (uniforms instead of personal styles), their mise-en-scène (everybody visualizes 200 girls jumping doing the same steps, but not that every girl are doing that on their own way), but allegedly (then you have the girls who do almost all promotion) the concept is seeing it as a high school, generations come and go, the institution stands. Maybe is an industry “rationalization” or just an excuse for that cruelty. Still is a “logic” that surrounds us so you are kind of used to it. Anyway, fan culture around them turns around the term “oshimen” (or the member you give your full support). Oshimen is different from favourite. If you don’t have an oshimen you become a “daredemo daisuki” or DD an “anybody is fine” (your reply to the question: who is your oshimen?). If you have an oshimen but you also follow many other girls in the group you become a “minna daisuki” or MD an “I love everybody”-type. Even more extreme, some people following that logic, being fan, is starting to use an anti- attitude to other members. Some people only like their oshimen and ignore new generations or other groups. It is less serious that how it sounds (works more as self-validation than as a caste system), probably is as problematic, ridiculous and laughable as the group itself is, but is different from what people are expecting (a virtual harem of bodies without personality?). Also, the excuse many people use to discard the group is that it has “too many members”, which I think only shows that pop/rock discourse is embedded with liberal values, and this kind of overlaps with the de-individualization argument. But that is another story altogether.

    • You know, this article is about the anecdotal increase of older Korean men into GG fanbase in Korea.

      The question is that, is this the same in Japan.

      Anecdotal evidence shows that it is not the case and instead Kpop is sold and accepted by a mostly young female crowd.

      Again, anecdotal evidence shows that GG is being accepted because they are considered to have more personality and maturity than Jpop idols.
      GG definitely found success as their album sold 500,000 copies in Japan (and its still selling!). And GG has no blogs in Japanese.

      All these are anecdotal. There hasn’t been any study in Japan and there won’t be due to higher forces in the entertainment industry.

      And your explanation of Lolicon is more suited to the development of Moe in anime and manga. It actually has a section heading of Moe-Phobia…….

      Idols follow a different path in Japan as they are tied to how Japanese culture itself view real women.

      • To be honest in no place I have denied the “anecdotal” trend (older men following J or K-Pop idols). I’m pointing that some of the anecdotal evidence used to expose that trend rely on common places inherited from journalism, music press releases or academic theory that over simplify the analysis of that trend.

        I’m not saying that GG are not successful on Japan, because they are (not just for record sales, they are also on the list of words more used in search engines in the first half of this year). I’m saying that the reasons their female audience could have to like them are less narrow and univocal (say fame culture, the consumption of Japanese K-Pop magazines centered on boybands, association of ideas and experiences through the consumption of brands and technologies associated with the images of K-Pop idols (say the choice to adventure themselves on Koreatowns across Japan), or the information acquired with the “intangible product” they are buying: not only the image promoted through their Japanese promotions also the sum of fans discourses and conversations about the group, the magazine images, promotional acts and expressions of their personality, affection or life that are filtered and reacted upon in those fans conversations (say covers on fashion magazines, reality TV shows or “polemics” extracted from their words on interviews, radio or TV shows, instead of appearances on promotional acts for the G20 summit, worlds of praise for their “slave contracts” or shows for a military audience) than the ones expressed on (promotional) articles like the one linked above. J-Idols are associated with a “youthful” attitude, image, worldview or experience, and so it is expressed through their aesthetic, style or lyrics choices (and the problems generated through these choices and how they are marketed), so saying that they are more “childish” is like stating that green is green. With that I’m not implying that is not an “ironic” choice as expressed on the original post, just that the reception of some of those groups (right now, only KARA and/or GG, (while 4Minute, Brown Eyed Girls or 2NE1 have until now flopped on the charts) the most easily adaptable ones to be marketable to the dynamics of what people think “Japanese” taste is) doesn’t follow the patterns associated usually with J-Pop idols (which is an idea already implicit in the original post and also on some of the texts linked below (families, older couples going to the live show). The ‘confrontation’ style expressed on that article is more suited as a wink for K-Pop fans (it is deeper, soulful, mature, more real) or to the ‘success’ of national policies and discourses associated with national cultural enterprises and products used in the media (“Korean” products are better than Japanese ones and so the market is “telling” us).

        My “explanation” about lolicon (that I pointed only for the historical survey and to show how the concept is “expanded” to be used in critique contexts to the point of expressing nothing and anything, not because I share all the points expressed through that text) is only used to point an inconsistence of the argument used to read this “anecdotal” evidence. Even if the text is centered on anime and manga it points out a more general environment. And “moe” only implies, of course depending on the definition each one uses, the affection for “images”, and idols, most of the time are just that (and so you find that people on forums say that this or that image of this or that singer is “moe”). I also only pointed blogs to show how fans also consume every type of product associated with a group or a person (and as you have pointed GG doesn’t have blogs and are successful which I interpret as probe that they are not consumed through the habitual channels or modes or from the habitual set of reservations used to deal with things like this) and that fan interactions with “woman images” are also more complex than how are usually presented (singers answer questions from fans that go through the range of which brands and clothes does she prefer to what her ideal type of men or romance is, passing through thins like what their favourite characters, food or TV shows are, what does his father think of this or that photo shoot, or what does she imagine she would be doing in ten years time, AKB girls opened their comments through the earthquake for everybody to present their problems to be heard, even picking some of the answers to be in the main posts (if you want a promotional move, but again I think that is a more complicated image that how usually is treated)). I know, very long and just to say that I’m not trying to win an argument, just pointing things that make a weak favour to your analysis.

        • In your extremely long post, basically you are saying that it is anecdotal. Except you threw in even more anecdotal evidence while I kept mine simple because………..well it’s anecdotal………there’s hasn’t been any studies on this on both Kpop and Jpop sides.

          And my lolicon explanation still stands as the writer of it is Patrick W. Gilbraith who if you do a search is a big fan of moe and anime. It did touch on how moe was inspired/influenced by real women but it kept its scope purely in the anime/manga realm. Furthermore, I read his book, the Otaku Encyclopedia, and yeah he is a big fan of anime/manga while having only a cursory interest in idols.

          A better book is Schoolgirl Encyclopedia by Brian Ashcraft which has a chapter on the genesis of idols. Its good and informative.

          And i also found it odd that you would compare AKB blog rankings on a Korean sociology blog?!? It actually has totally nothing to do with the article. You use the vaguest of thread connectivity to put it there even though this is about GG Oppa mindset and does it translate to such in Japan.

          If the author didn’t mention AKB in those 3 throwaway words, would you even be here?

          So I did a search on your name and found that you hang out a lot in Stage48 and H!O (both are AKB48 fansites).

          #just saying

          • Let’s quote Naito Chizuko’s “Reogarnizations of Gender and Nationalism: Gender Bashing and Loliconized Japanese Society” (a text or an author that can be of interest):

            “To state my conclusion in advance, when we take the question of sexuality into account, we can see that the “loliconization” of Japanese society functions in tandem with the phenomena of gender bashing and nationalism. So what role does desire play within this loliconizing society?

            I use the term “loliconization phenomenon” (lolikonka gensho) to indicate the commodification of children, young girls (shojo), and young women as sexual symbols in society. The term is derived from “Lolita complex” which was originally used as a general term to indicate pedophiliac sexual desire. In contemporary Japan, its abbreviation “lolicon” (rorikon) has become widespread due in part to its connection with otaku culture, and it no longer represents any one particular sexual preference or predilection. Essentially, the term “lolicon” has been standardized to represent societal desire in a broader sense.”

            I don’t think that this definition is at odds with the original article translated here, not with the reflections made about it on the original post, not with your responses here. Not even with my use of it. I don’t have much problem with that concept except for its use in banal conversations. So articulations like the ones that Chizuko does, Japan being loliconized through refurbishing their image as “Cool Japan” or that this loliconization spreaded thanks to neoliberal and neoconservatives agencies through the economic stagnation as a mode of reaction against feminist measures, I agree whit. My only claim is that “lolicon” is a term that named a niche, and is of widespread use in otaku culture then and now, so this:

            “Likewise, Japan also went through a period of long-term economic stagnation in the 1980s, and “Lolicon” characters quickly appeared”.

            sounds as causality. Maybe is not like that in the original text, just a glitch on a quick translation, is not really implicated or whatever other thing (and if it is so, I don’t have much argument). But if it’s a causal cause I think it should be referred to the material production of those “Lolicon” characters, even if they are only manga or anime characters (but maybe here I’m doing a reduction using character as fiction only, if that’s the case and again is not implied in any way, my apologies for boring you so much with this silliness). And it that sense is “false”, again and only as origin, or causal cause. If you need an idol example: Momoe Yamaguchi singing songs like “Age of Consent” and other hits when she was 14-15 years old (around 1973) (but I think that this retroactive use of the term while correct stretches itself too much across different cultural formations, but is the same, nobody cares).

            About the “anecdotal” I think that we both agree on that, and it is just that I exposed my interpretations of it (maybe it was a wrong thing). I mentioned a couple of minor things (if the other one is not allowed) because in my case, are the ones that make me lose the main argument. I’m not saying that they should be corrected, but maybe could be of use to skip conversations like this one (and I hope that your work has enough resonance for both of you to think about skipping those conversations with your readers).

            About the “Just Saying” part: should I reply? I have read that book (even if the name was different), I read this blog since almost a year, I listen to K-Pop since some years also, I think that using the same nickname is a question of fair game so you can trace my opinions the same way that I can read how your thought has been changing through the years, and you shouldn’t need to search for my “true colours”. Weeks ago I stated them on a private message sent to the mail direction above. My real name should be on that. (Again too long, sorry)

  5. Pingback: Recommended Reading – July 12th, 2011 | International Wota

  6. I feel like you shouldn’t focus just on the girl groups but on Korean culture as a whole. These are just my opinions but while girls are doing suggestive dancing wearing skimpy outfits and acting all cute their male counter-parts are similar. Does it even go a month without a male idol ripping his shirt and exposing his abs? It begun as something isolated but seems like it’s something that most male groups that wants to look manly does.

    And if we go even further with Korean culture I know that you’re gonna be quite aware about how Korean dramas usually are. Of the last 10 dramas I’ve seen probably 7-8 of them have had a totally irrelevant male shower scene. it feels like dramas overall are more targeted for just females while kpop wants to cater for both genders.

    The idol industry as a whole must be changed, but it feels like both genders are getting the short end of the stick. Hopefully Koreans won’t embrace over the top aegyo like Sunny and Minah does but get attracted to a bit more mature types of girls.

    Korean girl groups still hasn’t gotten sexualized to the extent that they have lost their female fans.The top 3 viewing groups on Youtube for SNSD seems to be females 13-24 and males 45-54. So females does still like SNSD but it’s definitely interesting to see some research or write up about the creepy ahjussi fans.

    But all in all I don’t think it’s that bad as many view it as. However i’m hoping in a slight change so females starts to act their age.

    wow, this got a lot longer than I thought it would be. But I would really want to see something about the sexualisation of males as well.

    • Just briefly, James *does* and *has* written quite a bit about other topics, including boy bands. That said, it’s completely irrelevant and even if he did NOTHING but talk about girl groups it would still be valid. And if you want to get into it, there are tremendous differences in how boy and girl groups are marketed in Korea – I mean, really, they’re both sexualized but how many boy bands are trying to portray themselves as cute or innocent? The fact that girl groups are simultaneously sexualized and infantalized is saying something really important about Korean society, making it an excellent lens with which to examine wider gender issues. This applies to dramas, etc. – men and women are both sexualized, but in different ways and to different effects.

      I would also challenge the idea that there’s some magical overly sexualized tipping point at which women abandon girl groups – that’s just not how it works.

    • @Maekju, thanks for your comment, but I really don’t understand your complaint: if you’re talking about this one post, then it makes no sense as I’m pretty much just giving a translation of someone else’s content, and if you’re talking about the blog as a whole then…that makes no sense either, as like Gomushin Girl said even just a glance at the right of the screen shows numerous links to posts about “Korean culture as a whole”. And hell, probably even a good third or half or so of the posts ostensibly only on girl groups mention things very related to boy-bands too.

      Having said that, I’ll be the first to admit that recently I’ve been focusing more on girl-groups than boy-bands (albeit in addition to many other things), as with very limited time then naturally I’ll tend towards using it on those topics that I’m more interested in. Especially when boy-bands are already covered so well by the likes of Mixtapes and Liner Notes, SeoulBeats, Always Rational K-Pop Podcast, Angry K-Pop Fan, and so on (sorry for missing anyone, and anyone feel free to plug their own sites here!).So, call it only one half of the equation if you like, but you get what you pay for, and next time please actually read a little more of my blog before you’re so quick to make sweeping generalizations about it.

      p.s. There’s much more to critique in your comment, but I’ll defer to Gomushin Girl’s excellent rebuttal…

  7. What I’m about to ask I may of read something about it in an article here before.. my memory isn’t too great! Haha.

    Anyways, do you think Korean men on a whole understand or even question what they are consuming or some of the meanings/implications that have been brought up in this article/blog? Or that they are basically being used/exploited by these marketing companies that pretty much use their weaknesses, such as not being able to find a girl, being ‘Herbivore Men’, etc?

    I just seems a bit strange to me. A large number of SNSD’s Korean fanbase consists of ‘ajhusshi’, Oppa, uncle, or whatever you’d like to call it, men. They are what, middle aged, even up to their 50’s and 60’s and you see them waving glow sticks at their concerts, buying SNSD merchandise, and so on. It seems very childish to me. Do watching these girls really relieve their stress/fustration with their own lives? but maybe that is just me and my Western way of thinking? I don’t know. There just never seems to be the same sort of adoaration amongst western males for western girl groups.

    Anyways, on another note, I think it’s quite telling that SNSD are being marketed in Japan to women. Pretty much all their Korean singles post-Gee have been covered in Japanese apart from Oh!. I think the reason that they have had so much success in Japan is because they are being marketed over there as someone said, as models and I’m guessing (most) women who are into SNSD are following them because they are stylish and attractive fashion icons that they probably look up to, so releasing a single such as Oh! in Japan could bring up undesirable connotations with Otaku pander groups such as AKB48 which SNSD (atleast in Japan) definitely are trying to steer away from. Unlike KARA, which seems to be going down that path? I dunno.

    I do think it’s interesting that (atleast to me) SNSD projects different images between Japan and Korea..

    • Probably it was this post, although that was more on my inability/bad luck in finding a Korean guy with similar interests in the issues I discuss on this blog (not that they’re not out there: it’s just that I have no life these days, so I have no time to look!). As for if Korean men understand and/or question what they consume (or women for that matter)…well, I’m not going to lie and pretend that I don’t think that critical thinking isn’t encouraged as much as in most Western countries, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still going to be millions of media-savvy and aware Korean guys out there. And, crucially, I think it’s important and very useful to remember that a (relative) lack of criticism doesn’t mean a lack of awareness, with Korean attitudes to photoshop being a great example of that (everyone knows it’s there, but as of yet there isn’t the backlash against it that is emerging in the West).

      I should stop there though, as I’d be the worst person to make any generalizations about Korean men (see above!), and so will happily defer to anybody who does hang out with them and ask them such questions!

  8. Thanks for that.

    As someone who went to school in Korea in an academic department that culturally speaking left little wiggle room for airheads, and who believes it is not just my age talking when I say it’s getting hard to meet Korean in late teens or early twenties who doesn’t speak like a Korean Valley Girl or with the a Korean version of “uptalk,” either so cute your brain hurts or too ssagajiless to listen to, few things make me feel 격세지감 like the unsightly sight of these “girl groups.”

    • Thanks yourself. But to play De…well, She-Devil’s advocate, I doubt that it’s merely a Korean thing, as I’ve read much the same of the speaking style of young English-speaking Westerners these days (can’t find the link to a great article on that sorry…think it was in the New Yorker?). Not that you’re saying that it is just a Korean thing of course, but I’m sure that I’d have just as much disdain for the way Western teens and 20-somethings are speaking as I do their Korean counterparts.

      Hmmm…or would I? Now that I think about it, I’m so used to the latter that I don’t mind it all, or at least barely notice it. Sorry!

  9. I know I can’t sound nearly as academic as the other commenters here. I wonder if men living with their parents fairly late gives them a lack of independence and sense of entitlement, along with stunted maturity, and if that could play a role in their desires for passive girls who look and act like twelve-year-olds.

  10. Thank you for making this article available to English-speaking readers!
    I can never find any articles as specialized as this in JSTOR for my papers, so I hope that one day I can cite this paper too!

  11. OK, I’ll admit that I didn’t read the entirety of both parts, but I kind of have to call BS on Prof. Kang’s general thesis. I spend a lot of time around middle-age Korean men (as well as teenage Korean girls). The former are not really *that* interested in girl bands. They might stop to listen to that crap – and crap is what most of them think it is – and stare at the pretty puppets’ legs for a few seconds, much like I’d do. They don’t, as a rule, obsess over these young airheads like the article would suggest.

    I’ve done a fair bit of ‘guy talk’ with Korean men. I can’t recall Korean girl bands ever coming up as a topic of much sexual desire. They’re sure interested in bargirls and sex holidays in the Philippines and exotic foreign beauties with big breasts, but teenage girl bands are, well, for teenagers. How many times have been to the noraebang or rooms salon with middle-age Korean guys – a hundred times, maybe? I have never, once, heard one of them ever want to sing a song by a teenage girl-band. If they were that interested don’t you think they would? They’re not, as they obviously recognise this ‘music’ for the crap it is.

    • Hey, I don’t dispute for a moment what your own Korean guy friends said. But hell, if you want to call BS on Kang’s general thesis, then you really need to extend him the courtesy of reading all of it that’s up there first, let alone expecting myself or other readers to make the effort to discuss your comment with you. The two posts up there when you wrote your comment weren’t exactly long.

      Read them and I will get back to you, but I’m just too busy otherwise sorry.

  12. Sorry to intrude again on the whole plastic surgery thing but its just the only thing i can think of when it comes to the subject of Korean pop culture.

    Now I am chinese with monolid, and aparently, as i read that if i was ever to live in korea i will NEVER find a job becuae of have monolids. unless i get epicanthoplasty (i.e. the “double-eyelid surgery”.) i’d probably scare off most man in Korea with my monolid i reckon. LOL!

    Anyway, im very interested on your thoughts on the subject of Plastic surgery there in Korea! :)
    Hope you can do a post about it.

  13. Hmmm… it seems the more the “ahjusshi fans” issue comes up, the less real it becomes. I wonder why though. If as Lee Soo Man says, SNSD is marketed to older men, then there should be a noticeable group of them somewhere! I wonder how much the Korean military has to do with this idea: celebrities are constantly putting on shows for the soldiers, which always seem to be packed with enthusiastic male audience members. And, with the girls being so young, a 28 year old could easily be considered as an “ahjusshi” by an 18 year old. Take for instance IU, who can be seen performing Miss A’s Good Girl Bad Girl with T-ara’s Jiyeon and actress Yoo In Na in this clip:

    Supposedly IU had a surge of “ajhusshi” or “oppa” fans with the album she released her mini-album late last year. Allkpop has a number of articles on this (here, here and here) and IU has been interviewed about it, but the only photographic evidence they offer of her fanbase features high school boys in large, excited numbers as opposed to 20, 30 or 40 year olds. Despite that, this phenomenon was apparently notable enough that the made a CF playing on the ajusshi fan concept, which is pretty funny: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_DmINraYf8. As these “uncle” fans have yet to be seen in large groups, however, I’m inclined to believe that they’re probably just a small, yet vocal group of people who are very active in online forums.

    The most interesting part of this, however, is that IU’s cute image decidedly lacks in that infantilized sexuality, at least of late. Compare the video of her earlier hit, “Marshmallow” to that of her more recent one, “Good Day” , and even her most recent music video “The Story Only I Didn’t Know” (which ironically enough, features a young woman who seems to have an older male love interest.)

    I think the only thing missing from this article (so far) is the cultural significance of the word “oppa” in particular, and why all the Lolita-esque songs are chock full of it. (Dramabeans does a great analysis of it that might explain it a bit. They also mention the most infamous oppa song, Wax’s “Oppa” [lol]). It’s interesting to think that songs so geared towards a male audience would end up being more popular among women. Maybe they should just give it up, spare us the misery and let the girls make songs and music videos however the hell they like, because it probably wouldn’t make a difference (or would it?). it would mean we had considerably less to blog about, but at least k-pop would me more interesting.

  14. Pingback: Terobsesi Dipanggil Oppa « Asoka, No Sorrow

  15. Pingback: Kpopped and I Just Can’t Stop – Part I « Idle Revelry

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