“Body Changing” Diet-Drink Generously Donated to High School Students

(Source)

Young Korean women — not men — are the only demographic in the OECD that are getting more underweight than obese.

Call me making a mountain out of a molehill, but diet-drink companies being allowed to donate their product to teens, out of supposed concerns for their heath? And plastering their classrooms with ads of heavily photoshopped women in the process? Those may just have something to do with that:

청정원 홍초가 수험생 여러분을 응원합니다 / Chung Jung Won’s HongCho Cheers For Students Taking University Entrance Exams

by Kim Jong-hoon (김종훈), Asia Today, November 4 2012

대상은 자사의 브랜드인 ‘청정원’ 홍초가 수능시험을 앞둔 고3 수험생을 응원하기 위해 오는 7일까지 서울시내 20여개 학교를 찾아 다니며 홍초 2만여개를 무료로 나눠줄 계획이라고 4일 밝혔다.

On Sunday, Daesang’s brand Chung Jung Won [English website here] announced that to support 3rd year high school students about to take their university entrance exams, they would visit 20 high schools in Seoul before the 8th (the day of the exams) and donate 20,000 bottles of HongCho to students (source, right).

청정원측은 오랜 시험준비로 지친 수험생들이 좋은 컨디션으로 시험을 볼 수 있도록 응원하기 위한 마음으로 기획 된 행사라고 설명했다. 수능이 끝난 이후에도 홍초를 내세운 다양한 마케팅 활동으로 그간 고생이 많았던 수험생들을 지원할 계획이다.

Chung Jung Won explained that this is an event for tired students that have been preparing for the exams for such a long time, so that they can be in good condition on the exam day. Also, that even after the exams, the company plans to continue supporting those students that have suffered so much, through various HongCho marketing events.

한편, 홍초는 피로회복 등에 도움이 되는 기능성 원료인 콜라겐과 헛개나무 농축액, 그리고 식이섬유를 풍부하게 함유하고 있는 건강기능성 음용식초다.

HongCho is a healthy vinegar drink that includes collagen, liquids extracted from the Oriental Raisin Tree, and a lot of fiber, and is very helpful for recovering from tiredness. (end.)

For sure, HongCho does sound quite healthy. And, technically, it is not a diet-drink:

Diet drinks: Include calorie-free and low-calorie versions of sodas, fruit drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, and carbonated water, consistent with definitions reported by the National Cancer Institute and U.S. Food and Drug Administration food labeling guidelines. Diet drinks do not include 100% fruit juice or unsweetened teas or coffees.

(Source)

However, a quick perusal of the Chung Jung Won website demonstrates that it is explicitly being marketed as a “body-changing” drink, with — especially after photoshopping — exceptionally tall and skinny Jun Ji-hyun (전지현) endorsing it most recently (that’s Kim Hee-sun/김희선 from 2010 above). Also, the following website screenshot (from 2011) and commercial show that the body-changing theme is no mere Konglish accident:

(Source)

There also appears to be a sponsorship deal with the Diet War program:

(Source)

Meanwhile, girl-group Kara (카라) are promoting the drink in Japan, with much the same theme. Which is ironic, considering that these are the same women who admitted that they can’t even drink water on the (frequent) days that they’re required to wear revealing clothing:

What do you think? Have any Korea-based readers had similar promotions at their own schools? How about overseas? Are concerns and issues different there? I know that in the US for instance, it is more sodas that are the considered a problem, and that if students drank HongCho instead that would probably be considered a blessing. From TIME back in March (my emphasis):

If some public-health advocates have their way, sodas could become the cigarettes of food. Doctors already dislike the sugary drinks for their teeth-dissolving properties and for the role they may play in childhood obesity. There’s a constant struggle to get soda vending machines out of public schools, with administrators often forced to choose between losing sponsorship money from big soda companies and dealing with overcaffeinated, less healthy kids. Given the sheer size of the American soda industry — 9.4 billion cases of soft drinks were sold in the U.S. in 2009 — it’s not a war that will end anytime soon. Especially if a certain C word starts getting thrown around.

Update: From the picture, I got the impression that is was only girls’ schools that were targeted, but the advertorial (I can’t bring myself to call it a news report) only mentions 20 schools, and is repeated verbatim across newspapers. If readers find any more information though, please pass it on here!

Update 2: It’s not really related to the original post, but if you read that TIME magazine article above, you may also be interested in the recent findings that one of the main reasons for US children’s obesity is that they’re eating away from home so often, and (of course) that they’re mostly eating junk food when they do.

Related Posts:

Give it to me (줄래) by Lee Jeong-hyeon (이정현): Lyrics and Translation

It feels like a long time since I’ve posted something here simply because I liked it. So, let me put what I had planned aside for a moment and remedy that, starting by passing on this video of “internet DJ” Lee Jeong-hyeon (이정현), covering the 2000 hit Give it to me (줄래) by the singer of the same name. The next time I’m harping on about the evils of aegyo and female infantilization in Korea popular culture, please remind me of how much I love this video despite myself, and that being cute definitely does have its time and place:

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find much information about her when I first saw the video on Mongdori back in 2008, and I can’t find anything at all now. But I did find the music video of the song itself to compare (update: see here for a higher quality version):

And as it turns out, it was covered that same year by the Wondergirls (원더걸스), then by KARA (카라) the year after that:

Given that popularity; an English title that reminded me of double entendres like the “get into my core” from Girls’ Generation’s (소녀시대) Visual Dreams (비주얼드림); a doll in the music video that surely symbolized something; and the fact that Lee Jeong-hyeon was selected by Lady Gaga to open her Seoul concert in 2009, then — you guessed it — I just had to translate it!

(Lee Jeong-hyeon opening for Lady Gaga, 2009. Source)

뒤돌아 날 본다…넌 내가 셋을 셀동안

홧김에 끝내잔 얘길 넌 던진 것 뿐야

이대로 날 두고 갈 생각 전혀 없어 넌

거봐 너! 지금 너! 또 오잖아

Look back and you see me…while I count to three

You said that you only broke up with me because you were angry

You don’t want to leave me like this

See, look at you now. You’re coming back.

불안해 왜 불안해 내 말을 왜 못믿어

그렇게 겪어봐도 나를 몰라 왜 몰라줘

니몸에 날 묶을까? 내 옷에 써 붙힐까?

난 바로 니 여자라고…

Nervous? Why are you nervous? Why can’t you believe what I say?

Don’t you know me by now, after going through life so much together?

Shall I tie myself to you? Shall I write your name on my clothes?

I’m the woman for you

처음엔 좋댔잖아

섹시한 눈웃음도 감았다 살짝 뜬 우아한 내 윙크도

너 만을 위한거야

딴데선 난 안그래 왜 맘 좁게 날 의심해

At first, you said you liked my sexy eyes and my elegant, subtle wink

It was all for you

I don’t do that to other guys

Why are you so shallow and suspicious?

[CHORUS BEGINS]

톡 쏘는 콜라처럼 난 니 마음 속에 들어갈꺼야

지금은 화난척해도

또 풀릴걸 내가 안기면

Like a cola fizzing, I’ll rise to be in your heart

Now, you’re only pretending to be angry really

I know that will go away if I hold you

모든걸 가질래 아무도 안줄래

나 니 마음을 다 사로잡을래

나 오늘은 순결한 백합처럼

나 때로는 붉은 장미처럼

모든걸 다줄래 너에게 다줄래

나의 관심은 언제나 너뿐야

언제나 나만 사랑해줘 날 안아줘 너는 내꺼야

I’m going to have it all, I’m not going to give anything [of you] to anyone

I’m going to grab all your heart again

Today, like a pure lily, and sometimes like a red rose

I’m going to give everything to you

It’s always been just you

Please love and hold me always, you are mine

[CHORUS ENDS]

우리가 그동안 함께한 날이 얼만데

난 알아 널 알아 널 알아

너무나 잘 알고있지

하나에 하나반 둘에 또 둘에 반에 셋!

거봐 너! 지금 너!

또 오잖아…

A long time has passed since we were together

I know you, I know you, I know you

I know you so well

One, one and a half, two, two and a half, three!

See, look at you now, you’re coming back to me again

오늘은 뭐했는지 누구를 만났는지

핸드폰 왜 껐는지 물어볼래

간섭할래 사랑은 구속인걸 난 너무 잘 알지만

때로는…난 숨이 막혀…

I’m going to ask you what you did today, who you met, why your phone was off

I am going to interfere like that, because I know well that love is a prison

Sometimes it means I can’t breathe

할수만 있다면 넌 날 작게 만들어서

주머니 속에 날 넣고 다니겠다고

그게 소원이라고 그렇게 말하는 널

나 어떻게 미워하니

You said that if you could, you would make me smaller

So that you can put me in your pocket

That was your wish

How can I not love you when you’re like that?

[CHORUS REPEATS]

아무리 차가운 척해도 소용없어

넌 가득찬 내 작은 손을 넌 못벗어나

이대로 널 두고 갈생각 전혀없어 난

하나 또 둘에 반 셋…거봐 너 또 오잖아…

날줄래, 날줄래, 날줄래, 날줄래

There is no reason for you to pretend to be cold

You’re stuck with me

I won’t break up with you like this

One, one and a half, two, two and a half, three!

Look at you, you’re coming back again

I want to give myself to you (x4)

What do you think? Naturally, the feminist in me rebels against a woman loving that her boyfriend literally wants her to be his doll, but on the other hand the lyrics indicate that she’s by no means the submissive partner in the relationship. Even if she does uses a lot of aegyo to achieve that, which is the impression I get from Lee Jeong-hyeon seemingly going through her entire repertoire in the music video!

Meanwhile, apologies for the quick translation (I’m sure there’s many mistakes), and I’m more than happy to be corrected and/or explain any of it. But I do think I have the gist of it!

(See here for Lee Jeong-hyeon’s website [there's an English section], and here for her Twitter feed)

Reading the Lolita Effect in Korea, Part 3: Six Year-Old Does KARA’s “Butt Dance” (엉덩이 춤) on “Shabekuri 007″

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(Update: as YouTube flags me for copyright violations if I post the video there, then please see here or here instead)

Thank you to everyone who’s emailed me about Japanese child star Ashida Mana dancing to KARA’s Mister on a Japanese talk show. For anyone interested in some context, issues raised, and why I think it’s problematic, then please first read Part 2, all of which was written in response to my one of my own daughters doing something similar at her kindergarten. Frankly, it was eerie how much Ashia reminded me of her.

Meanwhile, here’s the “Butt Dance” (엉덩이 춤) being referred to, with handy English subtitles:

Next, assuming that you’re read that earlier post, then consider these additional observations from Meenakshi Durham’s The Lolita Effect, which seem particularly apt here:

…Increasingly, adult sexual motifs are overlapping with childhood — specifically girlhood, shaping an environment in which young girls are increasingly seen as valid participants in a public culture of sex.

In some ways, this is not a new idea: in the 1932 short film “Polly Tix in Washington”, a four year-old Shirley Temple played a pint-sized prostitute. Sashaying around in lacy lingerie and ropes of pearls, she announced “Boss Flint Eye sent me over to entertain you…but I’m expensive!”. Critics have commented on the overt lewdness of this and other films the toddler was case in as part of the “Baby Burlesks” series, which were designed for adult viewers and included frequent scenes of little girls in diapers aping the sexual behaviors and attitudes of much older women. In latter films too, Temple projected an “oddly precocious” sensuality, as the film historian Marianne Sinclair has observed — in fact, the acclaimed novelist Graham Greene was sued for commenting on it a film review. (pp. 115-116)

Indeed, Temple herself later described the series as a cynical exploitation of her childish innocence. Appearing from 3:16 below, you’ll soon see why:

But why is it deeply disturbing when 4 year-old Shirley Temple assumes sexual poses and all but blurts out that she’s interested in having sex with the “men”, whereas it’s supposedly as kawaii as hell for 6 year-old Ashida Mana to do, well, almost exactly the same thing? Granted, some actual kissing is involved in the former, but then I’d argue that the majority of viewers would still find the film at least a little concerning without it. In contrast, I’d wager most of us have much more mixed feelings about Ashida Mana, and I’m curious as to why.

With me, I think it’s through seeing my daughter Alice in Ashida, and knowing that she’s completely unaware of the implications of what she’s saying, instead simply having fun and/or fulfilling her natural urge to mimic the behavior of adults. But which is not quite the same as saying it would have been okay for her dance to the much more sexual Mister rather than Lupin at her kindergarten however, let alone for any child do it on national television simply for our titillation.

But other than that, I’ve pretty much said all I can myself in that earlier 3400(!) word post, so I’d really appreciate hearing your own thoughts!^^

The “Reading the Lolita Effect in Korea” series:

Lupin (루팡) by KARA (카라): Lyrics, Translation, and Explanation

(Source)

Well, this is embarrassing.

Now as you’re probably aware, I simply love this song, and must have listened to it well over a hundred times. And the music video is amazing too.

But now that I’ve actually studied the lyrics? Hell, but for the word “2010” at the beginning, I actually had no idea that so much of the song was in English.

On the positive side though, that’s given me a renewed appreciation for the difficulties many Koreans have in realizing that a (frustrated) foreigner is actually speaking Korean to them, albeit in a strange accent. And I don’t mind how nonsensical all the English in the song is either, as that’s quite normal for K-pop.

But unfortunately the Korean too seems literally thrown together in many places, which made it difficult for even my Korean wife to understand. And as you’ll soon see, the small amount of it below belies how much time and effort went into translating it.

And knowing all that about the song now? To be frank, it’s made it lose just a bit of its magic for me.

Lest the same happen to you, read on at your peril!

The first part obviously doesn’t need an explanation, although I’d be interested in learning what “la couture” means exactly:

Sing it with me now

2010, We bringing new love to the floor

Rocking what’s real la couture

We opening new doors new show new world new control

Can you keep up oh!

Hallo! Hallo! Hallo! Hallo! Hallo!

Hallo! Hallo! Hallo! Hallo! Hallo!

Hallo! Hallo! Hallo! Hallo! Hallo! Catch!

Hallo! Hallo! Catch! Catch! Hallo! Hallo!

(Source)

겁먹지마 니 심장소리가 들켜 (쉿!)

뒤에 서서 침착하게 지켜봐봐

탐난다고 서두르단 결국 Game set

유연하게 행동해봐 As usual it’s mine

Hide your fear, your heartbeat will be detected (shh!)

Stand behind [me], calmly try to keep watch

Even if it is desirable, if you hurry in the end Game set

Try to be flexible As usual it’s mine

(Source)

Most of that was pretty basic, provided you know that adding “보다” to the end of a verb, and conjugated in banmal (반말; informal speech) as “봐”, simply means try to do the verb. At the end of line 2, it’s added to “지켜보다” (to keep watch), hence the “지켜봐봐”.

But I don’t understand line 3 at all: “탐난다” means “be desirable” (not “burn” as given everywhere else: that’s “타다”), which is simple enough, but then it’s given as indirect speech, as indicated by the “~ㄴ다고” ending. But who said what is desirable? And what’s the connection to “서두르다” (hurry) after that for that matter, and while we’re at it what’s the “ㄴ” doing at the end of that too?

To make sense of it then, I suggested to my wife that possibly something like “탐나더라도” was intended, the “더라더” being a grammar pattern meaning “no matter how much, even though, I don’t care if”, and so on, and she concurred.

Finally, line 4 is literally “flexibly act/behave-try-to”.

(Source)

Next, there’s the main chorus. As you can see though, there’s just one Korean line in it, and its simply “Go/climb high, try to grab/take all the world”:

(Eo eo eo) It’s  mine

(Eo eo eo) This is mine

(Eo eo eo) This is mine

(Eo eo eo)

높이 올라 가 (Ye Ye Ye) 세상을 다 가져봐 (Ye Ye Ye)

Never back it up Back it it up (it it up)

Never turn it up Turn it it up (it it up)

(Source)

Hallo! Hallo! Hallo! Hallo! Hallo! Catch!

Hallo! Hallo! Catch! Catch! Hallo! Hallo!

한눈팔면 기회조차 뺏겨버려 (쉿!)

누구보다 한발 먼저 다가가 봐

남들처럼 티내다간 결국 Game set

유연하게 행동해봐 As usual it’s mine

If you so much as glance away, you’ll throw away your chance (shh!)

You should take the first step and try to approach

If you have the air of everyone else in the end Game set

Try to be flexible As usual it’s mine

(Source)

In Line 1 (of the Korean), “한눈” is literally “one eye”, and “팔다” sell, but hopefully it’s not too much of a jump to see that “selling one eye” means “look (or glance) away”, especially as the listener was already told to keep watch in the last verse.

Then, next to “기회” (chance, opportunity) there is the grammar pattern “조차”, which basically means “even, to boot, in addition”, as in “목이 아파서 밥은커녕 물한 잔조차 마실 수 없다” for example, or “My throat is so sore that I can’t even drink a glass of water, let alone eat rice”.

But with the next, “뱃기다” (be dispossessed of) plus the grammar pattern “버리다” added to it, which adds a sense of completely ruining or throwing away something, then in English the “even” seemed a bit awkward. So I came up with “If you so much as glance away, you’ll throw away your chance” instead.

Then line 2 is literally “who than- one step – first – approach try to”, so I think “You should take the first step and try to approach” gets the gist of that. And the “who” (or rather “they”) referred to is the “남들” in line 3, which I originally thought was an abbreviation for men (“남자” plus the plural marker “들”),  but it turns out to mean “other people” instead. But note though, that that’s not in the sense that the male is used the default for both genders like in Spanish(?), as they’re different words: the “남” in “남들” has no hanja (Chinese character) root, whereas that for “남자” does, and indeed you’ll often see it – 男 – on doors to toilets and men’s changing rooms and so on (and while we’re on the topic, here’s the one for women {여} too: 女).

Finally, in line 3 “티내다” wasn’t in my electronic dictionary, but “티” can mean “an air”, and pulling a thick print dictionary from my bookcase with more examples  of that usage confirmed it.

(Source)

Next, the chorus is repeated, then you have:

이제 차근차근 걸어나가봐

세상 하나하나 전부 가득 담아봐

특별하길 원하니 네 것이길 바라니

시작해 Uh! Yeah, yeah!!

Now try to step out slowly and carefully

Try to fill in each and every part of the whole world

Do you want to be special? Do you hope it will be yours?

Start Uh! Yeah, yeah!!

(Source)

First up, in line 1, “차근차근” can mean “scrupulously”, “methodically”, “systematically”, and so on, but the final, more literal meaning of “step by step” seems most appropriate here. But then “Step out step by step” sounds awkward in English though, so I changed it to “slowly and carefully” instead. That does seem to contradict the carpe diem spirit of the song a little unfortunately, but I think that’s the fault of the original Korean!

Then you have “걸어나가다”, which was annoying for me as a beginner (Yet another word for “walk”?? And Koreans complain about learning English!), but is quite easy to understand really. You see, “걷다”, which is irregular and so conjugates as “걸어~”, is your basic “walk”.  But then you can have things like “가다” and “오다” added to them, giving “걸어오다” and “걸어가다”, and which simply mean “walk” plus “come” and “go” respectively, or “walk towards [the speaker]” and “walk away from [the speaker]” in English. And with “걸어나가다” in the song, “나가다” simply means “go/step out”, giving “walk out”. Granted, it can also mean “walk towards, approach” according to the dictionary, (and don’t forget that “다가가다” from the last verse means “approach” too!), but “walk out” seems much more appropriate given the context of the previous verses.

Line 2 was very annoying though. Literally, it is “world – one by one – all parts/whole – full – fill/put in try to”, which can probably be translated many different ways (but not one by one as in separate worlds though), and “Try to fill in each and every part of the whole world” was the best I could do.

But that was a doddle compared to line 3. First up, “특별하다” means “to be special”, but then adding “기” at the end changes it to a noun, and then the “ㄹ” makes it the object. So, “specialness”, with the “원하다” being “want” plus the “니” at the end being an informal question form, and usually implying that the speaker places themself slightly higher than the listener – usually determined by age, as explained by Seamus Walsh in his comments to a translation of another song (a belated thanks for those by the way!). Which gives “Do you want specialness”, or “Do you want to be special?”.

Then you have “것이길 바라니”. “바라다” means “desire”, “hope for”, and “look forward to” (you’ll often see the formal form “바랍니다” at the end of signs on the subway and so on), and it includes the “니” form at the end as just explained. But “것이길”? I guess it’s “것” (thing) plus “이다” (to be) plus “기” to make it a noun, then “ㄹ” to make all that an object. So literally “your thing – the act of beingness – hope for”!

And that’s it, but for the 2nd half of the chorus again:

높이 올라 가 (Ye Ye Ye) 세상을 다 가져 봐 (Uh yeah)

Never back it up Back it it up (it it up)

Never turn it up Turn it it up (uh yeah, yeah!!)

As a reward for slogging your way through all that, let me present you with the DJ Amaya vs Groovebot Hard Club Edit, which reminds me a lot  of what I used to dance to in clubs 10-15 years ago (wistful sigh):

Originally, this particular KARA fan didn’t like it much. But it rapidly grew on her, and you can see how she felt when it finally finished:

Next week: I Don’t Care by 2NE1.

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

A simply surreal video making the rounds at the moment. As explained by Lisa at Sociological Images, it:

…beautifully illustrates the socialization of children into particular kinds of worship. With hand motions, body movements, and facial expressions, this child is doing a wonderful job learning the culturally-specific rules guiding the performance of devotion.

Which led to a great deal of discussion at that site, but I’ll confine myself here to echoing Jason’s comment that it simply reminds him of his son picking up his own behaviors such as sweeping, and that the young girl:

…certainly isn’t worshiping here, but is just mimicking her parents and the other people around her. I can guarantee she has no concept of a deity.

But what has all that got to do with K-pop, let alone Meenakshi Durham’s The Lolita Effect? Well, because after reading all that, it was very interesting comparing my daughters’ own reactions to KARA’s Lupin just half an hour later. First, those of 4 and half year-old Alice:

Then with her 2 and half year-old sister Elizabeth:

Granted, perhaps you had to be there…and in which case I probably would have removed my laundry from the floor first (sorry). But I didn’t notice it myself, because at the time I was simply transfixed.

You see, along with dozens of other K-pop music videos, Alice and Elizabeth must have watched and “danced” to Lupin at least 20 times before that night. But that was the first time that Alice at least seemed to demonstrate that she not only remembered it, but actually knew it very well, and was performing repetitive actions that were recognizably part of the same dance…which she’d demand the chance to do 7 more times before going to bed.

Unfortunately for my paternal pride though, in hindsight she was neither simply copying the music video nor giving her own original interpretation of it: as confirmed by her teacher later, she’s preparing for a Christmas performance at her kindergarten soon, and – yes – she’ll be dancing to Lupin.

So what’s the big deal? After all, while I’m still translating the lyrics myself (or at least I was until my “study” got invaded), they seem harmless enough:

But what if the kindergarten teachers had chosen Mister instead?

Or something by the Wondergirls perhaps? Two weeks from now, might I have looked on in abject horror as my 4 year-old kept thrusting her bottom out at me while singing I’m So Hot?

(See here for the video; unfortunately, the owner has disabled embedding)

No, because first, no matter how much WonderBaby’s appearances on national television could be construed as widespread public acceptance of that sort of thing, my wife confirms that many other Korean parents would also have complained well before then.

But second, and most importantly, actually Alice has already been thrusting her bottom out at me like the Wondergirls, for about 3 months now.

Seriously: several times a day, she’d suddenly run up to me giggling when I was at my desk, quickly thrust her bottom out at me a few times, then she’d run away in hysterics. Fortunately, she seems to have largely grown out of it now, but not through any discouragement on my part, which just seemed to make doing it all the more amusing for her.

Why did she start in the first place? I’ve no idea, as although she could have seen that dance move virtually anywhere, she wouldn’t have had any idea what it represented, or what adults would think of it. Perhaps one of her teachers overreacted to her or one of her classmates doing it or something, after which it became fun.

But whatever the reason, does that mean that it’s hypocritical to have any misgivings about Wonderbaby then?

Hell no. But to counter the argument that it’s just clean harmless fun, let’s be very specific about what the problems with her dancing to So Hot on national television are exactly. I can identify 2 main ones.

First, there’s the fact that Wonderbaby quite literally invites the viewer to view her as a sexual person. Of course, she probably has virtually no idea of the meanings of what she’s singing, let alone the consequences. In which case, one might already reasonably ask what she’s doing there in the first place, and in cases like this it is usually this naive, unknowing projection of sexuality that adults tend to be most concerned with. As explained by Durham in The Lolita Effect:

…the signals that girls send out about their sexuality, often naively, in response to the prevailing media and marketing trends, [are] signals that adults fear will attract harmful sexual attention. As the columnist Rosa Brooks lamented in the Los Angeles Times, “old fashioned American capitalism…is busy serving our children up to pedophiles on a corporate platter”….

….These charges open up quite a can of worms. Can marketers in fact “serve” children up to pedophiles? Is there any real danger in young girls wearing low-cut, skimpy, or “trashy” clothes, or is this just a harmless fashion trend designed to raise parental hackles, like so many others in the past? Could it even be seen as a feminist moves towards embracing a femininity or “girliness” scorned by previous generations and linking it to power rather than passivity? (p. 69)

I’ll return to the last point later. But before I do, from the outset I want to put paid to the notion that even children that young are completely neuter and/or are unaffected by sex in the media:

For children to take an interest in sex is not out-of-the-ordinary or scandalous. Even toddlers “play doctor” to explore each others’ bodies and mimic intercourse, though scholars are still debating what constitutes “normal” sexual behavior in young children. Sex is a part of life, so it is bound to surface in different ways at different developmental stages; it is not cause for alarm unless there is harm or abuse involved. Of course, sexuality needs to be dealt with in ways that are appropriate for the age and maturity of the child, the cultural and social context, and above all, the ethical implications of the situation, but sex per se cannot reasonably be viewed as harmful to minors. (p. 68)

And in particular:

The conventional wisdom is that interest in sex escalates as children approach adolescence; this is a biological viewpoint that connects the hormonal shifts and physical maturation of puberty with an increased interest in sex. But now sexuality marks preadolescence and childhood, too, and for many adults, this is justifiable cause for alarm. In today’s world, children as young as eight report worrying about being popular with the opposite sex; first graders describe being sexually-harassed by classmates; and by middle school, kids are steeped in sexual jargon, images, and exploration. Sex educator Deborah Roffman argues that little girls start wanting to look good for others at age four….(p. 65)

Very few – if any – cultures have found ways of adequately and appropriately dealing with the inconvenient fact of child sexuality (let alone the media) but surely Wonderbaby’s example doesn’t help. Nor do the music videos discussed below with slightly older girls either, but which I only realized thanks to Barry Raymond, a friend of mine that used to live in Korea (and now with 3 daughters himself):

No, that’s not them: rather, it’s a screenshot from the music video for Bang! (뱅!) by After School (애프터스쿨), which I translated back in June. One of my favorite Korean songs, I was originally a little miffed when Barry criticized it because the inclusion of the young girls, to which I replied on Facebook:

I’m usually quite wary of that too Barry, especially in Korea, where people are generally very reluctant to admit that things like that can be problematic. But in this particular case I think their presence is fine personally, because they’re gone within the first 20 seconds or so, and don’t perform any dance moves that can be considered remotely sexual. So they’re clearly supposed to be decorations at the beginning, considered quite separate to the grown-up (sexual) women of the group.

His response:

The lyrics and dancing that make up the song and video are all about sex. To place a child at the beginning of that exploits them in a sexual way. How would you feel about a child appearing at the beginning of Bad Romance or some other Lady Gaga song. It’s a girl group exploiting itself on the basis of sexuality, at least in this song. That is their choice, don’t force it upon the clearly underaged girls that appear in the video or try to make it appealing to an underage audience.

Me:

Hmmm, you may well have a point there, which I admit I wouldn’t have considered if you hadn’t brought up imagining the same in Bad Romance; I wonder if that shows just how used to that sort of thing I am here?

(15 year-old f(x) band member Sulli {최설리} in Oh! Boy Magazine; see here {source})

And finally, albeit admittedly after my asking if I could post it here at some point(!):

According to Wikipedia… See More’s typology of child pornography, the type described as posing involves (allow me to paraphrase) ‘deliberately posed pictures (video) of children fully clothed, partially clothed etc. where the context and/or organization suggests sexual interest’.

The”Bang” video places two clothed girls wearing the exact same attire as the older models at the beginning of the video. The girls dance alongside the older models where the older models are dancing in a sexually provocative manner (the younger girls are not in my opinion dancing in a sexually provocative manner). It should also be noted that while the girls wear the same outfits as the older models the fitting of their outfits is not alarmingly provocative although the same outfit on the older models is certainly sexually provocative. So we have a situation where several sexually provocative models are juxtaposed with what appears to be virtually identical under-aged girls. This to me would constitute a context of sexual interest where the line between the older models and the younger models is intentionally blurred.

Further to this context would be the lyrics….and the title of the song, “After School” along with the school oriented marching parade uniforms. To me this video is unambiguous contextualized sexual exploitation of children.

Is judging the Korean media and Korean music videos with an assessment system developed by the Paedophile Unit of the London Metropolitan Police merely imposing a Western value system on Korea? You decide, although I’d wager that in fact the Korean police have a very similar system.

Either way, not much later one of After School’s subgroups – Orange Caramel –  did the same again with their music video for A~ing (아잉):

For the sake of providing sufficient warning of the slightly NSFW image coming up in a moment, let me take the opportunity here to point out that it’s not so much the lyrics and dance moves that are the issue this time (see here for a video with them), but more having a child in a music video “sugar-coated with sexual undertones,” with an “obviously pedobaittastic tone,” and with “kinky cosplay lolita outfits”, all as noted by Johnelle at SeoulBeats. And so much so, that this next screenshot…

…instantly reminded of this next image, which I’ve had on my hard drive for years, from God knows where. Not looking very closely at the small print before then, I’d always assumed that it was the cover of an erotic fiction book, but it actually turns out to be a poster for a pornographic cartoon:

(Source: unknown)

Continuing with A~ing though, just in case you think Johnelle and I are exaggerating:

And in particular, these costumes, which – correct me if I’m wrong – seem to serve no other purpose than to have one’s breasts spill out of them:

All good wholesome stuff. So like Johnelle notes, what’s with having a little girl dressed up in the same kind of vinyl red riding hood get-up as the women at the end?

So,  does all the above mean I’m advocating that girls should never be allowed to appear in sexually-themed music videos (and so on) then? Yes, I guess so.

But how to set a minimum age for that? After all, the upshot of everything I’ve written so far that any age limit would be somewhat arbitrary and artificial.

If I did have to to set an age though (and it would be very unrealistic not to have one), then I’d say that the age of consent would be the most logical choice. Unfortunately however, in Korea that happens to be as low as 13 (see here and here), even though the age at which one can view and perform in sexually-related material and/or have reliable access to contraception is 18.

Yeah, I don’t see the reason for the huge discrepancy in age limits either…which is not quite the same as arguing that any of them should be 13.

But that’s a subject for another post. In the meantime, one argument against any age limit on appearances is that the average age at which girls begin to menstruate has been dropping steadily since 1850, so much so that – in developed countries at least – they now enter puberty between the ages of 8 and 13. It would be a pity to deny girls the right to express their ensuing sexuality in popular culture, especially with female sexuality in general being repressed and/or literally viewed as evil for so much of human history.

(16 year-old Bae Su-ji {배수지} of Miss A {미쓰에이}. Source)

Yet the notion that the feminist sexual empowerment of girls and women is what primarily motivated the appearances of Wonderbaby, the girls in the After School videos, the tight pants of 15 year-old Sulli, and 16 year old Bae Su-ji’s pose above is simply absurd, and indeed there is solid evidence that most young female entertainers are in fact pressured to wear their supposedly empowering skimpy clothing (and dance provocatively) rather than doing so out of choice. But although such arguments have still been made in Korea nevertheless, the overwhelming public attitude is to stick one’s head in the sand and deny the existence of teenage sexuality at all (let alone child sexuality), as this Korean commentator complains himself.

And in a sense, this is the official Korean government position too, if the article “Swept up by Girl Groups” by Jeong Deok-hyun is anything to go by. You can find it on pages 44-48 of the March 2010 edition of Korea Magazine, the official magazine of the Korean Culture and Information Service (downloadable here), and about this specific part on page 48…

“The shadow of recession and nostalgia:  Some are so surprised by the elder generations’ enthusiasm for girl groups that they cannot help but mention the Lolita complex. Nevertheless, that would be an example of an exaggerated principle that remains from the past authoritarian era. In the course of shifting from a masculine-dominated era to one of feminine equality, the imposing frames of age and gender are being slowly torn down. The time has come in pop culture where a man in his 40s can cheer for teenage girl groups without being looked at suspiciously.”

…my friend Dr. Stephen Epstein, Director of the Asian Studies Institute at Victoria University wrote to me:

The logic here is almost comical: the empowerment present is not that it brings young women to a heightened sense of their own possibilities in the world (which is mentioned nowhere in the piece), but rather that pop culture commodification of sexuality has reached the point that middle-aged men now have the privilege of ogling teenage girls in bands without fear of embarrassment. Now that’s what I call empowerment….

(Source)

But again – and this bears repeating – its not girls’ sexuality itself that is the problem. Rather it is that:

…the expression of girls’ sexuality seems to be possible only within an extremely restrictive framework. Girls’ sexuality, it seems, has to comply with the markers of sexuality that we recognize, and it cannot be manifested, recognized, or mobilized in other, potentially more empowering and supportive, ways.

This is a form of mythmaking. When a concept as complicated, multilayered, and diverse as sex is reduced to expression through a single channel – the one involving lacy lingerie, skintight clothing, and the rest of what Ariel Levy calls “the caricature of female hotness” – it has to be seen as construction or a fabrication, in which the complexities of the subject are flattened into a single, authoritative dimension, and in which all other possibilities are erased.

So it is important to think about the ways in which girls are being coached to aspire to “hotness” by popular culture, and how the commercialized definitions of “hot” offer beguiling but problematic representations of sex that limit its vast and vital potential. (pp. 70-71, emphasis in original).

And that is the second major problem with WonderBaby’s appearance: how it already sets her on that path, and/or provides an example for others to follow. And while that is by no means a problem confined to Korea – Durham’s book alone is testament to that – it is taken to extremes here. As like I explain in Part 1, it is near impossible for a young aspiring female singer or actress to advance her career without doing “sexy dances” on numerous talk shows and entertainment programs:

And yet strangely, when 30-somethings (and above) do the same it is usually only as part of a big joke, as if they were suddenly neuter. Moreover, whenever a girl group’s music video features sexy dancing and lyrics that aren’t exclusively designed for a male gaze, then they have a very good chance of being banned from television, as anyone with even just a passing familiarity with K-pop can attest to.

But on a final note, one frequent complaint I have about most articles and blog posts on this subject is that they rarely explain why this is the case, nor why younger and younger women and girls are becoming more involved over time. And indeed, for all its popularity, even Durham isn’t as clear about this as I would like either, and I had to read her book several times to figure out what she actually means by “The Lolita Effect” exactly.

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.

Simplistic? You bet, and I’d be the last person to deny the role of a whole host of other factors, including – for one – the fact that basic biology makes women’s physical attractiveness a much more important factor in choosing a mate for men than vice-versa.

But do consider that: there is not a single country that did not also experience “housewifization” as a consequence of development; that in economic terms at least Korea is now officially the most consumerist country in the world, and much more so than the US (no, really); that comsumerism was explicitly conflated with national-security and anti-communism by the Park Chung-hee (박정희) regime of 1961-1979 (and very much still is); and finally that Korean women played a crucial role in that last, as that last link makes clear.

Given all that, then is anyone surprised that Korean women the thinnest in the developed world, yet actually consider themselves the fattest, and act and spend accordingly?

Correlation not always implying causation be dammed. And if nothing else, I hope I have at least persuaded you of that link with this long post!

(Source)

The “Reading the Lolita Effect in Korea” series:

Music Monday: On Black music, KARA, & Why K-pop bands are so large…

Three things of interest I came across all in the space of this morning…

First up, a recent edition of the BBC4 podcast Thinking Allowed, which – paraphrasing slightly – discusses the contention of cultural critic Paul Gilroy that:

From Curtis Mayfield to 50 Cent, from Nina Simone to JayZ, black music has declined in its quality and lost its moral stance. Outlined in his essay “Troubadours, Warriors, and Diplomats” in his book Darker Than Blue: On the Moral Economies of Black Atlantic Culture (2010) , he joins host Laurie Taylor and music journalist Caspar Melville to discuss the counter-cultural stance that black popular music once had, and explore whether it really has been destroyed.

On the surface only tangentially-related to Korea, in that modern K-pop has strong hip-hop roots (in contrast to J-pop, which are more in rock), this 28 minute, very accessible synopsis it is still surely required listening for all those interested in music and cultural studies. And indeed, the second half of the discussion in which they talk more about the impact of technological developments on music, and especially the reality that precious few young people are prepared to pay for it anymore, is perhaps more pertinent to the Korean music industry than most.

Next, an Icelandic reader passed on a link (thanks!) to the journal article “Crazy About You: Reflections on the Meanings of Contemporary Teen Pop Music” in the Electronic Journal of Sociology (2002), by Phillip Vannini and Scott M. Myers, in which the highlighted part below immediately leaped out at me. With apologies for the long quote for the sake of context (actually, only 2/3rds of the paragraph!):

…Centralized corporate production insures continued consumption through pervasive distribution, vast output volume, and structured product obsolescence (Gitlin, 1981) while strategies of careful manufacturing of the image and sound of pop icons ascertain that audiences are treated as ‘targets’ and ‘market-segments’. Take for example the case of Britney Spears. Her image and sound had been first controlled by Disney as a pre-teen Britney worked as a host of the Mickey Mouse Club. Subsequently her schoolgirl image was spiced up to appeal to the 12-16 age group and her videos were made to occupy a steady spot in the rotation of Zoog ABC and the Disney Network. Now, with her continued biological growth her image has been recreated as sensual and provocative and formatted to meet the demands of MTV. As this takes place new ‘Britney’s’ mushroom on the market to appeal to different targets: Jessica Simpson to Christian teenagers, Mandy Moore to preteens, Jennifer Lopez to Latinas and older fans. Producers’ control extends from songwriting to image-packaging and personality development (Frith, 1978). 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 mind4, for example LFO target through MTV an older adolescent urban audience with their hip-hopish sound and sexual innuendos, while S Club 7 and Aaron Carter target preteens through Fox Family and ABC Family. This is an example of the diversification of products that allow producers the broadest appeal possible and the highest profit margin.

In passing, footnote 4 from that is also interesting:

4. The structure of consumer demand is an important concept to keep in mind. As Frith (1978) suggested producers’ ability to shape needs is limited. Why or when a style becomes popular or unpopular remains a conundrum for the music industry. It is much easier for any producer to stay with one genre or act after it has become popular and produce endless imitations than experiment with new formats or shape consumer demand. Record industries still find very few acts highly profitable, while the majority of albums produced and distributed hardly bring any profit at all (Burnett, 1996).

But the highlighted part caught my eye because of what I’d read in the post Thoughts on K-Pop Vol. 1: So Addictive at the blog Multi, which is definitely required reading for those interested in Korean music specifically:

Another important thing to note is that the Korean music industry is populated mainly by groups of at least five members. With a main audience of between 10 and 19, this is a brilliant idea because all the kids will have at least one person they like in every band, are enthralled by their personalities as seen on numerous TV shows, and will not hesitate to buy their albums and merchandise. This works for other industries as well, as phone, food and clothing companies almost solely hire celebrities to star in their commercials. They also record songs and shoot music videos (and short films) for these products and then endorse them on their numerous TV appearances. Basically, the celebrities become the only people you see on screen and in print. They become ridiculously popular really quickly, and then are sent around Asia to maximize their worth because all the other countries have succumbed to the “hallyu wave”.

Naively, I hadn’t been aware that the same logic also existed outside of East Asia. But having said that, it is still much more marked in K-pop. For not only it is exaggerated by the overwhelmingly celebrity-focused nature of advertising here, but that in turn is further exaggerated by the need to sell singers rather than their music per se,  for reasons mentioned earlier. And there’s less space for independent artists that don’t subscribe to that logic to emerge too.

Finally, all the photos of KARA (카라) in this post are from their performance at (unfortunately spelt) Wonkwang University (원광대학교)* last month, in which it started to rain halfway through their song but – seemingly without so much as batting an eye – they kept performing nonetheless (see video below).  Found via Omona They Didn’t!, admittedly I probably wouldn’t have given the photos a second glance if they had been of a boy-band instead, but once I had then I really responded to them, well-aware of how refreshing and especially liberating it can feel to continue exercising – or indeed, dancing – in a downpour.

More to the point though, not only are the photos themselves stunning, which this blog theme doesn’t really do justice to (click on the images themselves for more detail, or see Diabolique here and here for more), but in particular KARA happened to be performing Lupin (루팡), in which as Multi – who else? – puts it:

…From what I gleaned from Youtube translations of the songs, they sing about being confident (in love?) and not being afraid…as opposed to simply trying to get a guy’s attention in “Mister” (미스터); check here and here for respective lyrics, and it shows in their performances. They shine in “Lupin”, but bore with “Mister”. It might just be that “Lupin” is fresher, and they’re bored of performing Mister (side effect of weekly live performances, a.k.a overkill, of songs in k-pop) but I doubt it’s just that…

She tends to prefer performances to the music itself, and presumably to the music videos too, but for what it’s worth here they are to compare:

And finally a fan cam of the performance, although unfortunately it’s of very poor quality. The rain starts falling about at about 1:20:

Thoughts?

p.s. I’d been under the impression for many years that the term “Black Music” wasn’t particularly PC, and consequently have sometimes discouraged my Korean students from using it, but the Thinking Allowed podcast made me realize I may have been mistaken. Was I, or is there perhaps a difference between American and British English?

* (Say “Won-Kwang”, not “Wonk Wang”!)

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Korean Sociological Image #22: Fresh, Young Meat

Kara Cob Chicken Advertisment Male Objectification

For reasons that will soon become clear, girl-group Kara’s (카라) latest commercial for Cob Chicken (Cob 구어조은닭) is making big waves at the moment.

But probably most men are missing just how ground-breaking it really is. Mainly, because of Nicole’s buttocks thrust into their faces just 2 seconds in:

Part of Kara’s “butt dance” used in the choreography to “Mister” (미스터) though, which is playing in the background, it have been very strange not to have used it here. Indeed, it’s become something of a meme in K-pop, aptly demonstrated by this rather surreal clip of perhaps 25 female singers simultaneously performing it in a recent comedy program:

Korean Butt Dance

In light of that, it’s actually the sudden entrance of the well-muscled male at 0:17 that’s the most interesting and surprisng. And no, it’s not “groundbreaking” in the sense that it’s an explicit case of male objectification, which is not exactly a first for Korea. Rather, I label it as such because not only is the first time the makers of a Korean commercial have acknowledged their objectification of women and men therein, it’s also the first in which that acknowledgment has become a central, almost satirical theme of the commercial. Consider the screenshot viewers see immediately after the half-naked man for instance:

Kara Cob Chicken Advertisment Objectification

In English, it reads: “Because the chicken is grilled, the fat is removed completely. Chicken’s young taste,” and, judging by the advertisement from the Cob Chicken website below, the association between chicken meat and lithe young bodies isn’t a one-off. Moreover, although the Korean language lacks the associations the English term “meat market” has, it has a close equivalent in “물이 좋다,” or “The water is good”, and of course there are numerous instances of food terms being used for body parts. For the most recent example, consider Matt’s excellent commentary at Gusts of Popular Feeling on the invention of the term “honey thighs” (꿀벅지), and one high-school girl’s laudable rare attempt to demonstrate how sexist and demeaning such language is.

Kara Cob Chicken Advertisment(Source: Cob Chicken)

Granted, lauding a commercial objectifying both sexes is perhaps a strange choice to include in that vein. But recall that the academic studies of gender studies and feminism don’t really seem to have permeated wider Korean society like they did in the 1960s and ’70s in the West, with the result that a Korean language search for, say, “sexist advertisements”, will provide very few Korean examples. Getting the notion that objectification occurs in advertisements and in wider society out by whatever means then, I’d argue, is a very important first step towards rectifying that (however ironic this particular example is!).

Update: For comparison, numerous examples of the sexualizing and/or gendering of food in Western advertisements are available here.

Update 2: An amusing post from Seoulbeats on how appearing in chicken commercials seems to be a rite of passage for up and coming Korean stars.

Update 3: A photoshopped image that has been spreading around the Korean internet in the wake of the advertisement(s). Normally I’d demur from posting this sort of thing, but it seemed appropriate here:

(Source)

(For more posts in the Korea Sociological Images series, see here)