In September 2013, Goo Hara of KARA went on the variety show “Radio Star,” where the male hosts relentlessly badgered her about rumors that she was in a relationship.At one point, host Kyuhyun threatened to ruin her, and she broke down crying.Three years later, South Korea debuted its first "idol" group, the boy band H. T., followed in 1997 by its first major girl group, S. To be sure, many of its vapid songs are intentionally light on lyrics — catchiness is king.Besides, K-pop isn’t the only musical genre fraught with sexist content.Others, like Yezi and IU, are moving in the other direction.Last year there was Vibrato’s “Stellar,” which features the female members of the band locked in glass cages and surrounded by cameras.G-Dragon, for instance, who used to croon insipid platitudes like “yeah, love is pain” when he was a member of the group Big Bang, is now a rapper who contemplates the profitless nature of celebrity.As for girl groups, there’s some progress there, too, with songs like Miss A’s “I Don’t Need A Man,” dedicated to “all the independent ladies” and Mamamoo’s “I Do Me,” which includes the line “what if I don’t look pretty? ” Outside the realm of K-pop, there are even more extreme examples of women asserting power in ways that violate Confucian norms.
When she declined, host Kim Gura shouted at her and, eventually, she too began to cry.
Despite these signs that things are trending liberal, critical fans would do well to consider whether K-pop’s feminist coming of age is, like everything else about it, merely fabricated.
Girl power is chic, but when an industry like this one commodifies feminism, one has to wonder where the power goes.
Fresh-faced ingénues can decline, but unless they work for YG Entertainment — which forbids its girl groups from going under the knife — opting out of surgery is tantamount to opting out of the industry.
As Patricia Marx of the New Yorker puts it, Korean pop culture “shapes not only what music you should listen to but what you should look like while listening to it,” adding that nose jobs and double-eyelid surgeries are now common high school graduation presents in Korea.
And consider for a moment that, while female idols are excoriated for discreetly having adult relationships, somehow it’s okay when the popular variety program “No More Show” features women explicitly simulating fellatio, sometimes while the host screams “Do it sexily! “Most K-pop videos portray women as sex objects and that includes all the female K-pop singers and groups, too,” says Kevin Cawley, professor of East Asian studies at University College Cork in Ireland.