The Korea Herald: Should pornography be censored?

Pornography Censorship(Source)

I make a brief appearance in the Korea Herald today, in an article by John Power on the recent government crackdown on pornography. With his permission, here are all of his original questions and my replies, with some links for further reading:

1. Do you foresee the Korean public becoming increasingly unhappy with the heavy censorship of pornography and other sexual content in the short term? Or do you think a largely conservative Korean public will remain happy with the status quo?

In all my 12 years in Korea, ordinary Koreans have loudly and consistently complained of being treated like children by censors. But the censorship of movies has been considerably relaxed in recent years (recall that the Korean Supreme Court overturned a ban on Shortbus for instance), and even the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family has begun to acknowledge its own excesses with music videos. So this latest crackdown actually goes against recent trends, and I expect it to face a lot of opposition.

2. Often, censorship is justified to protect young people. Do you think there is a feasible way of protecting youth, while not controlling what adults wish to see?

Frankly I don’t, but this is a dilemma faced by every democracy. Most, however, don’t resort to the draconian restrictions imposed by the Korean government, yet somehow have equal or lower rates of sex crimes by and/or against minors nonetheless.

(“Because I’m a man / 남자기 때문에.” For English subtitles, click on “captions”)

3. A local site pornography site called Soranet had 600,000 subscribers before it was shut down in 2004, showing the widespread nature of its consumption. Do you think the government is fighting a losing battle in trying to ban such material?

If nothing else, banned sites will remain available via proxy servers, but I’m sure young, tech-savy Koreans won’t need to resort to using those. With the proviso that of course the government should continue to monitor the pornography industry as a whole, to prevent exploitation and the use of minors, you have to question the government’s zeal in attacking an otherwise victimless activity, and which there is clearly a huge demand for. Surely the time and resources could be better spent? Perhaps on more up-to-date and effective sex-education, so people could better judge the supposed harmful effects of pornography for themselves?

4. What do you think is the true motivation for censorship of adult content in Korea? Or, put another way, do you think there are sometimes hidden agendas at play?

As someone who notoriously devoted Seoul to God as mayor, and who believes that (re)criminalizing abortion is an effective method of raising the birth rate, clearly Lee Myung-bak’s conservative and religious beliefs are playing a big role here. That aside, blaming pornography for sex crimes, and censoring it on that basis, is also an easy way for the ruling party to appear to be doing something to address public concerns during its candidate’s presidential election campaign, yet without doing anything about their real causes whatsoever.

Ga-in's BEG Concert Teaser(Source)

5. Do you think there are double standards at play in the how and what content is restricted?

If we’re talking specifically about pornography, then no. As for K-pop however, both fans’ widespread perceptions and the empirical evidence suggests that female entertainers are disproportionately censored, often for things that make entertainers are allowed to do scotfree. In particular, whenever female entertainers present themselves as sexual subjects rather than just objects for the male gaze, then the ironically-named Ministry of Gender Equality and Family can be expected to come down hard on them. A good recent case of this is the ban placed on Ga-in’s Bloom, a rare song about sexual awakening from a woman’s perspective, whereas the Ministry had no problem with the gratuitous skin shots in Hyuna’s Ice Cream.

What do you think?

The More Risqué, The More Boring (OR, Something You Didn’t Know About the Horse Dance!)

(Source: The Cinehound Forum)

Sorry, but I just can’t help it: I get very excited when I see the words “성 상품화” (sexual objectification) and “걸그룹” (girl-group) together.

That’s because I struggled for years to find critical Korean commentary on either. Whereas now, I’m just inundated with articles to translate, with or without relying on my “성 상품화” Google News Alert. And, if nothing else, this recent column of Jo Woo-yeong’s I’ve translated below is testament to that greatly increased public interest and discussion.

Unfortunately though, frankly it says little that is new either, and provides no evidence for its numerous assertions. But on the plus side, I did learn of popular-music critic Kang Tae-gyu’s twitter and blog through it. What’s more, in the process of figuring out what on Earth Jo Woo-yeong meant when she talks about Gangnam Style in the 6th paragraph, I also learnt what apparently every Korean over 30 already knew: the word “horse” (말/mal) has sexual connotations.

No, I never thought to ask Korean friends their feelings about horses either. And yes, it’s more what the word reminds them of really: the movie Madame Aema (에무 부인; aema buin) to be precise, and/or its numerous sequels. As Andrei Lankov explains in The Korean Times:

In early 1982 Madam Ema, the most explicit of Korean movies ever made, hit the theaters. Not much can be said about its plot which is, for all practical purposes, absent. It was an erotic movie, often bordering on the pornographic….

….To everybody’s surprise, the censors did not ask too many questions. Actually, the only change they demanded was a change in the movie title. The title….was deliberately conceived in a way which hinted at Emmanuelle, the [French] erotic classic which was also a great hit in Korea of the late 1970s….

….Ema was a huge success. In March 1982 the movie was put on at an experimental late night show which attracted a huge crowd. The late night shows were another invention of the military regime which was preparing to lift a decades-old curfew….

….The pioneering Ema had 12 sequels, which were shot until the early 1990s. This makes it the longest series in the history of Korean cinema. It was very successful commercially as well ― the “first” Ema was seen by 310,000 people during the first year, and it became the box office champion of 1982. Some of the copycats were doing almost as well as the original.

(Update: After seven years in Korea, this Emma is a little tired of older Koreans explaining the connotations of her name to her!)

I’m a little confused by the censors’ ultimate title-change though (see the article and/or here for details), and would appreciate it if anybody could clarify. In return, for anyone further interested in sexuality and gender roles in Korean cinema in the period, Yu Gina of Duksung Women’s University mentions that (source, right):

The early 20th century, in the movie, <The Vow Make below the Moon, (1923)> the woman has the role of a good wife that rescues her husband from a gambling addiction. The woman dedicates to her husband, and this women’s character became the origin image of a ‘good wife.’ However, the heroin of <Sweet Dream-Lullaby of Death (1936)> is the opposite of that good wife. She resists her oppressive husband and her desire hits her daughter with a car and poisons herself because of the guilt. The ending contains the message that a woman who refuses to be a ‘good wife’ is going to be punished. This flow is maintained in other movies such as <The Ae-ma Woman and Madame Freedom>. These movies imply that women who pursue their desires are punished and vilified.

I’ve highlighted that last part because of its familiarity: as I explain in depth here, that dominant narrative wouldn’t be challenged until the mid to late-1990s, which proved to be a watershed in Korean cinema history. As might all the radical changes occurring today too, at least in terms of censorship, sexuality, and free speech.

And on that note, here’s the translation. Resolving to be more discerning with my choices in future though (even if this one did result in an interesting tangent), this will be the next one, which sounds very interesting according to Lost in Traffic Lights’ description!

점점 야해지는 걸(girl), 점점 식상해질 걸 / The More Risqué, The More Boring

Jo Woo-yeong, E Daily Star IN, 5 November 2012 (duplicated at, 6 November; all images from these 2 sources)

‘란제리룩 의상을 입은 여성이 허벅지에 가터벨트를 착용한 채 봉춤을 춘다.’ 성인용 비디오물에 흔히 등장하는 장면이 아니다. 요즘 섹시 콘셉트를 내세운 일부 걸그룹의 단면을 모아놓으면 이런 모습이라는 얘기다.

Wearing a lingerie-style outfit and a garter belt on the thigh, then pole-dancing, is not a common scene in adult videos. But it has become routine for some girl-groups to do so as part of their “sexy concepts.”

점점 야해지고, 점점 섹시해지고 있다. 속살로 착각을 일으키는 살구색 천이 덧대인 시스루 스타일 의상은 ‘귀여운 꼼수’다. 핫팬츠를 입은 채 다리를 과도하게 벌리는 일명 ‘쩍벌춤’이나 야릇한 상상을 부추기는 교태 섞인 몸짓은 웬만한 걸그룹이 거쳐야 할 필수 코스가 된 지 오래다.

Things are getting sexier and more risqué. Wearing apricot-colored clothing that gives the illusion of skin normally hidden by clothing, faux see-through clothing as it were, is known as a new “cute tactic.” Also, adopting flirty sexual poses that stir up people’s lecherous imaginations, such as dancing with your legs wide open while wearing hot pants (known as the “spread-leg dance”), has long been a requirement of girl-groups.

심지어 남녀간 성 관계 체위를 연상케 하는 커플 댄스도 빼놓을 수 없는 퍼포먼스 아이템이다. 실제 본 무대는 그렇지 않더라도 활동에 앞서 공개하는 뮤직비디오 티저 영상이나 이미지에는 ‘19금’, ‘침대 셀카’, ‘키스’, ‘목욕신’, ‘파격 노출’ 등의 수식어 정도는 붙어줘야 한다.

Worst of all, couple dances with moves that look like sex positions are also performance items. And even if they’re not ultimately done on stage, teaser videos and images beforehand have to have descriptions like “R18,” “photographed in bed,” “kiss,” “bath scene,” “excessive exposure,” and so on attached to them.

애프터스쿨, 카라, 시크릿, 안다미로, 현아, 지나, 걸스데이, NS윤지 등 수많은 여가수가 올 하반기 한 번쯤 선정성 논란에 휘말렸거나 혹은 이를 자처했다. 걸그룹들의 과도한 노출•선정적인 춤에 대한 비판과 이에 맞서 표현의 자유를 부르짖는 목소리는 서로 메아리가 돼 잊을 만하면 돌아온다.

After School, Kara, Secret, Andamiro, Hyuna, G.Na, Girls’ Day, and NS Yoon-G are just some of the female singers and girl-groups that have been embroiled in controversy about their excessive exposure and/or sexual provocation at least once in the second half of this year, or have sought it. But if you criticize either, invariably the rejoinder is that it is merely freedom of expression.

대중은 각박한 현실에서 판타지(Fantasy)적인 이야기와 동경의 대상을 찾기 마련이다. 대중은 일탈하고 싶고, 내가 하지 못하거나 할 수 없는 것들을 해내는 연예인을 보면서 대리만족, 카타르시스를 느끼기 때문이다. 앞서 소녀시대, 씨스타, 나인뮤지스 등은 특정 직업 ‘제복’ 같은 무대 의상으로 일종의 ‘타부(Taboo)’와 로망을 절묘히 배합해 대중의 욕망을 건드리기도 했다.

Wanting to escape from their harsh reality, it is natural that the public yearns for fantasies. So, while watching entertainers doing what they can’t do or won’t do, they gain a vicarious satisfaction and feeling of catharsis. Previously, groups like Girls’ Generation, Sistar, and Nine Muses did this by specializing in a uniform look, provoking the public’s desire with an exquisite combination of taboo [breaking?] and romance.

강태규 대중음악평론가는 “치열한 경쟁 속 대중의 이목을 끌기 위한 방송사나 연예기획사가 결국 대중의 판타지를 쫓고 있다”고 말했다. 스무 살도 안 된 미성년자 연예인을 ‘청순 글래머’, ‘베이글녀’ 등으로 성 상품화 하는 세태가 현실이다. 방송 카메라는 무대 아래서부터 위 방향으로 걸그룹 멤버의 몸을 훑고, 신체 특정 부위를 클로즈업해 촬영한다. 그는 “보다 자극적인 것을 요구하는 사회에서 시청률을 추구하는 방송과 ‘생존의 몸부림’ 치는 연예기획사가 성적 판타지를 쫓는 것은 당연한 수순일지 모른다”고 씁쓸해했다.

Kang Tae-gyu, a popular-music critic said, “In an intense war for the public’s attention, the media and entertainment agencies ultimately provide fantasies.” Yet it’s not just 20-somethings that are sexually-objectified with terms like “Innocent Glamor” and “Bagel Girl,” but even teens. Cameras will go over their bodies from bottom to top while girl-groups are on stage, lingering with close-ups on certain body parts. Kang continued, despairingly, Providing sexual fantasies may be natural with the media and entertainment agencies’ relentless pursuit of higher viewer rates.”

일부 매체 역시 어느덧 가수의 음악을 분석, 무대 전체를 평하기보다 그들의 선정적인 의상•퍼포먼스에 주목한다. 그게 쉽고 편해서다. 수요자(대중)와 공급자(방송•기획사)가 서로에게 원하는 것만을 주고 있는 ‘필요악’인 존재가 되어가고 있다.

But almost before we know it, we have some elements of the media not paying ever paying attention to singers’ music or what’s on stage, but only taking notice of sexually suggestive costumes or performances. This is because it is easy and convenient to do so. Both the public consumers and producers (both in broadcasting and in entertainment agencies) are only giving each other what they want, so in effect this is a necessary evil of the music industry.

역설적으로 코믹한 춤으로 세계적인 인기를 끌고 있는 싸이는 보는 음악뿐 아닌 듣는 즐거움까지 안겼다. 국내 가요계의 큰 수확이다. 하지만 싸이의 ‘말춤’ 역시 그 특유의 유쾌함으로 상쇄됐을 뿐 그 안에 ‘말’이라는 동물이 갖는 묘한 성적 상징성이 담겼다. 사실 ‘섹시한’ 매력은 남녀 누구나 갖고 싶은 본능이라 할 만하다.

Paradoxically though, Psy gained worldwide popularity [not by providing something sexual, but] by providing both a funny dance and listening pleasure, and the Korean music industry in general has benefited greatly from this popularity. Yet while Psy’s comedic “horse dance” is unique, ironically even the word “horse” has sexual connotations. Moreover, man or woman, who doesn’t want to be more sexually attractive?

대중음악 가수에게 순수예술을 바라서도 안 되고 그럴 필요도 없다. 퍼포먼스도 실력이고 잘 생기고 예쁜 외모도 개인이 가진 하나의 능력이다. 문제는 그들이 내세우는 ‘섹시’가 얼마만큼의 당위성과 명분을 갖느냐다. 단순히 눈길을 끌기 위해 속살을 드러내고 몸을 흔드는 것이라면 ‘예술’이 아닌 ‘외설’에 가깝다는 비판을 피하기 어렵다.

We cannot expect singers of popular music to only produce pure art, and not be influenced by commercial imperatives. Also, there is nothing wrong with performing well, and/or being physically attractive. The problem is when sexiness is presented where it is uncalled for, with no justification. Simply showing singers dancing in tight and/or faux nude clothes isn’t art but rather obscenity, and isn’t difficult to criticize.

성시권 대중음악평론가는 “국내 대중의 인식이 많이 변해가고 있으나 마돈나, 레이디 가가 등 유명 팝스타들과 지금 국내 걸그룹들을 비교 대상으로 삼기에는 무리가 있다”고 말했다. 음악과 퍼포먼스, 주객이 바뀐 경우가 많다는 게 그의 주장이다. 그는 “퍼포먼스는 음악에 담긴 메시지를 조금 더 잘 표현하기 위한 수단이어야 하는데 일부 걸그룹이나 여가수의 무대가 과연 그러한지 의문”이라며 “몇몇 그룹이 비슷하게 돌고 도는 섹시 콘셉트는 계속 양산되고 시장서 꾸준히 소모되겠지만, 갈수록 식상함이 더해져 그들 스스로를 가둘 것”이라고 평했다. 그는 “그들은 물론 더 나아가 K팝 발전을 위해 방송•언론•평단과 각 연예 기획사의 각자 역할에 대한 고민이 필요한 시점”이라고 말했다.

Song Shi-kwon, a popular-music critic, said “In Korea, perceptions are changing, but you still can’t really compare them to famous stars like Madonna or Lady Gaga.” But in many cases, girl-groups’ performances are now more important than their music. He continued, “Performance should be a tool to convey the message in the music a little better, but I have to wonder if some girl-groups and female-singers’ stages really do that,” and judged that “by all copying each other in providing a sexy concept, their music and performances will certainly be consumed in the market, but in the process people will becoming bored with it, and so the groups will come to limit each other’s’ development.” Ultimately, “For the further development of K-pop, broadcasters, the media, critics, and entertainment agencies need to seriously think about their own roles in it.”

“Harmful” Advertisements Surge 3-fold in Online Korean News Media


“Is it true that your hair grows if you have ‘dirty thoughts’?” (2002)

When so many websites struggle to open under the weight of smutty ads, it’s difficult not to think that the Korean internet used to be a much more innocent place.

At the very least, you’d assume exceptions would be made for articles specifically about such ads.

With no apparent sense of irony however, not only does the website today’s article comes from feature camel toes, nude women, and couples in flagrante delicto, but some media companies will even censor photographs in news stories while keeping similar accompanying advertisements intact. Most recently and notoriously perhaps, some websites pixelated the breasts of “Bikini Girl” and her supporters for instance, but not the heaving bosoms used to advertise cosmetic surgery clinics:

Given that, and given how difficult it was to find a news website that didn’t plaster today’s article with such ads, I was very surprised to find that the normally quite alarmist Ministry of Gender Equality and Family found that only 5.5% of registered media companies had them on their websites.

Partially, that low number is explained by the very narrow definitions used, as outlined in the article. But if you take a look at the top of the following table (not — as per usual — mentioned until the final paragraph), which lists total registered media companies, total active sites, total sites with advertisements, and total sites with harmful advertisements respectively, you soon realize that that 5.5% is derived from 176 of 3216 total registered media companies. As a proportion of the 2,158 sites with advertisements however, which is surely a more appropriate measure, it jumps to 8.2% (although that still sounds much too low to me).

Finally, of special interest is how MOGEF calls for (and has recently helped implement) self-regulation by internet companies rather than imposing its own regulation system, which may come as some surprise considering how actively it censors Korean music. But despite its reputation however, in reality MOGEF has very limited powers (and only 0.12% of the total government budget), which I think plays a big role in the zealousness with which it monitors K-pop.

여성가족부 ‘19 광고’ 언론사들 고발 검토 / Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Affairs  Considering Prosecuting Media Companies for “18 and Over Advertisements”

‘유해 광고’ 올해들어 3배 늘어… “자율규제기구 설치 촉구, 광고주 심의 요청” / 3 times more ‘harmful advertisements’ compared to last year…”We strongly recommend advertisers consider establishing a self-regulatory system”

by 최훈길/Choi Hoon-gil

선정적인 내용이 담긴 언론사의 인터넷 광고가 작년에 비해 3배 가량 증가한 것으로 조사됐다. 여성가족부는 언론사의 자율 규제를 우선 촉구하되, 해당 언론사에 대한 고발도 검토하고 해당 광고주에 대한 심의 요청도 추진하기로 했다.

A survey has shown that media companies display 3 times more sexually suggestive internet advertisements compared to last year. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF) recommends that media companies self-regulate themselves, and is considering prosecuting both offending media companies and advertisers themselves.


여성가족부가 11일 발표한 ‘인터넷 신문의 청소년 유해광고 유통 현황 모니터링 결과’에 따르면, 올해 유해성 광고는 176개(5.5%)로 작년 유해성 광고 62개(2.5%)보다 3배가량 늘었다. 한 인터넷 신문은 성인용품 사이트 등 청소년 유해 매체물 광고를 성인 인증 없이 게재해 정보통신망법을 위반했다. 유해성 광고는 네트워크 광고의 일종으로, 상당수가 의료쪽 광고이며 문구나 이미지가 선정적이어서 ‘혐오 광고’로도 불린다.

On the 11th of June, MOGEF announced the results of their survey “The present situation of the circulation of internet newspapers’ harmful advertisements among teenagers”, according to which there were 176 sites with harmful ads (5.5%) among those surveyed, roughly 3 times more than last years’ 62 (2.5%) [James — considering the different numbers of sites examined, proportionately there were really only 2.2 times as many]. Among other advertisements harmful to teenagers, one internet newspaper had an advertisement for a sex products site that could be accessed without age verification, which violated the Information and Communications Network Law. Harmful advertisements are a kind of internet advertisement called “disgusting advertisements” [James – called that by who?]; the majority have sexually-suggestive images and terms and/or refer to sexually-related medical procedures.

176개 인터넷 신문 중 20개 인터넷 신문이 전체 유해성 광고물(915건)의 50.3%(406건)을 노출하고 있었다. 여성 가족부는 해당 언론사 실명을 공개하지 않았다. 청소년매체환경과 관계자는 “인터넷 점유율이 높은 곳들이 유해성 광고가 많았고 스포츠, 연예 신문들이 많았다”며 “고발을 검토하는 인터넷 언론사는 종이 신문을 발행하지 않는 곳으로 잘 알려진 언론사는 아니다”라고 설명했다.

Out of the 176 internet newspapers that were found to have harmful advertisements, 20 had more than half of their total advertisements, 406 out of 915 (50.3%), taken up by them. MOGEF didn’t reveal the offending media companies’ names. An official in the Division of Youth Media Environment of MOGEF said: “The internet sites which had the highest number of harmful advertisements were sports and entertainment sites, and those with a lot of traffic,” and added that “the news sites which we are considering prosecuting are not well-known and don’t publish physical newspapers.”


해당 유해 광고의 내용은 성행위·성기표현 문구(21.2%)가 가장 많았고, 성적욕구 자극문구(17.7%), 가슴 부위 노출(17.4%), 성행위·성기 관련 묘사(15.8%), 허벅지·둔부 노출(14.5%) 순이었다. 해당 광고주는 성기능 식품(21.%) 관련 업체가 가장 많았고, 비뇨기과(17.3%), 건강보조식품(15.6%), 성기능 개선용품(12.8%), 성형외과(6.8%) 광고주 순이었다.

Of the harmful advertisements, 21.2% — the highest — had expressions related to sex acts or genitalia, 17.7% had expressions designed to arouse sexual desire [James — e.g. “할래/Do you want to do it?], 17.4% exposed the breasts, 15.8% had descriptions of sex acts or genitalia, and 14.5% exposed the thighs or buttocks. Of the advertisers themselves, 21% were selling sexual function products [James — like Viagra?], 17.3% urology services, 15.6% health assistance products, 12.8% products designed to improve sexual performance [James —  how are those different to “sexual function products”?], and 6.8% cosmetic surgery procedures.

여성가족부는 작년과 비교해 유해 광고는 늘었지만 법 위반 언론사들이 대폭 감소한 것을 감안해, 언론사에는 우선 자율 규제를 촉구하겠다는 입장이다. 청소년매체환경과 관계자는 “작년에 34개 언론사가 법을 위반했는데 올해에는 다 시정됐다”며 “언론사들을 직접 규제하기 보다는 인터넷신문협회 등에 자율규제기구인 인터넷신문광고심의위원회의 설치를 촉구하겠다”고 밝혔다.

Although MOGEF points out that the numbers of harmful advertisements have increased since last year, the fact that there are actually less media companies breaking the law also needs to be taken into consideration, so first MOGEF is going ask media companies to regulate themselves. The official in the Division of Youth Media Environment continued: “The 34 media companies that broke the the Information and Communications Network Law last year have all since rectified their mistakes,” and so “a self-regulatory system is preferable to direct regulation, and we demand that the Korean Internet Newspaper Association and so on establish an internet newspaper advertisement consideration committee.”


이 관계자는 “이번에 법 위반으로 적발된 언론사에도 시정 조치를 우선 요구하고, 시정이 안 될 경우 형사고발을 할 것”이며 “유해성 광고를 의뢰하는 광고주 사이트에 대해서는 방송통신심의위원회에 유해성 심의 요청을 할 것”이라고 말했다. 언론사에 대한 형사 고발 검토와 광고주에 대한 심의 요청은 올해 처음으로 시행되는 조치다.

Also: “In this case, first we demand that measures are taken to rectify the mistakes of offending media companies, and if this is not done we will consider prosecuting them,” and forward their harmful advertisements to the Korean Communications Standards Commission for consideration. These steps are being enforced this year for the first time.”

한편, 이번 조사는 지난 3월7일부터 5월21일까지 문화체육관광부에 등록된 3216개 인터넷 신문(지난 2월말 기준)의 메인 페이지 및 10개 기사면을 점검한 것이다. 여성가족부는 작년에도 해당 조사를 했으며, 조사 이후 한국인터넷신문협회와 한국온라인신문협회는 ‘인터넷신문광고 자율규제 가이드라인’을 제정한 바 있다. 청소년매체환경과 관계자는 “낙인 효과를 고려해 이번에는 언론사 이름을 비공개로 했다”며 “올해 하반기나 내년에 또 조사를 할 것”이라고 말했다.

The survey, of 3216 sites registered with the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism (as of February) was conducted the 7th of March to the 21st of May this year, and examined the main pages and 10 [random?] posts of each. Last year’s survey was conducted by MOGEF, after which the “Internet Advertisements Self-regulation Guidelines” were established with the Korean Internet Newspaper Association and the Korean Online Newspaper Association [James — ironically, Firefox blocks the latter as a dangerous site!]. The official in the Division of Youth Media Environment of MOGEF explained that “because of the harm to their reputations that would come with naming the offending media companies, that information shall be kept private”, and that “a similar survey will be completed in the second half of this year.” (end)

Revealing the Korean Body Politic, Part 2: Kwak Hyun-hwa (곽현화), Pin-up Grrrls, and The Banality of Sex and Nudity in the Media

(Sources: left, right)

Apologies for the irregular posting everyone — I’ve been really busy for the last month or so, and to top it all off I’m recovering from a bad flu as I type this too. But fortunately the end of the semester is close, and I’m eager to get stuck into the two blog series I plan to devote myself to this summer.

One is looking at the evidence for double-standards in Korean censorship, while this one is about examining the public and media’s policing of — and consequent narratives about — “appropriate” displays of nudity and sexual subjectivity, set against a recent potential backlash against changing gender relations. In hindsight just two different elements of the same investigation, the former focuses on K-pop in 2011 and this one on political protests in 2012.

As you’ll recall from Part 1 though, one problem with looking at anything explicitly political is that partisan reporting gets in the way, which means we need to consider as many sources as possible to be objective, and especially not just rely on English-language sources. So, let me start that by presenting my translation of a post by a blogger known as “비춤” (or on Twitter as @RainyDance01), which was originally posted on his or her blog Rainy Dance, then later reposted at Mediaus. About the photo on the right (source) of comedian turned model, singer, and actress Kwak Hyun-hwa (see Part 1 for the details), as you’ll see I think the blogger’s heart is in the right place, but unfortunately some of their reasoning dodgy at best, and evidence seemingly pulled out of thin air:

곽현화식 투표독려? 누드가 일상이 되면 식상하다  / Does Kwak Hyun-hwa’s Style Promote Voting? When Nudity Becomes Routine, it Becomes Boring

10 April 2012

국회의원 총선거를 코앞에 두고 투표율을 올리고자 수많은 유명인들이 투표 독려에 나서고 있습니다. 소설가 이외수씨는 투표율 70%가 넘으면 머리카락을 싹둑 자르겠다고 밝혔고, 안철수씨 또한 70%를 넘으면 미니스커트를 입고 율동에 노래를 부르겠다고 밝혔지요. 이렇듯 저마다 자신의 공약을 내세워 투표독려에 나서고 있습니다. 이들의 공약은 대중에게 소소한 재미와 더불어 투표참여의 의미를 되새겨주고 있는데요. 거창하진 않지만 자신만의 방식으로 사회적 메시지를 전달하는 유명인들의 모습은 새로운 문화가 되고 있는 느낌입니다.

Just before the general elections, many famous people are doing various things to encourage more people to vote. For example, novelist Lee Wae-soo has pledged to cut his trademark long hair if the voting rate exceeds 70%, while Ahn Cheol-soo has promised to dance wearing a mini-skirt (see below). While these may sound just trivial and fun, they do remind voters about the meaning and importance of voting. Also, while their ultimate impact may not be all that great, they point to a new trend of famous people spreading social messages.

그런데 같은 목표를 지향하더라도 그 방법 탓에 오히려 대중의 반감이 우려되는 경우도 있는데요, 개그우면 곽현화의 경우가 그렇습니다. 곽현화는 투표독려를 위해 자신의 미투데이에 ‘총선거 D-3, 우리가 대한민국의 주인이다! 투표로 보여줍시다’라는 내용이 적힌 종이를 들고 있는 상반신 누드 사진을 올렸습니다. 그 의도야 건설적이지만 이면에는 새로울 것이 없는, 우리의 식상해진 문화 코드가 선명하지요.

However, while they all have the same target, some celebrities’ methods may actually make voters more apathetic. One such case is that of comedian Kwak Hyun-hwa. In her case, she uploaded a photo on her me2day blog in which she is holding a sign in front of her nude upper body. The sign said “It’s 3 days to go before the elections. We are the owners of Korea! Let’s show this by voting!”. But while the intention was constructive, on the other hand this method is hardly original, and shows the paucity of our culture.

자신의 의사를 표현하는 방법에 옳고 그름을 규정하기는 어렵습니다. 하지만 그녀가 지금까지 보여온 행보를 본다면 아름다운 취지보다는 이면의 가십거리가 더욱 부각될 수밖에 없겠지요.  폭소클럽 출연당시 가슴노출이 심한 드레스를 입고 출연해 노출논란의 불을 지핀 이래로, 그녀는 꾸준히 노출의 길을 걸어왔었지요. 섹시화보가 누출되어 세간에 화제가 되기도 했으며, 지나치게 선정적인 앨범 이미지컷으로 눈총을 받기도 했습니다.

It’s difficult to judge what the best or most “correct” way of expressing oneself is. But looking at Kwak Hyun-hwa’s past history up until now, it’s difficult not to conclude that this stunt of hers was more aimed at creating gossip and attention about herself than anything noble. When she was on the comedy Foxclub for example [James — she quit in 2009], she used to create a lot of controversy by wearing a lot of revealing dresses, and since then has continued on a similar path. For instance, she has done a very sexy photoshoot, and received criticism for her provocative and suggestive images for her album.

(James: I’m not judging — and/or defending — Kwak Hyun-hwa in any sense, but just for the record: while she’s certainly done sexy photoshoots, and you can judge her album pictures for yourselves, I think it’s unlikely that she regularly wore a lot of revealing dresses on Foxclub. If she had, then presumably there’d be far more “노출” videos and photos of her on that show available than just those from one short skit back in 2008)

올 초에는 개그맨 동료들과 선정적인 포즈로 찍은 사진이 이슈가 된 바 있는데요. 비난이 잇따르자 이에 대한 반감으로 자신의 미투데이에 바나나를 먹는 야릇한 표정의 사진을 올려 더 큰 역풍을 일으키기도 했지요. 하지만 그녀는 떳떳하게 말합니다. ‘’성적인 감정을 일으켰다고 해서 지탄하는 것은 마녀사냥이다. 의도를 떠나서 개그맨 전체를 싸잡아 욕하는 성급한 일반화의 오류를 범하지 말아 달라’

Earlier this year, some pictures of Kwak Hyun-hwa in pretend sexual poses with some her comedian colleagues became an issue [James — they can be seen here]. In response to the criticism that followed, on her blog she posted pictures of herself with a perverted expression on her face while eating a banana [James — was the author too embarrassed to be more specific?], which led to even more criticism. But in response to that, she boldly replied, “Just because something is arousing doesn’t mean it should be criticized — to do so is nothing but a witchhunt. And whatever the intention(s), don’t make the mistake of making rash generalizations about all comedians.”


과연 그녀를 바라보는 냉랭한 시선은 성급한 일반화의 오류일까요. 사실 벗는 것은 여자에만 국한된 것은 아닙니다. 남자도 벗습니다. 초콜릿복근이니 식스팩이니 하며 매력을 뽐내는 남성들도 얼마든지 있지요. 하지만 남성의 매력을 규정하는 잣대에서 ‘벗는 것’의 비중은 상대적으로 크지 않습니다. 지적인 남자, 자상한 남자와 같이 이 시대의 여성이 매력을 느끼는 아이콘은 상대적으로 많은 편이지요. 그래서 벗는 것으로 일관하는 남자는 오히려 역풍을 맞기도 합니다. 여담이지만 한때 1박2일에선 이수근이 숱한 노출을 보이며 빈축을 사기도 했습니다.

Well, is looking at her coldly and making a rash generalization really a mistake here? Of course, it’s not just women that take their clothes off — men do too. To show off their attractiveness, they expose their chocolate abs, their six packs [James – actually, those are the same thing], and so on. But relatively speaking, taking clothes off isn’t as important for men as it is for women; because in this day and age, there are many ways in which women can find their male icons attractive — they can be intellectual or kind. It would be bad if men only took their clothes off. When Lee Su-geun showed too much of his body on an episode of 2 Days & 1 Night for instance, people didn’t like it.


반면 여성들에겐 유독 섹시미 혹은 백치미가 강조되지요. 5살 유아부터 70대 할머니까지 섹시하다는 말은 일상어처럼 사용되고 있습니다. 드라마에선 홀로 당당한 일어서는 여성의 이야기는 그다지 성공적이지 못합니다. 여전히 신데렐라의 환상이 더 잘 팔리는 시나리오지요

On the other hand, for women being sexy or being stupid but cute is emphasized. From when they are just girls of 5 to when they are grandmothers in their 70s, the word “sexy” is part of daily life for women. In dramas, the strong, confident woman that succeeds through her own efforts is never a popular story, whereas the Cinderella fantasy is a scenario that always sells well.

이 시대의 남성들은 여성의 매력을 이 한 가지로 국한하고 있는 걸까요, 혹은 여성이 자신 있게 내세울 수 있는 매력은 이 한 가지뿐일까요. 양성평등의 가장 큰 위협은 이렇듯 일방적으로 여성의 섹시함을 강요하는 작금의 문화가 아닐까 싶습니다.

Is this because men of this day and age set limits to women’s sexiness [as just showing off their bodies], or because this is the only sexiness which women can show off confidently? I think this culture of emphasizing just this one side to women’s sexiness is today’s biggest threat to sexual equality.

이 시대의 청년들에게 닮고 싶은 사람을 떠올려보라면, 남성 쪽에선 다양한 매력이 쏟아져 나올 수 있겠지요, 안철수, 안성기, 조국, 손석희, 유재석 등 다양한 분야의 사람을 떠올릴 수 있습니다. 헌데 닮고 싶은 여성상을 물었을 때 우리 사회의 한축을 담당하고 있는 여성을 얼마나 떠올릴 수 있을까요. 그 자리에 섹시아이콘만이 남아 있다면 우리사회가 얼마나 건강하지 못한지를 반증하는 것이겠지요.


These days, when teenagers are asked who are their role models, boys mention men who are attractive in many different ways and from many fields of life, such as Ahn Cheol-soo, Ahn Sung-ki, Kuk Cho, Son Seok-hee (above), Yoo Jae-Seok, and so on. In contrast, although there’s many women to choose from, girls just name sexy icons. I think this shows how unhealthy our society is.

(James: Other than their fathers, I don’t believe for a moment that teenage boys mention men in their 50s or older as their role-models, even when they want to impress whoever’s asking)

곽현화는 좋은 취지에서 누드시위를 했습니다. 하지만 그 이면에는 이 땅에서 쉽게 주목받고자 하는 여성의 식상한 방법론이 새삼스럽습니다. 우리 사회의 쓸쓸한 단면이겠지요.

Kwak Hyun-hwa [may have?] had good intentions, but her method was unoriginal and was just a way of getting noticed. This too is a sign of how unhealthy our society is (end).


What do you think? Again, I find the blogger’s logic — and especially notions of male and female desire — flawed, but at the very least I am now very interested in finding out more about Kwak Hyun-hwa. Not because I think she has any musical talent though (frankly, I hated Psycho above), nor because I naively think her “nude” photo was anything but completely self-serving. Rather, because:

She deserves a lot of credit for reinventing herself as a model, singer, and actress after being best known as a slightly chubby (by Korean entertainment standards) comedian.

Whatever her musical abilities, it was especially brave of her to even attempt to become a solo singer in her late-20s (old age by K-pop standards).

She’s a maths graduate of Ehwa Women’s University, and has even published a textbook for middle-schoolers (see below), so she’s probably quite smart. And I’m not being facetious when I say that many men and women may not be able to see past her cleavage to realize that (related, make sure to read the classic With Great Cleavage Comes Great Responsibility).

What solo celebrity’s public actions and statements aren’t motivated by self-interest? Which is not to say that they’re always cold and calculating of course, but still: it seems a strange criteria to dismiss someone as a person for (after all, heaven forbid that someone use their sex-appeal to advance their career), and is simply an ad-hominem method of devaluing that style of getting a political message across.

As for its effectiveness, for its stated purpose of encouraging people to vote that is? Well, determining things like that is what this whole series is about, but in the meantime let me pass on Tom Megginson’s take on a similar recent political campaign by Mexican politicians (my emphasis):

Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan is a little cynical about the use of “boobies” to get attention, but I applaud any effort in which women take back ownership of their bodies by using our primal fascination to deliver messages of solidarity for social change.


• And finally, remember when Lee Hyori recently publicly admitted that she has sexual feelings and experience? Judging by the reactions of K-pop fans, that was quite exceptional, and indeed I joined in praising her for it in Part 1. But to take a more detached perspective, that this was news at all is really quite an indictment of the sex-only-for-display-nature of Korean entertainment. For remember that we’re not just talking about a 33 year-old woman here, but one who was also Korea’s number one sex-symbol for much of the 2000s. It simply beggars belief that she has ever had to be coy about her sexual subjectivity.

Why do I mention that? Because despite the attention given it, Lee Hyori’s admission pales in comparison to Kwak Hyun-hwa’s stunts with bananas and her comedian friends. And recall that by my own definition, I shouldn’t have to seek-out pin-up grrrls, but rather they should do their darnedest to make me aware of them. In which case, Kwak Hyun-hwa more than qualifies!

And on that definitive note, what is coming in Part 3? Well, frankly a little disappointed with the blog post I translated, next I’ll try make sure to do something more substantial, namely this newspaper report on reasons for the recent “ladygate” phenomenon; i.e., the emerging backlash I mentioned. Thanks to Robert Koehler for the link.

The Revealing the Korean Body Politic Series:

Quick Hit: Is there STILL a stigma against lingerie modeling in Korea?

(Source; edited)

Whenever I give lectures about Korean advertising, I always try to stress how quickly it’s changing. As both a reflection and driver of changes in Korean society itself, it’s one of the reasons why studying it is so interesting.

Who can believe, for instance, that the first kiss in a Korean ad was as recently as 2009?

So, next Monday I was going to mention that one reason you used to see so few Korean women modeling lingerie was because many pornography actors used to do it, giving it a certain stigma (and in turn sustaining stereotypes about the foreign, overwhelmingly Caucasian women used in their place). Yet these days, so many female singers and actresses are doing it as a means of sexing-up their image, and/or getting themselves noticed, that I’ve argued that surely the stigma no longer exists, at least at the celebrity level.


But this is a familiar topic to most readers, and I do apologize for the repetition. It’s just that, today, it was reported that Core Contents Media (CCM) had turned down a lucrative lingerie-modelling contract for soon to debut girl-group Gangkiz (갱키즈), as such advertisements “wouldn’t fit [their] musical color and image” (“제안은 감사하지만 갱키즈 음악적 색깔, 이미지와 맞지 않다고 판단한 결정이었다”). Ironically though, most of the reports were accompanied by pictures from a recent bedroom photoshoot of theirs, including one which has one member’s shirt nearly falling off, slightly exposing her bra; one with another member lying expectantly on a bed, her shirt only just held together by a single, strategically-chosen button;  and then of course the opening picture with Lee Hae-in (이해인) above.

One seriously had to wonder what image CCM felt needed to be protected exactly.

On the other hand, while it’s certainly possible that CCM was just seeking attention for Gangliz, that attention could easily prove counterproductive once CCM’s hypocrisy was exposed. So perhaps they they did genuinely have concerns about the effects of “official” lingerie modelling on Gangkiz’s reputation.In which case, just what is the difference between that and exposing lingerie while modelling something else, and/or as part of a random photoshoot? Do Korean models and consumers really make such artificial distinctions?

I decided to refer back to the original article about pornography actors giving lingerie modelling a stigma to get a clearer picture. Partially because it’s been a couple of years since I last read it, and partially because, frankly, I had concerns that I misunderstood it the first time back in 2008, and have been misinforming readers ever since. In particular, there was the distinct possibility that the main reason there were so few Korean lingerie models was simply because it was just too “sexy” for them, and indeed that is still potentially — nay, probably — a very big influence here (they’re not mutually exclusive).


To my relief though, I hadn’t misunderstood anything, although it did turn out to be nude models rather than pornographic actors. But — with no offense to the translator, who probably normally makes far fewer mistakes than I do — I did notice a big mistranslation of the following paragraph (from this original Korean article):

홈쇼핑 속옷 모델의 원조는 누드 모델이었다. 90년대 말 S씨 등 스타 누드모델 10여명이 속옷 모델로 나와 방송을 타면서 화제를 모았다. 하지만 그녀들은 “얼굴을 가려달라”고 요구하는 등 몸을 사리는 일이 많았다. 그래서 점점 출연 횟수가 줄었고, 2000년 이후 케이블 TV에서는 국내 속옷 모델이 거의 자취를 감췄다.

Which was translated as:

Home shopping underwear models started as nude models. At the end of the 1990s [Miss] S and over 10 other star nude models caused a stir by moving into underwear modelling on home shopping programs. But they were able to get a lot of work when their attractive faces and bodies came into demand. So more and more of them started showing up, and after 2000 almost all underwear models on cable TV were Korean.

But unfortunately the last two sentences, were, well, completely wrong. Here’s my version:

…programs. However, they [not only] demanded that their faces be covered while were on the air, [but] they were also shy and reluctant to show off their bodies. So, gradually they started appearing less and less, until by 2000 there virtually no Korean women modelling home-shopping on cable TV.

In the translator’s defense, the original Korean article was badly written and confusing (e.g., were those 10 nude models the only Korean lingerie models?), and didn’t respond to the obvious question raised of why on Earth the nude models became shy about lingerie modelling, which I speculate was because of the controversy and fame their presence on TV created. Nor does it mention the fact that there have actually been plenty of Korean women on lingerie homeshopping shows since 2000, albeit fully-clothed and holding the lingerie on coat-hangers while their foreign counterparts alongside them wore it (which is really quite surreal to watch).

But still: hiding their faces? That does explain a lot about how, over a decade later, there are online lingerie stores on which not a single Korean model shows her face, or lingerie fashion shows in which the Korean women (but not the Korean men or foreign women) hide themselves under hats and sunglasses (see #3 here). In hindsight, it’s amazing that this still occurs as late as 2012, and especially that celebrity models haven’t had more of an impact on the industry yet, despite what I recently wrote about their surprisingly strong influence in Korea. I guess that the stigma is stronger than I expected then, and hence some of these women much braver than I gave them credit for.

(Sources: left, right)

For more on related issues raised by the ensuing disproportionate number of Caucasian models in Korea, see this recent post at Seoulbeats, which also discusses their growing numbers in K-pop music videos. As for me though, it’s back to updating my Powerpoint! :)

Who are the Korean Pin-up Grrrls?


No, not pin-up girls, but pin-up grrrls. Let me explain the difference.

First, take another long hard look at Yoon Eun-hye’s (윤은혜) photoshoot for October’s Dazed and Confused, as one does. Because despite appearances, it was probably a tough sell. Would you invest 8000 won (US$7.24) in a magazine for just 7 revealing pictures of a celebrity, out of 255 pages? Even if there are no high-definition versions available on the internet?

Maybe. I did, but as you’ll see, I was looking for an interview of her. You can make jokes about my real motivations later.

I suspect then, that the photoshoot’s main purpose may not have been to sell more copies of that particular edition per se. Rather, it was looking to enhance Dazed and Confused’s brand through the ensuing publicity, thereby selling more magazines and being able to charge more for advertisements in the long-term. If so, then the massive attention the pictures have been getting in the media can be considered a success, in the process Eun-hye literally – if only fleetingly – embodying the Wikipedia definition of a pin-up girl as “a model whose mass-produced pictures see wide appeal as popular culture”. Even, in a hyperreal sense, in the absence of the physical pictures themselves.

Next, consider them in the context of a retro fad that has been sweeping movies and K-pop (or at least the female half of it) since at least Lee Hyori’s (이효리) U Go Girl of 2008. Again, while strict censorship and sexual conservatism likely confined any physical Korean pin-ups to seedy bars until the 1990s (I’ll consider “soju girls” separately shortly), pin-up girl chic is certainly becoming a recognizable part of Korean popular culture. It was no great surprise to see models copying them (source, right) on Korean television last year for instance, and I refuse to believe that it’s a mere coincidence that now there’s even an online clothes store with the pin-up name.

Vivent les femmes?

Well, that’s certainly a possibility, which I’ve very much underplayed in the last five years I’ve been writing about Korean gender issues. And not that I wasn’t correct to do so: knowing that baring breasts in magazines was one notable form of resistance to censorship in Francoist Spain in the 1970s, naively I projected that onto what were increasingly risqué Korea soju ads starting from about 2006, likewise equating more T&A in them with, well, sexual and political liberation (see here for a modern Arab equivalent). Thankfully, many readers soon disabused me of that notion, and I’ve been at pains to point out that the latter doesn’t automatically signify the former ever since.

But then I read Maria Buszek’s Pin-Up Grrrls.

A brilliant book, alas it is also 444 pages long, but fortunately a roughly 20 times shorter version(!) is available online here, which I strongly encourage you to read in full. Here’s just a taste of why it was so eye-opening:

In the same way that women surely saw their own reflection in the illustrated recruitment pin-ups of WWII, it seems that many similarly saw the Varga Girl not as an unattainable fantasy of the heterosexual male imagination, but an ideal they could both associate with and aspire toward. Contrary to contemporary assumptions that the Varga Girl (and Esquire magazine) were enjoyed by an exclusively male audience, we find her presence in such contexts where she would not only have been highly visible to women, but there as the result of what one can assume was her already existing popularity with a female audience. By the start of the war, women were certainly familiar with her; in the very same issue as the first Varga Girl, an Esquire reader-poll appeared that indicated nearly three-quarters of the “gentlemen’s magazine” subscriptions were in fact read by women, for whom the magazine’s illustrations were the number one attraction…. In fact, if one reads the magazine’s letters section, “The Sound and the Fury,” throughout the ‘40s, women’s letters were frequently published–many written solely to remind the male editors and readers that the magazine had a broad audience that included women, whose presence they should consider in features, cartoons, and advertisements.


Next, consider the following from pages 169 and 170 of Whang Zheng’s chapter “Gender, employment, and women’s resistance” in Chinese Society: Change, Conflict, and Resistance (2nd Edition), 2003:

Replacing the “iron rice bowl” of job security in urban China in the 1990s is the craze of creating the “rice bowl of youth”. Everywhere attractive young women have been sought to represent the shining image of “modernity”. Booming service, commercial, and entertainment industries post numerous age-, gender-, and, often, height-specific advertisements seeking women under the age of 25 and above 165 centimeters in height. Stylish, elegant, or sexy, young “Misses” are displayed in remodeled or newly built “modern” hotels, restaurants, department stores, travel services, night clubs, dance halls, and so on. As older state industries lay off women workers over 35, these modern young Misses, many with no particular education or technical skills, are entering the rising industries (mostly in the private sector, some with foreign investment) where their youth and beauty provide a ticket to incomes several times higher than those of their older sisters.

And in particular:

The creation of the rice bowl of youth is a “joint venture” of consumerism and capitalism that commodifies and objectifies women. Its contradictory aspects should not, however, be overlooked. Many a Miss Public Relations, Miss Shopping-guide and Miss Travel-guide is far from being a passively constructed “decorative” object for the fulfillment of her bosses’ utility needs and their male clients’ sexual fantasies. Rather, many are active players in the melodrama of modernity, who consciously manage their “profits” by a range of strategies, including frequent job changes to advance their position, and investing in various adult education programs to acquire new qualifications and skills [James – a surprising absence here is mention of cosmetic surgery]. Seizing the rice bowl of youth, many young women catapult themselves into lasting careers. The inherent modern values in this position, such as assertiveness and competitiveness, have been expressed prominently in young Misses’ pursuit of career development in a competitive job market. This gendered employment pattern with its inherent contradictions, in short, provides opportunities for young women’s social and economic advancement, even if it blocks employment access of older laid-off workers, and reinforces gender [James – and sexual] stereotypes.

For an alternative, much more critical view of that development in the Korean context, please read this post of Michael Hurt’s at Scribblings of the Metropolitician, and indeed I do think Whang slightly overstates her case. But the points have been made: dressing and posing sexily in commercial photographs isn’t necessarily exclusively for men, nor does a woman deserve scorn if she does so simply in order to advance her career. Also, that these are not mutually exclusive.

But as something to celebrate in a Feminist sense? That all sounds somewhat hollow, let alone just basic common-sense. Whereas last week I promised you a useful, refreshing perspective with this post.

Enter the pin-up grrrl, who exalts in her sex appeal to both men and women, whether as sexual object, subject, role model, or all three. And above all, she never strays out of character.

By these criteria, merely being featured in Korean pin-up girl chic isn’t quite enough. Just like doesn’t actually sell anything even remotely pin-up girl themed, simply appropriating the risqué clothing, poses, and terminology of an earlier, quite literally foreign era is meaningless if the same women are infantilizing themselves in their next commercial, talkshow appearance, and/or photoshoot (update: or their Japanese promotions). Yet this is the norm in Korea, where so many female icons loudly touted as confident and independent are actually under the firm control of their management agencies (not even being able to use the internet or have cellphones, let alone go on dates), and where the fact that almost 3 out of 4 commercials feature celebrities means that the same women can be found endorsing just about anything (even competing brands).

Examples abound. At the same time that KARA (카라) were making waves for their “butt dance” (엉덩이 춤) choreography for Mister (미스터)  below for instance (and which is a problematic song in itself, placing — for all its supposed female bravado — all romantic initiative in the hands of said “Mister”)…

…you were just as if not more likely to see them on Korean TV doing their childish commercials for Pepero (빼빼로):

More recently, Girls’ Generation’s (소녀시대) purported shift to a more mature, sexual, and empowering image with the release of their latest album The Boys is undermined by familiar narratives of passivity in the lyrics to the Korean version of the song (but which are tellingly absent from the English one). In particular, while one member (Sunny) did claim that (hat tip to askbask):

“The lyrics’ [meaning] are up to the interpretation [of the listeners’]. Rather than just the simple meaning of girls giving boys support, it can be interpreted in many ways. The girls could be telling the boys that we’ll take the lead, giving off a more tough image. It could also be interpreted as girls telling the boys to get their act together and cheer up. (laughs) The song also aims to give courage to people, whether they’re girls or guys, who are tired out [by life].”


Nevertheless, as someone not just contracted to SM Entertainment, but also the niece of its founder, she is hardly in a position (or have the inclination) to claim otherwise. Moreover, even if for the sake of argument I allow that the lyrics are indeed open to interpretation, most likely the very next thing I’ll see Girls’ Generation in will still be an advertisement for one of the numerous brands they’ve endorsed above, piling on the cutesy aegyo. And even if I further concede that that’s because surely many of those endorsement contracts precede the release of The Boys, and will continue to apply for some time after it, you’d a) assume that if that was a genuine concern, then SM Entertainment could have scheduled things better so as not to undermine Girls’ Generations’ new image, and b) be hard-pressed not to recall that actually they were already supposed to have become “bad girls” with Run Devil Run nearly two years ago.

Forgive me for being a little cynical.

(Sources: left, right)

So again, it’s promoting and maintaining a pin-up grrrl image that is crucial. By which token we can also dismiss most soju girls too, even if they are indeed technically a kind of Korean pin-up. Because with very rare exceptions, such as Kim Yoon-ah’s (김윤아) example discussed here (the singer, not the skater), not only are soju ad formats usually extremely restrictive, but, for all their sexing-up in recent years, the models therein remain firmly ensconced within a virgin/vixen dichotomy, well illustrated by Jeong Ryeo-won (정려원) and Ha Ji-won (하지원) above (only three years apart btw; they changed really quickly!).

And yet again, despite the latter having – ahem – a special place in my heart because of: a) first learning of her through ads for the Platinum Dance 7 CDs that played on Korean TV for much of 2002, in which she simply stood there looking stunning; b) singing in Wax’s (왁스) music videos, my favorite Korean artist; c) later learning of her connection to my hometown;  and d) literally being kick-ass in the drama Secret Garden (시크릿 가든) and more recently the movie Sector 7 (7광구)…she undermines all that by, amongst other things, looking decidedly pale, unnatural, and delicate in her advertisements for skin care products. And so on.

Which brings me back to Eun-hye’s pictures, which surprised me because I remember that she endorsed the Korean lingerie brand Vivian (비비안) back in 2008, yet somehow without actually wearing the lingerie at all (as you could see earlier in the post {source}; see here and here for the politics of Korean lingerie modelling behind that). So, I bought the magazine itself assuming that they would include an interview of her, in which, however lame, unreliable, and/or perfunctory, she explained her reasons for the sudden change. Not only was there no interview inside though, but to my chagrin (no, really) I soon discovered that actually she’s been talking her clothes off in public for years now (“have you seen this” indeed!). Which possibly explains why I can’t find any mention of why she did the photoshoot on the internet whatsoever, despite the ubiquity of “news” articles about it as mentioned (source, right).

So, the jury’s still out on Eun-hye at least (although I admit that I’ve yet to look for interviews about her earlier photoshoots), and I acknowledge that my relative lack of knowledge about Korean female celebrities means I may be unfairly and/or prematurely dismissing them, something I’m sure has also gone through many readers’ minds.

So, as you can see below, I’ve been trying to rectify this, looking for reliable interview sources of interviews of Korean singers. But this is harder than you may think, as Korea seems to lack any definitive music magazines. AstaTV, for instance, is literally just 105 pictures of mostly boy-bands for 11,800 won (US$10.44), a magazine format I’ve very surprised to still see around in 2011, while Junior is, well, very much for juniors. Alternatively, the very cheap – but thick – weekly Movieweek and Cine21 magazines are good sources for singers that have also acted, but naturally I’m frustrated not to find something much more music focused.

So, I would very much appreciate recommendations from readers, or if in future you could pass on any decent interviews and articles available on the internet (whether of men or women), in which they elaborate on the themes discussed in this post (I’ve included my translation of one I did find at the end of this post). Indeed, probably in just five minutes some of you will find something about Eun-hye’s Dazed and Confused photoshoot in that I couldn’t in two weeks.But even if so, you’d think that someone earnestly looking would surely have a much easier time of it?

And with that thought, I suddenly realized that I’ve been going about this all the wrong way, and in fact had been quite hypocritical. Because the onus is not on me to find pin-up grrrls by sifting through what, by this stage, looks like an increasingly homogenized, clone-like mass of female celebrities, but rather to highlight those ones who are already doing their darnedest to stand out themselves.

Can any old-timers guess whom I’m thinking of?


Who else but Nancy Lang (낸시 랭)?

Yes, her eccentricities have put me off in the past too. No, I haven’t heard anything about her in at least a year either. But, just like that picture in that last link demonstrates (well, just about any picture of her really), you’d be hard-pressed to think of a well-known Korean woman quite so brazen (Update – Oops: actually she’s Korean-American, in which case Margaret Cho also instantly comes to mind. But she’s not quite so well-known in Korea itself).

If you personally have never heard of her though, then here is a quick biography of her below. Normally I’d be reluctant to copy and paste an entire article like this, but unfortunately there is increasingly less information about her available in English, and so this (originally from KBS somewhere) needs to be preserved before it’s lost when the long since defunct Pretty Korean Girls blog disappears (hey, beggars can’t be choosers!):

Since her performance of ‘Lost Dream’ in her underwear at the 2003 Venice Biennale, Nancy Lang was introduced to Korea, and she quickly appeared in magazines, on TV and on the Internet. Her showbiz philosophy that she would make money with art shouting “Cutie! Sexy! Kitty!” and “I Love Dollars” has raised controversy among art circles as well as the public.

Unconventional performance

Lang played the violin in the middle of a street wearing Victoria Secret lingerie and red high heels with kabuki style makeup. Her childhood dream was to become a violinist. And she realized the dream through art. Once, at the San Marco Piazza in Venice, she was held by the police for four hours, after which she became popular. Her performances thereafter continued to stand out. The New York born ethnic Korean is a US citizen. She only attended an international high school in Manila but her mannerisms and accent bear the hallmarks of a third generation Korean-American. Her Korean name is Park Hye-ryeong. But eyeing the world as her stage, she strategically changed her last name through help from a lawyer. “Lang” was the final choice among several names as it visually looked nice in typographic terms. Born into a well-to-do family, Lang however went through difficult times when her father died during her college years and her mother fell sick. At times, she couldn’t pay her tuition. But through the trials, she developed a clear sense of life and living.

The evolving Taboo Yogini

Multi-talented Lang’s unconventional character and provocative performances have grabbed the attention of the art, fashion and entertainment circles alike. In her trademark series ‘Taboo Yogini,’ characters such as a woman with a huge courtesan wig or a figure with a body of a robot and a head of a girl, rooster or dog appear. And invariably held in their hand is a powerful gun or a Louis Vuitton bag. In the backdrop is a car, a Chanel lipstick and other luxury brand logos. “Yogini” means an angel or a devil in the dictionary. Taboo Yogini, representing both good and bad, is a ceaselessly resurrecting spiritual being due to its persistent power and life energy. It is the symbol of Lang herself, her dreams, her wounds and her fight. The self-proclaimed ‘walking pop art’ doesn’t hide her love for brand name and elite goods. Last year at the Seoul Arts Center, the bikini clad Lang asked audience members to put oil on her body before going on to sing ‘Purple Scent’ to the tune of a karaoke machine. She pulled off another eccentric performance “Nancy Lang’s autograph session” during which she autographed her posterior as the inaugural artist of the Gwangju Biennale. The Taboo Yogini series is expected to evolve even more. In pursuit of breaking apart and assembling robots, Lang has only yet gathered the parts, and during the process she can let go of past regrets. Her work these days in fact show glimpses of her severing chains with the past and moving toward a fantastic future, portrayed by a wounded yogini and a guardian angel robot. If yogini was Peter Pan to Lang, the robot would be her Tinker Bell. It may be that she is inviting someone she can rely on in the future into her world filled with luxury goods.

Dreaming of Korea’s Takashi Murakami

Her work and lifestyle and her brutally candid and daring speech and actions invite criticism at times. But she doesn’t care. She confidently argues that, like a racehorse, she only runs toward a clear goal. She has firmly established herself as an artist reaching out to the public. Few others see art as showbiz as much as she does. But approaching show business with new ideas and works is a whole different realm. Her role model is Takashi Murakami, who successfully turned his character creations into art based on the animation, comics and games culture. Most of her works sell well and her name once topped the top online search word list. She knows what she wants, “I will become a world renowned artist who can influence the general public, and based on that foundation, I want to gain wealth and fame.” We wonder what she will show us next, as she brings along issues and controversies wherever she goes with her art.

Next, in the unlikely event that you’re not already convinced of her worthiness of the title of pin-up grrrl, then surely Psychedelic Kimchi’s interview of her in 2006 will be sufficient, which I was very glad to still find five years after first reading it (and apologies for stealing that above image from it!). Especially as, unfortunately, that seems to be the sum total of the only substantive English sources remaining on her, although there is still her (pretty active) official Facebook page (albeit not accepting new Friend requests, or at least not mine; sniff), her (less active) Twitter account, and finally her personal website (but curiously blocked because of phishing attempts the day after I first found it!). And of course I would again be very grateful if readers could pass on anything else, as I would for any suggestions of any other candidates for Korean pin-up grrrls.


But one final thing before I do thank you though, is to draw attention to the origins of the term “grrrl” itself, lest people more familiar with it than I feel that I’m using it too liberally. In short, it comes from the Riot Grrrl underground Feminist Punk movement in the Pacific Northwest in the early-1990s, about which the New York Times wrote the following on the twentieth anniversary of its founding earlier this year:

Ms. Marcus, the author of “Girls to the Front,” agreed that it was part of a 20-year nostalgia cycle. But she added that “people are flocking to these reminiscences because there remains a tremendous hunger” for the kind of liberated, don’t give-a-damn femaleness “that was in full flower in the ’90s,” with nothing quite as potent since.

The fashion pendulum may have inevitably swung back to the ’90s, but riot grrrl, with its snarky cut-and-paste zines and carefully built micro-communities, prefigures a lot of youth culture today: targeted communication and social networking (although they did it with letters and flyers, not e-mails and Facebook messages); the lure of the handmade and the local — the craft marketplace Etsy could have been born in a riot grrrl meeting; and an attitude, evident in blogs like Jezebel and the Hairpin, that feminism can be fun.


And in particular, the original Riot Grrrl Manifesto included the following, in what was I’m sure a deliberate choice of double entendre:

BECAUSE we must take over the means of production in order to create our own moanings.

Why this is important is because of how in her book proper, Maria Buzek contrasts Andre Dworkin’s Beauty Hurts (1974; see it here) and Annie Sprinkle’s Anatomy of a Pin-up Photo (1991) above, then in her conclusion (pages 362-3) discusses Ann Magnuson’s Revenge of the Vargas Girl (1992) below, about which she says:

In “Revenge”, the artist poses in the guise of an elegant World War 2 Varga Girl but turns the artist’s airbrush gun – the medium through which Vargas created his fantasy women – back onto the world. Magnuson has associated her appropriation of the pin-up with the same bait-and-switch subversion as the riot grrrl movement, saying: “Women’s sexuality has been shunned; there’s no shame attached to being sexual. But then, why should frat boys be the only ones who get to appreciate a curvy figure? When the pin-up is allowed to speak (and has something to say), it changes the landscape”. But Mangnuson’s assertion that the tools of the pin-up’s male creator, in the hands of its dangerous spawn, can be easily turned against its creator’s or viewer’s potentially oppressive motives also serves as a metaphor for all of the Feminist pin-up imagery we’ve seen here. In this way, the pin-up’s ultimate “revenge” lies in the fact that, although it may have been created as a tantalizing but unreal object for the delectation of heterosexual men, the pin-up would also find ways to reject this role to reflect and encourage the erotic self-awareness and self-expression of real women.

I’ll leave it up to the reader to determine how and where Nancy Lang fits into that. Or, indeed, how Korean women who wear extremely revealing clothes on the red carpet do, as discussed in the following article from the Sports Chosun, found via Charles Tilly at the Marmot’s Hole. Normally, I’d reject such a tabloidish and vacuous source, but then you recall the difficulty of finding more “serious” sources, and besides which I’ve often pointed out how tabloidish even the mainstream Korean media is. Indeed, considering that such pictures are the newspaper’s unofficial focus, then it might actually be the best source on them(!), and to my surprise its choice of accompanying pictures is not only quite conservative (as Tilly also points out; in particular, it makes no mention of Kim So-yeon’s [김소연] notorious dress below, worn at the opening of the 2007 Busan International Film Festival), but to its credit it also extols the virtues of confident “older” women, usually at best considered completely asexual by most of the Korean media:


[WHY] 여배우들의 레드카펫 과다 노출, 왜 끊이지 않나 / Why is there no end to actresses’ excessive exposure on the red carpet?

김표향 기자 / Reporter: Kim Pyo-hyang

이처럼 수위가 높은 ‘파격 노출’은 지금껏 없었다. 뜨거운 ‘노출 논란’의 주인공은 바로 신인배우 오인혜. 6일 부산국제영화제 개막식 레드카펫에 그녀가 등장하자 사람들은 충격으로 벌어진 입을 다물지 못했다. 겨우 가슴의 일부만을 아슬아슬하게 가렸을 뿐, 상반신의 대부분은 훤하게 드러냈다. 곧바로 그녀의 이름 앞에는 ‘노출 종결자’ ‘노출 폭격’이라는 단어가 붙었고, 인터넷과 SNS는 관련 내용으로 도배됐다. 전세계인의 애도 물결 속에 하루종일 검색어 1위였던 스티브 잡스도 이번만큼은 자리를 내줄 수밖에 없었다.

Never has there been exposure like this. In this “exposure controversy”, the leading figure is new actress Oh In-hye. As soon as she stepped out on to the red carpet at the opening ceremony of the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) on the 6th, everyone was so shocked they couldn’t close their mouths. With a dress that only barely covered just part of her breasts, she was displaying almost her entire upper body. Immediately, prefixes like “Exposure Terminator [Killer/Best]” and “Exposure Bombshell” were attached to her name, and social network services inundated with them. While all day previously the world was in a wave of grief over Steve Job’s death, [in Korea at least?] his position as the most searched item couldn’t help but be replaced by Oh In-hye.


Image caption left – 제16회 부산국제영화제 개막식이 6일 부산 영화의전당에서 열렸다. 개막식에 앞서 거행된 레드카펫 행사에서 배우 오인혜가 등장하고 있다. 최문영 기자 / The opening ceremony of the 16th BIFF on the 6th at the [new] Busan Cinema Center. Actress Oh In-hye arriving at the red carpet event prior to the ceremony. Photographer: Choi Mun-yeong.

Image caption right – 조선명탐정: 각시투구꽃의 비밀’ 제작발표회에 나선 한지민. 스포츠조선DB / Han Ji-min at the Chosun Dynasty: Detective K production announcement (SportsChosunDB)

(Sources: unknown)

Image caption left – 백상예술대상 시상식을 찾은 민효린 (스포츠조선DB) / Min Hyo-rin at the Paeksang Arts Award Ceremony (SportsChosunDB)

Image caption right – 지난 해 열린 골든디스크 시상식을 찾은 남규리 (스포츠조선DB) / Nam Gyu-ri at the GoldenDisks Award Ceremony last year (SportsChosunDB)

여배우들의 파격 노출, 끊이지 않는 이유는? / What is the reason actresses keep exposing themselves so?

오인혜가 부산의 레드카펫을 휩쓸고 간 후, 개막식 자리에 참석했던 한 중견감독은 이런 말을 했다. “무명일수록 노출이 심하더라.” 여배우들이 레드카펫 노출을 선택하는 이유가 이 말 속에 들어 있다. 화제와 논란을 일으키며 사람들 입에 오르내리는 것. 그러면서 자연스럽게 인지도가 올라가기를 기대하는 것이다. 무명에 가까웠던 오인혜도 강렬한 첫 등장과 함께 사람들 머리에 그녀의 이름을 깊숙이 새겼다. 신인들에게 레드카펫 노출은 자신을 PR하는 가장 효과적인 전략인 셈이다.

After Oh In-hye overwhelmed the red carpet in Busan, an important producer attending the opening ceremony said the following: “The less famous, the more extreme the exposure”. Herein lies the reason so many actresses choose to wear such revealing costumes on the red carpet. As the controversy surrounding them grows, the more they will be on everyone’s lips. At the same time, you can naturally expect them to get a lot of name recognition. [Indeed] Oh In-hye was a virtual unknown, but with her intense first entrance has carved a deep impression on people’s minds. To new actresses, exposing themselves on the red carpet is definitely the most effective PR strategy.

반면에 신인이 아닌 배우들은 이미지 변신과 연기 활동을 위해 과감한 노출을 선택한다. 한지민과 민효린, 남규리는 공식석상에서 선보인 섹시한 드레스로 ‘첫사랑 소녀’ 같은 이미지에서 벗어날 수 있었다. ‘반전 몸매’ ‘베이글녀’라는 수식어와 함께 여성스럽고 고혹적인 매력이 보태졌고, 남성들은 물론 여성들에게도 호감도가 상승했다. 작품 선택의 폭이 넓어졌음은 물론이다.

On the other hand, for established actresses a bold, revealing dress statement can be used to change an image or [assist in some new] acting activity [like a comeback?]. By wearing sexy dresses, Han Ji-min, Min Hyo-rin, and Lam Gyu-ri could get rid of their “First Love” images. Now with the words “electrifying body” or “bagel girl” [James – I disagree: that latter is invariably a term applied by the media rather than deliberately sought, and indeed many women labelled with it actually reject it] they have a charming, feminine attractiveness added to their names, of course increasing their popularity among men and widening the acting roles available to them.


Image caption left – 2008년 청룡영화상 시상식의 김혜수 (스포츠조선DB) / Kim Hye-su at the 2008 Blue Dragon Awards (SportsChosunDB)

Image caption middle – 제16회 부산국제영화제 개막식이 6일 부산 영화의전당에서 열렸다. 개막식에 앞서 거행된 레드카펫 행사에서 배우 송선미가 등장하고 있다. 최문영 기자 / The opening ceremony of the 16th BIFF on the 6th at the [new] Busan Cinema Center. Actress Song Sun-mi arriving at the red carpet event prior to the ceremony. Photographer: Choi Mun-yeong

Image caption right – 2007년 대종상 시상식에 참석한 김수미 (스포츠조선DB) / Kim Su-mi at the 2007 Daejeong Film Awards (SportsChosunDB)

노출의 고수들은 뭐가 다른가? / What makes the experts different?

레 드카펫을 노리는 여배우들의 ‘워너비’는 단연 김혜수다. 관록과 여유, 고급스러움이 느껴지는 김혜수의 레드카펫 드레스는 여배우들에게 교과서나 다름 없다. ‘김혜수’ 하면 자연스럽게 파격적인 드레스가 떠오를 만큼 노출에 능하지만, 과감한 드레스를 입고 움츠러들거나 옷을 추스리느라 바쁜 여느 여배우들과 달리, 김혜수는 고개 숙여 인사할 때도 좀처럼 손으로 가슴을 가리지 않는다. 그 당당함과 자신감이 김혜수를 지난 10년간 ‘레드카펫의 여왕’으로 만들었다. 매번 베스트드레서로 뽑혀도 드레스 자체보다 김혜수가 더 빛나는 이유이기도 하다.

Of course, the model for red-carpet actresses is Kim Hye-su. She [not only] gives off an aura of dignity, composure, and refinement, [but in] the case of red-carpet outfits, is like a textbook for other actresses. She is very skilled in making her name synonymous with daring fashion statements, [for instance] unlike other actresses wearing revealing clothes, not only not shrugging, laughing, adjusting, and/or rearranging her clothes when she has to lean forward to greet someone [in order to not expose themselves further], but not even covering her chest up with her hand [James – as is the Korean custom]. [Indeed], it is not so much her outfits that have made her the “Red Carpet Queen” for the last 10 years, or why her dresses have been selected as the best at the award shows so many times, but rather it’s the way that she wears them.

올 해 부산국제영화제를 찾은 송선미도 지적인 이미지에 맞는 ‘지능적인’ 노출로 눈길을 끌었다. 가슴 부위가 세로로 깊게 파인 블랙 홀터넥 드레스로 우아함을 잃지 않으면서도 파격 노출에 성공했다. 세련된 포즈와 여유로운 표정도 단연 압도적이었다.

This year at the Busan International Film Festival, Song Sun-mi gave off an eye-catching “intellectual exposure” that suited her intellectual image. Over her breasts was a deep vertical cut in her black halterneck dress, which successfully showed off her body without detracting from her elegance. Of course, the combination of her sophisticated pose and composed expression was overwhelming.

중견배우 김수미도 공식석상에서 노출을 즐겨온 대표적인 여배우다. 김수미는 글래머러 스한 몸매를 강조한 과감한 드레스를 종종 선보였다. 그리고 근래에는 드라마에서 호피무늬 비키니까지 소화했다. 올해 제천국제음악영화제를 찾은 김부선도 상반신과 하반신이 분리된 독특한 드레스로 화제의 중심에 올랐다. 다소 난해한 컨셉트였지만, 사람들을 의식하지 않고 축제의 열기와 팬들의 환호를 마음껏 즐기는 그녀의 모습은 당당하고 아름다웠다. 나이를 무색하게 만드는 두 사람의 노출은 여배우의 자존심이 무엇인지를 몸으로 증명했다.

Kim Su-mi is a middle-aged actress who also enjoys showing off her glamorous [James – busty] body, often wearing daring dresses that emphasize it. In a recent drama for instance, she even wore a tigerskin pattern bikini, and what’s more it fitted her well too.

Also, at this year’s Jecheon International Film and Music Festival , Kim Bu-seon wore a unique dress that separated her upper and lower body into two halves, and which was on everyone’s lips. While its concept was a little difficult to understand, she was unconcerned, and was beautiful and confident reveling in fans’ passion and cheering for her [James – see above; source].

Both actresses showing of their bodies like this is testament to the fact that age is just a number!

(Source. Call me indulgent, but that dress really does have to be seen to be believed!)

때론 노출이 발목을 잡기도 / But sometimes exposure backfires

‘노출’에는 반드시 치밀한 전략과 계산이 필요하다. 자칫 무리수를 둘 경우, 배우 생활에 치명타를 입을 수도 있기 때문이다. 오인혜가 등장하기 전까지 파격 노출의 대명사처럼 인식됐던 한 배우는 그 덕분에 인지도는 올라갔지만 작품 활동에 있어서 보이지 않는 제약이 생겼다. 매번 비슷한 역할만 제안이 들어오고, 노출에 가려져 상대적으로 연기력까지 저평가 받고 있다. 털털하고 액티브한 이미지로 호감도가 높았던 한 배우 또한 레드카펫에서 선보인 파격 드레스가 화제가 되면서 오히려 원래의 건강한 이미지를 잃어버리고 말았다.

“Exposure” requires elaborate strategy and calculation. Even if it just barely excessive, it can permanently affect an actress’s career. Before Oh In-hye appeared on the red carpet for instance, there was one actress who became well-known for her own exposure but found the roles available to her severely restricted from then on – indeed, not only was she offered the same kind of ones again and again, but her exposure detracted from people’s evaluation of her acting ability in them. And in another case, an actress was well-liked for her free and easy and active image, but she lost her original healthy image when she wore a revealing dress on the red carpet.

James – I’m surprised the author doesn’t mention who, as she is so ready to directly comment on everyone else (albeit positively). Also, I’m afraid I don’t know what “healthy” means in this context either!

신 인일 경우, 이같은 노출은 더욱 조심해야 한다. 이미지가 생명과도 같은 연예계에서 ‘노출 전문’이라는 꼬리표가 평생 따라다닐 수도 있기 때문이다. 한 영화 관계자는 “레드카펫은 여배우들을 위한 것이라 해도 과언이 아닐 만큼, 여배우의 아름다움과 숨겨진 매력을 최고치로 보여줄 수 있는 자리다. 그만큼 사람들의 시선도 더 강하게 끌어당기고 이미지를 선명하게 새길 수 있다. 하지만 그것 때문에 오히려 역효과가 날 수도 있다”며 “노출로 논란을 일으킨 배우의 경우, 그 이미지가 워낙 강해서 전혀 새로운 역할에 캐스팅하기는 현실적으로 쉽지 않다”고 조언했다.

Meanwhile, new actresses have to be much more careful about this type of exposure, as they may be labelled an “exposure expert” and be unable to shake it off later, which would be disastrous in an industry where image is everything. Like someone in says, ” the red carpet is mainly for female actresses, and it is the best chance for them to show off their beauty and hidden charm. It’s also a good chance to get people’s attention, and to emphasize their image. However, that can have side effects. If an actress arouses too much controversy because of her exposure, then the reality is that she will be typecast in that corresponding role from then on”. (end)


A possible starting point for discussion: is Lee Hyori (이효리) also a pin-up grrrl, whom I’m sure many of you expected me to mention instead of Nancy Lang? That is, if any of you still have the energy to talk by this stage!^^

Update 1: Or how about the Brown Eyed Girls (브라운아이드걸스) instead? While I was pretty disappointed with them for endorsing “Juvis Diet” back in 2009 (see here and here for why), this recent post on them by Dana in Soko has definitely persuaded me to reconsider.

Update 2: The link to Dana in Soko has been fixed. Sorry!

Update 3: It’s not really worth translating, but for what it’s worth, Oh In-hye doesn’t regret her choice of dress! (Via: The Marmot’s Hole).