Recently everyone has been pumping their paste over Korean pop.
Recently everyone has been pumping their paste over Korean pop. Its neon-candy visuals, rainbow melodies, and sex-pixie performers seem to have captured the popular imagination. Depending on your viewpoint, K-pop is a magical, hallucinatory distillation (good) or a childishly trite retread (bad) of Western musical trends. But the truth is far juicier:
SEXUAL ABUSE IS EPIDEMIC
Sexual abuse is endemic in the Korean entertainment industry. It’s not uncommon for young trainees of either sex to go to parties where they’re pimped-out to industry bigwigs. Attractive deceased Korean fashion designer Andre Kim was said to take a particular interest in the progress of young boy-group idols.
STARS GET TREATED LIKE SHIT
Artists are locked into super-strict “slave contracts”. Yuna, the main face of lady-mob Girls’ Generation, is on a thirteen-year contract. Kara are one of the biggest acts in Korea and Japan. Their pay after tearing Japan’s legendarily insular music charts a new asshole? $3,000 each. After making $18,000,000 for their record company the girls were housed in a sauna for much of their stay in Nippon. The Wondergirls were housed illegally in the US, brought in on student visas, and refused medical treatment. One of them was even forced to perform hours after her father went into a coma. Women are supposed to look sexy but not have any sex. Ivy was banned from the TV and radio because of a sex tape. Not a sex tape anyone saw, you understand. A sex tape which was merely rumored to exist. It’s never surfaced—merely the concept of a female having sex with her boyfriend was enough to send Ivy to commercial purgatory for years. 2NE1 are often feted as having a ballsier image and more empowered lyrics than other K-pop girl groups. Their songs are all about independence and not taking any shit from men. The members range between 22 and 29 years old. Awesome. They’re all contractually banned from having boyfriends.
IT PROMOTES BAD BEHAVIOR
Smoking weed seems to be a big bad boy behavior theme this year. Ganja is slightly more illegal than murder in Korea, so when G-Dragon, Supreme Team’s E-Sens and Crown J were all busted in separate incidents this year the shit hit the fan. (You’ve never heard of Crown J? I thought you were into real hip-hop.) G-Dragon more or less got away with it—he’s in Big Bang, Korea’s biggest man-band, and they’re making a lot of money for a lot of people—but the other two have stopped public activities indefinitely. What’s even more fucked-up is that Crown J actually smoked weed in the US and was charged on the strength of a positive blood test. OK, so K-pop artists have a duty to their fans to promote a healthy lifestyle. Fair enough. Except teenaged Girls’ Generation members cheerily discuss on national chat shows how they’ve started drinking alcohol “to feel less socially awkward” and improve their health.
IT’S RAMPANTLY COMMERCIAL, EVEN BY COMMERCIAL STANDARDS
Big Bang and screeching pop-elves 2PM are only two of many teen idol groups who advertise beer and rice liquor. K-pop product endorsements as a whole make Kim Kardashian look like JD Salinger. IU currently endorses over twenty-five different products. Here‘s a mosaic of the different companies Girls’ Generation is pushing. In 2009 there were four cunting songs written to advertise mobile phones which made the top ten. I’m not going to link them; it’s too depressing.
THEY FUCKING STEAL EVERYTHING
All right, we know there are no new ideas blah blah blah. Loads of K-pop hits are licensed versions of songs written originally written for European pop acts—f(x)’s Hot Summer was originally by some Germans, for example—but the Koreans take the shit too far. Whether it’s ripping off UK X-Factor winners (Miss A) or stealing from Flo-rida, K-pop has no respect for intellectual copyright. Last year, Yi Hyo-ri released an album which sampled Annie Lennox, Canadian girl groups, and lots of others. She forgot to tell or pay any of them.
IT’S RACIST AS SHIT
Korean pop factories often hold auditions throughout Europe and the USA looking for desperate suckers and aspiring talents who can be absorbed into their all-encompassing melody farms. Due to pesky anti-discrimination laws their US/Euro propaganda will say “we look at people regardless of racial and national origin” or whatever. They do, however, require that you speak fluent Korean, which is gonna knock out the vast majority of non-ethnically Korean wannabes. But their racism becomes apparent when you realize that more than a few K-pop groups have members who don’t speak Korean…but crucially look Asian. Amber from f(x) is from San Diego and has Taiwanese parents. Maybe the record companies are only reflecting the racism of Korean society as a whole? Then you watch videos like this one—Hyo-ri again—where black guys rob cookies from a supermarket using handguns, or this one where a boy band clobbers a black security guard unconscious.
Ah, fuck it. K-pop is responsible for this woman, so I’m willing to forgive them almost everything: