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.

 

The Double Standard of Guns & Murder in K-Pop

The latest netizen outrage out of the K-Pop world surrounds rapper Swings’ perceived insensitivity for posting a video recreating an execution just for fun. The internet critics say it is reminiscent of the recent executions of American journalists by the terrorist group ISIS, and that the timing is disrespectful towards Ladies’ Code’s tragic accident. Netizens have a reputation of blowing things out of proportion, and this is not an exemption. Was the video in poor taste? Yes. Should Swings be scrutinized for it? Probably not if you condone and/or disregard murder and guns in music videos by your favorite artists. The truth is, the whole incident and the exaggeration of it is one big double standard for K-Pop fans.

In the controversial video in question, Just Music rappers C Jamm and Swings kneel at the edge of a swimming pool while Giriboy stands over them and mimics pulling gunshots to their heads, making C Jamm and Swings fall into the pool, and floating face down as if dead. Netizens claim that the execution-like prank is similar to those actually carried out by ISIS recently and done too soon since people are still mourning RiSe and EunB’s deaths. Had this video happened at another time where it couldn’t be contrasted with these two events, netizens probably wouldn’t have said a thing. But alas, it did.

swing execution guns

So following these netizens’ logic, executions, guns, and murder are tasteless, and for doing that, those involved are apathetic, immature, and —what was that other thing they were spouting on the comments? –oh yeah, psychotic. And while the term psycho was probably just thrown in there for emphasis, the only true demented thing behind this ordeal is the undeniable double standard most of these netizens have.

Again, following the logic, murder and guns are not acceptable only in cases following a tragic episode in the world’s history. But if murder and guns are not making headlines worldwide, then, by all means, it’s fair game. Because acting out murder and executions are only distasteful if a major incident happened recently, right? Kind of like when Infinite took out the plane crash scene in their Destiny music video because it was too soon to the Asiana Airlines crash. If that version would’ve been released a month prior, it would have been totally fine, right? But I digress… Netizens nitpick which idol and situation they blow out of proportion, since violence has never stopped in the world… ever (just now, think Syria or Gaza)…

Adding insult to injury, another problem here is the normalization and glamorization of murder and guns in pop culture. Opposite to the United States, Korean civilians can’t bare arms. It’s a common thing in American culture and music to hype up firearms and feature them in videos as if they were one more accessory on set. In Korean music videos, the use of guns generally follows spy or gangster plotlines. But then we have the was that really necessary? instances. No one linked BTS’ No More Dream choreography when Suga symbolically blows V’s brains out to any school shootings anywhere, even if the song is about not wanting to follow the path your parents set up for you and the setting is, well, in a school.

However, at least BTS was playing the typical teenager who hates life and their parents in their music video. 2NE1 with their video for I Am the Best, on the other hand, is one big question mark. These ladies are synonymous with fierceness within K-Pop, and the song is about being better than everyone else and no one measuring up to you. Apparently, being the best equates power which, it seems, also equates guns. What exactly was the purpose of this scene? Nothing. Just everyday glamorization of guns in a country where they could not have done that outside the set.

Was there any outrage? No, because this is normal for everyone and is also seen as cool…

But the double standard goes beyond just netizens and reaches the heads of television companies. Entertainment companies bend over backwards to accommodate the guidelines set by the TV companies so their artists can promote on their music shows. The raunchier songs on a given album are generally pushed to the b-sides, never being singles so the same TV companies won’t ban them. But you know what the crazy thing about this is? Companies that are so invested in protecting youth from seeing U-Kiss have implied threesomes or Trouble Maker grind on each other are ok with them seeing murder.

B.A.P doesn’t just wave guns in the air for their One Shot music video, it actually follows the gangster plotline. However, there’s a scene where we actually see thugs shoot and kill Youngjae. There’s blood everywhere, there are guns being used unsafely, you can see they guy’s face as he dies of gunshot –but no, that doesn’t corrupt a child’s mind like sex does… TV companies also didn’t ban One Shot or asked for the choreography involving a gunshot à la BTS be readjusted.

However, the point is not to ban these types of scenes and behaviors, for censorship is never the answer. The point is for netizens to stop nitpicking particular incidents and judging them under extraneous standards if you’re not going to do so with e-very-thing out there. Remember, separate is not equal. Swings’ video was indeed unnecessary, but it didn’t deserve the outrage it got from people who would probably have let it slide if done by bigger artists.

What’s your take on Swings’ video? 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.

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.

What’s Wrong With A.KOR’s Kemy Dissing Park Bom?

One of the most recent scandals involves A.KOR member Kemy and her controversial “diss rap” on 2NE1‘s Park Bom, and wow, has it brought up a lot of conflict. For the most part, fans and friends alike have stood up for Bom, whose drug scandal prompted a personal letter from YG regarding her need for the medicine. However, is that all to the story? Is Kemy truly the bad guy in this issue, or does she have some truth in her rap?

First of all, let’s get everything straight: I am in no way saying that Kemy’s actions were right. To be honest, this was an extremely rude composition and an extremely bad decision in summary to even bring up a senior idol in such a bad light. Logically speaking, I don’t understand why she would record such a rap, given the fact that they’ve barely debuted and have yet to establish a reputation in the industry; was she intending to ruin their chances before they even had a chance?

In short, I don’t think so. Recent rookies have been aiming for more unique, interesting ways to gain fame, whether it’s eccentric fashion or music style. In my opinion, it seems like Kemy attempted to catch attention with this track, and she succeeded. Unfortunately, I’m just not so sure if she expected the backlash, although it would be ridiculously foolish if she didn’t. Speaking from a marketing perspective, this was a wild card that played out less in her favor, and that’s just one of the things that happen when you go down the dissing route.

But what if this wasn’t an attempt to bring attention to herself? What if it was to bring attention to the suspicious drug scandal fiasco that YG managed to cover up? Am I saying that I don’t trust YG’s explanation? Of course not. I’m just trying to speak from Kemy’s perspective.

When you think about it, South Korea has quite a large stigma attached to mental illness and drugs, so I did understand this negativity in regards to Bom being let go in a simple manner. Also, let’s not forget that celebrities seem to always be treated differently when it comes to crimes, no matter the country, so why wouldn’t someone be angry with this?

Kemy definitely wasn’t wrong for stating her opinion on this scandal, but it was not a smart move in rapping about it and directly addressing Bom in the piece. The fault in this diss is purely a matter of respect and professionalism for me, personally. And before anyone says that Kemy should suffer or be boycotted, let’s keep a rational mindset and understand that A.KOR has already stopped their promotions prematurely as a response to this controversy. Isn’t that enough?

Yes, Bom was wrong in bringing illegal drugs in such a shady manner, but that case is settled, like it or not. Does it seem like she got special treatment? I’m not going to lie; it does seem like it. But just because it seems like she had the case handled in her favor doesn’t mean that releasing a public rap about telling her to do the right thing will help, right?

To put it shortly, I’m not really sure why Kemy thought it was a good idea to go through with this, but I’m not going to hate on the girl. The meaning behind the rap is rude and uncalled for, and it only managed to damage A.KOR’s image more than hurting Bom’s. There are things that don’t make sense with how quickly the case was solved, and she definitely did dish out some truth, albeit in a slightly distasteful manner.

On the other hand, just because the lyrics are negative doesn’t mean that Kemy has no talent nor potential. I have to admit that it bothers me when fans try to come to Bom’s aid by dissing Kemy in return; there’s no use in getting an eye for an eye, because all you end up with is a bunch of blind followers going in a variety of directions for no reason. In a musical sense, I really do feel like Kemy is a great rapper:

I just wish she would have thought this decision through.

What was your reaction to Do The Right Rap? Do you agree with what Kemy’s trying to say? Share your thoughts below and remember to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, 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.

Let’s Discuss: Sulli & f(x)’s Future

For some time prior to the actual announcement, fans were wondering where Sulli was. While idols sometimes miss a promotional cycle due to injury or illness, it is extremely rare for an idol to just disappear without any warning.

When Sulli stopped appearing with f(x) to promote Red Light, fans assumed that it was a temporary thing. But then it became apparent that f(x) was in an awkward position when, after winning first place, the members didn’t mention Sulli’s name at all.

After SM Entertainment announced that Sulli would be taking time off from f(x), a lot of rumors were flying: she’s pulling another “Kris,” she’s embarrassed by her rumored relationship with Choiza (her picture was found in his wallet, found by a fan), she was jealous of the success of the other members of f(x), etc.

The list goes on, as do the questions regarding Sulli’s absence. But one question is really at the forefront of everyone’s minds:

Will f(x) disband?

The simple answer?

Probably not.

Even if Sulli doesn’t return as an active member of f(x), f(x) will most likely still thrive. Five members used to be ideal for idol groups (TVXQ, SS501, g.o.d, NRG, Baby V.O.X, Big Bang, The Wonder Girls, SHINee etc.) but SM Entertainment proved with Super Junior and Girls’ Generation that size wasn’t everything. Even though four member groups are uncommon nowadays, it’s not unheard of- especially with four members like Amber, Victoria, Krystal, and Luna.

 

Each member of f(x), Sulli included, has their own unique set of traits that they bring to the group. Luna as the singer, Krystal as the actress, Victoria as the dancer, and Amber as the MC provide a well-rounded group of girls that doesn’t really need another. Add to the fact that Krystal, Amber, and Victoria are immensely popular overseas means that the group won’t really lose international popularity if Sulli leaves. (In comparison, if Amber or Krystal left, f(x) would suffer horribly abroad.)

In Korea, Sulli was definitely the most popular member of f(x) for a long time; she was a child actress and model. After deciding to become a singer, Sulli still acted, appearing in dramas like To The Beautiful You, and set to appear in an upcoming movie, The Pirates. But her fame as an actress hasn’t really spread to the rest of f(x)’s members – f(x)’s members tend to promote extremely successfully as individuals.

Which means that Sulli’s identity is more of her own than as a member of f(x). So if she decides to withdraw from the group, Sulli herself will be fine.

And the rest of the group, still filled with a lot of talent and personality, will also be able to function, especially since Sulli’s role in f(x) was never truly clearly defined.

Originally, Sulli was touted as the acting member of f(x), but since then, all of the members, excluding Amber, have appeared in dramas. Krystal’s success in The Heirs may have overshadowed Sulli’s own acting career, making Sulli’s role in the group a little bit less solid.

Sulli wouldn’t be the first SM Entertainment artist to take a break from her group in order to focus on acting – Super Junior’s Kibum took a “break” and never returned to the group. Although he never officially left the group, or even really took off on his acting career, neither Kibum nor Super Junior were extremely harmed by his absence from the group.

Based on the facts, that Sulli is good in f(x) but not entirely necessary, it seems unlikely that f(x) fans really need to worry about Sulli’s departure from the group.

The rest of f(x) was able to promote Red Light  without Sulli, and the only awkwardness was the fact that they didn’t mention Sulli’s absence.

So should f(x) fans really worry? Not really; f(x) can manage with or without Sulli. If she really is just taking a break, which could still be an option, then she’ll hopefully be welcomed back with open arms. And if she leaves, with minimal drama, it’s unlikely that f(x) will suffer.

In fact, it’s even unclear why SM stopped f(x)’s promotional cycle. Perhaps the biggest threat to f(x) right now isn’t Sulli’s absence, but SM’s desire for upcoming girl group, Red Velvet, to be successful…

What do you think? Will Sulli be missed from f(x)? Don’t forget 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: INFINITE & The SM-Woollim Merger

Let’s go back a little less than a year ago in Seoul: INFINITE gets up on stage at the first night of their world tour, performs a bit, and then starts to talk. With tears on their eyes, they apologize and promise fans that things won’t change, and swear that INFINITE will always be INFINITE.

No, a member didn’t leave, but news broke that day anouncing that INFINITE’s company, Woollim Entertainment, would be merging with SM C&C. And yet, in that moment, sitting in the audience, and only picking up every few words with my limited knowledge of Korean, I thought that INFINITE was disbanding. Or, at the very least, a member was heading to the army. The way that INFINITE acted towards Inspirit (the group’s fanclub), seemed like the members had to apologize for practically killing someone. Why?

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In South Korea, SM Entertainment is both respected and feared. The first few days after the announcement of the merger, fans wrote articles saying things like, Did SM buy INFINITE’s company so that the group wouldn’t compete with SHINee and EXO? (Both groups are some of SM’s most popular).

Fans feared that INFINITE would be relegated to some backburner by SM and not be able to be competition. What many fans missed (but others pointed out) was that Woollim Label (no longer an entertainment company in its own right) would still have control over INFINITE and other Woollim artists, like Nell and Tasty. This meant that INFINITE would, hopefully, still have the artistic guidance that it had had since debut.

In Retrospect, Why The Merger?

First thing’s first: Money. INFINITE, almost singlehandedly, took care of Woollim. Yes, Nell is extremely popular in Korea, but it doesn’t rake in the income from various appearances on television, concerts, CFs, and more, that INFINITE does. The two Tasty twins also aren’t even close to being big enough to take care of an entertainment company. Woollim has always been amazing at what it does, but has been too small to really support several artists because only one group was bringing in constant funds.

Second: SM is bigger, which opens more doors in Korea.

Third: INFINITE really was competition for SHINee and EXO. The group filmed a $1 million blockbuster music video in the U.S., even though it was never released. The original video included a plane wreck scene, and due to the Asiana Airlines crash of 2013, Woollim decided it would be insensitive to release. Moreover,  they had embarked on a world tour, and had members debuting as solo artists (Sungkyu) and becoming incredibly popular actors (L and Hoya), to name a few.

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INFINITE was, and is, big. So when a big company sees a little company being successful, the typical response is, “let’s buy it out.” A merge helped both Woollim and SM –Woollim got the financial backing it may have been lacking, and SM got rid of competition by incorporating it.

A Year Later, What Happened? 

Pretty much, just that—INFINITE came back with Back, and it’s been well-received so far. Last Romeo also topped the charts, although fans’ generally thought that it wasn’t INFINITE’s best song. But, it meant that the group would still be active —which it had been doing since the merger occurred.

Since the merger occurred, other than releasing the album Last Romeo and its repackage Be Back, the group also released The Origin, a completely instrumental album of all of INFINITE’s best songs.

Moreover, INFINITE has held several concerts, introduced an upcoming subgroup INFINITE F (Sungyeol, Sungjong, and L), and appeared on the variety show This Is INFINITE.

Separately, the members have also been busy –Woohyun, Sungyeol, and L have all acted in dramas, while the other members have frequented variety shows.

What Did INFINITE Gain By The Merger? 

Well, for one thing, there was this little thing called ToHeart—INFINITE’s Woohyun and SHINee’s Key, who have long been known to be best friends, were able to have a project group now that they were both under the SM umbrella. And people really liked it!

Then, there’s the support from SM; while idols at different entertainment companies generally are civil, they rarely promote one another. But when Sungyeol appeared on Law of The Jungle – Caribbean & Maya, members of Girls’ Generation cheered him on. There have been several other cases now where SM artists and INFINITE have been seen together in a way that they never had appeared before.

[As a side note: Since the merger, SM artists and Woollim artists have been collaborating more in general – on We Got Married Global Edition, f(x)’s Amber and Tasty’s Soryong have worked together as MCs.]

Oh, and, of course, INFINITE (and other Woollim acts) now appear at SMTown concerts.

So… What Was The Freak Out About?

Pretty much? Nothing really.

So is SM still a threat to INFINITE’s integrity? Probably not.

There was definitely room to worry,  but then it turned out that INFINITE would still be INFINITE. The group pretty much has kept doing what it’s done in the past- make really good, retro-inspired music with perfect synchronization.

And continued to be the derps they started out as.

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What I Respect About K-Netizens

Every time a given idol has a scandal, K-Netizens are quick to jump in, hype it up, and take it to extreme levels, whether it’s T-ara, Baekhyun and Taeyeon, or Park Bom. If K-Netizens feel wronged or that the idols wronged someone else, they will make a big deal about it. And while most of the reasons behind the different backlashes seem outrageous and extreme to I-Fans (international fans), there’s no denying that these fangirls and boys have a sizable amount of power over the artists that ultimately affect their careers, which is respectable. But are they wrong for doing so? No, not really.

A few weeks ago, as I read K-Netizen’s hate comments recompiled by different news sources on the Baekhyun and Taeyeon dating scandal, I struggled to understand their rationale: they opened their IG accounts for the fans and instead used them to deceive us by sending hidden messages to each other. They made fools out of us and must apologize to us. Crazy, right? Well, if you look past the obvious façade of the argument (I mean, you’re really just mad they’re dating, don’t try to falsely rationalize it!), it does have truth in its roots. The K-Netizen’s actual rationale for this particular scandal is that they feel entitled to these people’s careers because they built them up and got them to where they stand. It’s grim to think that the same people who willingly turned a person into a star could finish them, but this is actually not delusional, as some I-Fans call K-Netizens.

Yes, fans shouldn’t have a say in an idol’s personal life –but that’s not the point. K-Netizens raise a good point in saying that they, the fans and thus the consumers, should take a stand when they don’t like something and have the industry accommodate them. The Baekhyun and Taeyeon ordeal was not the best example of this because netizens made a fuss about their personal lives (which shouldn’t be meddled with), so let’s take the T-ara bullying scandal of 2012.

After attending a prestigious concert in Japan, now former member (then current) Hwayoung only performed one song because of a hurt ankle. Allegedly, this caused several T-ara members to tweet passive aggressive messages about determination and loyalty, which seemed to be directed at Hwayoung, raising red flags about them bullying her. K-netizens then started policing all of T-ara’s TV appearances and pictures to uncover instances of bullying, and they found an overwhelming amount of them. Because of this, Core Contents Media held a press conference and denied the bullying allegations, which only made people believe it was a cover up. From then on, things just kept escalating until Hwayoung was kicked out of the group, which was not well received by fans.

K-netizens felt upset that the original T-ara members were bullying Hwayoung and, what’s more, made her leave the group, so they took matters into their own hands. Thousands of fans left T-ara’s fan club, and tickets for their first solo concert were returned. Their biggest fan cafe closed, and an online petition for the group to disband started circulating the web. Furthermore, because of the controversy, Eunjung was pulled from We Got Married and the drama Five Fingers dropped her before production even started. Advertisers also began dropping T-ara as a group, such as Tony Moly. All this resulted in T-ara laying low for a while, only to return a couple of months later with Day by Day, but it’s safe to say that they didn’t garnish as much popularity as they once had prior to the whole incident.

Conclusion: K-netizens almost successfully destroyed T-ara’s career, and that’s respectable. They took a stand over something they knew was wrong, organized effectively, and managed to affect their careers temporarily. Imagine if people in the West and the rest of the world would do the same with “badly behaving” artists like Chris Brown, or Justin Bieber? People tend to forget that, as consumers, our buys count. If we stop buying products from artists who do shady things, we’d have artists with better characters and thus better role models. K-netizens understand this, and that is why it’s not delusional of them to feel entitled to their idol’s career (again, but not their personal lives).

This, of course, doesn’t mean that everything that K-netizens do on all scandals is right. Recently, K-netizens targeted Park Bom for her defunct 2010 case of “drug smuggling,” as yellow journalists have called it. Even though police dismissed the case, netizens are making a big deal over it and have even caused Bom to go on hiatus from SBS’ variety program Roommate.

Nevertheless, in its basic essence –consumers taking matters into their own hands and holding suppliers accountable– K-netizens have it right. It’s a shame how netizens have turned into these monsters who regularly affect idols’ personal lives. But if they were to get it together and focus on their idols as public figures and not private ones, they would be in the right.

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Let’s Discuss: YG’s Luck With Damage Control

Park Bom of 2NE1’s recent drug scandal, and YG Entertainment’s handling of it, shows yet another time when YG Entertainment thought it was doing the right thing with its artists, but really only time will be able to heal the wound. Time and time again, YG Entertainment’s damage control is just hiding from the spotlight for a bit.

And that’s a problem.

Bom got caught trying to smuggle amphetamine in from the US to Korea in 2010, by trying to send the drugs through mail. YG’s ceo, Yang Hyun Suk, released a statement explaining Bom’s actions, and made sense of the situation- Bom had gone to school in the US and needed the medicine to help her cope with a traumatic event from her past. She didn’t know that the drug was illegal in Korea, just thought that it was unavailable and had it sent to her grandmother’s home because she would be doing her 2NE1 activities.

Then it came to light that the medicine was smuggled to look like diet aid. Obviously, someone from Park Bom’s family knew that what she was receiving was wrong, but sent it in care of Bom’s grandmother anyway–trying to keep the possible illegality being traced to Bom herself.

Since that news became public, YG and Yang Hyun Suk has stayed silent despite his previous lengthy response to Bom’s situation. In fact, pretty much everyone’s stayed silent. Bom has continued her 2NE1 activities, but recently stopped filming for the variety show Roommates. She will probably disappear for a bit, then come back with 2NE1 in a few months.

This is almost the exact same thing that happened with G-Dragon when he was caught smoking marijuana, which is also a drug that’s illegal in South Korea. He got in trouble publicly, then came back amazingly with Blue and then, possibly Big Bang’s most iconic song, Fantastic Baby. And all was forgotten because, well, it was a minor issue. Just like this one.

A minor issue, but a big public image mess. YG seems to try to handle things, and then let them go away, hoping (and knowing) that the public will forget. The same thing happened when Seungri had a sex scandal.

Even Daesung’s scandal, a car accident when somebody died, went away with some time.

But many scandals, something as simple as plastic surgery, causes the end of an idol’s career.  Even SM Entertainment’s Kangin of Super Junior had a hard time rebounding from a large scandal involving a DUI, and had to go to the army.

Yet,  YG has realized that if its idols go away, to reflect, it helps. It doesn’t actually matter what the idol does– as long as Bom doesn’t get caught, she could probably go to Hawaii and surf the waves for three months, then come back and act a little bit remorseful, and all will be well.

YG doesn’t need to control its artists that well because their fandoms are so intense that even murder could be forgiven. (Just clarifying, Daesung did not murder anybody–it was an accident. I’m just saying, they could be vampires and nobody would be annoyed because 2NE1 and Big Bang’s fans are so passionate.)

But, even though YG doesn’t need to control its artists, since they’ll be all right, does it mean that YG doesn’t need to? YG Entertainment is the only company right now that has idols actively promoting who have had numerous sex and drug scandals. Smaller companies can’t deal with the bad press, so members leave, but companies like SM and JYP get rid of idols when something happens (think about Jay Park and 2PM.)

YG Entertainment gives its artists free reign, and they kind of are out of control. The company is merely lucky that fans still adore the idols after they make their comebacks. Things could get pretty nasty otherwise.

Is it problematic that YG Entertainment isn’t very good at damage control and just lets fans forgive and forget? Or is that the way things should be in K-Pop? Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.