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’.

(Source)

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.

Continuing:

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”?

What did Depraved Oppas Do to Girls’ Generation? Part 5 (Final)

(Source)

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

려한 조명과 환호 속의 착취 / Exploitation inside the bright lights and cheering

아이돌 시스템을 ‘착취’로 보는 데 모든 이가 동의하지는 않을 것이다. 이렇게 물을 사람도 있을 것이다. 고되고 불확실한 과정이라지만, 누가 강요한 것도 아니고 스스로 원해서 하는 일 아니냐고.

That the idol system is exploitative might not be a view that not everyone shares.  There might also be people who ask this kind of question: though it is a difficult and uncertain process, isn’t it something they’re not forced to do and that they’re doing because they want to?

그렇다면 가혹한 입시제도도, 살인적 등록금도, 젊은이의 미래를 절망스럽게 만드는 비정규직도 별 문제가 아니다. 누가 대학 가라고, 누가 비정규직으로 일하라고 강요하던가. 선택이 제한된 사회에서 ‘자발적 선택’이란 얼마나 허망한 말인가. <한겨레신문>에 실린 한 아이돌 지망생의 말을 들어보자. 이 고등학생은 어렵사리 쌍꺼풀 수술을 한 후, 이제 코 성형을 목표로 편의점, 패스트푸드점, 주유소에서 아르바이트를 하고 있었다.

If so, then the rigorous university entrance exam system, murderous tuition fee, and the irregular work that fills a young person with despair aren’t really problems.   Who forces them to go to university or do irregular work?  In a society that has limited choices, how unreliable the expression ‘voluntary choice’ is!  Let’s hear what one idol hopeful said, as reported in the Hankyoreh [newspaper].  After getting a double-eyelid surgery with [financial] difficulty, this high school student is now working part time at a convenience store, a fast food restaurant, and a gas station with the goal of getting nose surgery.

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“어린 나이에 그토록 힘든 일을 감내해가며 연예인이 되고 싶은 이유가 뭐냐고, 이른바 ‘불공정 계약서’를 쓰고 젊음과 재능을 착취당하는 아이돌 얘기 못 들어봤느냐고 겁주는 소리를 했더니 그 친구가 말했다. ‘기자 언니, 솔직히 말해보세요. 나처럼 돈 없고 ‘빽’ 없고 성적도 그저 그런 애가 그럭저럭 대학 가면 그다음엔 뭐 있어요? 지금은 좀 힘들어도, 기획사에만 들어가면 나한테는 진짜 ‘기회’가 오는 거잖아요.” (<한겨레신문> “빽 없는 연예지망생 ‘성공시대’ 저무나” 2011. 6. 17)

“After I asked her scary things like what’s her reason for wanting to become a celebrity while enduring such difficulties at a young age, and hasn’t she heard of idols whose youth and talent were exploited after they signed so-called ‘unfair contracts,’ she answered me.  ‘Reporter Onni, be honest.  If a person like me, without money or connections, and whose grades are so-so, somehow goes to university, what is there after that?  Even though it’s a little difficult now, you know that if I just get an agency, that is a real opportunity to me.'” (Hankyoreh, “End of the ‘Era of Success’ for would-be celebrities with no connections” June 17, 2011)

James – See “Teen Angst and the K-pop Machine” at SeoulBeats for more on the appeal of joining a talent agency

지난해 여성가족부는 청소년 연예인(지망생 포함)을 대상으로 설문조사를 했다. 그 결과를 보면, 미성년자 연예인들의 ‘자발적 선택’이 어떤 것인지 알 수 있다. 응답자의 36%가 하루 8시간 이상 초과근무를 하고, 41%가 야간과 휴일에도 일하고 있었다. 미성년자인 이들 중 10%가 신체 노출을 경험했다고 말했고, 그중 60%가 강요에 의해서라고 답했다.

Last year, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family surveyed adolescent celebrities (including hopefuls). By looking at the results, we can see what kind of thing underage celebrities’ “voluntary choice” is.  36% of respondents worked more than 8 hours a day and 41% even worked on nights and weekends.  Of these minors, 10% said they had experienced wearing revealing clothing, and of that group 60% answered that they did so under coercion.

앞의 <한겨레신문> 기사를 더 읽어 보면 이런 기회조차 평등하게 주어지지 않음을 알게 된다. “돈 없고 빽 없는” 아이들에게도 기회를 주는 듯했던 연예기획사들이 이제 돈과 배경을 갖춘 지망생을 선호하는 것이다.

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If you read more of the Hankoryeh article mentioned above, you’ll learn that even this kind of opportunity is not given equally. Entertainment management agencies, which had seemed to give chances to children “without money or connections,” now choose hopefuls that combine money and background.

“‘형편이 어려운 아이들은 헝그리 정신 덕분에 빨리 성장하긴 하는데, 성공한 뒤에는 집안의 실질적 가장 노릇을 하기 때문에 계약서 관련 소송을 일으킬 확률이 높다’는 논리라고 한다. ‘반면 있는 집 아이들은 돈 문제에 민감하지 않고 ‘강남 키드’, ‘엄친아’ 이미지에 힘입어 광고계에서도 각광받는다’고 했다.”

“‘Though children in difficult circumstances develop quickly thanks to their hungry mentality, after succeeding, the chances of contract-related court cases arising is high, because they are effectively the heads of their household,’ is the reason a broadcast PD [Marilyn – I checked] gave. ‘On the other hand, children from homes that have money don’t care about money problems, and with their image as a “Kangnam kid” or “Mom’s friend’s son” [a perfect kid, to whom your mother is always unfavorably comparing you] they are in the spotlight in advertising too.’”

일부 아이돌 지망생이 일반인들은 상상하기 어려운 부를 얻는 것은 사실이다. 그렇다고 해서 아이돌 시스템이 정당화되는 것은 아니다. 이 체계는 피라미드 하층부 다수의 희생에 기초를 두고 있기 때문이다. 한국의 입시교육이 소수에게 혜택을 준다고 해서 절대 다수를 ‘들러리’로 희생시키는 행위가 정당화될 수 없듯 말이다.

It’s true that some idol-hopefuls make money that average people have difficulty imagining.  That doesn’t mean that the idol system is justified.  This is because it based on the sacrifices of the majority at the bottom of the pyramid. It is like how even though the Korean university entrance exam education benefits a minority, sacrificing the majority in supporting roles can never be justified.

당신이 아이돌의 팬이든 아니든 상관없다. 그들이 좇는 꿈이 칭찬할 만하다고 생각하면, 그 꿈이 행복한 결실을 맺도록 보살필 일이다. 만일 그 꿈이 철부지들의 몽상이라고 생각한다면, 입시와 오디션을 거치지 않아도 기쁘게 살 길을 마련해 주자. 그게 진정 ‘오빠’와 ‘누나’가 할 일이다.

It doesn’t matter if you are a fan of idols or not. If you think the dream that they are pursuing is worthy of praise, it is a matter of taking care of them so their dream has happy results.  If you think that dream is a just a children’s fantasy, lets provide a way for them live joyfully even if they don’t pass the university entrance exam or audition. That is the duty of real “oppas” and “noonas.”

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Image Caption 7: 아이돌 기획사는 창의적 재능을 갖춘 지망생을 원하지 않는다. 이상적인 후보는 정해 준 동작을 그대로 익혀 따르는 기계적 완벽성이다. 사진은 소녀시대의 ‘오!’ 뮤직비디오의 한 장면.

Image caption 7: Idol agencies don’t want hopefuls who possess creative talent.  The ideal candidate is mechanical perfection at learning and copying the moves as they are given. In the picture, a scene from Girls Generation’s music video “Oh!”

(Thanks very much to Marilyn for translating Parts 4 and 5)

Update – See The Korea Herald for more on exploitation of minors in the Korean music industry.

Update 2The Marmot’s Hole reports that “apparently there are hundreds of students from elementary to high school who are skipping class in favor of auditions in hopes of becoming a celebrity. National Assembly members are calling for measures that would ensure that these students receive the mandatory education like other students.”

What Did Depraved Oppas do to Girls’ Generation? Part 4

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

아이돌: 꿈의 비정규직? Idols: the irregularity [instability] of the dream?

오디션은 누구에게나 열린 평등한 기회가 아니다. 가장 중요한 것은 육체다. 기획된 노출 용도에 적합한, ‘규격’에 맞는 몸을 가져야 한다. 기획사는 창의적 재능을 갖춘 사람을 원하지 않는다. 가장 이상적인 자질은 기획사가 정한 동작을 완벽히, 기계적으로 따라하는 ‘길들이기 쉬운’ 신체다.

Auditions are not an equal opportunity open to everyone.  The most important thing is [one’s] body.  One must have a body that is suitable for the planned purpose of exposure and meets “the standard.”  Agencies don’t want people who have creative abilities.  The most ideal qualification is an “easy to tame” body that perfectly, mechanically copies the moves that the agency determines.

아이돌 지망생들은 1000대 1 가까운 경쟁을 뚫고 오디션을 통과해야 겨우 연습생 자격을 얻는다. 물론 다수가 교습소에서 춤과 동작을 배우고, 다이어트와 성형을 거치는 등 ‘선행 훈련’을 쌓는다. 그리고 이렇게 선발된 연습생 가운데 2~3%만이 그룹으로 활동할 기회를 얻는다.

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Idol hopefuls have to beat nearly 1000-to-1 odds to pass the audition and just qualify as trainees.  Of course, the majority study dance and movement at a [training] school, and pile up “prior training” like going through diets and surgery.  Also, among trainees selected in this way, only 2-3% get the chance to be part of a [girl or boy] group.

연습생들이 고된 훈련과 불투명한 미래를 견디는 이유는 하나다. ‘내게도 기회가 올 수 있다’는 막연한 희망이 있기 때문이다. 그러나 이 ‘희망’은 대단히 잔인한 훈육 체계다. 연습생들에게 보상이 불확실한 노동을 지속하게 하고, 데뷔한 그룹에게는 ‘너를 대신할 사람은 널렸다’는 위협이 되기 때문이다. 아래 글은 이 점을 잘 지적하고 있다.

There is one reason that trainees endure intense training and an uncertain future.  It is the vague hope that “I too can get an opportunity.”  However, this “hope” brings with it a very cruel system of discipline.  This is because trainees are made to continue to do work for which reward is uncertain, and they become a threat to groups that have made their debut, [who are told] “There are many people who can do this instead of you.”   The excerpt below illustrates this.

“그룹을 꾸려 데뷔를 준비하는 것도 마음과 취향이 맞는 연습생끼리 어울려 이루는 것이 아니다. 소속사가 기획하는 그림에 따라 멤버가 추려지고, 그룹 안에서 맡아야 할 역할에 따라 지시된 이미지대로 움직여야 한다. 여기서 밉보이거나 엇나가면 이들을 자산으로 관리하는 기획사는 본보기로 멤버 가운데 하나를 탈락시킨다. 이런 으름장은 신인 연예인을 다스리는 효과적인 전략이다.” (이안, ‘원더걸스 선미 탈퇴로 비춰본 아이돌에 대한 허상’, <미디어오늘> 2010. 1. 26)

“The making and debut preparation of a group is also not something formed between like-minded trainees of similar tastes.  Members are selected according to the image that the record company is planning. They must behave according to the image assigned to them as the role each must play in the group.  If they anger [the agency] or go astray here, the agency that manages them like they are property can make an example of one of the members by eliminating him or her.  This kind of threat is an effective strategy for controlling new celebrities.”  (Lee Ahn, “Illusions about idols revealed by [Marilyn- in light of?] Wondergirls’ Sun-mi’s departure”, <Media Ohneul> 2010. 1. 26)

과거의 아이돌 그룹은 각 구성원이 뚜렷한 개성을 지니고 있었고, 서로 구분되는 역할을 했다. 그로 인해 한 명이라도 빠지게 되면 그룹 전체가 타격을 받곤 했다. 한 멤버의 탈퇴로 그룹이 해체되는 경우도 흔했다. 그러나 2000년대 후반에 나타난 아이돌 그룹은 비슷한 키에 비슷한 몸매를 갖고 있고, 그룹 내의 역할도 차별성을 갖지 않는다. 이제 구성원은 언제라도 대체될 수 있는 ‘규격부품’이 된 것이다.

In idol groups of the past, each member had a marked individuality and played a distinct role. As a result, if even one member left, the whole group was damaged.  Groups often also broke up because of the withdrawal of one member.  However, idol groups that appeared in the latter half of the 2000s have similar heights and figures, and their roles in the group are not distinct.  Now, a member is a “standard part” that can be replaced at any time.

원더걸스의 경우, 현아와 선미가 탈퇴한 자리는 곧 다른 멤버로 채워졌고 아무 문제 없이 그룹이 운영되고 있다. 걸스데이 기획사 역시 지선과 지인의 탈퇴 발표 후 나흘 만에 새 멤버를 영입했다. 남성 아이돌 그룹 유키스 또한 기범과 알렉산더가 남긴 빈자리를 신인으로 보충해서 활동을 계속하고 있다. 결국 아이돌 시스템은 노동을 손쉽게 대체하기 위한 ‘연예계의 노동유연화’ 또는 ‘비정규직화’인 셈이다.

In the Wondergirls’ case, the openings left by HyunA’s and Sunmi’s departures were soon filled by other [new] members, and the group is operating with no problems.  Girl’s Day’s agency also recruited new members within four days of the announcement of Ji Sun and Ji In’s departure.  Male idol group U-KISS also filled open seats left by Kibum and Alexander with new faces and is continuing to work.  Ultimately, the idol system is about “the flexibilization* of entertainment labor” or “irregularization” for the sake of easily replacing labor.

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Caption: 아이돌 그룹의 특성은 몰개성과 획일화다. 표준화된 이미지와 역할분산은 멤버들을 ‘부품화’함으로써 언제라도 대체할 수 있게 만들어 준다. 원더걸스의 경우 다섯 명 가운데 두 명이 교체되었지만, 큰 타격 없이 활동을 계속하고 있다.

Caption: The standardization and lack of individuality of idol groups’ characteristics.  Through componentization [making each member into a “part” that is responsible for a small aspect of the whole], a standardized image and the division of roles make members replaceable at anytime.  In the Wondergirls’ case, two out of five members have been replaced, but the group is continuing to work without much damage. (end)

*Apologies for the long delay since Part Three, and thanks very much to Marilyn for helping me to catch up by translating this one. About some of the odd words in it, she adds that she:

…found a definition of “flexibilization” as leading to “a core group with unlimited full employment, and an increasingly larger group of short-term limited and or part-time employees who face severe employment risks, ultimately resulting in stress” and “componentization” is “not limited to software; through the use of subcontracting and outsourcing, it can also apply to business organizations and processes.”, but “irregularization” seems to not be a real word.

(See here for Part 5)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What did Depraved Oppas do to Girls’ Generation? Part 2

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This translation of part of this Korean article follows directly from Part 1. If you haven’t already, please read that for the background:

An ‘Oppa Industry’ Founded on Powerless, Frustrated Men’s Desire / 무기력한 남자의 욕망에 기초한 ‘오빠 산업’

‘오빠’ 노래가 최근 처음 등장한 건 아니다. 하지만 여자 가수들이 약속이나 한 듯 동시에 ‘오빠’를 불러대는 모습은 과거에도 보기 드문 장면이었다. 대체 어떤 연유로 ‘오빠 강풍’이 불기 시작했을까?

This is not the first time that there have been Oppa songs. But, just as you’d expect, it was rare to find female singers [actually?] saying the word in past songs. [So] what on Earth was the origin of this Oppa Craze?

물론 ‘오빠’ 소리를 듣고 싶은 남자들이 많기 때문일 것이다. 걸그룹에 열광하는 남자팬들의 다수가 연애조차 하기 힘든 비정규직 세대라는 점을 기억할 필요가 있다. 이들이 걸그룹에 환호하는 이유는 소위 ‘초식남’이 만화주인공과 사랑에 빠지는 이유와 비슷하다. 그들에게 걸그룹은 ‘망가걸’의 실사판인 셈이다.

Of course, the reason is that there are many men that want to be called “Oppa”. We need to remember that the majority of enthusiastic male fans of girl-groups are a generation of men who work hard at irregular, [dead-end] jobs, and [so?] have difficulty even getting a date. The reason they cheer girl-groups is similar to the reason so-called “Herbivore Men” fall in love with the main characters in manhwa comic books: to them, girl groups members are like real-life versions of “Manga Girls”.

James: jumping ahead to a point I’ll make again in the conclusion, things like this mean we should be very wary of such sweeping statements about the demographics of K-pop fans, not least those made by myself. But I do find Kang’s arguments compelling overall.

한국 걸그룹이 외환위기 이후에 등장했다는 사실은 의미심장하다. 특히 한국 경제가 장기침체로 들어선 2000년대 후반 등장한 원더걸스나 소녀시대는 1990년대 후반의 에스이에스(S.E.S.)나 핑클 등의 ‘1세대 걸그룹’과 구별되는 특성을 보인다. 훨씬 어리고, 노출 정도가 크고, 몰개성적이며, ‘리드보컬’ 개념이 매우 약하거나 존재하지 않으며, 대규모 오디션과 ‘연습생’ 제도에 의존한다.

It is telling that Korean girl-groups first appeared after the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-98. And [in turn] the Wondergirls and Girls’ Generation that appeared in the second half of the 2000s, after years of economic stagnation, can be distinguished from those “First Generation Girl-groups” such as S.E.S. and Fin.K.L. in several ways: they were way too young; they exposed their bodies a great deal more; they were de-indivualized, with the “lead vocal” concept not existing at all; and they depended on intensive audition-processes and practice and training-sessions.

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James: Matt at Gusts of Popular Feeling has two great posts on the differences between the two generations of girl-groups here and here, and Mellowyel at Mixtapes and Liner Notes has an equally interesting post here that deals with those and other differences, including less stress on vocals by later groups. But while I certainly agree with all those differences, and would be the first to admit that many girl-group members are essentially faceless and interchangeable to all but their most ardent fans, nevertheless I think saying that they’re “de-individualized” puts it a little too strongly, masking an important point. Specifically, consider what Philip Vannini and Scott Myers wrote about manufactured Western bands a decade ago (in “Crazy About You: Reflections on the Meanings of Contemporary Teen Pop Music”, Electronic Journal of Sociology, available online here):

Producers’ control extends from songwriting to image-packaging and personality development. Any boy-band act is put together to appeal to various personalities and life outlooks of fans as each band includes a member portrayed as cute and sweet, one funny, one good-looking and mysterious, one creative and goofy, one talented and motivated, one dark and tough, and such. Bands are created with the consumers’ demand in mind…

Then compare what allkpop wrote about Korean girl-groups last year (the first source I could find sorry!):

Osen recently pointed out that cute members of female groups tend to generate widespread interest and bump up a group’s popularity singlehandedly. Every member has their own individual role in the group, and every group has a member in charge of being the ‘cute’ one. In Korea, fans call this certain member “Kui-yo-mi (귀요미),” meaning “the girl with the cute image (귀여운 이미지를 가진 이).”  This member is in charge of garnering fanboy love with her cute/lovable/girly charm, which will result in a bigger fanbase for the group. In this report, Osen identified four girl group members that fit this role.

So sure, while many girl-groups are large, and some are getting larger all the time, who’s who in them does still have some relevance. (AKB48 they ain’t!)

Back to the article:

Caption: 한국 걸그룹은 ‘망가걸’의 실사판 이미지에 가깝다. 리본, 분홍, 천진한 표정이 드러내는 유아적 여성 이미지와 검은 눈썹에 금발을 한 인물의 탈국적성 등은 일본 만화캐릭터에서 보편적으로 발견되는 특성이다.

Caption: Korea girl-group members are close to being real-life Manga Girls. There’s the ribbon; the pink; and the naive, innocent expression, which combine to give an infantile image. Add black eyeliner and blond hair, and you’re left with an figure devoid of ethnicity, i.e. the universal Japanese manhwa character.

나머지는 ‘세대착취’ 부분에서 자세히 다루기로 하고, 우선 ‘어린 나이’와 ‘노출’에 대해 살펴보도록 하자. ‘롤리타 콤플렉스’라 불리는 소아성애는 약화된 남성성과 관련이 있다. 경제적 능력이 남성 권력의 토대인 가부장제 사회에서 경제력의 상실은 곧 남성성의 상실을 의미하게 된다.

I will talk more about the exploitation of this generation in detail later [in Parts 3-5]. First, let’s examine the issue of exposing the bodies of young people. [In short], there is a relationship between this pedophilia called the “Lolita Complex” and weakened male sexuality. And in a patriarchal society based on economic ability and male power, accordingly the loss of economic power equates with a weakening of male sexuality.

한국경제가 장기침체에 들어서며 어린 ‘2세대 걸그룹’이 등장했듯, 일본 역시 1980년대 경기침체를 겪으면서 ‘로리콘(ロリコン) 캐릭터’가 급부상했다. 한국 걸그룹과 일본의 ‘로리콘 캐릭터’의 속성은 동일하다. ‘어린 얼굴에 성인의 몸을 가진, 위협적이지 않은 성적 대상’이다. 약화된 남성들에게 성숙하고 당당한 여성은 감당할 수 없는 위협이기 때문이다.

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When the Korean economy entered a period of long-term stagnation, the second generation of girl groups-appeared. Likewise, Japan also went through a period of long-term economic stagnation in the 1980s, and “Lolicon” characters quickly appeared. Korean girl-group [members] share many characteristics of these Lolicon characters. With childlike faces with adult bodies, they are non-threatening sex-objects. Because to weakened men, mature and confident women are too threatening.

<게으름뱅이 정신분석>의 저자 기시다 슈도 비슷한 맥락에서 성범죄를 분석한다. 그에 따르면, 성범죄자는 남성성이 넘치는 사람들이 아니다. 이들은 정상적인 교류상황에서는 성능력을 발휘할 수 없는 ‘고자’ 혹은 ‘불능남’이기 때문에, 여성을 위협해 무기력한 상태로 만들거나 아예 저항 능력이 없는 연소자나 장애인을 택해 범죄를 벌인다는 것이다.

Syu Kishida, author of “A Psychoanalysis of Lazy Bastards”, made similar lines of connection with sex-criminals. According to him [her?], sexual criminals are not [exactly] men overflowing with male sexuality. [Rather], because they are “eunuchs” or impotent men who can’t develop sexual ability through normal [life and] interaction, they prefer to threaten or make women powerless, or choose to commit sexual crimes against the young or disabled because those groups are unable to reject them.

스티븐 엡스타인과 제임스 턴블이 잘 정리했듯, 한국 걸그룹은 ‘순진’, ‘애교’, ‘수줍음’, ‘수동성’, ‘도발’ 등의 특성을 갖는다. 얼핏 보면 ‘순진’, ‘수줍음,’ ‘수동성’은 ‘(성적) 도발’과 대치되는 듯 보이지만, 사실은 모두 ‘도발’을 위한 장치일 뿐이다. 무기력한 남성을 도발하기 위해서는 순진하고, 여리고, 수동적인 여성 이미지가 필요하기 때문이다.

Stephen Epstein and James Turnbull summarized this well. Korean girl-groups’ shared characteristics are naivety, aegyo, shyness, passivity and sexual provocation. While at a glance those first personality traits seem to contradict the last, in fact all are simply a device for sexual provocation. To powerless men, a naive, weak, and passive image of women is required for this.

한국에 등장한 ‘꽃미남’, ‘화장하는 남자’, ‘초식남’은 일본이 앞서 경험한 현상이다. 그렇다면 한국 걸그룹이 해외에서 얻는 인기는 경기침체로 인한 ‘롤리타 콤플렉스’ 및 일본 ‘로리콘 캐릭터’의 보편화와 떼어 생각하기 어렵다.

Trends for men that have emerged in Korea, like “Flower-Beautiful-Men” (Kkotminam), “Cosmetics-wearing Men”, and “Herbivore Men” are all things that Japan has also experienced. On that basis, it’s very difficult not to think that there’s something in common with the popularity Korean girl-groups are gaining overseas [Japan surely?] and the popularity of the Lolita Complex and Lolicon characters there that arose with long-term economic stagnation (end).

James: I think Kang’s central point about the economic and consequent cultural parallels between Japan and Korea is valid, and that it’s certainly true that some Japanese men’s liking of the Lolita Complex and Lolicon characters would predispose them to also liking Korean girl-groups. But with this final paragraph, I think he extrapolates a little too much, for two or three reasons (source, right):

1) There are huge differences between Japanese Herbivore men and Korean Kkotminam (I’ve never heard of “Cosmetics-Wearing Men”), the latter of which would by no means be considered powerless. But I concede that Kang may simply have been pointing out yet more similarities with Japan here, rather than making a connection to those particular groups of men and male fans of Lolicon and Korean girl-groups per se.

2) More to the point then, has any actual research been done to confirm these alleged tastes in Lolicon and so on of Japanese male fans of Korean girl-groups? (While it does makes sense, like I said we should be very wary of taking it as a given, particularly considering the next point)

3) And crucially, the vast majority of Japanese fans of Korean girl-groups are in fact girls and young women, as – ironically – Korean girl-groups reportedly provide a much more mature image than their Japanese counterparts. If so, then rather than embracing Korean girl groups, logic dictates that in fact powerless Japanese men would positively reject them.

Which again demonstrates the need for more research into the demographics of Japanese K-pop fandom. Or perhaps it has already been done, and readers can point me in its direction? (Hint hint)^^ Meanwhile, see Part 3 on The “Irregular Generation’s” Double-Exploitation / ‘비정규직 세대’의 이중착취 to continue the discussion!

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Caption: 일본 ‘로리콘’ 캐릭터. 1980년대 일본 경제침체가 심화되면서 ‘위협적이지 않은’ 어린 소녀를 성적 대상화하는 현상이 두드러졌다. ‘롤리타 콤플렉스’는 무기력한 남성의 정체성을 반영한다. 외환위기 이후 등장한 한국의 걸그룹 현상도 같은 맥락으로 볼 수 있다.

Caption: Japanese “Lolicon” characters. With the deepening economic stagnation in Japan in the 1980s [1990s?], the sexual objectification of unthreatening young girls became noticeable. This Lolita Complex reflected the identity of powerless men, as does the rise of Korean girl-groups.

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

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Yes, the Korean title to the article does indeed say “depraved” oppas, with exactly the same sexual connotations in both languages. But if it’s news of some potential K-pop scandal that drew you here though, then I fear you’ll be disappointed!

Instead, it’s actually about the negatives of the girl-group phenomenon. And, rather than by some sleazy tabloid journalist, in fact it’s written by academic Kang In-kyu, who spoke on Korean internet culture at a recent Korea Pop Culture conference at UC Irvine, which also included Stephen Epstein’s and my own presentation on girl-groups. Sure enough, Kang later refers to — and is clearly heavily influenced by — our work, but he also very much builds upon it, and we’re very happy to learn that the issue is beginning to get an airing in the Korean media.

Practically speaking however, unfortunately the article is also a little long, so I’ve split it into five parts to be put up over the next week or so (please consider this one just the introduction). But for the odd addition of my own words here and here though (indicated by square brackets), I’m afraid that also means I don’t really have the time to work on the style of the translation!

Girls' Generation Oh Opening Image음흉한  ‘오빠들’, 소녀시대에 무슨 짓 한 건가 / What did Depraved Oppas do to Girls’ Generation?

아이돌, 착취사회의 경쾌한 합리화. 강인규 기자

Idols, the light-hearted rationalization of an exploitative society. By Kang In-kyu.

(‘순진’, ‘애교’, ‘수줍음’, ‘여림’ 등은 걸그룹의 주된 이미지 전략이다. ‘오빠’로 대표되는 수동적 여성성의 회귀는 무기력해진 남성의 욕망을 드러낸다. 사진은 소녀시대의 ‘오!’ 뮤직비디오의 한 장면)

(Opening image caption: Naivety, aegyo, timidity, fragility, and so on are girl-groups’ main image strategy. This representative Oppa phenomenon reveals men’s desire for a passive, regressive, and powerless women’s sexuality. Photo: scene from music video to Oh!, by Girls’ Generation)

참 이상한 일이었다. 한국 성평등 지수가 세계 최하위 수준이라는 사실을 몰라서가 아니다. 2010년 세계성평등도 조사에서 한국은 134개국 가운데 104위를 했다. 20대 여성 자살률은 경제협력개발기구(OECD) 평균의 두 배가 넘고, 50대 여성 행복지수는 세계에서 가장 낮다. 한국에서 여자로 태어나는 순간 차별과 불행을 피할 수 없다.

Something a little strange happened [recently]. [I mean, it’s] not that I didn’t already know that Korea has one of the lowest scores in the world for sexual equality. In 2010 [for instance], a survey found that of 134 countries examined, Korea came in 104th. It also had over twice the OECD average for suicides of 20-something women, and its 50-something women were the unhappiest in the world. Indeed, surely to be born female in Korea means it is impossible to avoid discrimination and bad luck.

그래도 이해할 수 없었다. 별안간 ‘오빠’ 바람이라니. ‘오빠 나 좀 봐’, ‘너무 부끄러워’, ‘몰라몰라’, ‘처음이야’, ‘떨려와요’, ‘동생으로만 생각하진 말아’, ‘난 울지도 몰라’, ‘나는 바본가 봐요’, ‘난 다 믿었어’. 아니, 믿을 사람을 믿어야지, 가정에서는 폭력, 사회에서는 차별을 재생산해 온 오빠를 믿는다니. 이 척박한 야만의 땅에서 한국 여성들은 차별과 고정관념에 맞서 끈질기게 싸워오지 않았던가. 내가 보기에, 이 난데없는 ‘오빠 바람’은 명백한 퇴행이었다.

Still, I didn’t understand. But then suddenly there was this “Oppa craze”. “Oppa, look at me”, “I’m so embarrassed”, “I don’t know, I don’t know”, “This is my first time”, “I’m light-headed”, “Don’t just think of me as a little sister”, “I don’t know if I’ll cry”, “I think I’m so foolish”,”I believe everything”. No, how dare you believe those oppas, who perpetuate sexual discrimination and domestic violence. Haven’t women been struggling tenaciously [for a long time] against prejudice and discrimination in this barren, barbarous land? In my opinion, this sudden Oppa craze is a clear regression.

(James – With thanks to the reader that made it and passed it on to me, above is a collection of segments from various girl-groups’ songs that show just how common the phrase “I don’t know” really is.  Also, he poses the interesting question of if it’s usually the groups’ designated cute and innocent members that actually sing it)

대체 언제부터 오빠가 이렇게 믿음직스런 존재가 됐을까? 한국여성의전화 2009년 조사에 따르면, 데이트를 해 본 젊은 여학생 중 78%가 정서적 폭력을 경험한다. 결혼 후에는 절반이 남편, 즉 ‘옛 오빠’가 휘두르는 폭력과 학대를 겪는다는 게 2011년 여성가족부 ‘가정폭력실태조사’ 결과다(한국 남성이 아내에게 폭력을 행사하는 비율은 영국이나 일본의 다섯 배가 넘는다). 직장에서도 남성에 비해 38%나 적은 보수를 받아, OECD 평균 임금격차의 두 배를 훌쩍 넘는다(‘언니’들이 이런 차별을 지지하는 경우는 많지 않다). 복고가 유행하더니, 젊은 여성세대가 전통적인 ‘의존형’으로 회귀하기라도 한 것일까?

Since when (and how on Earth) did oppas suddenly become so trustworthy? According to a telephone survey of Korean women in 2009, of young [university?] students who had dated 78% had experienced emotional abuse. Also, according to the results of a 2011 “Domestic Violence Status Survey” by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF),  half of husbands had inflicted violence or abuse [on their wives] (this rate is 5 times higher those of Japan or the United Kingdom). And in the workplace too, women receive 38% lower wages then men, a gap more than twice as large as the OECD average (there are not many “Onnis” that support this!).

This trend of going back to the past, isn’t it just a regression, making a whole generation of young women dependent?

착각하지 말자. ‘오빠’ 바람이 보여주는 건 아저씨들의 욕망일 뿐이다. 어린 소녀들을 고용해 ‘오빠’ 노래를 부르게 하는 기획사 대표들 대다수가 남자고, 이 노래를 쓴 사람들 역시 예외 없이 남자다. 원더걸스의 대표곡 ‘텔미’와 ‘노바디’는 박진영이 곡과 가사를 썼고, 소녀시대의 히트곡 ‘소원을 말해봐,’ ‘오!’, ‘지(GEE)’, ‘훗’의 가사를 쓴 것도 유영진, 김정배, 김영후, 안명원/김영득, 이현규 등 모두 남자다.

Let’s not have any illusions here: the oppa craze just shows men’s desire. And [indeed], most of the entertainment company representatives who hire young girls to sing these oppa songs are men, as are – without exception – the writers. For instance, the iconic Wondergirls’ songs Tell Me and Nobody were written by JYP, and Girls’ Genertation’s hits Tell Me Your Wish, Oh!, Gee, and Hoot were written by Yu Yeong-jin, Kim Jeong-bae, Kim Yeong-woo, An Myeong-won, Kim Yeong-duk, and Lee Hyeon-gyu, who are all men.

(Source)

물론 남자들이 여자 가수의 곡을 쓰는 경우는 흔하다. 여기서 지적하고 싶은 것은, 걸그룹이 외치는 ‘오빠’가 ‘동생’들의 욕망과 아무런 관계가 없다는 것이다. 그들은 중년 남자들이 쓴 남성적 욕망을 립싱크하고 있을 뿐이다. 하긴, 오빠만큼 오빠의 욕망을 잘 아는 사람이 또 있겠는가. 머리만한 리본을 달고 손으로 하트를 그리는, 얼굴은 아이고 몸은 어른인 반인반수 아니, ‘애교 소녀’. 남자들의 욕망은 이렇게 단순하다.

[But] of course, it’s not uncommon for men to write the lyrics to female singers’ songs. What I want to point out is that when girl-group members cry out “Oppa”, it has nothing to do with being a little sister; it is simply lip-synching men’s desire, as written by middle-aged men. [After all], nobody knows oppas’ desire better than oppas. And when girl-group members wear ribbons as big as their head, draw hearts with their hands, and have childlike-faces but the bodies of women, they are not some half girl-half women creature but instead “Aegyo Girl”. Men’s desires are that simple.

(걸그룹 기획사는 어린 멤버들의 신체를 거리낌 없이 사물화한다. ‘지(GEE)’ 뮤직비디오에서 소녀시대 멤버들은 쇼윈도의 마네킹으로 등장한다. 남자 출연자는 이 ‘인형들’을 보고, 만지고, 원하는 방식으로 재배치한다)

(Image caption above: Girl-group entertainment companies have no scruples about objectifying members’ bodies. Here in the music video to Gee, the members appear as mannequins in a shop window, while a male performer looks at them as if they were dolls, and moves them around and touches them however he wishes)

James – And on that note, Part 2 on An ‘Oppa Industry’ Founded on Powerless, Frustrated Men’s Desire / 무기력한 남자의 욕망에 기초한 ‘오빠 산업’  can be found here.

Korean Sociological Image #33: Take the Wondergirls, Lolita Sexy Style!

( Source )

Well, that is literally what it says:

원더걸스를 가져라! 그녀들의 스타일! 그녀를의 매렬에 끌린다면…소녀의 감성과 성숙함이 공존하는 앙비귀때(Ambiguite) 섹시함을 입어라

Take the Wondergirls [with you]! Their style! If you are attracted to their charm…wear Ambiguity’s sexiness, which has both girls’ sense and maturity.

But lest I give the wrong impression, it’s just the name of one line of JYP Entertainment’s new Wondergirls-themed cosmetics brand. And given the essential randomness of the names of the others too, and the fact that English terms routinely get incororated into Korean almost completely devoid of their original meaning, then I doubt that much thought went into it. Certainly it’s difficult to argue for nefarious intent in this case at least.

Still, it’s inappropriate.

Debuting in early-2007 when 3 of the 5 members were only 14 years old, the Wondergirls have been routinely described as Lolitas by the Korean media ever since; as were Girls’ Generation, and presumably as all the teen members of the new girl groups following them will be too. Using that term while simultaneously denying the sexual connotations to it however, is an oxymoron, and part and parcel of the Korean public’s wider refusal to acknowledge the sexual ways in which they’re marketed.

Hence the name is problematic. But granted: this is a tired theme, so for a change, it was very encouraging to see music columnist Kim Bong-hyeon (김병현) challenging that myopia earlier this month. And now I’ve also learned of a famous essayist and surgeon named Park Kyung-chul (박경철) too, who asked probing questions to Girls’ Generation members themselves in an interview nearly 2 years ago. Thanks very much to “A Korean Student” for passing on a partial translation, which I’ve pasted with his or her commentary below:

( Source )

…[In an interview] ironically subtitled: THEY ALWAYS ASK IF WE REHEARSED OUR ANSWERS. WHY CAN’T YOU BELIEVE OUR WORDS?, Park deliberately asks “difficult” questions and gets guarded and somewhat obtuse/hostile answers in return. Park is an ajusshi but definitely not a fan of entertainment industry, and there was also a chaperon/manager present. Here’s a translated excerpt:

QUESTION: Let me ask you some questions that might be uncomfortable. Do you think the word ‘Girls’ Generation’ is really innocent as it sounds? Don’t you think there’s a disguised sexy code [sic] behind the mask of innocence?

ANSWER: Anyhow we are not the ones who created that code. We know there are people who see it that way. It hurts to read ogling comments about us on the internet sometimes. But presenting the innocent girls’ image as it is—that is what has made us [successful.] We’ve shown you an image of girls who are growing up, and we will continue to do so in the future. Of course when we get older, it will be different. But that time hasn’t come yet. If they choose to see us like that, that is not really our problem. Why do you/they want to do it anyway? We are still kids. Don’t you think the real problem lies not in the way we show ourselves as we are, but in the fact that you/they compulsively see what us kids don’t actually possess?

( Source: Unknown )

And here Park thinks to himself:

But the girls’ rather uniform make-up style, obvious traces (to my trained surgeon’s eyes, that is) of cosmetic surgeries, their miniskirts, and the way they sit and dress—-all this “processed” feel leads me to think of the unknowingly worn facade of ‘ladies,’ not ‘girls.’

Whew. Talking about double entendres. Frankly, the girls react like hard-bitten soldiers who live in barracks. (Like most teenage idol groups, they’ve actually lived together in a dorm-apartment for many years.) Park even likens them to slippery politicians. So I guess you can throw away the notion of naivete, at least in GG’s case. I’d say they are fully aware, perhaps more so than the others, of the contexts surrounding them. Not sure about the interviewer though. The guy’s kind of ambivalent, though not as unreflective as the music columnist.

Imagine that, next we’ll be hearing that they eat and fart too!

You are not too far off the mark, but probably not in the way you mean. LoL (end)

James: Thanks again for the translation, and very much a healthy reminder to myself of how much I may have missed before I started regularly using Korean-language sources on this blog!^^

(For all posts in the Korean Sociological Images series, see here)

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