What did Depraved Oppas do to Girls’ Generation? Part 3

(Source)

This translation of part of this Korean article follows directly from Part 1 and Part 2. If you haven’t already, please read those first, as the author didn’t intend for any section to be a stand-alone post:

‘비정규직 세대’의 이중착취 / The Double-Exploitation of the “Irregular Generation”

아이돌 바람을 일으킨 기획사 대표들에게는 몇 가지 공통점이 있다. 스스로 연예계에서 활동하며 발을 넓힌, 중장년층의 남자들이라는 것이다. 이들은 경제위기 이전에 사회에 진출해 상당한 부를 축적한 기성세대면서도, ‘비정규직 세대’와 취향을 공유할 수 있을 만큼 젊은 경우가 대부분이다.

The representatives of management companies that gave rise to the idol boom have many points in common. First, they are middle-aged men who developed their careers within the entertainment world by themselves, before the Asian Financial Crisis. Also, while they are an old generation with accumulated wealth, most are still young enough to share the tastes of the “irregular generation”.

다시 말해, 아이돌 기획자들은 무력한 남성들의 욕망을 이해할 만큼 젊고 영악한 ‘동료 남자’들인 동시에, 이 수요를 가공해 상품으로 내놓을 수 있을 만한 돈과 연줄을 지닌 사람들이다. 반면에 대다수 젊은 세대가 지닌 건 욕망과 (아르바이트로 모았을) ‘미니앨범’을 겨우 살 주머니 푼돈뿐이다.

In other words, management company representatives are young and shrewd enough to understand powerless men’s tastes, and have the money and connections to produce manufactured goods (idols) on demand. On the other hand, the thing which most of the young generation have is desire, but only enough pocket money (or money gained from part-time jobs) to buy mini-albums.

한국의 현재 청소년들은 꿈을 꿀 수 없는 불우한 세대다. 유치원 시절부터 학교, 학원, 과외로 이어지는 가혹한 경쟁체제 속에서 고통 받지만, 이들에게 준비된 미래는 없다. 소수의 ‘좋은’ 대학을 갈 경쟁력은 돈으로 길러지고, 운 좋게 입학 기회를 얻는다 해도 돈 없이는 학교에 다닐 수도 없고, 살인적인 ‘스펙’ 경쟁도 불가능하다. 졸업생을 기다리고 있는 것은 차별, 실업, 비정규직으로 이어지는 잔인한 현실이다.

Korean teenagers now are an generation of misfortune, which can’t have dreams. From when they’re in kindergarten, to attending school, hagwons, and receiving private tutoring, they suffer greatly from the competitive system into which they’re placed, yet despite that have no future to prepare for. They can use money to increase their chances of getting into one of the very few “good” universities, but even if they [are indeed] lucky enough to gain a place to one they may be unable to afford the fees, and [besides which] it would still be impossible to get killer “specs” [James – a good background]. Graduating students now face a merciless reality in which they have nothing but discrimination, unemployment, and/or irregular, unstable work to look forward to.

(Source)

아이돌 그룹은 이 가엾은 세대에게 두 가지 의미의 ‘위안’을 준다. 하나는 암울한 현실을 잠시 잊을 수 있는 오락이고, 다른 하나는 ‘나도 아이돌이 될 수 있다’는 꿈이다. 하지만 이 ‘위안’은 기획사가 비정규직 세대를 피라미드형 착취구조로 이끄는 미끼에 지나지 않는다. 젊은 세대는 아이돌 음악을 사는 소비자인 동시에, 오디션에 참여해 ‘아이돌 예비군’인 연습생 자리를 채워주는 ‘인력풀’이다.

Idol groups give comfort to this hapless generation in two ways. One, is through giving some pleasure that allows them to forget their miserable reality for a moment, why the other is through fostering the belief that they too can become idols. But this “comfort” is nothing but bait for a pyramidal exploitation structure of them. [As] while the young generation purchase music as consumers, at the same time they also audition to become a labor pool of “idol reserves”.

이들은 기획사에 수익과 인력을 댈 뿐 아니라, 열광과 환호로 아이돌에게 매력적인 지위도 부여한다. 결국 ‘아이돌의 꿈’을 구성하는 부, 인기, 명성은 모두 비정규직 세대 자신들이 공급하는 것이다. 하지만 꿈의 주인공이 되는 것은 오직 기획사를 통해서만 가능하다.

While these idol reserves represent profit and a labor pool to the management companies however, to them themselves they are given an attractive position through widespread public adulation and passion for them. In the end, everything that an idols’ dreams are composed of – wealth, popularity, fame – are things that they provide for themselves. But although they are the central character in their dreams, these are still only possible through management companies.

(Source)

Caption:  걸그룹 기획사가 가장 중요하게 여기는 것은 의도된 노출에 적합하고 손쉽게 대체될 수 있는 획일화된 신체다.

Image Caption: [When it comes to idols], The most important thing for management companies to consider are standardized bodies suitable for skin exposure and easily replaced (end).

James – My apologies in advance for any mistakes in the translation, which I admit that I (and then my long-suffering wife) struggled with much more than I did the first two parts. Much of my confusion though, stemmed from – to my mind – Kang’s abrupt shift here from talking about the “irregular generation” in the first half of the article (i.e. the target audience of girl groups), to the “young generation” that the girl-group members belong(ed) to in the second half. However, it does serve as a good introduction to Part 4’s discussion of their exploitation with the Korean music industry, which you can find here.

25 thoughts on “What did Depraved Oppas do to Girls’ Generation? Part 3

  1. Lest I come off otherwise – I’m happy this kind of social commentary is published and read, and gets heated discussion going between Koreans, and, bottom line, I’m sure it’s a positive contribution to the public discourse (mainly because this viewpoint doesn’t seem to be communicated much in the K mainstream elsewhere). But I’m going to continue to nitpick.

    The pyramidal exploitation structure he’s talking about doesn’t make sense – the kids training to become idols represent such a small percentage of the population they can hardly be considered a part of a scheme that involves buying the pop records and merchandise… so it hardly stands up to scrutiny that the comfort of escaping into the k-pop world is simply a bait to lure kids into this system – for 99,999% of the consumers that temporary comfort is all they’re after.

    • Oh, please always feel free to nitpick! And sorry for not replying to your comment on Part 2 yet: I would have tonight but for translating this being all I can manage after recovering from drinking in my trip to Seoul last weekend.

      I agree that the pyramidal thing doesn’t really make sense, but really all of Part 3 doesn’t, as it’s just an into for the second half of the article really. Some of the vague and/or problematic elements in it though, do appear to be addressed in Parts 4 and 5 (at least in my skim translation of them), so I’ll try to hurry up with my translation of those.

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  3. Just a note on the translation:

    Though you do a great job, and most dictionaries give 비정규직 as “irregular,” I feel that this is too vague a term for the intended meaning. Yes, understandably their financial situation is irregular of normal Korean society, but perhaps, at least to me, I feel as though “atypical” or “misguided” would prove more accurate and perhaps more in line with idiomatic English, because 비정 and 비정규 and their derivatives can have meanings similar to that.

    Just something to think about.

    • I thinnk irregular refers to their emploment status, i.e. they are irregular workers, which enjoy fewer employment rights than regular workers, and are generally given poorer pay and conditions.

  4. Its strange that you did not mention the subject of PLASTIC SURGERY when it comes to Korean idols. Everyone in Asia know that it is big business there in korea. Is it really such a taboo subject there? :S

    I really don’t understand why Korea is so self-concious when it comes to outward appearence. I believe most of Korean look beautiful as they are On of my friend in Korea (gangnam) had her eyes and cheeks done right after high school. when i asked her why she said becuae that way she will have a better chance of getting a job in the future!?! really?

    Anyway, interesting post. :)

  5. Oprah’s plastic surgery comment sparks uproar in Korean-American community

    http://k-popped.com/2008/04/oprahs-plastic-surgery-comment-sparks/

    ——————————————————————————————————–
    One last thing, I wish Koreans would be less defensive when it comes to korea as “plastic surgery capital of Asia” and stop denying they have plastic surgery.I have nothig against ps, but come on no need to deny the fact! lol.

  6. I apologize for the numerous comments, James.

    Why are some Korean parents encourage there children to have plastic surgery right out out of high school??? why do they want to project such shallow and superficial idea of the world to the child? I think its obsurd! truly. -___- What is your take on that as a parent?

    Even CNN did a documentary on Plastic surgery in Korea: I’m in shock that Korean parents would encourage plstic surgery on to a child this young!!!!! (link below)

  7. South Koreans need to come to terms with being born a korean and have super mongoloid facial features. They need to be honest with be proud of our Asian heritage as having monolid eyes. take me for example, I have monolid eyes, i’m not ashamed.

    Koreans need to realize that at the end of the day its not about how others judge you or how you look (b/c taht’s all going to be gone one day), but rather how confident you to live a a fullfilling life.

    Off to be now. lol.

    • Although a bit off-topic (sorry James), I’m still curious what sparked the little Ballerinas dislike of her own eyes- Which I found quite pretty.

      Would be interesting to find out how she came to that conclusion. And isn’t there a legal age limit for Plastic-OPs?

  8. This is a nice theory, and I’m sure SNSD et al have a lot of fans who are broke men in their forties, but they don’t sound like an ideal target market. I wonder how they measure up as a source of income to the phone, chicken and internet shopping companies that endorse them.
    More’s the point, isn’t it possible that girl groups started to spring up in Korea after 1997/8 for the same reason they did everywhere else: The success of the Spice Girls, who released their first single in the US in 1997 and spent the next two years raking it in.

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