Let’s Discuss: Park Yoochun & The Changing Perception Of Leading Men in K-Dramas

Despite his princely image on screen, it now seems that actor and JYJ member Park Yoochun may have a darker side. Park’s reputation as an actor has been permanently damaged by the recent accusations of four women who said that he sexually assaulted them. All four women work in adult entertainment bars and claim he forced them to have sex, shocking fans of K-dramas from around the world. Whether or not the charges are proven to be true, the suggestion of violence and the recurring visits to adult entertainment bars has damaged Park’s image so much that he will likely never land a K-drama role again.

Park’s scandal may do more than damage his own career. The latest in a series of scandals involving popular K-drama actors, the assault case may also dishearten K-drama lovers, who watch dramas at least partly out of the romantic notion of the idealized male lead. The idealized male lead is a big part of the charm of K-dramas, but it’s harder to succumb to that charm knowing that in real life some K-drama actors don’t treat women the way they should.

The Ideal Man

In viki.com’s “Drama World,” Justin Chon describes all K-drama male leads as “confident, handsome, slightly arrogant but always with the leading lady’s best interests at heart.”

A hyper-idealized version of a man, that a woman must win over, K-drama male leads are multi-talented, smart, and ultimately protective of the women they love. Even if they are initially mean to their leading ladies, as So Ji Sub comically was in “The Master’s Sun,” or as Ji Sung cruelly was in “Secrets,” ultimately K-drama male leads will sacrifice everything for the woman they love; they would die to protect her.


Also on KultScene: Victim Blaming In Kim Hyun Joong & Ray Rice Cases Minimize Realities of Domestic Abuse

It’s easy to fall in hypothetical love with such idealized men, especially when the actors who play them don’t seem to have a personal life to contradict their perfection. That lack of a personal life makes it easier for viewers to imagine the actor in fact is the living embodiment of the fictional character he’s portrayed. Korean entertainment agencies take great pains to control the private lives of their entertainers and prevent negative publicity from tarnishing an actor’s image for this very reason.

But even the most vigilant agencies may find it impossible to monitor all of an actor’s less responsible behavior. Three recent scandals have shown that K-drama actors are not only human, but have a darker side than their “sweet ideal boyfriend” persona would suggest.

First it was Park Shi Hoo, star of “Neighborhood Hero.” In 2013, a woman accused him of sexual assault but he claimed their sex was consensual. Although the charges were eventually withdrawn, he could not work for years. This was a case of he said-she said with no definitive proof offered by either side, but the mere accusation of assault temporarily derailed his acting career. His character in his drama comeback role — after three years absence — was much more jaded than his pre-scandal role. He won’t likely be offered naive chaebol roles again like the one he played in “Cheongdamdong Alice”, since drama viewers can no longer relate Park to that sort of figure.

Next there was actor and SS501 member Kim Hyun Joong’s drawn-out and messy scandal. As an actor Kim Hyun Joong epitomized the “ideal boyfriend.” But his own romantic relationship resulted in his ex-girlfriend filing multiple charges of physical assault against him and then some time later announcing that she was carrying his child. Although Kim previously made an effort to move away from the “ideal boyfriend” persona and toward an edgier rougher image, fans were so disappointed in the scandal that his career has been derailed. No one can prove exactly what happened to cause what his agency claimed was accidental bruising, but the pregnancy and past relationship were very real and DNA tests proved that the baby is Kim’s. The fight over the pregnancy proved the couple’s relationship was at best tumultuous and that Kim was definitely not the ideal violin-playing boyfriend that he acted in ‘Boys Over Flowers.”

The last K-celeb in this scandal trilogy is the JYJ singer and actor Park Yoochun. Four women stepped forward within the past few days in South Korea, asserting that they were assualted by the K-pop star. The first has since withdrawn her claim but the Seoul Metropolitan Police assigned a special task force to investigate the charges of all of the women to see whether they were merely false accusations aimed at getting monetary settlements from the star. Park’s agency, C-JeS, said that they would pursue legal retaliation for false charges, calling it malicious blackmail. Regardless, the damage was done and Park’s image has been irrevocably tarnished. (The scandal also imperils the popularity of “Lucid Dream,” the film he recently worked on before entering mandatory military service. )

C-JeS statement on Park Yoochun (Screenshot)

C-JeS statement on Park Yoochun (Screenshot)

Whether or not the alleged charges are proven to be true, the fact that Park may have repeatedly visited an illegal adult entertainment bar, of the kind known for providing various degrees of female companionship, does not fit favorably with his squeaky clean image or the characters he played in dramas such as “Rooftop Prince,” “Sungkyunkwan Scandal” or “Girl Who Sees Smells.” Nor does the idea that this supposedly serious but sweet actor had one night stands. Real men may have one-night stands but it’s rare for a male lead in a K-drama to engage in casual sex and if they do, it’s rarely seen on screen. But humans aren’t characters and no matter how diligently the agencies police actors’ personal lives, bad behavior can become public information.

K-drama viewers, who in the U.S. are predominantly female, probably won’t like a K-drama lead who treats women roughly or at best indifferently. The perfect although quirky and not easily winnable male lead is a K-drama fixture and it’s hard to imagine an actor with assault charges as the leading man in a romantic drama.


Also on KultScene: Let’s Discuss: Making Excuses For K-Pop Idols

For Park Yoochun’s sake, let’s hope the accusations of assault are not true. If they are, he will have to face the consequences and not-so-gracefully retire from show business (as he’s said he will do if any of the charages are proven true), which would be unfortunate for the other two members of JYJ. Even if those charges are dropped, Park’s reputation has taken a veritable hit and longtime fans, who stayed with Park and the other JYJ members even when they split from TVXQ in 2009, are already jumping ship.

For K-drama viewers, let’s hope these scandals don’t permanently tarnish the seductive fairy tale of the ideal K-drama lead but instead help us focus on the difference between stars and the roles they portray.

What do you think about K-drama actors who have been accused of physically or sexually assaulting women? What ruins the image of an actor? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Girls’ Generation & The (So-Called) Copycat Generation

Girls' Generation, GFRIEND, Twice, IOI

Nearly two and a half decades have passed since Seo Taiji and Boys’ “Nan Arayo” heralded in the beginning of the K-pop musical genre. Since then, there have been countless singers and idol groups who have made an impacts on K-pop as a whole and one of the most important trendsetters of the past nine years has been none other than Girls’ Generation. They have solidified their legacy with hit after hit and shown audiences one iconic concept after another. And, with such a career, Girls’ Generation is clearly a role model for newer acts. But as rookie groups GFriend, Twice, and the newly-debuted project group IOI have learned, there is a fine line between homage and copying.

It’s this differentiation that is coming to light as K-pop fans around the world criticize rookie girl groups who have clearly chosen to model themselves after one of the most successful acts of the generation. The K-pop industry is small enough that originality is always applauded, and there is plenty of that when it comes to Twice, IOI, and GFriend. But these new girl groups have taken a few lessons from older acts like Girls’ Generation and proved that there is much to be learned. Unfortunately, it sometimes leads to a “wait, was that plagiarized?” moment. There have been multiple head scratching and accusations towards groups who have a concept too similar to one of those of Girls’ Generation, but the question is worth asking: Are these girl groups copying or are they emulating?

GFriend

Over the past few months, GFriend has surpassed the expectations of many, with successive hits after one another. But while their refreshing image and their pristine performances have set them apart, GFriend’s debut concept had K-pop fans around the world crying “foul!” “Glass Bead,” the first in a trilogy that followed a youthful schoolgirl concept, was attacked for sounding altogether too similar to Girls’ Generation’s debut song “Into The New World.” With similar cadences and an energetic dance while also wearing athletic gear, GFriend was initially accused of trying to garner attention for imitating Girls’ Generation.


Also on KultScene: 8 Misheard K-Pop Lyrics Pt. 5

Now, more than a year later, it’s clear that GFriend hasn’t just mimicked Girls’ Generation –they’ve imitated them as icons of a certain K-pop concept. Additionally, GFriend’s agency Source Music consists of former SM Entertainment staff members. While speculative, there’s no real question that GFriend’s production team took the example of Girls’ Generation’s debut concept and analyzed it to get the formula right. And, with two additional hit songs under their belt, it’s obvious that it worked.

Twice

While they’re down to eight members following the 2014 departure of Jessica Jung, Girls’ Generation was the first K-pop female megagroup. Girls’ Generation’s launch heralded in larger girl groups, but even now larger girl groups are far and few in between (AOA is the only other mainstream group with eight members) so Twice’s size was a tip off to the fact that JYP was going to market Twice as a group that has something to offer everybody. I was honestly surprised more people didn’t call out the Girls’ Generation comparison the minute JYP Entertainment (a main competitor of Girls’ Generation’s agency, SM Entertainment) announced that it would debut a nine-member girl group. When it comes to K-pop, size really does matter because it means there’s a higher likelihood that there will be a member to suit everybody’s taste. And Twice certainly has aimed to highlight the different sort of women in the group, with each of their music videos clearly defining individual charms and personas of the members.

But it was less their size and more the teasers for their latest song that got fans in a tizzy; the concept for “Cheer Up” at first glance looked a purple palette take on Girls’ Generation’s iconic pink cheerleading concept from “Oh!” While Girls’ Generation doesn’t own a concept, wearing crop tops, short shorts, knee highs, and letterman jackets while performing in a sports stadium harkens back to “Oh!” Once the music video for “Cheer Up” was released and it was clear that the two songs were stylistically different, the only thing that remained was the cheerleader concept. And, six years later, it’s inspiring to see a talented group put their own updated on an iconic K-pop concept that Girls’ Generation pioneered.

I.O.I

This week’s debut of I.O.I takes us back to “Into The New World” in a way that’s far more obvious than GFriend’s instance. While GFriend first song and music video were stylistically similar to Girls’ Generation’s debut, the concept and music video for I.O.I’s debut song “Dream Girl” harkens a bit close to home.


Also on KultScene: Spiritual K-Pop: Lovelyz & Berry Good Find Their Destinies

Like in “Into The New World,” “Dream Girl” introduces the members of the new group through their own individual aspirations including being successful as dancers, athletes, and fashion designers. Watching the music video, it would be almost impossible to say that “Dream Girl” wasn’t based on “Into The New World” as scenes are set up similarly in ways that make it near impossible to be coincidences. I.O.I’s agency, YMC Entertainment, reportedly told local Korean outlets that the music video was designed with the song’s sound and lyrics in mind, but it truly seems like a 2016 update of “Into the New World” idea. For a group that debuted nearly a decade after Girls’ Generation, it seems natural for newer groups to want to resuscitate the style of an older music video.

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When it comes down to things, Girls’ Generation and their success is something that future girl groups can only hope to achieve. At the end of the day, none of these instances come across as plagiarism but instead appear to be this new generation of K-pop girl group’s imitation of a successful older act. And, as it’s said: Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

What do you think about Girls’ Generation’s legacy? Are the newer groups wrong in stylizing themselves after them? hare your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Let’s Discuss: TC Candler’s List, Nana, & Why It’s Bad For K-Pop Fans

Nana TC Candler Issues
This may be a crazy idea, but here goes: K-pop will only become a viable, long-term genre of music when the industry no longer seeks to impress Western media. The reason? Because it means that the genre will finally respect its fans as something more than just a money making machine, but actually the target of Korea’s artistic pop culture.

You may wonder what brought along this thought, but after this week’s annual “freak out over a totally random blog’s ranking of the most beautiful people in the world” (this one,) I just felt like there was something to discuss here.

It’s not that I personally care that foreign-language articles written about Korean celebrities and pop culture, are ignored by Korean media outlets. That doesn’t matter, because they don’t need validation from Korea to talk about Korea.

It’s about the fact that TC Candler, a film critic with little to no pull in the entertainment world, garners attention year after year for a list of physical rankings solely because Candler lacks any apparent connection to the Korean entertainment world.

Tzuyu

Essentially, the less connected you are to K-pop, the better you are to the Korean entertainment industry. The Korea Herald’s K-pop site went further than usual and not only highlighted After School’s Nana as the clear winner, but also used the list to declare that TWICE’s Tzuyu is the prettiest face in China.


Also on Kultscene: Top 20 Korean Music Videos of 2015

It doesn’t matter that there are countless international news sites dedicated to K-pop, for K-pop fans. It doesn’t matter that Billboard has a staff writer writing about the genre regularly. It doesn’t matter that 2015 alone has seen more K-pop concerts outside of Asia than ever before. To Korean entertainment related-agencies and individuals, K-pop fans are nothing when compared to validation from the outside.

Nevermind the fact that K-pop fans around the globe cough up millions of dollars each year to sign up for K-drama streaming services and to buy merchandise, albums, and concert tickets. Or that there are multi-million websites dedicated to K-pop and Korean entertainment. These fans don’t matter, because they’re already fans.

As long as a random website from the United States says that a K-pop star is the most beautiful person in the world, that is newsworthy.

Forget the fact that TC Candler’s list is unimportant to anyone outside of K-pop, and that TC Candler has no credibility outside of his own website (which is devoted to film reviews, not beauty ranking).

Forget everything. Just think about the fact that After School’s Nana is now receiving a title that, had it been from a K-pop related website, would have been ignored.

accurate

If a K-pop outlet such as AllKPop or KpopStarz, both of which are read by thousands around the globe each day, or drama purveyors like DramaFever or Viki, which have brought K-dramas and films to millions of people, decided to release a list of this sort, it would be ignored. (And don’t even get me started on what would happen if KultScene released it. We’re a small fish amongst a big sea of K-pop literature, and we wouldn’t even register a blip in South Korea).

More so than the fact that “The Most Beautiful List” is a silly way to determine Nana’s overseas popularity (I’m going to guess here that maybe, maybe one out of every thousand Americans would know who Nana is), the list is an interesting point of contention for K-pop fans because it seeks credibility for Korean celebrities from an outside, non K-pop related media outlet. Regardless of what that outlet is or who writes for it.

I reached out to Candler via email to get a statement regarding the popularity of the list and received no response. The list is in its 26th year, but there is still little information about Candler or what the criteria for the Most Beautiful List is. I’m not honestly clear about why the Independent Critics List is, other than it being a website that reviews film. (Note: Nothing appearance related other than the yearly Beautiful/Handsome lists.)

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 8.48.01 PM

Korean entertainment is widely popular. It is a solid genre of its own. But as long as the Korean entertainment industry and K-pop as a whole looks to receive validation from the outside with no regards credibility, the fans that K-pop and Hallyu as a whole have become the butt of a joke. These fans, and their opinions, are diminished and viewed as crazy fanatics rather than the supporters of K-pop.

Not only does Korean media and entertainment companies not value the opinion of Korean fans, but so do K-pop fans themselves. It’s as if K-pop hasn’t made it yet, so we need to know it’s cool, rather than being a pretty solid industry that is recognized around the globe.

The K-Pop industry’s reaction to non-K-pop media looks like a child crying because there’s no pink M&Ms in a bag, even though that’s not the normal color found in M&M’s bags; it’s something nice, but it’s not needed and doesn’t make K-pop better. It just looks juvenile.


Also on Kultscene: Top 50 Korean Songs of 2015

Psy is a perfect example. Back in 2012, Super Junior, Girls’ Generation, and Big Bang were everywhere. The rapper? Less so. Psy had always been more controversial than popular in South Korea, but international fans hardly noticed the musician before his hit song. I was in Seoul after the song was released, but pre-craze, and it was pretty popular. But people were already sick of the song and the horse dance. The craze would have died down, and it would have been a summer hit.

Then “Gangnam Style” went viral and now it’s cool to like Psy. Which is great, he is a talented musician. But that doesn’t mean that K-pop itself isn’t innately valuable as a genre of music for the fans of it.

Belittling outlets devoted to K-pop as “fansites” and not valuing them in Korea is fine; but blowing a tiny blog’s list out of proportion year after year because it is not a solely Korea-oriented site is offensive. Not just to the writers who painstakingly create year end lists, but to all K-pop fans who are really devoted to the genre. This attitude of preferring a non-outwardly K-pop related site to one dedicated to Korean entertainment is akin to saying “K-pop fans aren’t good enough for us.”

are you sure kyuhyun

If Korean entertainment purveyors want K-pop to become popular, it has to happen naturally. Jumping on something rather unimportant year and year again, while ignoring the adoration of those fans it already has, would be akin to rock stars turning their back on the fans have supported them since the start just in order to look into the camera of journalist.

K-pop, you’ve made it. You’re a multi-million dollar genre of music with fans around the globe. Grow up and stop looking for validation. Not everyone likes, or talks about, metal. That doesn’t mean it’s not a real thing. But it doesn’t mean that bigtime metal musicians snatch up the most random bit of publicity from whatever outlet that doesn’t usually cover metal.

It’s 2015. The World Wide Web is older than I am (by about 50 days). There’s a lot on it. That doesn’t mean that anything about K-pop anywhere is something to get excited about. Google “K-pop” or “Nana” or “Beautiful Face” or “After School” or, I don’t know, “Turbo’s Again.” There will be thousands, if not millions, of hits.

We have to stop micro analyzing K-pop for what we want it to be (which, I think, most K-pop fans would agree, would be a mainstream genre of music worldwide) and start noticing the fact that it’s already here and we like it for what it is.

So, yes, good list TC Candler. No, I’m not going to link to it because it’s not any more reputable than me making a list.

You know what? Here goes:

KultScene Most Beautiful Faces List of 2015

1.

 

 

Nah, I’m just joking.

What do you think about the situation?Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Let’s Discuss: MBLAQ, Failures or Realists?

In 2009, MBLAQ and Beast both debuted. MBLAQ was the clear winner –it was the group that Rain had put together; his pet project. Beast, on the other hand, was a group of “rejects” from JYP and YG and failed solo acts.

Fast forward to 2014 and the tables are completely turned. With the announcement that Lee Joon is likely leaving the group, rumors that Thunder (Cheondung) will also not renew his contract with J. Tune Camp, and Beast’s highly anticipated comeback, it’s clear to all that Beast ended up on top. Does that mean that MBLAQ has failed as idols? Perhaps so, but perhaps not also.

What Went Wrong With MBLAQ?

Many things, and nothing. The group has had popular songs, but won few awards. Only Y and This Is War won awards on music shows, while those two and Mona Lisa are the only songs by the quintet to ever be nominated for MAMA awards. Moreover, not a single MBLAQ song achieved number one on Korean charts, although multiple of their albums did gain that distinction.

Lee Joon, Thunder, and G.O have gained recognition for acting, and G.O has gained a lot of attention for his vocal and producing skills. Mir has also become renowned for his rapping skills. MBLAQ members are popular on variety shows and have featured on numerous songs. But as idols, not a single member of the group or a song has made a huge impact. People know the members’ names, but the group has never hit the top tier of idols.

Source: Tumblr via Leyez

Source: Tumblr via Leyez

In a world where catchy dance songs are king, MBLAQ’s R&B style hasn’t led to major success. Not a single one of MBLAQ’s Korean songs ever placed above fifth on Korean or international music charts. Several Korean songs charted at number two on the Japanese Oricon chart (Your Luv and Baby U), but otherwise, MBLAQ’s songs have never had that “hit” factor.

MBLAQ is well-known, and many people think that means that the group is successful. But a boy band that doesn’t gain recognition for its music is not necessarily ideal or something worth continuing. Lee Joon and Thunder’s desire not to renew their term with the group may be a result of the overall failure of MBLAQ as a musical act.

 Also on KPOPme: Let’s Discuss: YG’s Luck With Damage Control

Who Is To Blame? Management?

The group is a very clear case of not having one single entity organizing it. MBLAQ did pretty well before Rain entered the army at the end of 2011. Rain’s popularity had been transferred to MBLAQ since debut, and the five members are artistically talented enough to stand on their own feet. But there was always the fact that the group was the five-member version of Rain, with his style influencing the group.

Right before Rain entered the army, MBLAQ’s style changed. Stylistically similar songs like Cry, Stay, Y, Oh Yeah, etc. became Mona Lisa, Hello My Ex, It’s War, Run, etc.

Rain hasn’t touched the band since entering the army; when he came back, Rain went to Cube Entertainment. J. Tune Camp has managed every MBLAQ activity since the end of 2011. Rain’s name is still attached to the group, but his magic touch is gone.

OnePackAB

Source: OnePackAB

Furthermore, J. Tune Camp’s parent company, J. Tune Entertainment, merged with JYP in 2009. But J. Tune Camp was left alone, showing that there are some issues with internal management at the company. Without the backing of a stable company, the guys had a lot of activities, but never really focused on being singers. Promotions as MBLAQ have come in spurts, with individual members focusing more on their individual promotions than as members of an idol group.

Five years is a good amount of time to test the waters before some of the members decided that a “career change” may be a better option, and that looks like where we are right now.

Or Maybe We Should Blame The Timing?

With more and more new idol groups every day, the group didn’t really stand a chance. At the time of debut, MBLAQ was heralded as a manly, powerful group that would be well-received in a crowd of girl groups (2009 saw the popular debuts of 2NE1, f(x), Secret, After School, T-ara, and 4Minute, and the super success of Girls’ Generation, Kara, and Wonder Girls). It was the second coming of Rain, and the only prominent rival was Beast, the “reject” group.

But then K-Pop exploded in 2010 with boy groups. INFINITE, Teen Top, DMTN, Led Apple, JYJ, ZE:A, F.CUZ, CNBLUE, and The Boss. By 2011, rookie groups began popping up left and right, male and female, making older idol groups passé.

Also on KPOPme: 6 Songs Non-K-Pop Fans Can Like

Or, Maybe, Nothing?

MBLAQ was supposed to be the next “nation’s idol.” However, the group never had a hit song, because of constant comebacks and the debuts of the next-big-thing. The members are talented, as a group and on their own and they’re well recognized. Their songs have done well, but MBLAQ as a whole hasn’t. There’s no one real reason –company, members, timing, chance –that made MBLAQ an idol group without a single number one hit.

But the members have been going for five years, waiting for that one hit, and it hasn’t happened. Fans are reeling from scandals, but perhaps it is time to accept that K-Pop groups do not last forever. Accepting that is key, and sometimes idols need to transition from idol-dom to celebrity-ship.

Source: Lembas via ABM

Source: Lembas via ABM

MBLAQ and its members are many things –talented, funny, handsome, etc. But they are not one thing: Korea’s top idol group. After five years, it is time for both the group and its fans to recognize that, and MBLAQ’s potential disbandment (or continuing on as a trio/quartet, depending on different rumors) should be applauded.

Idol groups always end; even long-lived groups like Big Bang, Super Junior, and Girls’ Generation won’t last forever. If MBLAQ isn’t as successful as it could be, isn’t it better for the members to realize that now, before they are too old to regret being a second tier idol group? It’s been fun, but maybe it’s a time for a change.

Source: Hello Baby  via Tumblr

Source: Hello Baby via Tumblr

What do you think? Should MBLAQ’s members stick together? Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.

Let’s Discuss: EXO Luhan & Departure Rumors

This isn’t the first time that it’s being said, but 2014 was not the best year for SM Entertainment. Kris leaving EXO, Sulli going on hiatus from f(x), and Jessica’s removal from Girls’ Generation are not exactly signs of a stellar company. And now there are rumors, mostly among international fans, that EXO’s Luhan will be leaving the group due to poor health, which isn’t good. Not that Luhan shouldn’t take care of his health, but the rumors themselves, and if they were to come true, are not good.

Why Are The Rumors Bad?

It shows panic among SM Entertainment’s audience. Other SM Entertainment idols have been sick in the past and have taken extended leave. SHINee’s Onew only recently rejoined activities after surgery, but there weren’t wide-spread rumors about him leaving the group. However, following the news that Girls’ Generation, one of the most seemingly-stable groups in K-Pop, is removing a member, SM Entertainment fans show that they no longer know what is what at the company.If fans cannot show full support for SM Entertainment, it is likely that SM will act even more recklessly than it has recently.

Following a downward spiral of f(x)’s Red Light promotions being overshadowed by Sulli’s dating and hiatus scandal, SM announced a new girl group, Red Velvet. Unlike the highly hyped debut of EXO, Red Velvet released its first song with little prior-fanfare, and a relatively sloppy, problem-plagued debut.

In regards to Girls’ Generation’s disaster, SM is continuing as usual with TaeTiSeo and individual promotions. But everything that the Girls’ do and every word they say is under strict scrutiny, and the company is likely to announce a comeback of one of its other groups to try and get attention off of the remaining eight Girls’ Generation members.

Also on KPOPme: Let’s Discuss: Jessica’s Departure & Girls’ Generation’s Future

SM Entertainment is often perceived to be the “worst” company of “the Big 3” Korean entertainment companies (SM, YG Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment), due to its history with contract scandals and idols leaving the company. The company needs intense PR, but sudden member losses has become almost expected; EXO fans are practically counting down the days until another member announces that he is leaving, and Luhan appears the likely choice, due to his health issues.

The rumors are bad because it shows a complete lack of faith by fans in SM to manage its artists. SM fans need to support not only their favorite artists but the company, because the Korean entertainment industry is currently a company-dominated one. But right now, SM is in crisis mode and lack of support is making the company struggle anymore.

What oh nonon Luhan

via baekhyunniesbeagle

What If Luhan Actually Leaves?

If Luhan leaving EXO becomes reality, not just a rumor, SM Entertainment will find itself in serious trouble. Luhan is one of EXO’s three remaining Chinese members, and by far the most popular one. Luhan is so popular that he earned a Guinness Award for on Weibo- over 13 million comments on his account, double the amount of the next runner up. If Luhan’s health issues require that he, unfortunately, leaves the group, it would mean that SM’s EXO experiment has failed.

EXO has already failed in some ways, when the group became EXO rather than EXO-K and EXO-M. Fans wanted all twelve members together, but it meant that the split marketing campaigns were a failure, and fans wanted one, traditional K-Pop act.

Luhan’s absence would mean that only two Chinese members of EXO remain, Lay and Tao. Both, as all members of EXO, are immensely popular, but former member Kris and Luhan have definitely been the two most popular members of the EXO-M contingency. If Luhan leaves, EXO’s Chinese fanbase will reel and accusations of unfairness towards Chinese members will fly.

Also on KPOPme: Let’s Discuss: Did ZE:A’s Lee Hoo Go Too Far?

Remember, initial reports of Kris’ withdrawal blamed his health. Luhan’s poor health condition has already been acknowledged by SM Entertainment, so the rumors are understandable. Hopefully, they will just be rumors and Luhan will get the rest that he needs.

via allaroundasia

EXO needs no more problems, and SM Entertainment needs no more headaches. Hopefully these rumors will be pointless, but if Luhan, or any Chinese member leaves, EXO is in trouble.

Are you worried about EXO and Luhan? How do you feel about the recent SM Entertainment scandals? Be sure to share it and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,Tumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.

[Picture credit to SMTOWN]

Let’s Discuss: Jessica’s Departure & Girls’ Generation’s Future

Let me tell you something before getting into anything else: We’ve been here before and we can get through it. But can Girls’ Generation?

A member leaving one of the biggest idol groups in K-Pop? Fans going crazy? Support the member’s decision? Protest their selfishness? Is the company lying? Who is telling the truth? Are the members upset? What’s going on??

First off, K-Pop is a business. Both fans and idols delude themselves into believing the lies of the industry, but, at the end of the day, idols are employees of companies. And, if an employee has a disagreement with a company about what sort of work he or should be doing, they often leave or asked to leave the company.

Girls’ Generation’s Jessica is currently embroiled in just that situation. Fans might be angry, hurt, upset, confused, and any other synonym for “what the eff?” But Jessica clearly started a fashion brand, Blanc, and SM Entertainment reacted in a certain way. Jessica released her own statement saying that the other members decided to force her out of the group, but that surely wasn’t an easy decision to make– the members were in tears at their latest performance. As outside observers, we may never know the entire truth from both sides.

So what does this mean? It means that Girls’ Generation’s tightly wound image is starting to break apart. Does that mean that it will completely unravel? Maybe yes, maybe no.

There are three paths for a group when a member leaves: continuing on without them, replacing them, or falling apart. SM Entertainment tends to opt out of replacing members, and isn’t a company that just lets it groups disappear when there are still viable members. TVXQ, Super Junior, and The TRAX all showed that SM’s management style is to keep going ahead with what it has rather than trying to do something new.

Girls’ Generation (and this applies to f(x) as well but that is for another discussion,) is likely to keep promoting as a girl group with eight members, as SM Entertainment has already said. However, unlike TVXQ, Super Junior, and The TRAX, where members left the group to pursue their own careers willingly, Jessica’s situation is different. From her point of view, Jessica was kicked out by the other members because her personal desires didn’t fit in with the group’s, which may show the fragile ties keeping Girls’ Generation together.

The lifespan of girl groups are much shorter than male idol groups. Looking at all of the first generation groups that are making a comeback –SHINHWA, g.o.d, Fly To The Sky –they’re all males. Girl groups by definition are meant to be youthful- girls, not women. Girls’ Generation’s name has come under fire for several years now, as the members of the girl group got older. The group’s concept has also not changed so much, varying from cute to sexy but still maintaining the image of youthful, spunky young ladies. Soshi’s songs have shown change and maturity, but as a whole, the group hasn’t quite morphed from girls into adults.

Jessica’s departure highlights the problem, because it is all happening due to her desire to have a more serious, adult, career and personal life. The other mature groups at SM (TVXQ, Super Junior, The TRAX) all have members who do something other than their activities as group members. Girls’ Generation has a few members who have done so (YoonA and Sooyoung act, Sunny DJs, Taeyeon and Seohyun sing solo songs, etc.), but none of them really are able to stand on their own two feet as anything other than a Girls’ Generation member doing some other activity.

A member leaving doesn’t mean a death sentence for a group, even one as cohesive as Girls’ Generation. But it could hint to the fact that Girls’ Generation’s concept is unstable, and unless SM Entertainment reconsiders the fact that the members are women and not girls, more members are going to search for more fulfilling, more problematic “secondary” activities. If SM doesn’t want to lose its most prominent girl group, it had better think fast.

What do you think? Is Girls’ Generation’s future at stake? Is Jessica in the wrong? We’d love to hear you thoughts on the subject, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.

Let’s Discuss: Did ZE:A’s Lee Hoo Go Too Far?

Lee Hoo went up against the Korean entertainment establishment and came out on top. Then he continued, and now there is some concern that maybe he’s gone too far too fast.

This week saw ZE:A’s leader Moon Junyoung, known by his stage name Lee Hoo, go up against his company, Star Empire, on Twitter and win. The initial response to his outburst was a positive one, to see an idol attacking injustices. But then Lee Hoo continued after seeing the conclusion of what he was seeking; now it’s unclear whether he is overstepping his boundaries and should be happy with the gains that he has made, rather than risk making everything worse.

After increasingly difficult situations within Star Empire Entertainment, including little-to-no pay, unfair management, and physical abuse, Lee Hoo threatened the company’s CEO on Twitter. He promised to release incriminating documents, proving the company’s corruption, and also mentioned that he may reveal information about other entertainment companies.

Lee Hoo also called for other entertainment companies to reevaluate their terms, and asked journalists and fans to help him. Plus, he revealed that the Dream Team production team had treated him poorly after breaking a bone on set, using a single example, but implying that Korean PDs are also harsh on idols.

And after several outbursts of anger on Twitter, Lee Hoo stated that he had met with Star Empire’s CEO to reconcile and reconsider ZE:A’s contract terms. After, Lee Hoo wrote that ZE:A’s terms would be reversed from how it had been before, so that the idols would earn 70 percent of the profits and the company 30 percent, rather than vice-versa.

ZE:A Lee Hoo's Twitter Update

That seemed to be the end of it, but only a few hours later, Lee Hoo returned to Twitter saying that if fans clamored enough, he would reveal more evils of the Korean entertainment industry if netizens asked him to. It seems likely that Lee Hoo will keep his crusade going, if fans support him.

However, is there such a thing as too much in this case?

The Korean entertainment industry is extremely hierarchical, and Lee Hoo took to social media like so many other modern-day revolutionaries to reveal the truth of a horrendous situation. He acted very brave, but also slightly careless; the CEO, who he named, could have sued him for libel, cut his contract, and it could have had a downward spiral that affected all of the members of ZE:A (no other ZE:A members have spoken up about the situation, so it is unclear whether they were aware of what Lee Hoo was going to do).

Luckily, things worked out well, and Lee Hoo was able to make many gains for ZE:A. Netizens also supported the idol’s actions instead of turning on him. There is some criticism that he called out the CEO publicly, but Lee Hoo addressed the fact in his tweets, saying that the situation had gotten so far out of hand. Many netizens posted messages of support for Lee Hoo.

But should Lee Hoo stop before he hurts himself and the group? He already pushed the envelope a lot; he took to Twitter in a vehement way that hasn’t been seen from any K-Pop idol previously. Even the most outspoken idols have not truly gone head-to-head with their CEO, airing all of their despicable issues. Instead, most idols leave their companies and sue. And none of them have said that they will release more incriminating documents in the future about other entertainment companies or production companies.

Lee Hoo is risking the entire entertainment industry’s wrath, rather than just upsetting his own company. After getting so much for ZE:A, Lee Hoo obviously is feeling very successful. Hopefully, the company will work with ZE:A for the better, and all of this will work out.

But if netizens ask Lee Hoo for too much, he may turn the entire industry against him and ZE:A. ZE:A debuted in in 2010. In the past four years, the nine members have achieved limited fame, with several members becoming incredibly popular while the others live in relative obscurity. ZE:A’s songs have gained attention, but the group has never become a leader of Hallyu, or even won an award on a music show. Complete apathy from fans, who were happy with ZE:A being second tier idols, and from ZE:A’s company have hindered the group.

Now that ZE:A is at a crossroads, as the leader Lee Hoo has some important decisions to make. He has fought well, but it seems that the whole thing is still very tenuous.

What do you think? Is Lee Hoo at risk of losing everything he’s gained? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.

 

Let’s Discuss: Making Excuses For K-Pop Idols

Fans are what make any form of entertainment successful, and K-Pop fans are more intense than most other fans. In light of the recent scandal with Kim Hyun Joong, it has become apparent that K-Pop fans have lost their sense of reality when it comes to K-Pop idols.

K-Pop fans are known for being loyal to the genre, but also for being incredibly intense. In South Korea, overly intense fans are known as sasaeng fans. Sasaeng literally breaks down into the words “private” and “life.” These so-called fans are invasive and have a reputation of being tormentors more than fans. They do things such as following idols to their homes, sometimes sneaking in and vandalizing, etc.

There are also anti-fans, which torture Korean entertainers; there have been cases of idols who have been poisoned by anti-fans. One of the most infamous instances involved an anti-fan who gave TVXQ’s Yunho a drink filled with poisonous glue that nearly killed him.

Most people acquainted with K-Pop know about both sasaeng and anti-fans. So what is there to discuss? Well, there’s still the issue of delusional fans who don’t seem to recognize problems with celebrities.

No, not celebrities, but idols. This terminology is very important –Korean idols are treated as if they’re deified and held on pedestals, like the idols of a religion. Because of this, fans react in ridiculous ways. Recently, this week in particular, there has been an uptick in fans who seem to support idols’ illegal actions. This is, of course, in regards to Kim Hyun Joong’s accused beating of his girlfriend.


Kim Hyun Joong, Hallyu star and the leader of now-on-hiatus SS501, made headlines this week when his girlfriend of two years brought irrevocable proof of his abuse to police in Korea. While many fans around the globe were disgusted with his actions, especially when his company tried to claim that he and his girlfriend were merely being rowdy and it was an accident, many fans seemed to come out in support of Kim Hyun Joong.

Kim Hyun Joong fan comments on official Facebook

Kim Hyun Joong fan comments on official Facebook

In fact, a battle seems to be waging between fans that support him, and have started to accuse the girl of lying to the police, and between the fans that recognize how severe domestic abuse is.

Even when Girls’ Generation’s Hyoyeon was brought into a domestic fight with her now ex-boyfriend, fans defended her; it was as if people couldn’t stomach the idea that Hyoyeon could get into a fight. Idols are people, and fans do not seem to recognize this.

Even when domestic abuse isn’t involved, there are always fans who ignore the facts and support “their” idol. Regardless of the fact that Park Bom had definitely been involved in something illegal in South Korea, fans from all over the world said that the 2NE1 vocalist had been wrongfully smeared across headlines —that may very well be the case, but many fans ignore the fact that these idols are human and should be reprimanded like the average person when they have done something.

Keep Calm And Support KHJ

The reverse situation reveals the irony of K-Pop fans; when idols do something human that is offensive to fans, it causes upsets—something illegal is acceptable, if it makes the idol look bad. But when idols are revealed to be dating one another, or someone else, fans tend to freak out. While there are some very well accepted idol couples (such as Lee Seung Gi and YoonA, and Nichkhun and Tiffany), other idol relationships have literally led to rifts in fandoms.

The reactions of fans in defense of idols when they have done something both illegal and morally wrong and to berate idols for living their lives, is a ridiculous situation. Getting upset about something happening to your favorite idol is all right. You can be jealous that they’re dating someone, but cursing them for being happy is not really appropriate (even though many fans do it). But saying that idols who legally do something wrong are merely being framed or mistaken is akin to saying that you’re all right with the thing that they’re doing.

The fact that fans have such a twisted sense of reality in regards to K-Pop idols, that goes beyond the norm of fandom, is almost dangerous and fans need to recognize that there is a problem when people make excuses for mere human behavior.

What do you think? Do fans treat idols properly or is there something warped in the fan-idol relationship? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.

 

Let’s Discuss: WINNER As A New Type Of Idol

It may be a bit of a stretch, but YG Entertainment’s latest group WINNER may be introducing a new era to the K-Pop idol genre. But this isn’t the first group to have done that, and it won’t be the last.

The K-Pop genre as a whole is split into segments, generally based on the current trend for male idols. The concept defined by each era is not definite, and there are, of course, exceptions to the rules. These are general, widely-accepted viewpoints of what defines different periods in K-Pop male idol groups.

[Disclaimer: Please note that I am loosely using the term “generation,” due to the fact that these differences have happened over time. However, there is, of course, overlap.]

Original male idol groups (Seo Taeji and Boys aside) H.O.T, g.o.d, SHINHWA, etc. all had similar concepts; they had masculine charm. Idol groups from the second generation, like Super Junior, TVXQ, SS501, and BIGBANG, had pretty, flower-boy concepts; sometimes they pull out more masculine concepts, but fashion is always important for male idols ever since the second generation.

The third generation began with 2PM, who redefined manliness to mean “beastly,” for the lack of a better word. BEAST and MBLAQ are two other male idol groups that followed this trend.

The fourth generation of idols is defined by androgynous-ness and youthfulness, with groups like SHINee, INFINITE, and Teen Top having members who can easily pass for girls. This conceptual era is a bit different from the earlier flower boys, who still were more “handsome boyfriend” material; the newer groups are fashionable and pretty for the sake of being fashionable and pretty.

The fifth type includes groups like B.A.P and Block B, who debuted with powerful images, most similar to the original idol groups, but perhaps without the lack of theatrics and a more powerful message.

It would seem that all the different concepts have gone through their period, and we will see the cycle repeat, but there is always something new under the sun, and WINNER has proven just that.

[Disclaimer: I did not watch even a single episode of Who Is Next: WIN. I expected, as I believe many people did, that YG Entertainment would promote the group as the next generation of BIGBANG. I was very wrong.]

WINNER debuted with two songs, Color Ring and Empty. Idols in general, especially ones from YG, debut with songs that are more suited to a club than to a rainy day. Even idol groups like JJCC, who debuted with more ballad-sounding songs, have some sort of dance beat to the song; a complete debut without any dance songs is very rare.

The songs are not unique among the K-Pop genre; there’s no reason idol groups can’t produce rap/r&B/pop medleys. BIGBANG’s songs like Blue and Bad Boy are part of this genre. But to debut with a video like this seems like a statement done on purpose in order to differentiate WINNER from the rest of the debuting groups. And it did just that, but so much more.

Concepts overlap, but when one iconic idol group does something different from previous idol groups, it sets trends. WINNER, a high profile group from YG Entertainment ,is in the perfect position to do that; to start a new trend of debuting idol groups that focus more on melodies of song and a sentimental image. Sentimental, of course, is the key word.

Stylistically aside, WINNER also dresses a lot more like an average Korean in Empty and Color Ring than most idol groups do. There’s no real synchronization, no overly fashionable outfits. In fact, in comparison to YG’s top boy band, BIGBANG, this is as far as YG could get.

So, why? BIGBANG is immensely popular, and on Who Is Next, the group’s seemed to create typical YG Entertainment dance songs (I listened to the two team’s final songs to make sure I knew what I’d expect from WINNER).

Why would YG Entertainment debut something so stylistically new, and, essentially, simple? Not that the songs are simple musically; but they are a lot less flashy than songs coming out of SM Entertainment and JYP nowadays.

Because simplicity is now favored in South Korea; the most popular songs in Korea recently are by another seemingly incongruous YG Entertainment act, AKMU. The simplicity of AKMU’s songs is very similar to WINNER’s debut sound.

But while AKMU is recognized to be an artist, WINNER is most definitely an idol group. Idol groups have been consistently topped on Korean music charts by indie artists like Roy Kim, Busker Busker, etc. As Korean music tastes turn more towards indie and alternative sounds than to traditional K-Pop, the trend of K-Pop will be to produce more artistic songs.

There is no doubt that WINNER is a complete idol group; YG Entertainment trained the members, produced them to perfection. WINNER’s songs debuted at the top of the charts, partially due to the group and YG’s popularity, but also because the sound is more reflective of popular taste than other recent K-Pop debuts.

It’s expected that WINNER comes out with a dance song in a more typical K-Pop group style in the future; idol groups tend to do really well with catchy songs. But while many groups focus on international markets nowadays, WINNER is the type of idol group that South Korea needs, and YG Entertainment has read the signs. More idol companies will follow the trend that YG sets.

What do you think? Is WINNER’s debut style going to set a trend? Be sure to share it and follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTumblr,
and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.

Let’s Discuss: Is JYP Still One Of The Big 3?

This is a bit of a loaded question – JYP Entertainment has been one of the three most prominent entertainment companies in the K-Pop industry for years, and it’s still treated as such. However, nowadays, the main competition is between YG Entertainment and SM Entertainment, and it’s worth looking at why exactly this is the case.

The Success

Park Jin Young, JYP himself, was one of Korea’s most popular singers in the early and mid-1990’s. In 1997, he founded JYP Entertainment, and ended up producing idol groups like g.o.d, which was one of the K-Pop groups that started the first Hallyu wave in Asia. g.o.d’s popularity is still so immense that the group recently made a comeback, to celebrate its fifteenth anniversary.

JYP produced several other acts, but in 2002, it was Rain who ended up becoming JYP Entertainment’s pride and joy. Other popular JYP acts from the early 2000’s included Noel, Park Ji Yoon, and Byul.

In the mid 2000’s, JYP scored major successes with the debuts of Wonder Girls (2007), 2AM, and 2PM (both 2008). The three groups became some of the most popular acts in K-Pop and immensely popular throughout not only Asia but also the world.

The Wonder Girls gained enough attention to result in Perez Hilton showing off their songs, like Tell Me and Nobody; the group ended up touring with the Jonas Brothers and filming a show for Nickelodeon in the US.

2PM started a trend of “beastly idols,” known for athleticism and masculine concepts, which was different from the flower boy trend of other groups like TVXQ, SS501, and Super Junior.

While it looked bad for 2AM, since ballad groups were losing popularity in favor of K-Pop acts in the past, these guys are actually more popular than their label mates, the Wonder Girls and 2PM. Unlike the average K-Pop group, 2AM attracts all sorts of fans, not only the more typical, young fans who tend to be attracted to pop music.

The Slow Downward Spiral

Wonder Girls, 2PM, and 2AM gained a lot of success and were able to promote competitively against Kara, Super Junior, Girls’ Generation, Big Bang, and other groups that were popular in the late 2000’s. Songs by the three JYP groups were extremely popular, and, for a few years, it seemed that JYP was at the very top of its game.

Miss A debuted in 2010 to much acclaim, but it was another two years before JYP debuted a new group, which was the duo 15&;. While 15&; is very talented, it hasn’t attracted as much attention as other YG groups.

It was around 2009 when JYP started to suffer. Out of JYP’s top three teams, only 2AM has kept its original member line-up. This was due to the leader of 2PM, Park Jay (Park Jaebeom) withdrawing from the group and the Wonder Girls focusing on their American promotions. The Wonder Girls also had a lineup change; Sunmi left the group and Hye Lim joined.

Both groups were still considered leaders of Hallyu, but, since then, the Wonder Girls have disbanded, and 2PM, despite promoting continuously to much success, isn’t as active as groups like Big Bang and Super Junior. Furthermore, the influx of rookie groups also endangers 2PM.

Miss A is popular in its own right, but Suzy has become one of Korea’s darlings; the rest of Miss A’s members are well-known, yet not half as popular as Suzy. Miss A last promoted Hush in 2013, and it is almost the end of 2014. It is now JYP’s oldest girl group, but Miss A is hardly active as a whole.

JYP’s other three current acts are two former Wonder Girls, SunMi and Yeeun (who made her solo debut recently as HA:TFELT). Both solo artists are extremely popular and hint to JYP regaining its stride, but that will still wait to be seen.

This year, JYP also debuted GOT7, which achieved a lot of success abroad but has met less acclaim than YG Entertainment’s yet-to-debut group WINNER.

While this could all just mean that JYP is in third place, after the other two largest entertainment companies, that doesn’t really seem to be the case. JYP is still popular and considered one of the best primarily because of its past — the current idols are good, but in an over flooded marketplace, they don’t particularly stand out.

JYP is also rumored to release another boy group and girl group this year, which seems like it would simply overstretch the company’s capabilities.

Other than the fact that few of its artists have as large fanclubs or as many hits as artists at SM and YG, there are a some other reasons JYP is no longer really the top.

The most important factor is the fact that JYP is not one of the biggest three earners in Korea’s entertainment industry.

In March 2014,  SM Entertainment had over 30% of the market, and YG had over 14%, while JYP wasn’t even ranking in the top ten. This was a continued trend that further revealed itself in 2013, when JYP Entertainment was relegated to the “Other” category, rather than gaining its own ranking on Gaon’s market share chart.

KPOP sales 2013

[Credit: ALLKPOP]

JYP is also facing an investigation into being illegally funded by JYP’s in-laws, who have a relations to the company that is currently being tried for homicide in the Sewol Ferry tragedy. The Korea Herald reported that JYP tried to avoid an investigation by selling JYP Entertainment to YG Entertainment’s CEO, Yang Hyun-Suk. This has resulted in JYP’s stock price plummeting.

Between the financial scandal and the lack of aggressive, constant promotions (unlike SM Entertainment and YG Entertainment), and the fact that the CEO tried to sell the company, JYP is in serious trouble.

Could the company be saved? Maybe.If JYP has successful comebacks from 2PM, 2AM, and Miss A within a span of a few months, and the company’s solo and rookie artists do extremely well, JYP may be able to return to a competitive standpoint. But at the moment, it seems that it is barely managing to hold onto its fading glory.[This inadvertently became part of a series, pointing out issues with each of the big three entertainment companies. The one about YG Entertainment HERE. Look forward to my discussion of SM Entertainment’s practices in an upcoming “Let’s Discuss.”] Be sure to share your thoughts and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.