Making Sense of the NewJeans “Cookie” Controversy

A reading list for everything you ever wanted to know about the sexualization of minors in K-pop

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes.

The best thing you can read to make sense of it, actually, is Haley Yang’s article in Tuesday’s Korea JoongAng Daily, which is an excellent primer—and a model example of how to convey a great deal of information in just a few hundred words.

Also highly recommended is Choi Yoon-ah’s short article in the Hankyoreh, about the sexual exploitation of minors in the industry.

If you do have the luxury of time however, and a feeling that all of this sounds very familiar, then please allow me present some of my own longform posts (and book chapter) on the same topics, going back all the way to 2010:

Source: YouTube.

But why stop there? For even more reading, I’d also like to mention Meenakshi Gigi Durham’s The Lolita Effect: The Media Sexualization of Young Girls and What We Can Do About It, the 2008 book that inspired the above series. And which, tragically, is clearly more relevant than ever.

Next, for some context on the farce that is ADOR’s denial of any sexual overtones to Cookie whatsoever, check out the collective mania surrounding 4Minutes’ “leg spread dance” in Mirror Mirror when it was released in 2011.

Source: RedandRosy
Finally, my apologies that these links are so old; K-pop no longer being to my taste from about 10 years ago, I could no longer sustain the motivation and hard work required to speak with any sort of authority on it—and have a huge amount of respect and admiration for those that still do. For the same reason, I’m very much behind on my own reading. So, I plan to rectify that, starting with From Factory Girls to K-Pop Idol Girls: Cultural Politics of Developmentalism, Patriarchy, and Neoliberalism in South Korea’s Popular Music Industry by Gooyong Kim (2018). Anyone already read it? What did you think? Any other recommendations? Please let me know in the comments!

If you reside in South Korea, you can donate via wire transfer: Turnbull James Edward (Kookmin Bank/국민은행, 563401-01-214324)

Girl’s Day and the New Lolitocracy: Part 3

Girl's Day Adorno(Source, edited)

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

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

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

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

Girl's Day School Uniforms(Source)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

IU You and I Japanese Version(Source)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brown Eyed Girls - Sixth Sense(Source)

 결론 / Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Posts:

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

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

Korean Girl Rockers, Defying the Stereotypes

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

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

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

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

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

The Origins of “Ajosshi Fandom”?

Girl’s Day and the New Lolitocracy: Part 2


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

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

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

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

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

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

Update 1 — Three things I should also mention:

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

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

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

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

Taking up the translation directly where Part 1 leaves off:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Posts:

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

Korean Girl Rockers, Defying the Stereotypes

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

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

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

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

The Origins of “Ajosshi Fandom”?

Girl’s Day and the New Lolitocracy: Part 1

Girl's Day Lolita Complex(L-R: Jihae, Sojin, Yura, Haeri, Minah. Source)

Humbert called Lolita ”the ideal consumer, the subject and object of every foul poster.” Damon Trent sounded the same theme while writing about ”the new Lolitocracy” in Spy Magazine last year. ”In the last five years, our own civilization has developed a bit of a thing for teen-age girls” and girls know it. Indeed, he added, ”every man woman, and child among us has become a vile, pustulating pedophile.”

In this stew of allegorical, sociological, high-minded speculation, you’ve got to admire Groucho Marx’s ineluctably moral position on the novel: ”I am going to put off reading ‘Lolita’ for six years, till she’s 18.”

(“Think Tank; ‘Lolita’ Turns 40, Still Arguing for A Right to Exist,” by Sarah Boxer, The New York Times, August 1998)

Sorry for the long break everyone, and I hope the following translation compensates, easily the longest and most academic (in style) I’ve ever worked on. By this anonymous blogger, I was sold as soon as I saw Theodor Adorno mentioned, as it’s very rare to find commentary on Kpop that reference any theories of popular culture. It’s also a good introduction to Girl’s Day too.

That said, unfortunately the blogger uses many terms very vaguely and interchangeably, and his(?) analysis of their hit Twinkle Twinkle could easily be a third of its length. However, admittedly I’ve yet to work on Part 2 where he discusses a Maxim photoshoot, compares Twinkle Twinkle to their previous songs, and looks at their additional hit Hug Me Once, or indeed Part 3 on Adorno, so I’m hoping his writing becomes more concise later.

Also, please note that: a) it was written in August 2012, when Girl’s Day was a five-member group (Woo Ji-hae would leave for personal reasons in October), and nearly a year before their hit Female President was released; and b) that it was originally a single, stand-alone post, which I’ve only split into three parts here because of its length:

대중음악 속에 파고들기 시작한 롤리토크라시의 성상품화: 걸스데이를 중심으로 Lolitocracy’s Sexual Objectification Taking a Hold of Popular Music: Girl’s Day as a Case Study

1. 서론 / Introduction

최근 ‘은교’라는 영화가 출시되어 세간에 이목을 끌고 있다. 70대 노시인과 10대 소녀의  성적인 탐욕을 그리고 있는 이 영화는 대중의 많은 관심을 받으며 개봉 전부터 영화계를 뜨겁게 달아올리고 있다. 이 영화가 이렇게 개봉 전부터 세간을 떠들썩하게 할 수 있는 이유는 영화 <해피엔드>의 정지우 감독이 연출을 맡았기 때문이기도 하지만 무엇보다도 이 영화의 주제가 우리 사회에서 금기시 되고 있는 ‘롤리타 콤플렉스’를 노골적으로 다루고 있기 때문이다. 아직 성적으로 성숙하지 못한 소녀에 대한 성애(性愛)적 욕망은 점점 개방적이고 다원화되는 문화 산업에서조차 다소 금기시되어온 주제였기에 이러한 영화의 대담한 발상은 ‘기존의 금기를 깨는 발칙한 상상의 즐거움’을 대중에게 선사하며 대중들의 관심을 사로잡은 것이다.

Eun-gyoRecently, the movie A Muse/Eun-gyo has been gaining a lot of public attention. About a man in his seventies who develops a strong sexual desire for an adolescent girl, it became a hot topic even before its release. Partially, this was because it was directed by Jung Ji-woo, who also worked on Happy End (1999), but primarily it was because it frankly deals with the taboo subject of the Lolita complex. This was bold, even for a culture industry with diversifying [but generally] slowly opening views towards the notion of sexual desire towards adolescent girls, and it titillated the public by breaking that taboo (source, right).

하지만 이러한 대중들의 반응을 단순히 이 영화의 ‘금기를 깨는 발칙함’때문이라고 보기엔 뭔가 부족하다. 일반적으로 대중 상업영화 속에서 성에 대한 주제, 특히 이번 은교의 경우처럼 사회적으로 금기시 되는 성적 주제를 다루는 영화의 경우 언제나 개봉과 함께 여러 곳에서 그 윤리성으로 인해 비판의 목소리가 높아져왔다. 하지만 이번처럼 가장 직접적으로 금기시된 이러한 성을 다룬 영화에서 조차 비판의 목소리는 예전처럼 높지 않다. 또한 요 근래 여러 가지 아동성폭행사건으로 인해 대중들의 의식이 높아진 상태에서도 이러한 영화에 대한 우려 섞인 목소리조차 나오지 않고 있다는 점은 매우 주목할 만한 것이다. 비록 작은 하나의 예이지만 이러한 대중들의 반응은 우리 사회에서 성 개방풍조와 함께 “성이 윤리를 수반하는 문제”라는 사실이 점점 희석되고 있는 모습을 반영하고 있는 것이다.

However, the simple breaking of taboos is not enough to account for the public reaction. Generally, whenever films with sexual themes are released, and especially cases like Eun-gyo in which taboos are broken, many ethical concerns and criticisms are raised. However, despite this movie breaking a stronger taboo than most, and despite the heightened public awareness and concern about the sexual abuse of children in recent years, the criticism of the movie has been muted compared to past cases. This reflects Korean society’s sexual liberalization, increasingly fluid sexual ethics, and diminishing sense of sexual responsibility.

이러한 양상은 특히 대중가요, 그 중에서도 2000년대 후반부터 시작된 걸 그룹 열풍에서 가장 두드러진다. 아직 중, 고등학생 티를 채 벗지도 못한 청소년이 무대 위에 올라가 짧은 바지를 입고 춤을 추고 노래하는 모습은 더 이상 낯선 장면이 아니다. 소속사들은 데뷔와 함께 멤버들이 ‘미성년’임을 강조하는 보도를 연신 내보내며 ‘나이 어린’ 걸 그룹을 적극 홍보한다. 대중들도 이런 모습에 더 이상 주저하거나 꺼리지 않는다. 이러한 아이돌에 대해 대중과 언론은 “섹시하다”라는 표현을 서슴지 않는다. 도발적인 춤을 추고 ‘오빠’라고 외치는 걸 그룹에 대해 대중들은 환호하고 열광한다. 우리나라의 모든 걸그룹이 롤리타 신드롬에 기반을 두고 있다는 것은 비약이겠지만 지금 현 대중 걸 그룹계에서는 최소한 ‘미성년’의 코드는 절대적이며 또한 이러한 코드가 단순히 어린 아이에 대한 ‘귀여움’에 그치지 않는다는 것은 부인하기 힘들다.

This aspect is also noticeable in popular songs, especially since the girl-group wave began in the late-2000s. Seeing high school students dancing on stage dressing in very short pants is no longer unusual. As soon as management companies debut a new girl-group they send out press releases emphasizing the members’ young ages, and the public doesn’t seem to mind. [Indeed], the public and media do not hesitate to describe them as “sexy,” and cheer them for doing provocative dances and shouting “Oppa.” Certainly, not all Korean girl-groups excessively rely on the Lolita syndrome, but its use is widespread, and it is hard to deny that this “underage code” is simply about cuteness.

이러한 대중 문화속의 롤리타 콤플렉스에 관한 논문은 이전에도 이번이 처음이 아니다. 하지만 기존까지의 원더걸스나 문근영을 중심으로 한 롤리타 콤플렉스에 관한 논의의 경우, 노래나 작품 중심의 해석에 초점을 맞추어 암묵적으로 제시되는 롤리타 성상품화의 조짐에 주목하는 정도에 그치는 한계가 있었다. 이 논문에서는 기존의 논문들에서 더 나아가 노래와 춤에 대한 해석과 더불어 그룹의 변화 양상과 연예활동을 통해서도 드러나는 미성년에 대한 성애를 자극하는 요소들, 또한 그것을 이용하는 연예기획사들의 성 상품화의 전략을 살펴보는 것을 목표로 하여 구체적인 예를 통해 접근할 것이다. 이러한 구체적인 예로 걸 그룹 중 아동성애적 요소가 두드러지는 걸스데이를 설정하였으며 특히 걸스데이의 대표곡 ‘반짝반짝’, ‘한번만 안아줘’ 와 그 뮤직비디오, 그 외기타 연예활동을 통해 어떻게 이러한 방식의 성 상품화가 드러나고 있는지 살펴볼 것이다.

What I will discuss today is not the first time the Lolita complex has been seen in popular culture. However, in discussions of it in relation to The Wondergirls or [former “the nation’s little sister“] Moon Geun-young, there have been implicit limits in previous analyses of noticeable Lolita-related sexual objectification in their songs and other cultural products. Unlike those, in this post I will not only analyze the songs and dances of the girl-group Girl’s Day, I will also look into the group’s different concepts and show how they encourage sexual interest in underage girls, providing concrete examples to demonstrate their management company’s sexual objectification strategy. I will give particular attention to the music videos to Twinkle Twinkle and Hug Me Once.

My Little Bride(Moon Geun-young in My Little Bride, 2004. Source)

또한 이 논문의 후반부에서는 아도르노의 문화산업론을 기반으로 하여 이러한 걸그룹의 문제점에 비판적으로 고찰해볼 것이다. 앞으로 살펴볼 걸스데이의 예에서 드러나는 바와 같이 걸그룹 시장의 양상은 획일화와 배타적인 시장체계, 단순 소비를 위한 제작등과 같이 아도르노가 주장한 대중문화의 특성과 많은 부분에서 일치한다. 그렇기에 롤리타 콤플렉스의 문제와 더불어 그것을 상품화하는 문화산업의 작용이 구체적으로 어떻게 드러나는지 아도르노의 관점을 기반으로 살펴보고, 마지막으로 현대 대중 걸 그룹문화의 롤리토크라시 문제점을 제시함으로 논문을 정리할 것이다.

Later, I will give a critical analysis of the problems and issues raised by girl-groups based on Theodor Adorno’s theories of popular music and the culture industry. As we will see, the example of Girl’s Day demonstrates the commonalities between the present day girl-group market and features or traits of Theodor Adorno Trading Cardpopular culture that were argued by Adorno, including standardization, an exclusive market system, and production only for simple consumption. Accordingly, I will address the problems of the Lolita complex and look in detail into how the culture industries objectify that, based on Adorno’s views. Finally, I will summarize the post by outlining the problems of today’s girl-group culture’s lolitocracy (source, right).

2. 본론 / Body

 (1)걸스데이와 롤리타 신드롬 / Girl’s Day and the Lolita Syndrome

먼저 걸스데이에 대해 간단히 알아보자. 5인조 여성그룹인 걸스데이는 2010년 당시 이미 포화상태에 이른 걸 그룹 시장의 후발주자로 출발하였음에도 유튜브와 기타 소셜미디어를 통해 대중들의 주목을 받으며 비교적 순탄한 데뷔를 하게 된다. 하지만 얼마 지나지 않아 붉어져 나온 가창력 논란과 더불어 5명의 멤버 중 2명의 멤버의 급작스러운 탈퇴는 걸스데이를 시작부터 위태롭게 한다. 하지만 이러한 악조건 속에서 걸스데이는 포기하지 않고 새로운 도전을 감행하게 되는데,  2009년 새로운 멤버 2명을 영입하고 새로운 음악적 양식으로 전환함에 따라 기존의 이미지를 쇄신하여 새롭게 대중들에게 다가서게 된다. 걸스데이는 새로운 멤버 교체 이후 두 번째 미니앨범 ‘반짝반짝’을 시작으로 ‘한번만 안아줘’, ‘너, 한눈 팔지 마’ 등 솔직한 가사와 친숙한 멜로디의 곡을 차례로 히트시키며 치열한 걸 그룹 시장에서 자신만의 입지를 확보하며 빠르게 성장하게 되고, 2011년 18회 한국문화예술시상에서 신인상을 수상하는 쾌거를 이루게 된다. 또한 걸스데이의 인기는 최근까지 계속되어, 2012년 4월 18일에 내놓은 정식 세 번째 앨범인 everyday2가 발매하는 동시에 주요 차트에서 상위권에 랭크되어 걸스데이의 인기가 한번의 쇼로 끝나지 않음을 증명해주고 있다.

First, let’s learn the basics about Girl’s Day. A late-runner, they arrived in September 2010 when the girl-group market was already saturated, but through the use of YouTube and other forms of social media their debut was moderately successful. However, not only was their singing ability soon called into question, but two members suddenly and unexpectedly withdrew, placing the future of the group in jeopardy.

So, they were quickly replaced, and Girl’s Day resolved to change their musical style and image and approach the public with a new face. Soon afterwards they released their second mini-album, and with their back-to-back hits Twinkle Twinkle, Hug Me Once, and Don’t Let Your Eyes Wander, which all featured honest lyrics and familiar melodies, they fully established themselves in the highly competitive girl-group market, winning Female Rookies of the Year at the November 2011 18th Republic of Korea Entertainment Arts Awards. Their popularity has continued in 2012, releasing their third mini-album Everyday2 on 18 April, and its high chart rankings prove Girl’s Day is no mere flash in the pan.

걸스데이가 이렇게 걸 그룹의 홍수와 여러 악조건 속에도 살아남을 수 있었던 데에는 물론 멤버교체와 걸스데이 각 멤버의 노력을 빼놓을 수 없겠지만 가장 지대한 영향을 끼친 것은 새 멤버교체 이후 두 번째 앨범인 ‘반짝반짝’의 히트라고 말할 수 있을 것이다. 2011년 3월 16일 쇼 케이스에서 컨셉 사진으로 먼저 공개된 이 앨범은 17일 엠넷 엠카운트 다운을 시작으로 이틀 후인 19일 벅스뮤직, 네이버 뮤직, 싸이월드 배경음악 실시간 차트에서 1위를 차지했으며, 그 외 멜론, 소리바다, 도시락 등에서도 10위권 내에 진입하는 기염을 토했다.  ‘반짝반짝’의 흥행 행진은 여기서 멈추지 않았다. ‘반짝반짝’은 이후에도 주요 지상파 방송차트에서 지속적으로 높은 순위로 랭크됨은 물론이고, 다음 앨범을 위해 활동을 중단한 후에도 노래음원이 주요 순위 체계에서 상위 10위권 안에 기록되는 등 빠른 속도로 변화하는 대중음악 시장에서 이례적인 모습을 보여주며 걸스데이를 주요 걸 그룹 반열위에 올려놓았다.

Of course, while Girl’s Day survived this perfect storm of a debut partially through the efforts and abilities of its members, the main reason was the wholly unexpected popularity of Twinkle Twinkle. Promotional concept pictures were first released on Showcase on March 16, 2011, then on the 17th it was made available for download on MNet MCountdown, then Musicbox, Naver Music, Cyworld Background Music Chart on the 19th. It reached number one on all of them, and made it to the top ten on Melon, Soribada, and Lunchbox. Later, of course it had a high ranking when it was performed on the major television music shows, and remained in the top ten in the charts despite Girl’s Day ceasing their promotions in order to prepare for their next album. This popularity was very atypical for a new group, and placed them among the elite girl-groups.

하지만 이러한 ‘반짝반짝’의 흥행 신화는 음악적인 양식을 완전히 버리고 ‘롤리타 신드롬’ 시장에 편입함으로써 가능한 것이었다. 걸스데이의 성공 요인인 ‘반짝반짝’은 기존의 걸스데이의 음악적 색과는 완전히 다른 롤리타적인 성애를 자극하는 장치들로 가득 차있는, 그당시 걸그룹 시장의 ‘어림’의 경쟁에 합류하기 위한 전환점이었다는 것이다.

That said, the big hit myth of Twinkle Twinkle was a complete reversal of their previous musical style, and was only possible because they decided to run with the Lolita syndrome concept, employing a number of devices to stimulate a Lolita-like sexual desire. The song marks a turning point in the groups’ attempts to [employ youth to compete in the girl-group market].

James: Forgive me for stating the obvious, but I recommend actually watching(!) the Twinkle Twinkle music video before continuing (the one above has English and Hangul subtitles). Also, make sure to check out reviews at McRoth’s Residence, KPop Reviews, and Yellow Slug Reviews (I’d appreciate any more recommendations), all of which emphasize an excessive use of aegyo and/or how much of a break it was from their previous work.

(2)걸스데이의 ‘반짝반짝’ / Girl’s Day’s Twinkle Twinkle

 우선 걸스데이의 성공의 시발점이 된 ‘반짝 반짝’이라는 작품을 살펴봄으로써 이러한 요소가 어떻게 드러나는지 살펴보자. 먼저 가사를 보면, 반짝반짝의 가사는 음악적인 반복되는 선율에 따라 A-B-C-A-B-D-B 형태로 이루어져 있다. 가사의 전체적인 내용은 ‘오빠’, 또는 ‘너’로 지칭되는 대상과의 사랑을 나누는 가사 속의 화자, 주체에 관한 내용으로 가사 전체는 ‘다가가고 싶지만 사랑의 아픔이 두려워 다가가는 것이 쉽지 않다’는 메시지가 주를 이루고 있으며 대상이 좋기는 하지만 어떤 이유인지 쉽게 다가가기 힘들다는 내용이 담겨져 있다.

Let’s look into what factors were responsible for the popularity of Twinkle Twinkle, the starting point of Girl’s Day’s success. First, if we look at the lyrics, they are very repetitive, following an A-B-C-A-B-D-B rhythm. Looking at them as a whole, the narrator often professes her love for someone referred to as “you,” or “Oppa,” but the song has the basic message that she wants to approach him, yet is scared of possible heartbreak, so it is not easy to do so. Or in other words, she likes the subject, but for some reason can’t act on it.

가사 속 중심적인 의미를 구성하는 이 ‘이유’는 가사 B 부분을 보면 알 수 있다. 가사 속의 화자는 ‘슬쩍슬쩍 바라보지마 .반짝반짝 내 입술 바라보지마. 좋아하는 우리사이 멀어질까봐. 멀어질까 두려워.’라는 가사를 통해 화자의 입술을 ‘훔쳐보는’ 대상으로 인해 화자와 대상과의 관계가 멀어질까 두렵다는 언급을 하고 있다. 즉, 노래 속 화자에게 사랑 속 힘든 이유는 대상이 화자의 입술을 바라보는 행위의 함의, 즉 육체적인 ‘스킨십’에 대한 부담감 내지는 거부감 때문으로 해석할 수 있으며 가사 속에서 이러한 대상에 대해 ‘사이가 멀어질지도 모른다’라고 경고하면서도 또 친밀한 관계를 유지하고자 하는 주체의 다소 모순되는 마음이 표현되고 있다.

If we look at the main, “B” part of the lyrics we can see the reason. Here, the narrator says to the subject, “Don’t peek at me. Don’t steal a glance at my twinkling (glistening) lips. I’m afraid that if we fall in love, we may end up driving each other apart.” Or alternatively, the reason falling in love is so difficult for the narrator is because if she does she would feel pressured to have a physical relationship with him before she is ready (so, something that may ultimately drive them apart), and this is manifested in her discomfort at him looking at her lips. On the other hand, the irony is that she actually does want a more romantic, more physical relationship with him.

Girl's Day Twinkle Twinkle Composite(Source)

이러한 식의 가사는 다른 여타의 사랑 노래에서 충분히 발견할 수 있는 부분으로써 문제가 되지 않는다. 하지만 이 노래의 배경과 기타 요소들을 종합해 보면 그 내용이 단순한 성인 연인들의 사랑 노래만으로는 해석할 수 없음을 보게 된다.

This kind of love story can be found in many other songs, and it’s not a problem in itself. However, given the music video’s setting and other factors, it can’t be described as a simple love song between two adults.

‘반짝반짝’에서 걸스데이는 기존의 앨범에서 추구했던 이미지와 완전히 상반된 교복의상의 컨셉를 가지고 온다. 또한 뮤직비디오의 배경도 ‘girl’s day school’ 이라는 팻말이 보이는 학교건물을 연상시키는 무대로, 노래의 주체가 고등학생임을 강조하고 있다. 또한 가사의 대상이 ‘오빠’로 지칭되고 있으며 이 오빠로 지칭되는 인물이 뮤직비디오 상에서도 고등학생이 아닌 다소 노숙한 인물로 묘사된다는 점과 걸스데이의 2011년 기준 평균나이는 만 19.2세로, 80년대 생인 두 명의 멤버를 제외하면 모두 고등학생과 중학생이었다는 점과 ‘반짝반짝’ 활동 당시 언론을 통해 ‘어린 청소년’의 컨셉을 중심으로 활동을 했다는 사실을 종합해 볼 때 노래 전체 가사는 미성년과 성인 사이의 사랑에 대해서 다루고 있음을 짐작할 수 있으며 가사 B에 해당하는 부분을 연인들 사이의 다툼으로 보기 어렵게 만든다.

With Twinkle Twinkle, Girl’s Day completely move away from their previous image of being the objects of desire, to a schoolgirl concept instead. In the music video, there is a stage a building reminiscent of a school, and “Girl’s Day School” can be seen written on a noticeboard in the background; the song emphasizes that the narrator is a high school student. The Oppa she calls and refers to, however, is not a high school student but much more mature and experienced. Add that the average age of the Girl’s Day members at the time the song came out was 19.2; that, but for two members born in the ’80s, three were of high school or middle-school age [James — Middle school is a bit of a stretch, as the three youngest members were nearly 18, nearly 19, and 19 when the song came out; Korean children attend high school from roughly 16 to 18, although 17-19 is certainly possible]; and that they promoted themselves in the media and on shows and so on through a “youthful adolescent” concept, then we can infer that the whole song is about love between an adult and a minor, and that the “B” section of the lyrics are not some ordinary lovers’ lament or spat.

가사 속에서 가사 B의 내용은 가사의 배경과 함께 이전 원더걸스에 관련한 롤리타 콤플렉스에 관한 논평에서와 언급된 것처럼 성적인 대상으로써의 미성년의 존재를 상기시키는 역할을 하고 있다.

The “B” section of the lyrics, combined with the setting of the music video, reminds us of the existence of underage girls being used as a sex object, as was mentioned in previous discussions [James — I think posts on his blog] about the the Wonder Girls and the Lolita complex.

The Wondergirls Christmas Baskin Robbins(Source)

입술을 훔쳐보는 노래 속의 대상은 육체적인 욕망을 추구함으로써 가사 속 화자에게 ‘싫어질지 모른다’라는 협박을 받으면서도 반대로 노래 내의 화자에게 여전히 매력적인 존재로 묘사된다. 이러한 존재는 가사 속에서 미성년 성애에 대한 사회 문화적인 억압기제(예컨대 대중적인 의식과 법적인 제제)에 대한 부담감을 그저 ‘연애에서 일어날 수 있는 사소한 다툼, 기호의 차이’등으로 치환함으로써 타부(taboo)시 되었던 미성년 성애로부터 생기는 죄책감과 부담감들을 완화시키는 것이다. 가사 속 대상은 화자에게 법적인 처벌에 대한 위협을 받지 않는다. 그저 연애에서 발생할 수 있는 사소한 문제인 것처럼 화자는 ‘애교 섞인’ 투정을 부리고 있다. 이러한 식의 치환은 성인 감상자가 느끼게 될 이러한 죄책감의 존재를 허상이라고 인식시키게 되고 감상자로 하여금 심리적인 안정을 구현하며 미성년을 성애의 대상으로써의 추구하는 것을 자연스럽게 받아들이도록 한다.

The Oppa acts on his physical desire by peeking glances at her lips, and even though she warns him not to because of what a romantic relationship may bring, she still describes him as attractive. His existence in the song overcomes society’s cultural taboos and legal restraints against relationships with minors by portraying events as just a typical, trivial tiff between two people in a budding romantic relationship. There is never any mention or notion of him receiving some form of legal punishment. Also, the narrator trivializes it by just reacting with aegyo. This substitution helps adult admirers to dispel any guilt they may have about the pursuing of minors, and to rationalize it as natural.

또한 대상의 사랑을 원하면서도 또한 부끄러움 내지는 소극적인 태도를 취하고 있는 가사 속 주체는 유행하고 있는 미성년의 상품적 이미지, 즉 “가시적으로 드러나는 귀여움”, “풋풋한 여동생들이 단체로 발산하는 ‘대놓고 드러내지 않는 쎅시함’” 을 겨냥한 것으로 직접적인 Sex appeal이 아닌 ‘한 발 물러서는’ 어설픈 어필로 롤리타에 대한 남성 대중의 무의식적 욕망을 자극하는 것이고 볼 수 있다.

Girl's Day Twinkle Twinkle No Cut NewsThe narrator, who wants the Oppa’s love but is embarrassed and adopts a passive attitude in the lyrics, also uses an image that sexually objectifies minors, which is common among girl-groups at the moment; in other words, cuteness combined with an obviously exploited but unspoken sex-appeal. This faux modesty stimulates men’s unconscious desires for Lolitas.

<그림1> 걸스데이의 ‘반짝반짝’ 컴셉사진. 다양한 방식으로 변형된 교복이 그 당시 앨범컨셉이었다.기본적인 형태에서 벗 어나 섹슈얼리티를 강조하기 위한 변형들이 눈에 띈다. (사진출처: “걸스데이 반짝반짝”, 구글) Caption 1: Girl’s Day Twinkle Twinkle photo, demonstrating the altered, more sexualized school uniforms concept (source).

이러한 롤리타 콤플렉스를 겨냥한 장치들은 가사 이외의 다른 부분에서도 예외가 아니다. 앞에서 언급한 바와 같이 의상이나 무대 면에서도 이러한 아동성애적인 요소를 공략한 부분이 잘 드러난다. ‘반짝반짝’에서 나오는 교복 컨셉의 의상은 여학생 교복이라는 기본적인 형식을 취하지만 다양한 변형을 통해 섹슈얼리티를 강조하고 있다. ‘반짝반짝’에서 멤버들의 의상을 살펴보면 교복의 전형적인 모양을 본뜨되 상의의 아랫부분을 잘라 맨살을 드러낸다든지, 치마를 줄이거나 핫팬츠 형태로 축소시켜 신체 부위를 과도하게 노출시키고 있으며 몸에 달라붙는 옷으로 몸의 실루엣을 강조함으로써 멤버들의 여성성을 높이는 역할을 하고 있다. 이런 식의 변형된 교복은 학생, 미성년의 상징인 ‘교복’의 이미지를 섹슈얼리티의 일환으로 바라볼 수 있게 하는 시선을 제시함으로써 그전까지 존재하던 터부(taboo)를 깨 남성대중에 존재하는 소녀에 대한 성애적인 욕망을 자극하고 앞에서 언급한 바와 같이 가사를 통해 ‘죄책감의 기제’를 약화시킴으로써 감상자로 하여금 이러한 롤리타적인 욕망을 죄책감 없이 소비하도록 끌어들인다.

This use of the Lolita complex is not only found in the lyrics. As mentioned earlier, it is shown in the music video’s school setting and the performers’ school uniform concept, the latter of which emphasizes sexuality through various means. For example, the tops [of two members] are cropped to reveal their navels, their skirt lengths are raised so high as to resemble hot pants, and they’re skin-tight to better emphasize their feminine silhouettes. With uniforms being such symbols of underage students, this provides a means of sexualizing the clothes. In doing so, it breaks taboos towards and stimulates men’s sexual desire towards minors. As mentioned earlier, it weakens the sense of guilt surrounding viewing and sexualized minors, and makes them into a product to be consumed.

Girl's Day Christmas 2012(Source)

As always, I appreciate readers pointing out any errors in the translation (which I admit there may be more of than usual), and I’ll try to have Part 2 and Part 3 ready on Monday the 30th and the 6th respectively. Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and I hope you all like the return to the old blog theme!

Related Posts:

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

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

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

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

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

The Origins of “Ajosshi Fandom”?