Korean Sociological Image #29: JYP’s Objectification of Women

(Source)

What’s wrong with this advertisement?

When I first saw it, I couldn’t really put my finger on it, other than noting the similarity to some iconic but controversial music videos by Robert Palmer. Which was kind of ironic, considering what Park Jin-young (박진영) is putting his fingers on.

With thanks to an anonymous reader for passing it on, both these problematic elements and more are present in his new music video No Love, No More (노러브노모어), the main subject of this post. But first, a quick explanation of what was so controversial about those Robert Palmer videos exactly, for many of my younger readers may not even have heard of him.

As Alyx Vesey explains in Feminist Music Geek, the crucial one was “Addicted to Love” from 1986, and as a feminist she had trouble with it:

…for one big, obvious, highlighter-yellow reason. It’s so blatantly sexist. The models who comprise Palmer’s backing band are normatively beautiful, musically inept, interchangeable, ornamental, passive, and blankly spectacular. They’re kinda like a Busby Berkeley chorus line, only on sedatives and with visible nipples.

And while it’s a little off-topic for a post ostensibly about JYP, I think it’s worth quoting her a little more:

And yet. I can’t let this one go so easily. It’s an indelible image that is simple and yet iconic in design (it’s so effective that ”Simply Irresistible” and “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” only mildly revise the concept). Thus, it’s also easily replicable. When you put “Addicted to Love” alongside another lexicon 1980s video like, say, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” it’s much easier to match (many people, including Jackson, tried and failed to reach or exceed that video’s epic proportions).

It’s also an easy concept to subvert, which is my primary interest. I’d like to highlight a few instances where women take on “Addicted to Love” and, in the process of recasting and reconfiguration, potentially disrupt the original music video’s sexist aims.

Which I highly encourage you to check out. Meanwhile, let me also present the Simply Irresistible music video here, for I think that with the women dancing in the background, it is the most similar of the three to No Love No More:

Finally, No Love No More itself. Regardless of the criticisms in this post, it probably has the best picture quality of any music video I’ve ever watched on Youtube, so make sure to click on “HD”:

Clearly not a carbon copy of Robert Palmer’s videos then, and JYP, or whomever was responsible for them, might reasonably claim not to have been at all influenced by those. But whatever the origins, the women in the barn (and in the poster) are indeed extremely similar, and almost all are objectified.

And yet there are still more problematic elements in it, pointed out to me by the reader who passed the video on. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to ask permission to quote her email before writing (apologies for my over-enthusiasm), so she’ll have to remain anonymous:

…the video infuriates me. Maybe it’s because I come from a country where explicit violence against women is not only extremely taboo but also illegal to portray in music videos. Still, given that domestic violence is such a formidable problem in this country, I find it mind-blowingly irresponsible that the most powerful man in Korean music at the moment puts out a video like this (source, right: unknown).

Shooting his girlfriend execution-style (apparently it’s okay to show her blood spraying out as her body crumples to the ground but it’s not okay to show an actual gun doing the shooting)… he then turns the “gun” on himself, and we’re expected to sympathize with him as a tear runs down his cheek as he takes his last breath. He executed his girlfriend, but the poor guy must have felt immense pain to have been driven to do such a thing. Break to the rest of the video, which simply consists of JYP dancing while dozens of women stand around or grope him as sexual props. JYP’s entire image seems to rely on the objectification of women, as demonstrated by [that poster], for one example…

…in which he is fingering a woman’s breasts, “playing her” as if she was a musical instrument. Now I’m definitely no fan of K-pop, and normally have nothing to do with it, but this video of his has been playing over and over on TV, and I can’t help but fear the message it sends young Koreans. JYP is, after all, immensely popular and influential in the K-music world, as he owns one of the most successful music labels in Korea and appears on countless TV shows and commercials. I find it surprising that no one seems to take offense to this video, which romanticizes violent “crimes of passion” (end).

(Source)

I agree, and as that reader is almost entirely responsible for this post, I encourage her to give me permission to print her name so that she can receive the credit for it!

But I would of course appreciate it if any other readers had more to add, on either the music video, the poster, and/or JYP’s marketing in general. And I confess, I know little about JYP’s music. So, to any fans of his in particular, would you say that that characterization of him is fair?

(For more posts in the Korean Sociological Image series, see here)

65 thoughts on “Korean Sociological Image #29: JYP’s Objectification of Women

  1. 1. This is what is so wrong about the censor boards in Korea. Imply a small hint of sex when two people are alone and it gets removed, banned and treated like a pariah but MV like this are let through with no questions asked. eg: Last year the MV for ‘Wa’ by JunJin was banned for being too sexy. The main actress and himself don’t even kiss and barely touch and sex is implied. In the JYP one you show where he’s being fondled all over by multiple women in 2 different scenes and, to be blunt, they just don’t want to piss him off because, as you say, he’s a powerful producer who, in all likelihood probably owns shares in enough media companies.

    2. This portrayal of domestic crime of passion is simply a stronger version of the situations portrayed in dramas and films, particularly ones that teens go crazy over. In ‘Boys Over Flowers’ – the main character Gu Jun Pyo beats a guy up for even trying to be friends with Geum Jan Di, because obviously violence like that is a sure fire way of telling the guy is really into you. He is a bully. ‘Beethoven Virus’ the main girl has more feelings for the guy who is an asshole to everyone rather than the nice guy and I am sure there are many more examples out there too. sure, the men have complex issues that need to be resolved and the vast majority of people with any sense will recognise this is a drama and not an accurate portrayal of how things are/should be, but it does rather enforce the idea that ‘if a boy is mean to you he really really likes you’ which can really influence the impressionable into thinking that this behaviour is acceptable when surely it is not.

    3. Considering the tragic case of Jang Ja Myun last year and how the industry as a whole sees women its unsurprising in many ways that this still goes on. The roles in films too can give actresses a really big psychologically negative hit to add to conditions already there maybe. eg Lee Eun joo whose role i ‘the scarlet letter’ was very intense as was the backlash from it.

    4. I don’t know a huge amount about JYP personally except what bloggers and gossipers say, so on that matter i’ll say nothing ;)

  2. A few points… (didn’t think this through so could be wrong on some things):

    1. JYP, while hugely influential as a producer, was never in the upper tier of popularity as a singer. So JYP doing this is not as a big deal as, say, Seo Taiji doing it. (Which is a bad example because Taiji will never go down this road, but again, just thinking out loud here.)

    2. JYP also has built a reputation over the years that he absolutely has no modesty. People are only upset at celebrities if celebrities deviate from their expectations. That’s why no one gives a crap about John Daly’s extracurricular activities, while Tiger Woods gets raked over fire.

    3. I generally have issues with the idea that pop culture influences people to do one thing or another. Pop culture often functions more as a repository of enactments of our suppressed desires. People recognize examples of the bad just as well as they do examples of the good.

    • TK,

      A couple of dissents..

      Argument one doesn’t work for me – If I commit a murder it is not as big a deal as if a more famous professor does it? Perhaps it does not get as much press, but it is difficult to see that as a defense against the act itself. Perhaps you are arguing it won’t have as much impact? Even so, the act can be judged on its own merits. Which is what I saw the anonymous post as trying to do, not judge relative impact.

      As to three, try to track down a Frontline documentary called “Merchants of Cool,” before completely, or even largely, discarding the thesis that pop culture is influential. Of course, this documentary is about the US, but it makes a pretty convincing argument that pop culture and enactments have become something like a feedback loop, since pop culture has gone A) entirely corporate, and B) is pretty much ubiquitous. Since that process has been to a large extent reproduced in Korea, I think the argument is transferable.

      Obviously, I think point two is accurate, although I think it brings up a load of other questions that are only semi-relevant here. The main one I think of, which is not relevant here at all, is why would you waste Schadenfreude on John Daly. ;-)

      Charles..

    • Charles, thanks for the comment. Here is my rejoinder/clarification:

      1. Perhaps you are arguing it won’t have as much impact?

      That’s exactly what I was trying to do — I should have made it clearer. Specifically, I was responding to this sentence in the post: … I can’t help but fear the message it sends young Koreans. JYP is, after all, immensely popular and influential in the K-music world, as he owns one of the most successful music labels in Korea and appears on countless TV shows and commercials. I find it surprising that no one seems to take offense to this video, which romanticizes violent “crimes of passion”

      Both of my points 1 and 2 are really addressing this sentence. No one seems to take offense because (1) JYP is not that big as a singer, and (2) what JYP is doing is consistent with his established image.

      2. As to three, try to track down a Frontline documentary called “Merchants of Cool,” before completely, or even largely, discarding the thesis that pop culture is influential.

      Thanks for the recommendation — I will be sure to give it a try. But at any rate, I wasn’t trying to say that I am ready to discard the thesis that pop culture is influential. I think that thesis is obviously true. I just don’t know exactly how influential it is, and I have a hard time believing that it is as influential as WILLSOMEONEPLEASETHINKOFTHECHILDREN screamers make it out to be.

  3. *wince*

    The positioning of the top woman’s left high heel makes that image verge on S&M as far as I’m concerned. (Which can be OK as imagery when it’s equal-opportunity, clearly meant to be fun, and not finished off with an imaginary execution–so actually, never mind, this isn’t S&M; it’s just sadism.)

    • *wince*

      My feelings exactly, and another thing I’m surprised I didn’t notice.

      At risk of sounding quite hypocritical though, as I’ve frequently stated that absolutely nothing in advertisements is left to chance, I think one reason I didn’t notice the location of her heel is that it seems incidental. Or at least, considering that there aren’t any more sadistic elements to the advertisement or the music video that is.

      On the other hand, perhaps you could argue that it’s not at all incidental, as it adds to the woman as a musical and/or sexual object being used and abused, and throws in some subtle phallic imagery too?

      All speculation without hearing from the advertisers themselves of course, but it’s still fun to analyze. And considering how much I missed with this particular one, I’m open to still more interpretations!

  4. This reminds me of a video played at G-Dragon’s Shine a Light concert. It seems a lot of people got their knickers in a twist over a bed scene (http://www.flickr.com/photos/aa-chan/4160484564/), but I find She’s Gone and the video shown during that song truly offensive. Granted, I don’t speak Korean, but I don’t see how the lyrics could justify having a woman tied to a chair (at 0:53 in the link below) or hunting her down and stabbing her (video starts at 3:30 or so).

    Apologies for the terrible quality, fancams are fancams and a lot of them seem to have been removed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbL2mPFacJ0 or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5yvUaAzDMw.

    Also, I se

  5. Well…It is objectification to a certain degree but I think the artistic approach to it waters it down a little bit.

    What about epik high’s videos? Breakdown and fly, they both show strong violence but I’m not really complaining because I rather enjoy their music.

    Besides, give him a break he got divorced (if I’m not mistaken)

    • If anything, that might make it worse, as it would seem to imply that he actually feels like he wants to shoot his ex-wife. Very publicly at that. But it would be nothing new for musicians to bring their relationship angst into their music.

  6. well if one thing is for certain he knows how to market his music to people. take the whole 2pm 1:59pm thing for example, jaebeom was the leader and considered the member that best embodied what 2pm stood for. He could have halted their activities or continued on with the original 2pm concept but he decided to pull on the fan’s heartstrings and release a whole album where all the promoted songs are heartbroken and zombie-like with lyrics that target the heartbroken fans. People are eating it up regardless of the fans boycotts. They are participating in countless endorsements all of a sudden, not that endorsements are anything new in kpop but I feel like JYP is trying to suck as much money as he can out of this tragedy. And on top of it, they are refraining from going on shows that creates the opportunity to reveal secrets further creating a mysterious attraction.

    If he were to release happy music the response would not be the same. I also believe that hes leeching off of the 2pm scandal with his sad/heartbroken concept.

    He sure knows how to cash in on sadness. Besides, sadness/dark imagery is the trend right?

    p.s I know this is a sociology blog but I just had to add my two cents…again.

    • No, by all means please feel free to write what you like, sociological or otherwise.

      I’d have to strongly disagree that JYP deserves a break because of his divorce though. Like Charles and TheKorean discussed in their mini-thread above for instance, just that he’s not the most popular and/or influential singer in Korea doesn’t mean that the video shouldn’t stand on its own merits. Surely that one of biggest and richest names in Korean entertainment got divorced 7 months ago is even less of a defense against criticism of him?

      Besides which, as far as I know JYP’s divorce was amicable. And like Michelle said below, it may even form the backdrop to the song and video.

  7. This reminds me of a South Park episode, “Good Times With Weapons”, where murder and violence are quickly forgotten if there is, OMG, nudity to redirect the oldies outrage. Mass murder, torture, bashings – no worries. OMG, wardrobe malfunction = End Of The World!!!

  8. @ Grand Narrative

    Could you do me a big, big favor? I think that you know how to make videos and upload them to YouTube, right? Could you please save this video?

    I was going to write a response to your post, but I got carried away, and am making my own post about all of the reasons why I don’t like JYP. That video is at the top of the list. I’m worried that if I put in on a post, then it will be taken down (as has happened to other videos that I’ve posted about). So could you save it?

    Compare it to the one at G-Dragon’s concert.

    At the G-Dragon concert, the woman is willing, wrapping her legs around G-D’s hips. At the JYP concerts, the woman is struggling against her bonds, and her facial expression is one of complete unwillingness. Yet JYP continues to take off his clothes and then do pelvic gyrations while facing her. What do we call it when you have sex with someone against their will? Oh yeah. Rape. And he makes a big joke of it. The argument that it’s just for entertainment purposes is, in my view, no defense. The fact that he’s singing, “Kwen-cheon-ah, kwen-cheon-ah,” (It’s OK, It’s OK) just adds insult to injury, in my opinion. At the end, he carries the pacified woman away. She was just playing hard to get. “No,” really means “Maybe,” which really means “Yes.” She has been conquered.

    What’s most depressing is that none of the netizens have clued into how vulgarly sexist this is, instead calling it things like “freaking cool.”

    • I’m a little sick I’m afraid (primarily due to writing this post until 1am, and the one before that until 2:30!), so I don’t have the energy to respond to as many comments as I’d like to tonight sorry, but I’ve managed to do at least that for you!^^

      If you’re curious, it’s just a firefox extension called “RealPlayer Download” I use, but there’s many more like it available.

  9. I’d like to add that while G-Dragon has gotten into very serious trouble, JYP has gotten off scot-free for something that, in my view, is much worse. There’s a blatant double standard, and I’m wondering why. Maybe it’s because G-Dragon is in his 20s while JYP is an ajeosshi?

    • Well….I’m assuming JYP’s concert was 19+ where as GD’s was not 19+ which is why he’s in trouble.

      and yes because korea would like all their stars to remain young and pure for as long as possible.

      • Yes, GD’s concert was rated 12+.

        That led to an interesting thread on this K-pop site about the age of consent in Korea, which English sources say is 13. I think that that’s surely mistaken, and if you actually followed the trail almost all sources led back to an unsourced chart on Wikipedia claiming it was 13 (but which finally appears to have been updated, now sans chart and saying “the age of consent is unknown”).

        But in fairness teenage sex is not as much of an issue in Korea as in Western countries (not that it doesn’t exist or shouldn’t be a big issue of course), and so in my experience just getting your average Korean adult to understand the concept is quite a trial, let alone asking them for help looking for Korean sources to confirm that it is actually 18. So there’s little to counter these claims that it is 13 made in overseas English publications.

        Anyway, sorry for the side-track, and as you can probably tell I hope to be writing a post on that soon.

        • Only just finally had a chance now to properly read your original comment and watch the videos ExtraKorea and…whoa…I had no idea that that happened at his concert. And I fully appreciate the distinction you make with what happened at GDragon’s concert.

          I agree that what JYP did was indefensible, but to play devil’s advocate for the moment, I’d have to agree with souplay that the sole reason G-Dragon and not JYP is being prosecuted (read the latest developments here, here, here and here) is because the former’s concert was rated 12+. Which is not to say that that double standard in the Korean media you and saharial mention doesn’t still exist though.

          • Yes, I think that the rating has a lot to do with that. People might remember the furor over the 성기노출사건 (“exposure of genitalia incident”) when punk band RUX appeared on the show Music Camp back in 2005 or so. As they were playing on national TV a couple of friends from the band Couch who were up on stage in clown make-up (? if I’m remembering right) and pogoing around dropped their trousers. If it had been a late-night show I’m sure it still would have caused controversy, but the main thing is that the audience was composed of younger teenagers (mostly girls). The guys who did actually served some jail time (again, if I’m remembering right….).

            Totally agree that what JYP does is pretty indefensible and disturbing. Not that I’m sure this is in his defense, but I see him as a very clever and intelligent artist who is interested in pushing society’s buttons–of course, it’s a little different when you have a male impresario Svengali doing these sorts of things and when you have, e.g. Madonna pushing society’s buttons. The violence in the music video reminds me of two very different things: Eminem and Peppermint Candy (and how often do you get to put those two in the same sentence?). Think of what Eminem was doing in some of his music re his ex (rapping about violent fantasies of killing her–superdisturbing, and all the more so for the obvious signs of serious talent behind it). And your analysis reminds me a bit of Kim So young’s critique (actually I’m remembering now that you don’t think much of Kim So Young’s critique) of Peppermint Candy: in essence arguing that what the film does is encourage sympathy/create excuses for the male who has been turned violent by the brutality of the system and that we are to understand and feel his pain rather than condemn him for becoming complicit.

            Finally on the left heel: that seems to me pretty important, important enough that it was one of the first things I noticed in the ad, such that I thought more of a couple treating a woman as a plaything rather than that seeing JYP as in power and in control over two women…..(can’t quite tell where the gaze of the woman above is meant to be focused, and whether it is on the other woman or not)

  10. Wow, I was going to start off with a defensive of the “No Love, No More” music video, but the video that extrakorea posted is disturbing. I felt like I had to watch someone get raped in front of a large crowd. That is not sexist; it is just gross and wrong, and another bag of worms.

    I have to be honest and say that I didn’t flinch when I saw the “No Love No More” vid, and I actually find that KARA or SNSD’s MVs have more female objectification. That girls are the ones making themselves into sexual objects, albeit in the korean cutesy/sexy way, is way more harmful than this. I agree with souplay; the music video is an artistic interpretation, and I actually think that the JYP is purposely trying to project the objectification of women.

    The back story to the mv is JYP’s divorce or any other badly ended relationship. The two break each other hearts (the shooting is a metaphor; not a literally desire to commit a double suicide), and JYP has to continuing living. Because he’s without a heart and is unable to love again, he decides to surround himself with a sea of women, who are beautiful but meaningless to him. I think it makes sense in the context of his song, unlike the Robert Palmer music videos.

    I guess it does portray an image of domestic violence because in the end, he’s the one shooting. If the video had the couple shooting each other it would have been more fair, but it’s all about dramatization, and I suppose that is unfortunate.

  11. I think there’s another layer of objectification going on in that poster . . . JYP isn’t really caressing the woman on his lap – I think he’s meant to be *playing* her, with his hands posed as if he were playing the piano. Note too how his head is angled; while you could see it as responding to the woman’s hand on his neck, his posture is also redolent of images of pianists, and he seems utterly unaware of her presence. So woman A is unnoticed by him (although clearly posed in a very provocative and sexual way for the audience) and woman B is an instrument to be played rather than a human.

    The JYP video in an odd way makes the Palmer ones seem *less* sexist by virtue of making the women’s objectification seem much more deliberate and thought out. In Simply Irresistible there’s a real tension between a guy singing about the girl he’s wild about (even singing a line about how original she is) while totally ignoring a line up of gyrating models who are almost de-sexified (god, is that a word? I don’t know, it’s late here!) through the lighting, makeup, costuming, etc. Don’t get me wrong, there are real problems with the video, but if you were really determined and really bored, you could almost mount a feminist defense of it, saying that we’re not meant to find the women in Palmer’s videos attractive, and their conventionally attractive faces and bodies are supposed to be (but alas, incompletely) rendered unattractive through hyper-stylization. (note, this doesn’t appear to have been the case in making these videos, and Palmer has said that he had very little artistic input.)

    JYP’s video, however, cannot benefit from any real tension in the lyrics and imagery, nor are the women so stylized and identical that we could posit a similar theory. In fact, by using a pack of fairly identical male dancers while a number of beautiful and similarly but NOT identically dressed and styled women lounge around in the background, JYP’s work is much more problematic. The women in Simply Irresistible and Addicted to Love are beautiful but identical, blank, almost robotic. JYP’s vidoe’s women are clearly meant to be “real” in a way the ones in the Palmer videos are not. However, even as “real” women, they do only two things:

    Stand around looking beautiful

    Caress JYP

    In short, in response to Michelle’s comment, I find that the tension between the lyrics and the video make Palmer’s video *more* interesting on an artistic level that JYP’s. Simply Irresistible, while still problematic, gives us space for different interpretations of the meaning and role of the women seen in it. JYP’s video is much more straightforward, less interesting, and less defensible.

    And the opening bit? Creepy, icky, and overblown.

    • Recently JYP was on a variety show (Family Outing), and described his recent album concept as portraying ‘the sadness in the midst of a hedonistic life’, which, coupled with the lyrics of NLNM (posted below), do show that the objectification isn’t entirely without purpose/context.

      —-
      * NO LOVE NO MORE beings in love ends now, just live with pleasure
      NO LOVE NO MORE don’t make promises you can’t keep
      Oh NO NO NO Oh NO NO (x4)

      By now you should be aware
      Before you get hurt again
      Try to stop yourself whenever the world “love” tries to slip your mouth

      I live for pleasure
      I’m going to keep living this way
      Without a doubt this situation will come around again
      I’m going to get hurt, so are you… don’t even think about it
      Doesn’t fix me at all

      Repeat *

      Don’t tell me you love me again
      There are too many nice boys in the world
      Just have pleasure with me and leave out the affection
      You can meet other man as well

      I live for pleasure, I’m going to keep living this way
      Without a doubt I will make you cry again
      I’m going to get hurt, so are you… don’t even think about it
      Don’t even think about it

      Repeat *

      I promised myself after seeing her tears
      I never going to love again
      Don’t wanna hurt nobody again

      Repeat *

      Credit: Daum.net (Source)
      Translation by: jypark@youtube

      Also, in regards to the fancam of JYP extrakorean posted, the woman was taken from the audience (the person who took the fancam said so him/herself). So whatever uncomfortableness/unwillingness portrayed, it wasn’t scripted (if it makes any difference).

      • Also, in regards to the fancam of JYP extrakorean posted, the woman was taken from the audience (the person who took the fancam said so him/herself). So whatever uncomfortableness/unwillingness portrayed, it wasn’t scripted (if it makes any difference).

        Performers put plants in the audience all of the time. And in Korea, even ordinary audience members are told what to do. You know those shows like Music Bank and Inkigayo (“Popular Song”)? The audience members are literally given a script to follow. What they are to chant at this or that part of a song is written down for them.

        B.A.D.: “I looove you. I miiiss you. …”

        Audience: “B.A.D.! B.A.D.! … ”

        *Yu Min-su starts popping and locking*

        Audience: “Yu Min-su! Yu Min-su! …”

        The people who run K-Pop leave nothing to chance.

        Granted, sometimes genuine audience members are asked to do things like pick a card during a magic show. It’s very different to get someone who might have a boyfriend or husband to be dry-humped by a shirtless man in front of hundreds of people.

        If she really was a total stranger, who was not coached at all and was totally unaware of what was going to happen, I’ll wear MC Hammer-style ajumma pants for a month.

        • Ah, I never thought of that. Fair enough. Though I would’ve thought they’d have coached the plant better since to me she seemed awkward throughout (even at the end, when she’s supposed to be ‘completely seduced’)

          • having finally brought myself to watch the whole thing, I have to say, I don’t find the idea that she was a plant 100% convincing . . . her facial expression and body language scream “I’m uncomfortable” and shows some pretty accute signs of embarrassment, to put it mildly. While plants are common, I tend to think that JYP would have found a more convincing one, who would have looked a bit happier in her . . . “situation” shall we say.

            My money is on not a plant, and not comfortable at all with what was done – unsurprisingly.

            • Yeah, I wasn’t really convinced too. Not that your argument about plants isn’t still applicable in general though ExtraKorea, but I think you’re mistaken about this particular case.

  12. It seems like Michelle is spot on with the metaphor idea. Specifically because both “shots” are to the heart, and not to the back of the head, which would be much more disturbing and ‘execution-style’ . The lack of gun and the lyrics further support the idea that this is more about emotional pain than physical pain (and mutual at that).

    The main meat of the video seems to hint at a personal hell, specifically through the use of colors and disindivuated characters. This works well with the idea that his relationships now are solely for pleasure (while love relationships would presumably involve a unique partner).

    All in all, the video is pretty tame by my standards. When I looked at the poster up top (which I’ve seen hanging on telephone poles around town as well) my first thought was ‘woah, he’s touching her boob’. I assume that the average person would think the same and stop there. I’ll admit knowing nothing about psychology, so if anyone does, I’d be curious to know the effect this type imagery may have subconsciously on a viewer.

    • I confess to finding Gomushin Girl’s comparative analysis of the videos intriguing – although I did know JYP was objectifying the woman on his lap both sexually and literally as a musical instrument; I should have mentioned it in the text!^^ – but I’ve certainly warmed to Michelle’s, Perasma’s and now Nik’s interpretations, and definitely think that the objectification of the women in JYP’s video wasn’t as purposeless as I first thought.

      Having said that, I don’t think Gomushin Girl’s and Michelle’s interpretations are mutually exclusive, and while I do now see the point of the objectification, I still think it could have been made rather better, for the reasons Gomushin Girl mentions.

      • Ha, I’m a getting back into this a bit late in the game, but I’d like to reiterate that what’s interesting for me about Parker’s video is the tension between the lyrics and the visual presentation. The problem for me with JYP’s video is that there is no tension – it’s a metaphorical presentation of the lyrics. If the women and backup dancers (also annoying – dude’s get to dance! to move! women get to drape! and lie around! and love touching JYP, of course, who is just to cool for them and beyond emotionally investing) were more mechanical (like Parker’s) or more . . .well, interesting people, rather than living decorations, I’d have found the JYP video equally ripe with possibility.
        And for the record, I would consider the shooting style depicted in the video as “execution style” – although the stylishly violent movies popular now usually portray it as a shot to the back of the head or neck of a usually kneeling victim, the method shown here is both consistent with actual execution methods in many parts of the world, and with standard definitions of being at close range and deliberate.

  13. Following the Korean entertainment industry for a while, I have found a lot of controversy with the Korean censors. Not only does there seem to be an uneven, biased judging over which music videos and lyrics get the boot, but there is a definite trend on age, sex, and influence, bordering onto hypocrisy.

    Teen idol groups or soloists obviously have younger audiences, and yet I find that when it comes to a FEW (and I emphasize the FEW), unsurprisingly MALE artists bust out something to the media that has the censors flailing and the public whipping up hoopla over the banning decisions that evidently follow — that’s just it, there’s a lot of coverage and discussion over it.
    Which gets the my main point now that irks me to no end…

    Everyone makes a fuss about a few men portraying images where they might demean women, and everyone at the same time turns a blind eye to the dozens of female girlbands in Korea demeaning themselves.

    Where do they think that these men might have gotten the notion to make music videos objectifying women when the ladies are coming out with their own videos objectifying themselves? It’s relevant too to add though, that then again, these female bands and their concepts are most likely produced by men who run the entertainment companies and therefore get the say on what they’re signed lady artists are going to sell to the public, be it cleavage, or a hypocritical portrayal of “cute/innocent and sexy at the same time!”. (*cough* Girls’ Generation? Wonder Girls?)

    I think I’m about to go off topic, but looking at how the women are portrayed in JYP’s music video, and the promotion photos, it infuriates me how they just look like props. They are used as props no less. And where is that source coming from?

    I am very thankful to you for having written this post to point out an issue like this. I will spread the word, because more people definitely need to read your posts and what you’re doing here.

    Even more so since today I encountered a poster elsewhere naively stating great pride about Korea having lower divorce rates and the banning of handguns, while at the same time calling American culture “cheap and evil compared to Korean society which is just jjang!”. No culture is perfect.

  14. Wow. I’m almost speechless. But Korean culture has yet to really evolve when it comes to discussing or confronting these kinds of social issues, including the impact of violence on people… I find it strange that my culture has such enlightened views on family relationships and respect for elders and supporting one another, etc. (okay, think Confucius – my grandmother literally quoted him to me when I got into trouble), is simultaneously so shallow and narrow-minded and barely bothered by the crap it puts out for societal consumption. I mean, on a related note, the K-pop music scene must be manna for pedophiles. It’s very troublesome. It doesn’t matter if American or Western culture is “more” or “less” or “equally” violent, ignorant, etc.. It’s just like it wouldn’t matter if another person was indolent or violent or generally not a good person because it only matters whether you, yourself, are or are not such a person. Similarly, it should only matter that Korean culture has these problems and should strive to address them. Who cares about other societies? Using the “so he’s just as bad” comparison to somehow justify one’s own faults is a logical fallacy.

  15. Popular culture is all crap. But who cares, we are all just blobs of cells that evolved over millions of years.

    If you have some ideal of how a woman should behave or how women should be portryed by artless artists please show us.

    What’s your frame of reference dude?

  16. Talking about MVs and girl groups, has anyone seen this recent MV of Hyun Ah from the girl group 4minute:

    Not sure if its controversial enough, but I’d like to highlight that I find it interesting to see a girl born in 1992 doing such pelvic and chest thrusts to the chorus, which I feel is a blatantly attempt to appeal to the male population.

    • Oh, completely. At risk of sounding hypocritical though, she’s at about the age where I don’t really mind it per se, so long as it’s recognized for what it is.

      For an interesting analysis of it, albeit more the music and lyrics rather than the pelvic and chest thrusts, see the (mostly) J-pop blog Appears here.

        • Those posts weren’t very informative with regards to what this blog is about. Those posts just said things like, “Her live singing wasn’t very good,” or “She’s a good dancer.”

          • Well I did intend that you look at the extensive comments to both also though, and regardless those elements to the song are still interesting in their own rights, and aren’t to be underestimated in adding to our understanding of it. Consider how Perasma’s passing on of the lyrics to JYP’s song helped informed people’s discussion in this post for instance.

            Besides which, I believe I gave sufficient “warning” as to their contents.

    • Hyun-ah was part of the original Wonder Girls. When they debuted, Hyun-ah was one of the fifteen-year-olds that Park Jin-young (JYP) put into miniskirts or hot pants (see pictures here and here). She later dropped out because her health was suffering, and was subsequently replaced by Yu-bin.

      Hyun-ah is now part of 4Minute, which is managed by Cube Entertainment, a subsidiary of JYP Entertainment. Not too long ago, there were a few performances in which Hyun-ah performed in a body-hugging miniskirt that was too short. If you watch the videos, you can see her constantly tugging down the hemline, but in vain, for her safety pants were revealed and plastered all over the Internet. I can understand a wardrobe malfunction like that happening for one performance, but several?! It makes you wonder if those managing 4Minute deliberately dragged their feet. She’s only 17 (look here to see that she looks like an ordinary schoolgirl without makeup, hairstyling, or fancy clothes).

      • I forgot to add that as a subsidiary of JYP Entertainment, Cube Entertainment probably has the same marketing strategy* as their parent company, either because they follow their example or because JYP pulls strings.

        * make the girls looks sexy, and if people complain that they’re underage, just wink and say, “But it’s just ‘cute.’ And it’s our ‘concept’.”

      • i agree w/ you regarding the malfunctioning of the wardrobe, but i actually really enjoy this video. i found the song addictive and the dance was really addictive and on par w/ american mvs (like rihanna or pcd’s dancing). ok now someone will probably be really mad when they read this post, but for some reason, i don’t necessarily see what they are selling or suggesting in these music videos to be that influential in teaching young korean girls to be the same…is it just me or when i see those hoards of screaming fangirls at the fanmeets or on the shows for the groups like sj or big bang that it’s still a bunch of gangly not necessarily pretty girls?? they still look like kids…whereas in N.America, kids that age would have gone out and bought the super tight mini skirts and halter tops and are caking on make-up, screaming sex. ok i know i’m offtopic and i originally wanted to comment about jyp objectifying women and the violence in the videos…they suggest violence in alot of other videos like leejoon from mblaq in last luv looking like he’s shooting the girl at the end…but aren’t the mvs just mini versions of movies? to me, the mvs always seem to be epic short films with dramatic storylines that have potential to be dramas. and in dramas, violence is always accepted. i guess my point is i don’t really see it as offensive to women to objectify them like sex objects ONLY because in pop culture, it really does sell as a fantasy for songs, movies, etc. in real life I obviously recognize that I wouldn’t want to walk down the street and have people cat call at me, but when I watch it on TV, it’s OK and at the end of the day, I don’t take anything away from it except admiration for their ability to show so much sex appeal in a catchy way.

  17. Turned off that JYP video after about one minute. Couldn’t stand the song, the singing, and seeing beautiful women flock around an ugly man. Robert Palmer’s videos turned gorgeous women into sterile props, but the women as a group were a visually striking backdrop, and Robert could sing. My favorite song of his was a 70s tune with a 70s message, “Every Kind of People.” Anyone else recall Tone Loc’s ripoff of Robert Palmer’s “Didn’t Mean to Turn You On”video with the hit “Wild Thing”? Unllike Robert, Tone ogled the guitar-playing beauties who surrounded him.

  18. Perhaps I’ve gotten cynical the longer I’ve been in this world; certainly fewer things shock me now than, say, five years ago. Why does one person get away with murder while another can’t jaywalk without being harassed? Any number of reasons…

    What surprises me (not shocks me) is the non-existence of anything resembling a feminist movement demanding pop stars A, B, and C change their acts. While I’ve yet to hear mothers discouraging their daughters from becoming involved in the music / dancing scene, it seems like such a minor issue that it’s barely mentioned in the English-language media. The outrage has to come before change will.

    (And yes, I was too young to recognize Robert Palmer – but not the songs. Don’t ask me how that one works. Thanks for the references.)

    • I too am surprised, and prompted by this comment on another post that raised similar questions, I started writing a post that tried to explain precisely that. But as you probably guessed, there’s so many elements to it that if that post ever gets finished, it probably be in a series of five or six.

      Meanwhile, although I’m nearly 34 actually I too only recognized the songs and not the artist’s name; when I started the post I was unsuccessfully looking for “Brian Palmer” for a little while before giving up and searching for info via the song names instead. And reading about these things stuck in my sub-conscious for decades but never followed-up on was quite an eye-opener for me.

      Think that reading about things from your childhood that you’re nostalgic about is the real purpose of Wikipedia myself, just above figuring out what was going on in movies you just watched!^^ Now, time for me to get back to watching Blake’s 7

  19. I wonder why women are never, ever held responsible for appearing in ads, videos, movies etc. where they are objectified. Nobody is forcing them to do it, and if they won’t do it then there’s nobody to objectify.

    • “I wonder why women are never, ever held responsible for appearing in ads, videos, movies etc.”

      They are, just not on feminist blogs.

      • Darwin, perhaps you’d like to supply links to all of these feminist blogs that never hold women responsible for appearing ads and so on in which they’re objectified?

        If your third ever comment on my blog is just going to be another one-liner or a moronic statement like “Popular culture is all crap. But who cares, we are all just blobs of cells that evolved over millions of year” though, then I’ve got no hesitation in banning you. Three strike rule and all.

        Likewise, Tokyojesusfist…sigh…despite your claims to be familiar with all varieties of feminism and feminists, your constant generalizations betray the exact opposite.

        I presume that by your statement that women are never held responsible etc., you mean by myself and other feminist bloggers and so on, yes? And that instead, men always are?

        If so, on what basis? If you look at, say, the last 20 posts on this blog, let alone the last 332 spread over 2.5 years, you’ll find that this is probably the very first time I have specifically placed blame on a specific individual or organization for an instance of female objectification. Hardly a surprise that you appear in the comments section like a moth to a flame and start spewing your generalizations though.

        Alternatively, if it’s other feminist bloggers and/or the media that you’re referring to, then my apologies, and perhaps you could provide some examples in which the women clearly deserved to be held responsible for their objectification but only the men were? Shouldn’t be a problem for an expert on feminism like yourself.

        Also consider that women’s responsibility is often not mentioned because it’s blindingly obvious, as are – without denying the role of the women’s personal choice – the social, cultural, and economic factors that encourage them to choose to objectify themselves. Particularly in Korea, where the facts that women are inordinately judged on their appearance and singers’ and actors’ slave-like contracts with entertainment companies are both well-known.

        You may well respond that I’m hypocritical in not providing examples in which women are held responsible for their own objectification, but then you can google “feminist blog” or something like that and find thousands of examples in 2 minutes all by yourself. Moreover, seeing as myself and 99% of my readers are fully aware of all of the above already, but you’re claiming the opposite, then the onus is on you to convince us of the bias that only you see.

        If you can’t be bothered though – after all, you never did come up with a definition of feminism like you were asked in the last thread – then you might ask yourself what most people reading your comments have probably asked themselves already: seeing as you dislike feminism and feminists so much, why do you choose to read and comment on what is obviously a feminist blog?

        In short, provide some examples as requested, or be banned for wasting everyone’s time.

        • “Likewise, Tokyojesusfist…sigh…despite your claims to be familiar with all varieties of feminism and feminists, your constant generalizations betray the exact opposite.”

          The neat thing about generalizations is that everyone uses them all the time, but they are only called generalizations when someone disagrees with them.

          “I presume that by your statement that women are never held responsible etc., you mean by myself and other feminist bloggers and so on, yes? And that instead, men always are?”

          I don’t remember ever seeing feminists hold women responsible for objectifying themselves or willingly allowing others to objectify them. The culprit is either men, “the patriarchy” or “society.” Feminists present women as helpless victims whenever it’s convinient for them to do so.

          “Alternatively, consider that women’s responsibility is often not mentioned because it’s blindingly obvious”

          It isn’t mentioned because women are not considered to be responsible.

          “If you can’t be bothered though – after all, you never did come up with a definition of feminism like you were asked in the last thread”

          https://thegrandnarrative.wordpress.com/2009/12/29/korean-womens-body-types-sline/#comment-23003

          “In short, provide some examples as requested, or be banned for wasting everyone’s time.”

          Classic feminist behavior. As I said in the previous thread, feminist sites typically ban people who question feminism, and this site is no different. It’s obvious that feminism cannot endure open scrutiny, which is why it needs to resort to these methods.

          • You’re neither “questioning feminism” nor subjecting feminism to “open scrutiny”. You just spew forth with generalizations and baseless accusations, and when people challenge you or ask you for actual proof of what you say, you just avoid the issue.

            For example, a definition of what this feminism is exactly that you were ranting about, that you were asked to provide in the earlier thread: first you say “the official one” (conveniently undefined, but not surprising considering – for the 10th time – no such official definition exists) then you say (in the link you helpfully provide above) “there’s no commonly accepted feminism and nobody represents feminism, so any definition should be as good as any other,” (again without actually providing even just one).

            Now here too, you were asked to provide proof and you don’t, and yet despite my warning you can’t interpret my banning you for not doing so as anything other than further evidence of the vast feminist conspiracy.

            Self-fulfilling prophecy anyone?

            • “You’re neither “questioning feminism” nor subjecting feminism to “open scrutiny”. You just spew forth with generalizations and baseless accusations, and when people challenge you or ask you for actual proof of what you say, you just avoid the issue.”

              A generalization is only called a generalization when somebody disagrees with it. If I said something positive about feminism, you wouldn’t be saying a word about generalizations, even though a generalization’s validity or the lack of it is not in any way related to whether it’s positive or negative, or whether someone disagrees with it.

              “For example, a definition of what this feminism is exactly that you were ranting about, that you were asked to provide in the earlier thread: first you say “the official one” (conveniently undefined, but not surprising considering – for the 10th time – no such official definition exists)”

              Ho ho ho. I very clearly explained – twice as I recall – what I meant by official feminism, so don’t pretend otherwise.

              “then you say (in the link you helpfully provide above) “there’s no commonly accepted feminism and nobody represents feminism, so any definition should be as good as any other,” (again without actually providing even just one).”

              It is simply the truth of the matter. If there’s no commonly accepted feminism and nobody represents feminism, then surely any definition is as good as any other? You can’t have it both ways so that feminism is some nebulous, freeform entity that nobody owns or is responsible for while at the same time having an objective, unambiguous definition. And I have defined feminism by stating that it is an anti-male, anti-female and anti-equality movement.

              “Now here too, you were asked to provide proof and you don’t, and yet despite my warning you can’t interpret my banning you for not doing so as anything other than further evidence of the vast feminist conspiracy.”

              Your assertion that I have no “proof” is just an excuse to ban me without making it look like you’re one of those feminists. Even if I bothered to look for some kind of “proof,” you would just come up with a new excuse (I have seen that happen so many times it isn’t even funny). I also don’t understand why I would need to prove that I have never seen feminists hold women accountable, how I would even go about proving something like that (how would you prove that you’ve never seen, say, a mountain goat in real life? Yeah…), or why you’re getting so much sand in your vagina over this issue.

              • Hmmm…Tokyojesusfist’s IP address places him in Finland, and yours places you close to Philadelphia, so I’m gonna take a wild guess and assume that you’re not the same person. But who cares really, cause you’re banned too.

                God, where do these wankers keep coming from? I ban roughly 1 person every 3 months usually, but so far 3 this weekend…

                • Coincidentally or not, at TMH a commenter with a different username recently accused Robert Koehler of deleting comments with IPs from certain countries. In responding to an inquiry, the commenter identified Finland as the location of his/her IP address.

                  Are you sure neither IP is a proxy?

                • There are many simple ways of changing one’s IP address.

                  There aren’t any “wankers” coming from anywhere. The problem is at your end of the Internet. You’re a typical, run-of-the-mill feminist who can’t deal with people criticizing your ideology and who has a meltdown when he realizes that he isn’t capable of surviving an honest debate about it. And then it’s time to do what feminists do best: bring down the banhammer.

                  Goodbye.

                  • Oh, posing as another commenter certainly counts you as a wanker fjt/tjf, as does assuming that I’m too stupid to notice. It makes your claims of bringing “honest debate” to the blog just a little hollow too.

                    If, alas, that wasn’t really goodbye though, then rest assured that I can delete your comments and ban the new IP addresses you use much more quickly than you can write them.

                    Whatsonthemenu: thanks for the heads-up, and trolls do indeed often make the rounds of K-blogs so to speak. But tokyojesusfist wasn’t a troll really – just impossible to have an intelligent conversation with because he never answered your questions – and his IP addresses were consistent too. Meanwhile, the lovable fjt/tjf sounds very different, and his Philadelphia addresses only off by one digit from each other, so I’d be surprised if he wasn’t a completely different person.

                    And if not…then I guess I’m flattered I’m considered worth the effort. I suppose I might have a whole 5 mins of cleaning-up of my comments sections to do when I wake up though (sigh).

                    • Let me say right here and now, how much I love that you use the word “wanker.” As an American, I love hearing the word and yet know I can’t pull it off without sounding silly thanks to my accent.^^

  20. Let me expand on that first post I made. I maintain that it was not a moronic post, in fact I was trying to make my point as few words as possible.

    “Popular culture is all crap.”

    MTV ASia, MTV Usa, sitcoms, movies, MJ, Nirvana, Adam Sandler, pro wrestling, its all junk. Millions of parents in america have thrown out their TV. Korea is the same, ask the kids in your class, most of the smart kids aren’t allowed to watch TV. You don’t need to pontificate on the socialogical impact of Johnny Depp’s androgenous image, just do what every one else with a bit of common sense would, shut it off.

    “If you have some ideal of how a woman should behave or how women should be portryed by artless artists please show us.”

    It seems as though you are disturbed and offended by the way women are portrayed in the korean media, also seems as though you would like to change this for the better. These things are commendable however without an objective standard of how women should be portrayed or how women should not be portrayed its hard to tell where you’re coming from or what you want to achieve exactly, hence the question, what’s your frame of reference dude?

    “But who cares, we are all just blobs of cells that evolved over millions of years.”

    Now, since the sociological impact of female images is so important to you I conclude that you do not consider humanity large clumps of cells with no higher purpose. If you think that people are distinct from lower animals such as dogs, to what end do we strive, individually and collectively?

    As for the second post, i concede that it was moronic. So I should still have 2 moronic comments left before I’m banned.

    • MTV ASia, MTV Usa, sitcoms, movies, MJ, Nirvana, Adam Sandler, pro wrestling, its all junk. Millions of parents in america have thrown out their TV. Korea is the same, ask the kids in your class, most of the smart kids aren’t allowed to watch TV. You don’t need to pontificate on the socialogical impact of Johnny Depp’s androgenous image, just do what every one else with a bit of common sense would, shut it off.

      Disregarding your unconvincing off the cuff assertions that millions of parents in the US and Korea have thrown away their TVs – I just bought an HDTV, so I guess my kids are stupid? – I’m afraid you have very misguided notions of what popular culture is, and what the purpose of blogs like this are for. Let’s take the dictionary definition of the former for instance:

      …contemporary lifestyle and items that are well known and generally accepted, cultural patterns that are widespread within a population; also called pop culture

      But even if for the sake of argument we take the concept literally like you do, there’s plenty of pop culture out there that isn’t “junk.” It’s not exactly difficult to find.

      Meanwhile, if you’re going to insult my blog, then you could at least demonstrate that you’ve actually read some of it. I’ve never mentioned Johnny Depp here, and suspect that you add that kind of throwaway line to whatever blog or forum you choose to add your pearls of wisdom to.

      As for why I don’t just shut it off, the point is that my life and my wife and daughters’ lives are affected by people who don’t shut it off. Unable to emigrate to some utopia where I don’t have to deal with them, then I guess I’ll have to draw their attention to the problems with things like this video instead, yes?

      It seems as though you are disturbed and offended by the way women are portrayed in the korean media, also seems as though you would like to change this for the better. These things are commendable however without an objective standard of how women should be portrayed or how women should not be portrayed its hard to tell where you’re coming from or what you want to achieve exactly, hence the question, what’s your frame of reference dude?

      That standard is blindingly obvious to 99% of the people who have read about the issues with the video(s) raised by me in this post and others in the comments, let alone the rest of the blog, so forgive me for choosing to make much better use of my time.

      Now, since the sociological impact of female images is so important to you I conclude that you do not consider humanity large clumps of cells with no higher purpose. If you think that people are distinct from lower animals such as dogs, to what end do we strive, individually and collectively?

      Well if that’s your idea of a non-moronic comment, then never to waste any more time listening to you for one. If you don’t like it though, then please feel free to hook up with tokyojesusfist and tjh and whine about feminist conspirators like myself to your hearts’ content though. Sounds like it’d be a real rave.

  21. I am the anonymous reader quoted in this article, and I want to thank James for taking the time to address this issue, because it really needed to be examined. I’d like to take a moment to respond to some of the comments above. First of all, I know the claim that “feminists never place any blame on women” to be false, simply because I am a feminist and I do all the time. Unless I’m a complete rarity, I’d say other feminists do as well. I am disgusted every day with the infantile, degrading way women behave in commercials, music videos, etc., here in Korea. Granted, they are usually told to act that way by the director, but they choose to go along with it. Now I personally couldn’t be paid enough to behave that way on national TV, but I know that the majority of Korean women don’t see anything wrong with it.

    As others have mentioned, the feminist movement hasn’t taken off here, and I doubt that even many of the more well-educated individuals realize the harmful effects this portrayal of women has on society. In fact, most of the girls involved are so young that they can’t really be expected to deeply consider the effects of their performances on society. It would be pretty hard to hold the women in this particular video accountable anyway, as they’re not much more than bodies lumped together in the background. JYP’s grimacing, goblin-like face is the constant in the video, bobbing around in the sea of female bodies. Doubtless he had much more say in the direction of the video than any teen girl groups ever do of their own. Whether or not he thrives on a bad boy image, he should still be at least somewhat socially responsible.

    For what it’s worth, I do believe that the media has a significant effect on how society in general thinks and behaves- especially in such a collectivist society as this. My opinion comes from a background in psychology, but also just from common sense. Let’s face it- the majority of people watching these videos are not the most mature or intelligent members of society and are certainly not trained to look at forms of media with a critical eye. Likely, they won’t give the video even a moment’s consideration. However, when they constantly see their idols roughing up or killing women (whether portrayed metaphorically or not), or pretending to rape them on stage at a concert while thousands of fans scream hysterically, they become increasingly desensitized to violence against women and more and more likely to view women, sex and relationships in a distorted manner. The truth is, Korean culture is adopting Western expression of sexuality without any of the social consciousness that keeps it in check. Without the general consensus that positive portrayal of rape and domestic violence is out of the question, the media will ultimately reach a point where anything goes, with undeniably harmful effects on society.

  22. Pingback: Is someone protecting Park Jin-young? « Extra! Korea

  23. Would you beilieve that he actually goes around Korean tv shows and declares that Korean women, or women in general need to be liberated and more self-assured so they can fully express themselves sexually? I guess he means that women need to start enjoying the way he objectifies them so that he can stop feeling like a pervert that he is.

    • No, I had no idea. Although I probably should – technically, it’s a little unfair to criticize a guy if you’ve never heard him speak – , I have to admit I’ve sort of been avoiding him as a result of writing this post! Most recently, I was disappointed to see that he was a judge on Superstar K, although I guess he is an obvious choice if you don’t mind everything we’ve mentioned.

  24. Pingback: I’m an object, but that’s okay « himonotales

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