I Read a Book: Susan Blumberg-Kason’s Good Chinese Wife: A Love Affair with China Gone Wrong (2014)

Good Chinese Wife CoverLet me be honest: Good Chinese Wife is not something I would normally read.

Susan’s ex-husband was Chinese; my wife is Korean. Susan’s relationship goes from friends to engaged in less than two minutes; we lived together for years, and had lots of wild sex before I proposed. Their marriage rapidly turned sour; we just celebrated our tenth anniversary. They married, had a child, and divorced way back in the 1990s; I’m really only interested in Chinese attitudes towards dating, sex, and marriage in the 2010s. And so on.

I’m still grateful for receiving a reviewer’s copy, organized by Jocelyn Eikenburg of the Speaking of China blog (see here for many more bloggers’ reviews). But first impressions? I expected it to be very outdated, and that it would have little to offer readers with Korean partners.

I was dead wrong, on both counts.

Good Chinese Wife begins in Hong Kong in the mid-1990s, where Susan is doing a graduate degree (she previously spent a year there as an exchange student in 1990). Then in her early-twenties, she soon becomes smitten with Cai, an older mainlander from Wuhan. She starts tutoring him English in her dorm room; unbeknownst to her, other students consider them already dating. This prompts him to open up and explain he’s already been married and has a child, revealing all as a prelude to showing he is now interested in dating Susan. Because in China, Cai explains, “couples traditionally only date if they plan to marry.”

This sounded very antiquated. But as it turns out, dating in China is still not at all like in the West, nor even Korea. In Behind the Red Door: Sex in China (2012), Richard Burger explains that even in the big cities, “serial dating” is frowned upon as immoral or promiscuous. Instead, “most Chinese women still believe it is best to date only man and to marry him. Once the man invites her on a second or third date, he is indicating that he’s serious, that he is hoping for an exclusive Behind the Red Door Sex in Chinarelationship, and that marriage might be on the cards.” Whereas for women, inviting her to meet her parents “means she expects to marry him, and Chinese men understand this arrangement.” What’s more, the average age of marriage for Chinese men was only 24 in 2010; for women, 22 (in Korea, 31.8 and 28.9 respectively).

So, I understood Cai. And, being head-over-heels ever since they’d met, why Susan quickly accepted his proposal, before so much as a kiss—it sounded sweet. Her frankness about her feelings and mistakes is also a definite charm, especially for someone who likewise fell very easily in love at that age.

But that’s only 36 pages into the book. For the remaining 300, sympathy turns to constant frustration and exasperation with Susan’s rushing into marriage, then her frequent acquiescence towards her increasingly controlling and abusive husband. These feelings are only amplified by knowing that she’s doomed to fail.

In an interview, Susan says her problems were more because “He told me from the get-go that he had certain conditions for our marriage. Those are things I ignored or thought I could eventually get him to change. That should have been my red flag, not the [6 months] in which we became engaged and married.” (Likewise many happily-married Koreans, for whom such whirlwind courtships are also common, would surely bristle at the suggestion that they should have taken things slower.)

I disagree. From Cai’s belief that women are especially “dirty” in the summer, once all but physically forcing an exhausted Susan to bathe in a rat-infested bathroom, to his bizarre, surprisingly submissive relationship with eccentric professor friend ‘Japanese Father’ (“He thinks it’s not good [for us] to have sex relations more than once a week”), most of Susan’s later issues with Cai could have been discovered if they’d spent (much) more time together before the wedding day—and/or resolved if an expensive wedding wasn’t already looming over them.

Still, it does make for a good page turner. There is also merit in studying a bad relationship to learn what to avoid, and much about this one that will already be familiar to those with Korean, Japanese, and Taiwanese partners. New and expecting parents in Korea, for example, will sympathize with Susan’s expectations to conform to man yue, the belief that mothers shouldn’t bathe or go outdoors in their first month—it mirrors the Korean one of sanhoojori. Also, for those couples planning to move to a Western country, her discussion of Cai’s difficulties with adjusting to life in San Francisco will be very beneficial. Her avoidance of tiresome Orientalist stereotypes is especially welcome, with her ex-parents-in-law coming across as old-fashioned but lovely, and Chinese men portrayed no better or worse than Western ones.

That said, I am reminded of a book for couples I once flicked through, which encouraged them to discuss their expectations of marriage in great detail before committing. With checklists ranging from beliefs about circumcision and determining which cities were best for both partners’ careers, to dividing the housework and setting dating policies for potential teenage children, that approach would be much too calculating for most couples. Marriage, after all, is ultimately about making a scary but exciting leap of faith with someone. But when partners come from such wildly different backgrounds, and bring such different expectations into marriage? Susan’s experience teaches readers that for international couples in particular, perhaps they really should learn the answers to those questions sooner rather than later.

Good Chinese Wife back cover

One minor quibble was all the hyperbole. Not to diminish Susan’s genuine fears for herself and her son at times, but did it lead me to expect a story involving forged passports and bribed border guards(!). Also, I disliked the format of numerous short chapters, with so little happening in some that they felt like diary entries. But that is just a personal preference.

The verdict? Good Chinese Wife is well worth the US$14.99 cover price (16,410 won at What the Book), and a definite eye-opener about the value of reading more about relationships in this part of the world, especially with such limited options for reading about Korean ones specifically. Please do leave your suggestions (and reviewer copies!) for more like it, and/or for blogs.

Korean Women’s Sexual Histories: Still a slippery subject

Durex Korea Condom Ad December 2013(Source)

Remember last summer, when Korea’s first condom commercials came out?

Showing a woman bringing condoms to a date, I hailed Durex Korea for challenging popular, slut-shaming attitudes that women must feign sexual inexperience and naivety with new partners, with contraception widely considered only men’s responsibility.

But those would be the last condoms to grace Korean TV screens, by any company. Add Durex Korea’s recent, asinine marketing attempts, and that its Facebook page looks like it belongs to a lads’ mag, then the cynic in me lamented that last year’s efforts weren’t so much the start of a progressive, feminist campaign as simple, one-off copies of the original.

Then I discovered that there had been a similar, OMG-girls-like-sex-too commercial back in December, which played on various cable channels after 10pm:

Durex Korea Condom Ad December 2013 screenshotSounds awesome, right? Even if it was just a copy again.

My hopes raised, I began looking for more information, but was soon frustrated by the lack of mention on Durex Korea’s website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, and blog. What’s more, there proved to be only one low-res, IE-only version of it that is publicly available. (Another requires a paid subscription to this site.)

I began to suspect that some unspecified controversy spilling over from last year’s June commercials may have been responsible, as those videos are also no longer available on its FB page (although the posts are). But probably that’s just simple neglect; with a Facebook page, Twitter, and blog myself, I can confirm that it’s difficult finding the time to fix broken links in old, rarely-read posts. Better to create new content, and accordingly Korean companies rarely keep old ads on their websites, preferring that consumers focus on their recent most ones instead. Sure enough, Durex Korea’s reply to my tweet made me realize that it was actually private Youtube users that were originally responsible for (re)uploading and sharing their June commercials, without whom they too wouldn’t be publicly available today.

I guess the December commercial just wasn’t all that popular really—there was never any great patriarchal conspiracy to have it removed. But, popular or not, it shouldn’t have been such a struggle to find more information—any information—about a (relatively) groundbreaking campaign, let alone from the company responsible. So, again, I have to conclude that Durex Korea was never making any real effort to engage with female consumers and challenge double-standards. Sigh.

This summer then, it’s probably T-ara member Eun-jung’s recentconfession” to—shock! horror!—past sexual relationships that is most likely to have an impact on how the public views or discusses theirs. Or, alternatively, the news that matchmaking companies no longer assume that their female clients will pretend to be virgins before marriage…

Korean Couple Under the Co vers(Source)

That’s the takeaway message from this survey by two matchmaking companies, currently making the rounds of the Korean portals. Ostensibly, its message is actually that Korean women let men take the initiative when it comes to sexual relationships, and that previous experience with one partner makes a significant number of women—not men—much “more cautious” with their subsequent ones. Which does appear to confirm previous, more rigorous surveys, and hence the context about double-standards provided in the first half of this post.

But with no mention of the methodology, what exactly “more cautious” (etc.) means, and likely a self-selecting sample population? Then really, it confirms nothing at all. Please make of it what you will:

미혼女 34%, 애인과의 첫 성관계는 ‘술김에…’ 34% of unmarried woman need alcohol for their first time with a lover

이낙규 기자 (nak17@ajunews.com) 26.06.14

성(性)에 대한 의식이 개방적으로 바뀌고 있지만 미혼여성들은 아직도 10명 중 6명 이상이 애인과 첫 관계를 가질 때 술의 힘을 빌린다던가 억지로 끌려가는 듯한 수동적 자세인 반면, 남성은 10명 중 7명 정도가 성관계를 주도하거나 적극적인 자세로 임하는 것으로 나타났다.

Awareness of and attitudes towards sex are changing these days, [but still traditional gender roles remain]. With a new lover, six out of ten women admit that they take advantage of alcohol to overcome their shyness or reluctance when having sex for the first time, and/or passively accept it when their partner is insistent, whereas seven out of ten men believe they have to take the initiative and assume an active role.

결혼정보회사 비에나래가 결혼정보업체 온리-유와 공동으로 미혼남녀 544명을 대상으로 ‘애인과 첫 성관계를 가질 때 본인의 자세’에 대한 설문조사를 실시했다.

Marriage matchmaking companies Bien Aller and Only You surveyed 544 male and female customers, asking them about their thoughts and feelings the first time they had sex with previous partners.

그결과 남성과 여성의 반응이 판이하게 달랐는데, 남성은 37.1%가 ‘주도적’, 33.5%는 ‘적극적’으로 답해 나란히 1, 2위를 차지했다. 즉 70.6%가 능동적이라는 것을 알 수 있다.

Men and women differed quite widely in their replies. Out of the men, 37.1% said they took the lead, and 33.5% that they were active in initiating sex, the top two replies. Altogether, 70.6% said they took an active role.

Wait, I'm beginning to feel something(Source)

반면 여성은 34.2%가 ‘술의 힘을 빌린다’, 28.3%는 ‘억지로 끌려가듯 (응한다)’이라고 답해 상위 1, 2위에 올랐다. 성관계를 거부하지는 않지만 수동적인 자세가 62.5%이다.

In contrast, 34.2% of women said they need alcohol [to get over their shyness or reluctance], and 28.3% that their partner insisted, the top two replies. Altogether, 62.5% said they weren’t against a sexual relationship, but they assumed a passive role.

그 다음 세 번째로는 남녀 공히 4명 중 한 명꼴이 ‘자연스럽게 임한다'(남 26.1%, 여 24.6%)고 답했다.

With both men (26.1%) and women (24.6%), the third most common reply was that they “just behaved naturally.”

‘성 경험이 있는 상황에서 다른 애인과 성관계를 가질 때의 마음 상태’에 대해서도 남녀 간에 시각차를 보였다.

With the question of how previous their sexual experience impacted their feelings about sex with a new boyfriend or girlfriend, a big difference was visible in the replies from men and women.

남성은 ‘(마음이) 더 편해진다’가 54.7%로서 과반수를 차지했고, ‘변함없다'(33.5%)에 이어 ‘더 신중해 진다'(12.8%)가 뒤따랐으나, 여성은 ‘마음이 더 편해진다'(42.7%)는 대답이 가장 많기는 하나, 그 다음의 ‘더 신중해진다'(39.7%)와 큰 차이가 없었고(3.0%포인트), ‘변함없다’는 대답은 17.6%였다.

With men, more than half (54.7%) replied it would make them feel more comfortable; 33.5%, no change; and 12.6% that it would make them more cautious. While “more comfortable” was also 고준희 정진운the most popular reply with women (42.7%), 39.7% replied that it would make them more cautious, a gap of only 3%; 17.6% replied that it wouldn’t make any difference.

자세한 응답분포를 보면 남성은 ‘다소 편해진다'(37.5%) – ‘변함없다'(33.5%) – ‘훨씬 더 편해진다'(16.2%) – ‘다소 신중해진다'(12.8%) 등의 순이고, 여성은 ‘다소 편해진다'(31.3%) – ‘다소 신중해진다'(29.4%) – ‘변함없다'(17.6%) – ‘(훨씬 더 편해진다'(11.4%) – ‘훨씬 더 신중해 진다'(10.3%)의 순서이다 (source, right).

In detail, 37.5% of men replied that it would make them a little more comfortable; 33.5% no change; 16.2% a lot more comfortable; and 12.8% that it would make them a little more cautious. With women, 31.3% replied that it would make them a little more comfortable; 29.4% a little more cautious; 17.6%, no change; 11.4% a lot more comfortable; and 10.3% a lot more cautious. (END)

Thoughts?

The Women’s Issue

Groove May 2014Sorry for the slow posting everyone: I recently had food-poisoning, some editing deadlines and my students’ end of semester exams are looming, and on my days off I’ve been on a mini-whirlwind tour of Korean universities giving presentations about body-image. But I hope to be posting again soon, and, until then, the latest issue of Groove Magazine will easily provide more than enough insights and new information to whet your appetites!

If you can’t get a physical copy, please click on the image above to read it at Issuu (a quick registration is required), or to download a PDF (click on “share” to get the link).

Update: I forgot to mention that I was interviewed for Annie Narae Lee’s article on page 58, but it may not appear online unfortunately. Also, I’m still too busy to listen myself, but Groove’s recent podcast on abortion in Korea sounds useful and interesting.

Disruptive Womyn: Media and Body Image — Presentation in Itaewon this Sunday

Disruptive Women Media and Body Image(Source)

Minji Kim, founder of the 몸매불문 나되기 / Real Beauty Doesn’t Hurt project, and whom many of you will remember from this post, is giving a presentation at Bar Carmen in Itaewon this Sunday. As explained at the Facebook event page:

Media has had a massive impact on ourselves and how we view and value ourselves. Even when we try to turn a blind eye or are fully aware of the internal system of “media” and all that it entails, the effects and subliminal messages are deeply massaged into our minds.

We live in a world that sends us all sorts of messages about the ‘perfect’ body. We are constantly receiving image related messages from different mediums, both within the media and our surrounding environments, indicating what society views as ‘beautiful’.

Naturally, instead of embracing and celebrating diversity in all body types, we concentrate on a dangerous notion of physical perfection.

While the media provide a necessary and valuable community service to society, the other reality is that media is responsible at times for misleading as well as perpetrating these ‘perfect’ images which are often than not digitally enhanced (airbrushed) and manipulated before final production.

Real Beauty Doesn’t HurtLadies, let’s join together to discuss how media has or hasn’t impacted your self-worth. Let’s also discuss the relationship(s) we have with our bodies, our relationships with others, etc.

There will be tea available (for free) and wine and beer for purchase (source, right).

Hope to share in this conversation/discussion with all of you~

And in Korean:

우리는 외형적 “완벽함”을 요구하는 사회에서 살고 있습니다. 미디어 외 여러 매체를 통해 우리 사회로부터 인정받는 전형적인 “미인”이 무엇인지, 나아가 여성으로서의 값어치를 외형으로 측정받는다는 메세지를 매일 일상 속에 끊임 없이 받고 있습니다.

이렇듯, 개개인이 가지고 있는 다양한 몸매를 존중하고 축복하지 못하고 우리는 미디어와 사회에서 제시하는 위험한 ‘완벽한 외모’를 쟁취하기 위해 힘을 쏟습니다.

미디어는 우리 사회에 여러 필요하고 가치있는 서비스 및 정보를 제공해주는 역할을 함과 동시에 포토샵 및 디지털 편집으로 왜곡된 “완벽한” 이미지들을 대중에게 강요하는 역할도 하고 있습니다.

여러분! 다른 여성들과 함께 <Media and Body Image> 에 대해 이야기 함께 나누면 좋겠습니다. 사회 속 미의 기준이 우리에게 어떻게 영향을 미쳤으며 미치고 있는지 나아가 우리의 미래를 위한 발걸음을 어떻게 나아갈 것인지 의논해봅시다.

See the link for further details, or alternatively the project’s blog or Facebook page (both in Korean).

Girl’s Day and the New Lolitocracy: Part 3

Girl's Day Adorno(Source, edited)

Here’s the final part of this blogger’s post, which follows directly from where Part 2 left off (see here for Part 1). It’s a very good introduction to the origins of the Lolita trend in K-pop, and his earlier comments on Girl’s Day were very convincing, but unfortunately he makes some questionable generalizations here, especially about other girl-groups. On the other hand, what I disagreed with still got me thinking, and I learned a few things. I hope the same goes for readers too:

3. 아도르노의 문화산업론으로 본 롤리타 신드롬 / The Lolita Syndrome as seen through Adorno’s Culture Industry Theory

이러한 걸스데이의 노래와 활동에서 드러나는 롤리토크라시의 문제는 아도르노의 두 가지 관점에서 해석될 수 있다. 하나는 걸스데이와 같은 걸 그룹의 성장에 대한 문화적인 긍정적인 평가(즉, ‘남성 팬덤 문화의 형성’ 내지는 ‘대중음악에서 소외된 30-40대를 끌어들임으로써 10대에 치중되어있던 팬덤 문화의 편협성을 해소하고 나아가 문화적인 공동체를 형성했다’는 평가)가 사실은 기획사의 상업적인 목적 하에 철저하게 계획되어 그저 지금까지 개척되지 않았던 시장의 발견일 뿐이라는 점이다. 또 다른 하나는 이러한 걸스데이의 롤리토크라시의 성향은 “순응하지 않는 별종” 을 경제적으로 무능력하게 만들어 배제시키는 문화 산업의 획일화에 대한 강압에 의해 발생했다는 점이다.

The issue of Lolitocracy, revealed through Girl’s Day’s songs and promotional activities, can thus be interpreted through two of Adorno’s perspectives. One is that an optimistic cultural assessment on the growth of girl groups such as Girl’s Day (namely, ‘the development of a male fan culture’, or the evaluation that “by pulling those in their 30s and 40s in, who are ordinarily excluded from mainstream music, they have solved the narrow-mindedness of teen-focused fan culture, and have gone on to create a more comprehensive cultural community”.) cannot be true, as it is something that was thoroughly constructed to fit the commercial interests of entertainment companies; simply a market opportunity that had not yet been mined. The other assessment is that Girl’s Day’s demonstrated inclination towards Lolitocracy is something born out of the pressures of the standardization of a culture industry that seeks to alienate ‘any outliers that fail to conform’ by making them powerless financially.

Girl's Day School Uniforms(Source)

아도르노의 문화산업론에 따르면 문화산업에서의 다양성, 차이는 본질적인 차이가 아닌 소비자를 나누기 위한, 생산성의 극대화를 위한 하나의 도구일 뿐이다. 아도르노는 “어느 누구를 위해서도 무엇인가가 마련되어 있지만 그것은 누구도 그것으로부터 빠져나가지 못하게 하기 위해서다.”라고 밝힘으로써 문화산업의 다양성이 단순히 상업적인 의도에서 출발하는 도구적인 것이라는 사실을 밝히고 있다. 이런 관점에서 모든 대중 문화를 보면 모든 대중문화 현상들은 이 그 이면에 언제나 상업적인 의도를 내포하고 있으며, 그들이 쏟아내는 수많은 이미지와 상품들, 또한 그로 인해 파생되는 모든 현상들은 겉으로 보기에는 다양성의 확장으로 보일지 모르나 결국은 문화 산업의 논리 하에 소비자가 ‘구분’되고 ‘체계화’되는 과정일 뿐이다.

According to Adorno’s Culture Industry Theory, diversity or differentiation is simply another tool to classify consumers, thereby maximizing manufacturing ability, as opposed to an intrinsic difference. In his statement: “there is something prepared for anyone and everyone, but that is only so that no-one can escape from it”, he reveals the truth that any perceived diversity in the culture industry is essentially a tool driven by commercial motives. From this viewpoint, one can claim that commercial drivers underlie all pop cultural phenomena. The masses of images and products, and all further phenomena derived from them, may outwardly seem like growing diversity, but alas, only amounts to a process under the Culture Industry Theory, whereby consumers are classified and systemized.

또한 아도르노는 문화산업의 획일화의 원리도 지적한다. 그것은 문화산업의 자기보존적인 배타적인 성향인데 문화산업은 그와 다른 형태의 모든 문화산업을 ‘획일화’의 원리에 따르도록 강요한다. “사적인 문화독점” 안에서 모든 문화형태는 경제적인 논리의 심판에 따라 자연스럽게 시장에서 도태되며 이방인이 된다. 돈의 논리로 작동하는 문화산업에서 경제력은 생존력을 의미하며 결국 큰 주류와 다른 부류의 문화산업은 독점 문화산업의 폭력 앞에서 편입할 것인가 아니면 도태될 것인가 기로에 놓이게 된다.

Furthermore, Adorno looks to the principle of the standardization of the culture industry. This refers to the culture industry’s inclination toward self-preservation and exclusivity, as the industry stresses that all forms within the culture Adorno televisionindustry conforms to one, standardized system. Within a ‘private culture monopoly’, all cultural forms naturally die out and become outsiders, under the laws governed by economic principle.  In a system that operates on money, economic strength becomes synonymous with survival. Eventually, mainstream channels, as well as sub-classes of culture, are placed at a crossroads; either conform to the violence of the monopolized culture industry, or face extinction (source, right).

먼저 문화산업의 상업적인 목적하의 구분 짓기가 걸 그룹 문화에 어떻게 드러나는지 살펴보자. 먼저 걸 그룹 문화 산업의 배후에 감추어진 상업적인 의도를 이해하기 위해선 이러한 걸 그룹 문화의 발전에 있어 무엇이 연예 기획사들을 모두 걸 그룹 시장에 집중하게 만들었는지 확인하는 과정이 필요하다. 왜 갑자기 2005년 이후 걸 그룹 열풍이 불기 시작했고 모든 연예기획사가 그러한 사업에 뛰어들기 시작한 것일까? 이러한 질문의 해답은 바로 새롭게 떠오른 중장년층 팬덤 문화의 발전이었다.

First let us examine how the culture industry’s profit-driven action of classification manifests itself in girl group culture. In order to understand the commercial interests that underlie the girl group market, we must first acknowledge the process by which entertainment companies came to focus on the girl group market. What caused ‘girl group fever’ to suddenly break out in 2005, and why did all the entertainment companies collectively dive in to the same market? The answer lies in the newly-excavated base of ‘middle-age fan culture’.

(Source)

팬덤 문화가 형성되기 시작한 1990년대 이후부터 지금까지 팬덤 문화는 ‘청소년 문화’의 하위문화로 취급되어 왔고 더 나아가 청소년 문화 자체를 팬덤의 문화로 볼 정도로 팬덤 문화는 지금까지 청소년의 고유한 문화영역으로 간주되어 왔다. 그러나 2007년, 원더걸스를 시작으로 소녀시대, 카라, 아이유에 이르기까지의 새로운 유형의 걸 그룹들은 팬덤문화의 영역을 ‘삼촌팬, 넥타이 부대’라 불리는 중장년층으로까지 확대시키면서 팬덤 문화에 대한 기존의 상식을 무너뜨렸다.

Ever since 1990 when fan culture first began to form, it has been treated solely as a sub-heading of ‘teen culture’. In fact, up until now, fan culture has been considered almost interchangeable with ‘youth’ or ‘teen culture’, seen as an area of culture inherent to adolescents. It was only in 2007, starting with the Wonder Girls, and continued through Girls’ Generation, KARA, and IU, that the fan culture of girl groups expanded its territory to older generations. Collectively known as the ‘[Neck]Tie Troops’, or ‘uncle fans’, this new branch broke down existing notions of fan culture.

IU You and I Japanese Version(Source)

새롭게 떠오른 남성 팬덤 문화는 그 속성에서부터 그전 청소년을 중심으로 팬덤 문화와 확연한 차이를 보인다. 그들은 청소년들과 비교할 수 없는 소비력을 가진 주체들이다. 그들은 대부분 30-40대 중장년층으로써 한 국가의 생산력의 지표로써 안정적인 가정, 직장을 통해 그러한 생산력을 문화적인 컨텐츠에 소비할 수 있는 충분한 시간과 능력을 가진 주체들이다.

There are clear differences between the established youth-focused fan culture, and its newer, older counterpart. For one, [‘uncle fans’] possess a spending power that cannot even begin to be compared to that of teenagers. Generally aged between 30 and 40 years old, a class seen as the index by which a whole nation’s productive capacity is measured, their steady income and stable home environments allow them the necessary time and money to spend on cultural content.

Metro Busan 9 November 2009 Page 1James – The Korean media was making similar observations about middle-aged fans — of BOTH sexes — back in 2009. See here for my translation of the above article.

걸그룹 열풍의 시발점이었던 원더걸스의 ‘텔미’를 통해 발견된 이러한 삼촌 팬들은 문화산업에서 새로이 발견한 신대륙과 같은 소비처였다. 원더걸스가 ‘텔미’를 출시할 당시 “음반 산업은 사양 산업이 되는 것이 아닌가라는 비관적인 견해가 나올 정도로 ‘리메이크’ 방식이 판을 치는 진부한 음악이 주”를 이루고 있었고, 90년대를 풍미하던 10대 팬덤 문화를 기반으로 한 아이돌 시장도 음반판매방식에서 음원판매방식으로 변한 음악시장 내에서 점차 축소되고 있는 것이 현실이었다.

The culture industry’s discovery of this new-found niche of ‘uncle fans’ (resultant of the Wonder Girls song Tell Me) was akin to the discovery of a new continent in a commercial respect. At the time Tell Me was released, the industry was so dominated by stale music and clichéd ‘remakes’ that many were wondering whether the record business had become a sunset industry. The ‘idol’ market that had once ruled the 90’s from its foundation of teen fan culture was also fading, in a music industry that had made its shift from selling physical records, to the platform of digital sales.

[2000년 들어 디지털기술의 발전과 더불어 한국 음악계에서는 아이돌 스타들의 산업적 기반이던 음반시장이 몰락하고 음원시장으로 변화하는 구조적인 변화가 발생하였다. 이러한 상황 속에서 아이돌 스타들의 생존방식도 변화하게 되어 수직, 수평적 다각화를 통해 활로를 모색하던 중 연예기획사들은 이전까지는 다른 전략으로 새로운 유형의 아이돌을 등장시키게 된다.(김수아, 소녀 이미지의 볼거리화와 소비 방식의 구성, 미디어,젠더&문화, 2010 pp 83~84) ]

Soo-Ah Kim The Discourse of Uncle Fans with the Girl-Idol Group(Source)

[The years since 2000 have seen the fall of the record business, which had founded itself on ‘idol’ stars, as well as was a structural shift into the digital sales market, influenced by the advance of digital technologies. These circumstances forced idol stars to change their survival tactics, and entertainment companies endeavored to diversify themselves through vertical and lateral means. Meanwhile, in the midst of such attempts to find solutions, entertainment companies came out a new type of ‘idol’ that would rely on new approaches. (Sooh-Ah Kim, The Construction of Cultural Consumption Way: The Discourse of Uncle Fans with the Girl-Idol Group; Media, Gender & Culture, Vol. 15; 2010, p83~p84)]

이런 상태에서 발견한 왕성한 소비력을 가진 ‘삼촌팬’의 발견은 음악시장의 판도를 바꿔놓게 되고 2000년대 후반 ‘걸그룹 열풍’을 일으키며 가요계의 큰 변화를 가져오게 된다.

Under the circumstances, the discovery of ‘uncle fans’ (and their large amounts of disposable income) was an obvious game changer in the music business, triggering the onset of ‘girl group fever’ in the latter half-decade of the 2000s. This delivered huge changes to the pop music industry.

Uncle Fan Girls' Generation하지만 왜 갑자기 중장년층의 소위 ‘삼촌팬’들이 어린 아이들이 춤추고 노래하는 것에 대해 감응한 이유는 무엇일까?  여기에 대한 해답은 초창기 걸 그룹 열풍을 일으킨 SES, 핑클 과 현존하는 걸 그룹을 비교함으로써 찾을 수 있다. 가장 큰 특징은 구성원들의 나이가 현저히 낮아졌단 점이다.

However, what could explain the middle-aged class of ‘uncle fans’’ sudden, positive response to the tunes and dances of teenagers? This can be addressed by making a comparison between the earliest, original girl group success such as S.E.S. and Fin.K.L, with the neo-girl groups that exist today. The biggest difference of all is that the ages of their members have decreased, and markedly so (source, right).

걸그룹 열풍의 중심에 서있는 소녀시대는 2007년 당시 멤버 전원이 고등학생이었으며, 걸 그룹 열풍의 시초를 알린 원더걸스 멤버들의 나이는 15세에서 19세에 걸쳐 있었다. 뿐만 아니라 이후 나오는 2ne1, 카라, 걸스데이, 포미닛, 시크릿, 티아라, 애프터 스쿨에 이르기 까지 이전 SES, 핑클 세대와 달리 평균연령이 만 20세를 넘지 않거나 최소한 10대의 멤버를 포함하는 등 ‘어리다’라는 특징을 가지고 시장에 나왔음을 알 수 있다.

Back in 2007, when Girl’s Generation was standing at the epicenter of girl group fever, all of its members were high school students. Similarly, the members of the pioneering Wonder Girls had an age range of 15 to 19 years, and the girl groups that followed, such as 2NE1, Kara, Girl’s Day, 4Minute, T-Ara, and After School all debuted with a definitive ‘young’ factor. Unlike the S.E.S/Fin.K.L generation, these new groups boast an ‘average age’ that does not surpass 20, or at the very least, include one teen-aged member.

S.E.S. and FIN.K.L.(Sources: Left, right)

James – There are three big problems with the last two paragraphs:

1) Like in Part 2 where the author dubiously claimed that nearly 17 year-old Haeri and 17 year-old Minah of Girl’s Day were middle-schoolers, he is simply wrong about that ages of “the S.E.S/Fin.K.L generation” — not only were all members of both groups teenagers upon debut, with Shoo and Eugene of the former and Sung Yu-ri of the latter all 17, but there were many groups with even younger members before 2007, as discussed at Gusts of Popular Feeling. Instead, what was new was that young girl-group members’ dances and costumes were increasingly sexualized.

2) Even if the new groups mentioned did technically have teenage members upon their debuts (Bekah of After School was a woefully immature 19 years and 5 months for instance!), that does not make all the groups the same, and 2NE1’s, Kara’s, T-Ara’s, and After School’s “definitive young factor[s]” at debut — to the extent that they existed at all — can not be compared with, say, JYP’s decision (see below) to have then 15 year-old So-hee consistently giving the most sexualized performances of all the Wondergirls members (this was also the case with 15 year-old Hyuna, and was continued by Cube Entertainment when she later joined 4Minute).

3) Finally and crucially, by implying for the remainder of his post that the decreased ages of the girl-group members accounts for “the middle-aged class of uncle fans’ sudden, positive response to the tunes and dances of teenagers,” he:

a) Leaves you with the impression that Korean middle-aged men are all closet pedophiles, who jumped for joy at finally having girl-groups that catered to their sexual fantasies, and

b) Contradicts much of what he writes about Adorno and the dictates of the Culture Industry. In particular, 20 and 30-something girl-groups and female singers that promote sexually-assertive messages commensurate with their ages seem disproportionately targeted for censure or outright banning, in contrast to those that promote more immature, Lolita-like concepts of virginity, naivety, and passivity.

Or in short, while it’s not difficult to find the “bad girls” of K-pop out there if you wish (or “Pin-up grrrls,” I like to call them), it’s not like the Korean media tries to present a variety of gender and sexual roles for middle-aged uncle fans (or anyone) to choose from.

Continuing:

이러한 “미성년에 대한 금지된 욕망”에 대한 소구(召購)는 이전까지 흔히 공개적으로 시장화 되지 않았던 대중적인 무의식의 한 측면을 파고든 것이었다. 그 동안 대중예술계의 여성 이미지를 지배해온 “청순 코드나 섹시 코드는 식상해진지 오래”이므로 그런 와중에 등장한 풋풋한 여동생들이 단체로 발산하는 “대놓고 드러내지 않는 섹시함과 가시적으로 드러나는 귀여움”은 대중들의 욕망을 채어주기에 충분했던 것이다.

This targeted appeal at the ‘forbidden lust toward minors’ was hitherto an area that had never been openly commercialized, and sought to delve into a part of the public’s subconscious. Since the concept of ‘either wholesome or sexy’ had long gone stale, having been used for just about every portrayal of women in pop culture, the arrival of these fresh-faced girls, collectively projecting theirLolita (1962) Italian Photobuster implicit sexiness alongside their overt endearing qualities, was enough to satiate the public’s desires (source, right).

이러한 ‘미성년’임을 강조하는 걸 그룹들의 시장전략은 남성대중들 사이에 음성적으로 존재하던 ‘미성년에 대한 성애적 욕망’을 아무런 죄책감 없이 소비할 수 있게 만든 ‘박진영’의 상업적인 전략의 산물, 원더걸스에서 시작되었다.

This market strategy that seeks to emphasize these girls’ adolescence is the brainchild of Park Jin Young, who, through the Wonder Girls, created a product that would allow guiltless indulgence of the ‘covert sexual desire towards adolescents’ hiding in the male psyche.

본격적인 걸 그룹 열풍의 시작을 알린 원더걸스는 90년대 실험적인 ‘섹시’ 이미지의 대명사 박진영의 야심작이었다. 박진영은 90년대 파격적인 섹시이미지를 기반으로 ‘엘리베이터안에서’, ‘그녀는 예뻤다’, ‘ 방문에서 침대까지’ 등의 노래를 히트시키며 성장한 가수였다. 또한 그가 제작한 노래는, 박지윤의 ‘성인식’, 엄정화의 ‘초대’와 같은 곡으로 성적은 은유를 강하게 담고 있는 노래들이었다. 그런 그가 JYP란 이름으로 처음 내놓은 그룹이 원더걸스였다는 점은 원더걸스가 다분히 그의 성 적 상품화의 전략에 의해 제작되었음을 충분히 예견할 수 있는 부분이다.

The Wonder Girls, who kick-started the phenomenon of ‘girl group fever’, was the venture of Park Jin Young, an artist synonymous with the experimental ‘sexy’ image of the 90’s. Park Jin Young founded his singing career on the shock factor of his blatantly sexual image, with hits such as In the Elevator, She Was Pretty, and From the Bedroom Door to the Bed.  Additionally, the songs that he produced, some of which being Park Ji Yoon’s Coming-of-age Ceremony, and Um Jung Hwa’s Invitation, commonly relied on sexual metaphors. That he was the one to present the Wonder Girls as his first project under the moniker of ‘JYP’, and that this group was produced in line with his tactic of exploiting sex for commercial purposes, should come as a surprise to no one.

JYP Objectification(Sources: Left, right; see Korean Sociological Image #29 for a discussion of the posters)

결국 박진영은 원더걸스를 통해 대중들의 소녀에 대한 환상을 공공연히 투사하고 즐길 수 있는 통로를 만든 것이라 볼 수 있으며, 이러한 대중적 무의식을 공략한 그의 전략은 ‘텔미 현상’이라 불리는 30-40대 중장년층 팬덤문화를 만들며 ‘미성년에 대한 성 상품화’를 성공적으로 정착시켰다.

It can be said that Park Jin Young provided the public with a channel through which they could openly project and enjoy their fantasies toward young girls. Dubbed the ‘Tell Me Effect’, this stratagem targeted the public’s subconscious, and developed a fan culture in the 30s-40s age range, successfully launching the commodification of minors’ sexualities.

이러한 그의 전략은 마치 걸 그룹의 폭발적인 인기가 이전까지 대중가요에서 이방인으로 취급되던 중장년층을 대중문화의 영역으로 끌어들였다는 낙관론적인 견해가 얼마나 무지한 것인가를 확인시켜준다. 걸 그룹 중심의 대중가요의 흐름은 30대 중장년층의 문화적인 저변의 확대에서 기인하는 것이 아닌 그들의 음성적 성적 욕망을 자극하는 “각계각층을 위해 다양한 질의 대량생산물” 을 소비케 하기 위한 전략에서 나온 것일 뿐이다. 그저 지금까지 개척되지 않은 30-40대 중장년층의 남성시장이 ‘어리다는 이미지를 강조한 성적인 미끼’에 의해 개척 될 수 있다는 것을 확인한 선구자적인 박진영의 상업적 아이디어일 뿐이다. 다양성의 표면적인 모습은 결국 “세속적인 문화 산업 제작팀” 에 의해 특정 계층에 대해 소구하기 위한 허위적인 상품에 불과한 것이고, 아도르노의 생각대로 대중문화는 철저하게 상업적인 이윤의 논리 앞에 다양한 계층을 포함하기 위한 겉으론 다채롭지만 본질은 롤리타적 성애에 집착한 획일적인 “규격품” 에 지나지 않는다.

[Park Jin Young’s] strategy makes it clear how ignorant it would be to take a rosy view on the massive popularity of girl groups, and attribute to [the greater good] of integrating the previously-alienated older generation into mainstream pop culture. The trend towards girl group-focused pop culture is not something that is founded on a desire to expand the cultural base to include the older generation, so much as to appeal to their subconscious sexual desires; a stratagem to provide “mass-manufactured goods for all classes” for consumption. Simply put, it was a business idea thought of by Park Jin Young, who recognized that the as yet unacknowledged 30s-40s age bracket could be lured in, if using the bait of a sexual image that emphasizes the ‘young’ factor. To all intents and purposes, surface-level diversity is in reality little more than a spurious product, selected by a culture industry production team. Just as Adorno hypothesized, popular culture is strictly confined to the parameters of economic reasoning and commercial motives — in order to include all social strata, this product may don the disguise of diversity, but really amounts to no more than another standardized ‘off-the-shelf’ product, fixating on Lolita-esque lust.

Galaxy Pop Advertisement(See Korean Sociological Image #76: Gendered Innocence and “The Nation’s First Love” for a discussion of the above image)

James – While JYP certainly deserves his reputation, it has to be admitted that he didn’t sexualize Suzy of Miss A like he did So-hee of the Wonder Girls. Likely, all the better to exploit her reluctant role as the “nation’s little sister” however, as discussed briefly below.

또한 이러한 롤로토크라시의 걸 그룹의 흥행은 대중가요에 기존에 존재하던 걸 그룹들을 모두 ‘롤리토크라시’라는 가치에 기반을 둔 “획일화”의 산물로 만들어버렸다. 더 이상 걸 그룹들은 새로운 컨셉으로 나오지 않는다. 겉으로는 다양한 음악적인 양식과 스타일을 담고 있는 것처럼 보이지만 실상 그들이 홍보하는 것은 노래의 양식, 스타일보다는 멤버들의 어린 나이이며, 거기서 나오는 은근한 섹시함이다. 오직 바뀌는 것은 ‘어림’과 ‘섹시함’을 어떤 비율로 혼합 하였는가 이며 그 외의 모든 요소는 부차적이다.

What’s more, the success of girl groups ruled by Lolitocracy has forced preexisting girl groups in pop music into becoming subjects of Lolitocracy-based standardization. Girl groups no longer come out with new concepts. On the surface, they appear to be carrying a broad range of musical forms and styles, but in reality, what they are promoting is not their musical genres or styles, but the members’ young ages, and the implicit sexual connotations that this elicits. The only thing that changes from group to group is the ratio at which they mix ‘young’ with ‘sexy’, and all other factors are peripheral.

이러한 흐름은 논문에서 나온 걸스데이의 예처럼 이러한 흐름에 따르지 않는 그룹을 상업적으로 외면 받아 파산되도록 버려두도록 한다. 흐름은 더 큰 흐름을 낳고 새로움은 거대한 흐름에 휩쓸려 사라진다. 이러한 획일성의 흐름은 걸스데이를 기존 여성 락 그룹이라는 음악적인 독창성을 버리고 기존 흐름에 편승할 수밖에 없도록 만들었다. 이러한 예는 브라운아이드걸스, 써니힐 등 기존 모토를 버리고 하나같이 획일화되어버린 많은 걸 그룹에서도 확인할 수 있다.

Such trends, as exemplified earlier through the case of Girl’s Day, filter out non-conformers by leaving them to go bankrupt. These patterns birth wider currents, and innovation is swept away, never to be seen again.  The same current of systematization left Girl’s Day no choice but to rid themselves of their musical individuality (of being a female rock group) and get on the bandwagon, like everyone else. This pattern can be witnessed in many other girl groups such as the Brown Eyed Girls and Sunny Hill, both of whom gave up their original mottos and ended up conforming to the system.

James – Again the author really loses me here, as both groups (including the former’s sub-units) are well known for socially-progressive messages and defying the girl-group norm, with Sunny Hill only taking a small step towards the “mainstream” nearly a year after this post was written (albeit much to my regret!).

Brown Eyed Girls - Sixth Sense(Source)

 결론 / Conclusion

원더걸스 흥행으로 생긴 걸 그룹 흥행과 그 획일화의 블랙홀은 빠른 속도로 확장하고 있다. 또한 점점 노골적인 성적 어필을 암시하는 그룹들이 오빠, 삼촌 이미지에 직접적으로 소구하는 모습을 보고 있노라면 아도르노가 말했듯 대중문화가 “장사 이외에는 아무것도 아닌” “허섭스레기” 라는 사실을 너무도 잘 보여주고 있는 것 같다.

The black hole that is the success of girl groups as triggered by the Wonder Girls, and its standardization, is growing with considerable speed. Furthermore, looking at these groups that are becoming more and more aggressive in their sexual appeals to this specific [audience] of ‘oppas’ and ‘uncles’,  it’s all too clear that pop culture is indeed “garbage,” and “no more than profit-making,” just as Adorno claimed.

이러한 대중문화의 획일화의 문제는 비단 걸 그룹 시장에서만의 문제는 아닐 것이다. 텔레비전 오락방송, 드라마부터 라디오, 영화, 음악에 이르기 까지 모든 문화 분야는 그 획일화의 길을 걷고 있다. 할리우드 영화의 흐름을 담지 못한 영화는 ‘줄거리가 허술하다’라는 비난을 받으며 스크린에서 쫓겨나고 새로운 양식의 음악은 오로지 그런 음악을 찾아 소비하는 극소수의 사람들에게나 존재하는 것이다. 같은 내용의 수많은 컨텐츠들은 결국 같은 방식의 소비만을 강요하게 되고 대중들은 익숙해지고 무감각해지며 다른 것들에 대해 탐구할 만한 의지를 잃고 “영원한 소비자” 로 전락하는 것이다.

The issue of standardized pop culture can’t be a problem exclusive to the girl group market, however. Television entertainment shows and dramas, radio, films and music – they are all walking the same path towards standardization and conformity. Films that do not follow in Hollywood’s footsteps are criticized as having ‘a sub-par plot’ and are chased off the screen, and new styles of music only ever reach the small minority who actively seek to consume them.  The same old material gets replicated innumerably, all pushing the same methods of consumption. The masses become accustomed to it, numb, having lost their will to discover anything new, and gradually degenerate into ‘eternal consumers’.

하지만 걸 그룹 문화에 있어 획일화의 문제에 앞서 하나 더 주목해야 할 것은 이러한 문화산업이 팔고 있는 가치가 “미성년의 성”이라는 점이다. 청소년이 아무리 겉보기에 육체적으로 성숙하였다고 할지라도 그러한 이유로 성인 사회에 존재하는 성적 소비의 대상으로 여긴다는 것은 어불성설이다. 하지만 안타깝게도 돈에 혈안이 된 문화산업의 생산자들은 이제 성 개방 풍조를 등에 업고 예술이라는 이름하에 보호받아야 할 ‘미성년의 성’마저 상품화했다. 그들은 이러한 소비에 대한 죄책감을 희석시키기 위해 ‘삼촌팬’, ‘국민 여동생’이라는 신조어를 만들어 내며 문제가 있는 사안마저 교묘한 방법으로 소비되도록 포장하며 가공했다.

Having said this, more salient than the criticism of standardization in girl group culture is the fact that the very value being sold by the culture industry is the sexuality of minors. No matter how mature teenagers may appear physically, it is ridiculous to assume that we may consider them appropriate subjects of sexual consumption in an adult society. But regrettably, the money-crazed manufacturers of the culture industry have now commodified even the sexuality of minors, something that should be protected in the name of art, and pass it off as an opening trend. In an attempt to justify the guilt that follows such problematic consumption, they have taken to creating neologisms such as ‘uncle fan’ or ‘nation’s little sister’ —  thus, taking even a controversial issue such as this, and slyly packaging it into readily-consumable products.

걸그룹 전성시대의 소녀 아이돌은 서슴없이 몸매를 강조하는 일본식 교복 의상을 메인 테마로 하여 데뷔하며, 짧은 의상과 몸의 움직임과 선을 강조하는 춤을 춘다.

The young female ‘idols’ of the girl group golden age debut wearing costumes reminiscent of Japanese-style uniforms which unscrupulously accentuate their figures, and perform dance routinesWondergirls So-hee GIF that are choreographed to emphasize their skimpy outfits as well as the movements and silhouettes of their bodies (source, right).

이러한 의도되었거나 우연인 것처럼 가장된 성애적 이미지들은 결국 대중들의 시선을 청소년에 성에 집중시킴으로써 마땅히 성적으로 보호받아야할 청소년을 위험에 노출시키고 있는 것이다.

Such sexual portrayals, whether explicit, or construed to appear ‘accidental’, draw the eye of the public to the sexuality of minors, and as a result [these girls] become exposed, where sexuality is concerned, to the very dangers from which they should rightfully be protected.

최근 빈번하게 발생하는 청소년성범죄문제와 근래에 발생한 아동성범죄과 이러한 대중문화의 양상과 직접적인 관계가 있다는 연구는 아직 존재하지 않으나 최근 들어 급속도로 증가하는 청소년성범죄율과 걸 그룹 문화의 성장률을 비교해볼 때 이러한 성상품화 전략이 청소년성범죄와 무관하다고 보기 힘들게 만든다.

So far, no existing studies can confirm a direct correlation linking the above-mentioned aspects of popular culture with the issue of rising rates of now-frequently occurring juvenile sex offenses and of recent child sex offenses. However, upon examining the ever-increasing crime rates in juvenile sex offense cases against the surge of girl group culture, it is difficult to conclude that such sex-peddling [commercial] strategies would have zero relation to juvenile sex offenses.

James – To the best of my knowledge, rates are not rising, and only appear to be so due to sensationalist reporting. Certainly this was the case in July 2010 at least, when the Korean media sparked the still-continuing, albeit very belated and necessary mania about child sex offenses.

요란한 음악과 점점 화려해지는 대중문화의 이면에 점점 더 희석되는 성윤리의식이 보인다. 우리는 어쩌면 이런 식으로 우리 사회의 반드시 지켜야할 가치를 가벼운 유흥과 교환하며 살아가고 있는지도 모른다. 언젠간 이러한 걸 그룹 열풍도 끝날 테지만 걸 그룹 문화가 제시한 ‘미성년도 성적 대상이 될 수 있다’는 무너져 버린 성 의식은 오랫동안 대중들의 의식 속에서 수많은 윤리문제를 쏟아내며 지속될 것 같다.

Looking past the flashy music of pop culture that continues to be more and more extravagant, one can see the disintegration of [healthy] attitudes towards sexual ethics. It seems that we are perhaps letting crucial sexual values in society slide, in exchange for a bit of light entertainment. ‘Girl group fever’ will pass someday, but this flawed attitude presented by girl group culture (the notion that minors may be appropriately thought of as objects of sexual desire) will surely continue to raise a plethora of ethical concerns in the collective consciousness of the public for a long time yet (end).

(Thanks very much to Janne Song for translating Part 3!)

Related Posts:

So Hot by the Wondergirls (원더걸스): Lyrics, Translation, & Explanation

Consent is Sexy, Part 3: Female President by Girl’s Day #FAIL

Korean Girl Rockers, Defying the Stereotypes

Korean Sociological Image #76: Gendered Innocence and “The Nation’s First Love”

Reading the Lolita Effect in South Korea, Part 2: The role of K-pop and the Korean media in sexual socialization and the formation of body image

Ajosshis & Girls’ Generation: The Panic Interface of Korean Sexuality

What did Depraved Oppas do to Girls’ Generation? Part 1

“Cleavage out, Legs in” — The Key to Understanding Ajosshi Fandom?

The Origins of “Ajosshi Fandom”?

Girl’s Day and the New Lolitocracy: Part 2

(Source)

Frankly, all too many things come to mind when I see this picture of Girl’s Day from late-2010…but “Lolitas” isn’t one of them. Even if Haeri, second from left, did happen to be 16 at the time. Minah in the center, 17.

Fast-forward to March 2011 though, and the black leather, guitars, and bar setting of Nothing Lasts Forever would be ditched for uniforms and classrooms in Twinkle Twinkle, the sass for aegyo and pining after Oppa. By July, Girl’s Day would appear in the sickly-sweet Hug Me Once too, K-pop’s first music video to have a dating sim version.

Following on from Part 1, Part 2 of this blogger’s post is a very convincing account of this transformation over 2011, and makes you wonder how many fans they lost as a result (or, more cynically, how many more they gained). Also it takes little persuading to believe that many dating sims involve male characters selecting from a variety of youthful, even underage girls, and that it’s very telling that Girl’s Day would choose to replicate one.

The Lolita Effect M Gigi DurhamBut really, it was their (now former) management company Dream T Entertainment that made the decision, so one criticism of the blogger is that he makes no distinction between the company and the group, despite members’ autonomy and consent being crucial for determining if they’re being sexually objectified or not (however, a dating ban and working conditions like these leave little doubt that they were indeed objectified). Another is his use of sweeping, take-his-word-for-it generalizations about lolicon and its popularity with otaku, which I’d wager readers familiar with Japanese popular culture will take issue with. Added to his sloppy, undefined, and interchangeable use of the terms “Lolita complex,” “Lolita syndrome” and the very rare “Lolitocracy” in Part 1, doing the same with a fourth Lolita-related term needlessly detracts from his arguments (source, right: author’s scan).

It was hypocritical of me to complain about a lack of definitions in Part 1 though, without providing my own. So, let me end this commentary here by offering what I took “The Lolita Effect” (which I think covers all the blogger’s related terms) to mean back at about the same time Dream T Entertainment decided to put it in action with Girl’s Day, based on my reading of the book of the same name by Meenakshi Durham:

…In short, it is the natural consequence of various industries’ (fashion, cosmetics, cosmetic surgery, diet-related, food, and so on) need to build, expand, and maintain markets for their products, which obviously they would do best by — with their symbiotic relationship with the media through advertising — creating the impression that one’s appearance and/or ability to perform for the male gaze is the most important criteria that one should be judged on. And the younger that girls learn that lesson and consume their products, the better.

Update 1 — Three things I should also mention:

1) Despite everything I’ve written about Girl’s Day, I’m hardly a hater, and I confess Female President is *cough* a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine, especially *ahem* that move at 0:51 in their performances (not so much in the MV though — their garish costumes put me off):

2) While they’re certainly sexually objectified in Female President, and likely will continue to be for their new mini-album to be released next week, it’s difficult to describe them as being portrayed as Lolitas now either. So, it appears further changes to their “concept” were made after the blogger wrote in August 2012, and I’ll investigate for a future post (can any fans provide any pointers?).

3) All that said, Nothing Lasts Forever just ROCKS (pun not intended), and is the only song of theirs I have on my MP3 player. If you haven’t heard it yourself, stop what you’re doing right now…then share my lament for Girl’s Day’s missed opportunity to stand out from most other girl-groups (and empathize with female indie groups that have to grapple with the same dilemma):

Update 2: For what it’s worth, leader and lead-vocalist So-jin recently expressed her discomfort with the group’s “cute concept.”

Taking up the translation directly where Part 1 leaves off:

(3) 걸스데이의 ‘MAXIM’ 화보 촬영 / Girl’s Day’s MAXIM Photoshoot

걸스데이의 성 상품화 방식은 반짝반짝 이후노래 뿐 아니라 다른 영역으로까지 확대된다. 그 중 대표적인 것이 걸스데이의 MAXIM화보촬영인데, 이러한 움직임은 걸스데이의 그룹전략이 성상품화 방식으로 흐르고 있다는 것을 극명하게 보여주는 사례가 된다. 걸스데이는 2011년 3월 반짝반짝 발매로 흥행을 거두고 있는 상태에서 걸 그룹 중 이례적으로 맥심(Maxim) 이라는 성인잡지에 모델로 출연하게 된다.

In addition to Twinkle Twinkle, Girl’s Day utilized a strategy of sexual objectification in many ways since. Out of these, their photoshoot for Maxim was both the most typical and most strongly demonstrated their shift in concept. They were chosen over other girl groups on the basis of the exceptional success of Twinkle Twinkle released in March.

맥심은 전형적인 성인 남성 잡지로 노출 수위가 높은 사진과 선정적인 내용을 담고 있는 잡지이다. 상반신이나 하반신을 의도적으로 노출시키는 포르노성 화보 뿐 아니라 특정 부분에서는 여성의 전라(全裸)의 신체가 노출되는 화보도 게재되고 있으며 그 내용도 선정적인 것이 많을 뿐더러 직접적인 성관계를 다루는 부분도 잡지 안에 상당부분 존재한다.

Girl's Day Maxim Minah Theodor Adorno(Sources: left, right)

Maxim is a typical adult men’s magazine with an emphasis on pictures and sexual content. It doesn’t just have pornographic pictures with people’s upper or lower bodies willfully exposed, but publishes pictures of completely nude females and its contents deal mostly with lewd topics or are directly about sexual relationships. [James -- I haven't seen a copy in five years, but describing it as something akin to Playboy is a bit of an exaggeration surely? Either way, see here for pictures of the Girl's Day shoot]

Girl's Day Maxim Hyeri이러한 성인잡지에 10대 걸 그룹이 화보의 모델로 출연한다는 것은 사회적으로도 문제가 되는 일이었음에도 불구하고 걸스데이는 화보촬영을 감행한다. 2011년 5월호 maxim 속 공개된 걸스데이의 화보는 흰색 셔츠에 짧은 바지를 입어 ‘바지가 없는 듯한’ 설정의 컨셉, 소위 ‘하의실종패션’이라는 컨셉과 더불어 상반신 노출이 심한 의상과 선정적인 자세로 잡지에 실리었다. 그 당시 미성년자인 멤버가 둘(방민아, 이해리)이 있었음에도 불구하고 진행된 이 화보촬영은 성인문화의 중심인 성인잡지에 미성년자를 놓음으로써 롤리타 콤플렉스를 이용한 ‘미성년의 성’을 상품화한 극단적인 예라고 볼 수 있으며, 성 개방 풍조에 편승하여 ‘미성년의 성’을 상품으로 공략했다는 점에서 그전까지 노래에서 암시적으로 제시된 성 상품화 전략이 노골적으로 드러나는 부분이라고 볼 수 있을 것이다.

Although problematic, teenage members of Girl’s Day were included in the photoshoot for the May 2011 edition. Members dressed in white shirts and very short pants in a “disappearing pants” concept, which also excessively exposed their upper bodies and placed them in sexually suggestive poses. Using two underage members — Minah (17 years 11 months at the time of release; see above image), Haeri (16 years 10 months; above-right {source}) — in a photoshoot as the focus of an adult magazine is an extreme example of the Lolita complex, and shows that Girl’s Day were blatantly using it as a marketing strategy, rather than just hinting at it previously in songs and music videos.

Update 3: I forgot to mention that despite laws against it, Korean authorities have long turned a blind eye to sexualized images of minors in the media. Consider what I wrote about the marketing of Samaria/Samaritan Girl (2004) back in 2009:

Consider the two promotional posters above from 2004, featuring Kwak Ji-min (곽지민) and Han Yeo-reum (한려름) respectively. Never mind that Kwak is topless, and as a minor when the picture was taken, meant that it was technically illegal; as this case with a 14 year-old in January and this case with an 18 year-old earlier this month demonstrate, the Korean authorities still seem strangely reluctant to prosecute this sort of thing. Rather, the point is that far from discouraging one from having sex with minors, both posters seem to be positively encouraging it.

Continuing:

(4) ‘반짝반짝’ 이전 작품과의 비교 / Comparing Twinkle Twinkle to Girl’s Day’s Previous Works

이러한 걸스데이의 성 상품화 전략은 2011년 3월 ‘반짝반짝’이 나오기 전까지의 음악적 색깔과 ‘반짝반짝’이후의 음악적 색이나 성향이 어떻게 달라졌는지를 살펴보면 그 의도를 더욱 명확히 확인할 수 있다. 걸스데이의 초기 형태는 지금과 같지 않았다. 초기 활동 당시 여성 락 밴드를 표방하여 시작한 걸스데이는 새로운 멤버 교체 이후 ‘잘해줘봐야’라는 밴드 락 중심의 음반으로 활동하고 있었다. 가사의 내용 또한 제목에서 알 수 있듯이 반짝반짝과 이후 노래에서 볼 수 있는 풋풋한 사랑에 대해 다룬 것과 상반되게 배신과 복수를 다루고 있으며 강력한 비트와 단조 중심의 선율로 무거우면서도 강렬한 여성 락 그룹의 이미지를 보여주고 있었다. 멤버들의 의상 또한 강한 느낌의 노래와 어울리는 검은색 가죽옷과 팜므파탈적인 소품이 주를 이루었으며 클럽과 밴드 무대를 배경으로 한 뮤직비디오에서도 각 멤버는 있는 힘껏 드럼과 기타를 치거나 수화기를 세차게 던지거나 망치로 특정 대상을 치는 등 다소 과격하고 강한 느낌을 연출하고 있다.

If you compare Girl’s Day’s style of music before and after Twinkle Twinkle, their new sexual objectification strategy is clear. They are now very different to when they started. At the beginning, after the sudden membership changes, they emerged as a girl rock group with their song Nothing Lasts Forever. Rather than Twinkle Twinkle, which was about a new love, this song’s title and contents were about betrayal and revenge, with a rhythm in minor chords. The music video set in a bar with a stage in the background, the members give off a strong femme fatale vibe with their black leather clothes, their powerful working of guitars and drums, and hitting of hammers [James -- inflatable hammers that is, but point taken about the very different vibe!] and violent throwing of phone receivers.

하지만 이러한 ‘잘해줘봐야’의 컨셉은 당시 걸 그룹의 기본적인 형태와는 상이한 것이었다. 그 당시 소녀시대와 원더걸스를 중심으로 ‘어리다’는 컨셉 하에 수많은 그룹들이 ‘어느 그룹에 평균연령이 더 어린가?’, ‘어느 그룹에 더 어린 멤버가 있는가?’로 경쟁하며 어리면서도 은근하게 성적으로 어필하는 능력이 인기 있는 걸 그룹으로 평가되는 시기였다.

However, at the same time that they had this concept, the standard for girl groups was very different. Centered around the Wondergirls and Girls’ Generation, they competed against each other and were judged on the basis of their youth (Which group had the youngest average age of members? Which group had the youngest member?), with an implicit sexual appeal on that basis.

기존에 존재하던 자기만의 음악적 색을 띠는 가수들은 브라운관 너머로 사라지고 ‘어림’과 ‘섹시함’이라는 다소 모순적인 가치를 얼마나 훌륭하게 배합한 걸 그룹들이 가요계를 점령하고 있었다. 이러한 상황에서 다소 성숙하고 반항적인 이미지의 걸스데이의 초기 컨셉은 이러한 흐름과는 상이한 매우 ‘이질적인’ 컨셉이었다.

In this environment, girl-groups with different styles soon disappeared from the airwaves, while those that focused on the (actually contradictory) combination of youth and sexiness soared ahead. Unfortunately, Girl’s Day’s original concept directly defied this trend.

하지만 이러한 이질성은 결코 강점이 되지 못했다. 문화산업의 시스템은 너무나도 확연하게 획일화를 요구하고 있었고 그 획일화에 순응하지 않는 그룹은 경제적인 무능력자가 되어 사라질 수밖에 없었다. 이러한 상태에서 걸스데이는 결국 데뷔 초기의 그룹 컨셉을 완전히 버리고 걸 그룹 문화의 거대한 양식의 흐름 편승할 수밖에 없었고, ‘반짝반짝’에서 완전히 새로운 컨셉으로 재탄생되게 된다. 거친 느낌의 가죽 자켓은 교복으로 바뀌었고 노래의 분위기는 천진하고 가볍게 변했다. 가사는 더 이상 반항을 말하지 않으며 순종적이고 연약한 소녀의 모습만을 그리게 된다. 이러한 이미지 변신을 시작으로 걸스데이는 안정적인 팬층을 확보하며 걸그룹시장내에 견고한 입지를 굳히게 된다.

This difference couldn’t be sustained. The culture industries demanded standardization, and groups that couldn’t adapt ultimately disappeared. Because of this situation, Girl’s Day had to completely do away with the concept they debuted with and join the girl-group bandwagon, coming up with the completely new concept of Twinkle Twinkle. The leather jackets were done away with in favor of school uniforms, the atmosphere now one of light naivete. The lyrics were no longer about rebellion, but stressed being meek, obedient, weak and frail girls. This image change helped give them a secure fanbase and cemented their entrance in the girl-group market.

이러한 걸스데이의 음악적 양상의 변화에 따른 인기의 변화는 ‘어린 이미지’가 걸 그룹 문화에서 얼마나 핵심적인 요소로써 작용하고 있는가를 잘 보여주는 것이다. 비록 멤버들 중 어린 멤버가 있다고 할지라도 그 멤버가 성적 어필을 하지 않는 컨셉인 ‘잘해줘봐야’같은 노래는 대중들의 관심을 끌 수 없다. ‘반짝반짝’처럼 ‘미성년의 성’을 직접적으로 다루고 언급하는 노래만이 대중 걸 그룹 문화에서 살아남을 수 있다. 위에서 살펴본 이러한 면들은 걸 그룹에 팬들이 반응하는 이유가 그들의 ‘미성숙한 성’에 있는 것이라는 사실을 보여주며 이것이 현 걸그룹 문화의 거대한 흐름이라는 사실을 잘 보여주고 있다.

This [successful] change by Girl’s Day demonstrates that a girl-groups must have a youthful image at their core in order to survive. Also, despite having adolescent members in their group, the lack of sex appeal in Nothing Lasts Forever [James -- I beg to differ; he means a Lolita-like sex appeal] meant that it went unnoticed by the media — only songs like Twinkle Twinkle that directly refer to or take advantage of teenage sexuality will gain attention. They are also the only kinds of songs that get a reaction from fans, and, combined, demonstrate how strong this trend is.

Girl's Day Lolita Transformation(Sources: top, middle, bottom)

<사진 2> 위 두 사진은 걸스데이의 반짝반짝 이전과 이후 스타일이 얼마나 크게 변화했는지 보여준다. 맨 왼쪽 사진은 ‘잘해줘봐야’ 활동 당시 모습으로 락 밴드 느낌의 강하고 터프한 이미지로 활동했음을 잘 보여준다. 중앙 사진은 ‘반짝반짝’의 컨셉사진으로 ‘girl’s day school’이란 마크와 교복을 변형한 형태를 통해 그룹 멤버의 ‘어린’ 이미지를 강조한 모습한다. 두 컨셉의 변화는 롤리토크라시의 양상으로의 변화가 잘 드러난다.. 세 번째 사진은 ‘한번만 안아줘’의 컨셉사진으로 하얀 드레스와 순백의 배경으로 ‘잘해줘봐야’와 완전히 상반되는 ‘여성성’을 강조하는 컵셉을 기반으로 하고 있다. 걸스데이는 ‘반짝반짝’의 흥행성공으로 걸스데이는 완전히 방향을 전환하여 기존 컨셉을 버리고 ‘어린 이미지’와 ‘미성년의 여성성’을 강조하는 이미지로 탈바꿈하였다. (사진출처: “걸스데이”, 구글)

Caption: These three pictures show the evolution in Girl’s Day’s style. In the first from Nothing Lasts Forever, they give off the image of a strong, tough, rock band. In the middle, a concept photo for Twinkle Twinkle, the new emphasis on members’ youth with the “Girl’s Day School” banner and school uniforms can be seen. Finally, with Hug Me Once, the complete transformation from Nothing Last Forever is evident, with a virgin-white background and dresses and an emphasis on women’s sexuality. Twinkle Twinkle was such a hit that Girl’s Day completely did away with their old image, and instead stressed a youthful image and adolescent girls’ sexuality.

(5) 걸스데이의 ‘한번만 안아줘’ / Girl’s Day’s Hug Me Once

이러한 양상은 이후 2011년 7월 ‘반짝반짝’ 이후 연이어 출시된《Everyday》의 타이틀곡 ‘한번만 안아줘’에서 완전히 고착화되었음을 보여준다. 제목에서부터 다소 자극적인 느낌의 이 곡은 걸스데이의 음악이 완전히 ‘잘해줘봐야’의 컵셉에서 ‘반짝반짝’의 컨셉(즉, 귀엽고 깜찍하지만 또 한편으로는 성적인 어필을 하는 컨셉)으로 전환되었음을 보여주는 곡이다. 이 곡에서는 이전 ‘반짝반짝’에서처럼 직접적인 미성년에 대한 암시, 즉 교복이나 학교 같은 컨셉은 취하고 있지 않지만 뮤직비디오와 가사에서 아동성애적인 장치를 충분히 보여주고 있다.

Girl’s Day’s adherence to this new concept in Twinkle Twinkle was confirmed in their follow-up song Hug Me Once, the title-track to their second mini-album everyday — from the title to the music, it clearly gives off the same feeling of cuteness and preciousness on the one hand, and sex appeal on the other. Although it lacks the school uniforms and school-like setting of Twinkle Twinkle, the music video and the lyrics still hint towards adolescent sexuality through a variety of devices.

이 곡에서 특히 뮤직비디오가 상당히 특징적이다. 최초로 시도된 3개의 개별화된 뮤직비디오는 공식 발표 3일전 세 개의 뮤직비디오를 암시하는 intro 티져 영상을 통해 공개되어 많은 사람의 주목을 받았다. 3개의 뮤직비디오는 ‘한번만 안아줘’라는 하나의 곡을 가지고 3가지 다른 타입, Dance ver, Game ver, MV로 이루어져 있다. 감상자는 DVD의 영상선택방식을 이용하여 화면을 마우스로 클릭하여 다른 모드의 뮤직비디오를 시청할 수 있다. 이러한 뮤직비디오 방식은 이전까지 전무했던 뮤직비디오 양식이었다는 점에서 언론에 많은 관심을 받았으며 매우 획기적이라는 평가를 받게 된다.

The music video was also groundbreaking, and gained a lot of attention in the media, as three days before the official release, a teaser video hinted that there would be three versions: a dance version, a game version, and a typical music video. Viewers would be able to select between them and within each via menus and clicking options like when using a DVD.

여기서 우리가 주목할 것은 세 개의 뮤직비디오 중 Game version이다. Game version은 3개로 뮤직비디오를 분할한 것만큼이나 매우 실험적이고 도전적이었는데, 그 이유는 뮤직비디오의 Game ver이 일본 애니메이션 산업에서 파생한 ‘연예시뮬레이션’ 게임의 양식을 따랐다는 점에서이다.

Girl's Day Dating Sim(Sources: top, bottom)

Out of the three, the game version was the most noticeable and challenging to make, as it derived from a “dating sim” [lit. "Lovers' simulation"] model used in the Japanese animation industry.

[연애 시뮬레이션 게임은 연애를 모방한 게임 장르의 하나로, 코나미에서 제작된 도키메키 메모리얼 시리즈에 근본을 두고 있다. 주로 주인공이 남성이고 연애 상대로 미소녀들이 등장하므로 미소녀 연애 시뮬레이션이라고도 한다. 대한민국에서는 이 말을 줄여서 미연시라는 용어를 만들었는데, 이 용어는 원래 뜻을 넘어서 미소녀 게임을 총칭하는 말로 쓰이고 있다. 이러한 연예시뮬레이션게임은 일본의 만화, 애니메이션 문화와 함께 발달하여 1차원적 감상에서 벗어나 만화 캐릭터와 실제로 상호작용 함으로써 “세계와 삶에 대한 종합적 체험을 갖는 것이 이제 불가능한 상태에서 오직 시각적인 체험의 형식”으로 경험이 가능한 오타쿠 문화에 주체의 의식을 반영할 가능성을 제시한  산업이다. [(김홍중, 심보선, 실재에의 열정에 대한 열정,한국문화사회학회, 문화와 사회, 제4권 2008.5, pp.114-146 )]

The dating sim genre is derived from the Tokimeki Memorial series by Konami. In them, the subject is usually male, the object of his affections female, and often underage; in Korea the name for such games has been shortened to mi-yeon-shi, and has come to encapsulate all games involving underage characters. Building upon Japanese comics, animation books, and the otaku culture industry it goes beyond passive viewing to an interactive experience with the characters, “giving a more holistic, lifelike experience, which changes the impossible to a visual form” [James -- Apologies, but I found the second half of this paragraph exceptionally difficult; this is my best guess]. (Kim Hong-joong and Shin Bo-seon, “The Passion of the Passion of the Real: The Poetry and Poetics of Miraepa,” Culture and Society, The Korean Association for the Sociology of Culture, Volume 4, May 2008, pp. 114-146.)

Game ver 뮤직비디오는 잠에서 깨어난 1인칭 시점의 화자가 걸스데이 멤버 한명 한명과 여러 장소를 이동하며 데이트를 한다는 내용으로 구성되어 있다. 뮤직비디오는 시작부터 ‘insert coin’이라든지 게임등급표시 등의 표시를 넣어 게임임을 강조하는데 뮤직비디오 전 프레임에 ‘연예시뮬레이션’게임에 사용되는 겉 테두리와 사각형의 말 상자 그리고 새로운 캐릭터가 등장할 때마다 팝업(pop up)되는 간략한 신상소개 상자 등은 완전히 뮤직비디오의 내용을 연예시뮬레이션게임에서 차용했음을 보여주는 면이다. 뮤직비디오의 주인공, 1인칭 대상은 손과 발만 노출하여 각 멤버들과 손을 잡거나 함께 걷는 등의 모습을 보이는데 이것은 간접체험으로써의 한계를 극소화 시키려는 연예시뮬레이션의 ‘비매개’의 속성을 이용한 흔적이라고 볼 수 있을 것이다. 그리고 5명의 멤버와의 데이트가 끝나게 되면 화면이 바뀌면서 5명의 멤버중 한명을 고르라는 선택화면이 나오게 되는데 이러한 설정 또한 연예시뮬레이션의 요소를 그대로 가져왔다고 볼 수 있다. 이 마지막 화면은 또 5개의 개별엔딩으로 구성되어 있어 감상자의 선택에 따라 개별엔딩으로 연결된다.

The game version of the music video is told from a first-person perspective, in which the viewer goes on separate dates with each member of Girl’s Day in a variety of different locations. It uses many elements common to dating sims, including: the use of an “insert coin” text; a frame or border around the screen; pop-up speech bubbles with simple introductions to the members; and only having the subject’s hands and feet visible, making his presence indirect but also more realistic. Another borrowed element is having a screen with all five members appearing at the end, with different endings [to each date] appearing depending on which member is selected.

James — Compare the June 2009 Tell Me Your Wish by Girls’ Generation, the group most strongly associated with the Lolita effect in Korea:

여기서 주목할 점은 이 뮤직비디오의 양식을 단순히 재미있는 뮤직비디오 아이디어로 보기 힘들다는 점이다. 왜냐하면 뮤직비디오가 차용한 일본 연예시뮬레이션 게임이 오랜 시간동안 ‘롤리타 콤플렉스’의 해소처, 즉 로리콘 문화의 중심으로 간주되어왔다는 사실 때문이다.

It is difficult to dismiss the music video as simple fun, for the lovers’ animation genre it so heavily borrows from has long been considered the natural home of the Lolita complex, and a natural fit with lolicon comics.

James — Given that natural fit, I expected to find a great deal of academic sources that discussed both, but to my surprise didn’t find any at all. Can any readers fill in the gaps? Lacking any expertise myself, I’m wary of relying on media sources that tend to have a “The Crazy, Perverted Japanese” undercurrent to them, but on the other hand it’s true that I can’t think of many other countries where events like this would ever happen, even if foreign media outlets do exaggerate their popularity.

연예시뮬레이션게임은 주로 애니메이션에서만 등장하는 캐릭터를 게임화시킴으로써 사용자와 상호작용할 수 있게 한다는 것이 게임의 취지이다. 사용자는 캐릭터를 사용자의 주체적인 내러티브에 집어넣음으로써 캐릭터와의 개별적인 경험을 형성함으로써 현실에서 만날 수 없는 미소녀와 연애를 함으로써 대한 대리 만족을 경험하게 한다. 연애시뮬레이션 게임은 그렇기에 현실에서 접하기 힘든 어린 미소녀를 주 대상으로 삼아왔으며 일본 로리콘 문화에 핵심적인 산업으로 자리 잡게 된다.

The purpose of dating sims is for the viewers to interact with ‘gameized characters, and to give them independent narratives and experiences with them. The underage characters are a proxy for something they are unable to have in real life, and are why lovers’ animation games are at the core of the Japanese lolicon comics industry.

TV 아사히, 3차원 미소녀 아이돌 vs 2차원 미소녀 캐릭터(“TV 아사히, 3차원 미소녀 아이돌 vs 2차원 미소녀 캐릭터? / TV Asahi, 3rd level underage idols vs. 2nd level underage characters?” — just some of the unfamiliar terminology I had struggle with here! Source)

그런 점에서 연예시뮬레이션게임의 모델을 뮤직비디오에 차용했다는 사실은 단순히 뮤직비디오의 재미를 위해 제작하였다고 보기는 힘들게 만든다. 연예시뮬레이션 게임이 로리콘 문화에서 2차원의 어린 캐릭터와 상호작용하기 위한 욕망을 기반으로 만들어졌다는 점을 기억할 때, 뮤직비디오의 제작자가 이러한 요소를 인지하지 못한 채 뮤직비디오를 만들었다고 보기는 힘들다. 결국 이러한 점을 종합해 보면 ‘한번만 안아줘’의 뮤직비디오는 로리콘 문화와 같은 방식으로 ‘미성년에 대한 성애적 욕망’에 호소하여 성을 상품화하는 전략이라고 볼 수 있으며, 또한 뮤직비디오를 통해 그러한 문화에 익숙한 대중들, 즉 로리콘 문화에 익숙한 소위, ‘오타쿠’들을 직접적인 소비자로 설정하여 성 상품화하려는 제작자의 의도가 드러난다고 볼 수 있다.

In that regard, it is difficult to describe it as a simple music video. Also, when you remember that dating sims and lolicon comics are produced to stimulate interaction with and sexual desire for fictional underage characters, it is difficult to believe that the producer was unaware of that. In the end, by using elements similar to those in lolicon comics in the music video for Hug Me Once, and calling for a sexual objectification strategy based on sexual desire for underage girls, it is apparent that this music video was produced for the direct consumption of those most familar with lolicon comics, the otaku.

이러한 뮤직비디오의 구성과 더불어 곡 자체에서도 앞선 ‘반짝반짝’에서처럼 미성년임에도 성적인 어필을 하는 많은 부분을 발견할 수 있다.

Along with these elements, Hug Me Once shares many with Twinkle Twinkle that are based on a sexual appeal of underage girls.

‘한번만 안아줘’의 가사는 A-B-C-A-B-C-A-D 형태로 ‘한번만 안아줘’라는 말이 반복적으로 A 부분과 D부분에서 사용되고 나머지 가사의 내용 전개는 B와 C를 중심으로 이루어진다. 가사 B의 부분에 ‘한번만 안아보면 내 맘을 알 텐데 뛰는 내 가슴은 여기 시계보다 더 빠른데’ 라는 부분은 앞선 ‘반짝반짝’의 예에서처럼 모순적인 감정의 미성년을 드러내어 단순히 부끄러움 때문에 표현하지 못하는 것일 뿐 “어린 소녀도 욕망의 주체”라는 사실을  표현함으로써 수용자에게 사회적 억제기제에 대한 정당화의 구실을 제공한다. 또한 이후 바로 이어지는 ‘한번만 안아줘’로 구성된 반복적인 부분은 조르는 듯 한 애교 섞인 말투이지만 또 이성 간에 스킨십을 적극적으로 바라는 욕망을 표현한다는 점에서 어린 이미지와 성적인 주체로써의 이미지를 혼합함으로써 롤리타적 욕망을 자극하는 모습을 보이고 있다.

The lyrics to Hug Me Once follow an A-B-C-A-B-C-A-D form, “Hug Me Once” repeated in the A and D parts and the remainder concentrated in the B and C parts. In the B part, they read “If you hug me once, you will know my feelings [desires], my heart is beating faster than a clock,” an ironic, contradictory combination of desire and embarrassment at and/or inability to act on it, which removes societal constraints on relationships with minors by encouraging the [adult, male] viewer to Hyeri Nothing Lasts Forevertake the initiative. Also, the “Hug me Once” parts are said with such aegyo that the combination of opposite-sex skinship, and sexual and youthful images provided must be viewed as directly playing to a Lolita-like desire (source, right).

And that ends Part 2. Part 3, which I’ve left to an awesome, wonderful reader who generously offered to translate it, will be up next Monday. Until then, Happy New Year!

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Reading the Lolita Effect in South Korea, Part 2: The role of K-pop and the Korean media in sexual socialization and the formation of body image

Ajosshis & Girls’ Generation: The Panic Interface of Korean Sexuality

What did Depraved Oppas do to Girls’ Generation? Part 1

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