Hi there, thanks for stopping by!
You should be angry - SM is a bully. There is nothing fair nor moral about them using their overbearing influence and resources in the industry to block JYJ and their continued pursuits. It’s also cowardly, as they are well-aware of JYJ’s popularity and are basically perceiving it as a threat to their own standing. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again - what SM is seeking is a monopoly, to essentially be the sole K-pop industry by buying (or ‘weeding out’, in JYJ’s case) competition. As a fan, I want to know exactly where my energy and my money goes when I ‘fangirl’; and furthermore, it’s all about having the power to choose, having room to maneuver between practices and values I agree or don’t agree with and investing support exactly where I want to. It is disempowering when all the music I listen to and all the idols I follow are from the same company; and from a company who likes to play it dirty, apparently. Screw that :(
It’s surprising to see the usually level-headed angrykpopfan so willingly accept and promote the ‘truth’ that it’s all SM’s doing blocking JYJ from doing activities, effectively claiming all those others industry professionals are just pawns in SM’s hands (but only when it comes to stop other artists, not for promoting their own?).
It’s also surprising to see angrykpopfan advocate the idea of SM wanting to create a K-pop monopoly (!), when there is little to no evidence supporting it. If SM had the resources to single-handedly block a big group as JYJ from all music activities in order to create a monopoly, why wouldn’t they block other popular groups as well?
There are more - and bigger - bullies in the Korean entertainment industry, which opens up for the possibility of SM not being the one and only source of grief for JYJ fans. Maybe that doesn’t matter to some people, but it should matter to those who want to try looking at the bigger picture.
I appreciate this critique a lot and the legitimate questions you ask. I will do my best to address them and elaborate on my opinion; and I do admit that I have a bias against SM Entertainment that is based on the accounts I have read and heard over the years.
With that said, from what I am aware, SM was indeed the common denominator in the blocking of JYJ’s activities. I refuse to invest too much trust into the KFPCAI’s claim (and that of many other bodies) that they didn’t side with SM when they too issued all those blockage requests to numerous broadcasters and album distributors. And AVEX is an SM affiliate. It’s undeniable how huge SM is in the K-pop industry, and when odds happen to be in their favor, in my eyes that is enough to assume strings are being pulled somewhere, whether directly or indirectly.
As for SM not playing their influence to promote their other artists, the sole fact that SM artists are among the biggest and most internationally promoted in the industry is evidence of their influence and star power, both passive and actively played. BoA in Japan was not just a happy accident, EXO has an enormous fanbase for a reason (even before they debuted), and SNSD would not have appeared on American television if SM didn’t know a few somebodies.
SM wanting to create a K-pop monopoly is my own little conspiracy theory, because if we zero in on the nuances, of course K-pop is not a monopoly per se as you still have the other “big two” (or “big three”, if you count Cube Entertainment), as well as the other labels. But I have a bone to pick with SM for ‘merging’ with Woollim Entertainment, a label I believe had potential to join the higher ranks if it remained on its own feet; as well as partnering with Samsung to create another sub-label. At the very least, SM is seeking to be a major music company with all these ‘merges’ and partnerships; and that’s a smart and tactful strategy from a business perspective, for sure. As a consumer, however, I don’t like how this label is becoming all the more widespread in the Korean cultural industry, not just in K-pop (they have subsidiaries in the travel, technology, and drama industries; and the one out of the “big three” with the most subsidiaries); and apparently, in many other music industries in Southeast Asia. Again, it’s great for them and for SM artists, having access to ventures and opportunities beyond the music world. But as I wish to be in control of my consumer choices, I find it unnerving, unnerving enough to call it a pursuit towards an industrial monopoly.
For SM to attempt blocking other popular groups the way they blacklist JYJ would not be a smart move, from where I see it. It is too risky as they place themselves head-to-head with labels and star power with the brawn to match theirs. Blacklisting and blockage involves measuring power differentials and taking advantage, which was the case with JYJ (and even the SNSD brand controversy from 2011, when the company tried to sue some person who had shares in the group’s trademark. In my opinion, they could have just offered compensation). It does not mean that SM will not challenge other labels and groups, as they’ve arguably done recently with YG (as YG with SM), when 2NE1 and SNSD returned to the scene in the same cycle. That is a fair way to play, not blockage nor blacklisting; and I call SM a bully because of what they did to JYJ, in believing they did have enough of an advantage to successfully pluck JYJ right out of the industry. Maybe they are not the sole players - and you are right, there are other (and bigger) bullies in the industry, but that does not diminish the unfairness of SM’s actions.
I understand there exists loopholes and unconfirmed speculations in the JYJ case (and perhaps in many others involving SM), but it is my conscious choosing to establish a solid opinion and express it when asked. Besides, isn’t almost everything clouded with a bit of uncertainty? With this issue, I essentially decided to navigate through the uncertainty with my own reasoning, which again, is my own. Everyone has the right to disagree, as we all have our own perspective of the issue; and it doesn’t mean I will not be flexible when presented with contrary views. It may just be so that I did not happen to come across those views. As always, I invite you and anyone to drop by and continue the discussion wherever you see fit.
I guess we differ in that I see no rational reason to believe KFPCAI and others inside the Korean entertainment industry can’t have opinions of their own, regardless of what SM thinks and wants. Just as there are fans who don’t think JYJ handled things in an elegant way, I’m willing to believe there are people in the industry who share that same opinion. I actually suspect industry insiders are more likely to shun individuals who publicly criticize what’s going on in the entire idol industry - ‘the unique and succesful Korean way to do things’. The KFPCAI banned Jay Park from appearing on music shows for saying Korea was gay. In all honesty, it seems you don’t need to rock the boat very much to become a persona non grata in the Korean entertainment business. The public broadcasting companies ban celebrities who are deemed too vocal about social issues. It’s not right, but it happens. And as far as I know, it can happen even without some power player pulling strings in a personal vendetta.
With that said, I don’t mean to say SM are innocent, but I do think they have only done what is common praxis in their environment. Could SM have been more graceful about it and sent off JYJ with a smile, a wave, and a tear twinkling in the corner of their collective eye? Yes, of course. But that’s just not what you do in the corporate world.
As for your conspiracy theory, I too think Woollim were doing great with Infinite, and could have continued to do even better. However. If Woollim was in a financially vulnerable position (and ‘lack of money’ sure has been a theme throughout the years) there would have been a risk of losing everything. You can’t buy something that’s not for sale, and you can definitely not merge with someone who isn’t willing. Regardless of the reason, Woollim’s boss decided a merger with SM would be in his and his company’s best interest. Maybe he did it for completely selfish reasons, but at the end of the day, he did it. I don’t see why the ‘blame’ should fall only on SM in this case.
I’d like to thank you for taking the time to further explain your standpoint, and as always, I appreciate and applaud your contributions to the international K-pop community in encouraging healthy discussion around various topics.
I’m inclined to side with AKPF’s opinion… SM’s hand, whether direct or indirectly is still all over this JYJ block. IMO there have been enough commenters within the SK entertainment industry (albeit anonymous for understandable reasons) who have validated SM is the source behind the issue. And let’s be honest… SM does have a tendency to act like a butt-hurt teenager when something upsets them. (Past: Mnet/MAMA; More Recently: Music Bank B1A4 Suspected Sajaegi Controversy.)
For me, suuzaaa’s argument that broadcasting companies ban celebrities all the time is weak in that news of JYJ activities and/or their individual pursuits in other areas of the industry (i.e., dramas, music videos) have not been banned from being shown on these same broadcasting channels. When a celebrity is put on a broadcast industry blacklist, it’s global… not selective.
Thank you both suuzaaa and djbullock for your responses! Both reasonable arguments and offer a healthy range of insight into the same issue.
I think I continue to side-eye SM in the JYJ case, based on the same reasoning as djbullock’s, but I can agree with the motivations suuzaaa see of other players involved, in that they have similar interests (despite the potential for those like SM to pull strings) to keep the status quo because it benefits all of them. It is fair to consider that other industrial players retain some agency to decide their plan of actions for themselves (as they themselves are power-holders as well) and a possibility to consider when similar situations arise in the future. As for Woollim, I also agree it was a business strategy more than anything to shake hands on a merge. It just rattles me that it had to be SM…… anyways.
With only press releases and the media to depend on (as well as those anonymous commentators djbullock mentioned), we can only continue to guesstimate what really went on (and is going on) behind the scenes; and we should allow ourselves to depend on our own compasses (whatever they may consist of) and share our views with one another because that’s pretty much all we have.
With that said, many thanks once again for an enlightening debate thus far (and thank you suuzaaa, for the kind words towards the end of your response - it’s definitely not without fellow fans like you who are willing to add to the discussion!) Feel free to continue; and of course, anyone and everyone is welcome to hop on.
Thank you, again and again! I’m glad you found AKF as well! Please feel free to jump on board any discussion you see here; your thoughts and ideas are most welcome! Take care!
Hi there, thanks for this question and sorry it took a while to answer it!
The issue you bring up here, interestingly enough, partially characterizes the blow-up around Miley Cyrus and her ‘twerking’ during last year’s VMAs. Besides the discussions on cultural appropriation, one of the many brought up was the fact that we have this former child-star, having matured into a grown woman, engaging in a very “sexualized” performance. As you have pointed out, what makes this problematic are the distorted ideas it sends about what maturing is all about, particularly to consumers who have grown up with her from her Hannah Montana days (and those younger).
In a more familiar context, I understand that Girl’s Day has also been receiving the same flak for their “highly sexualized” image and performances, particularly after having mentioned just before their latest comeback that they intend to return with a “mature” image as well.
All these examples, including yours, play to our concerns of how consumers of the media internalize what makes “the ideal woman”, or more specifically, how to, as a female in today’s society, grow up “the right way”, much of which perhaps encompasses subjugating oneself to an external ‘gaze’; or in other words, priming yourself to be looked at, or to be attracted to, very much like an object. However, the objectification argument can get a bit muddled when the question of whether the object is actually the subject, expressing her sexuality, or ‘being sexy’ at her own free will as opposed to the former. It is difficult to tell in the realm of media, however; and more often than not, when it comes to visuals and images being circulated among mass audience, the purpose of which is mass consumption, it is hard to remain purely as ‘the subject’ (with exceptions, those of which include actual campaigns). There’s a reason for the saying “sex sells”, because as far as mass media is concerned, it really does.
Relatedly, we all have been instilled with ideas of what ‘maturation’ entails, many of which actually involve sex and relationships. The pressure of being among the last of your bunch to experience the ‘first kiss’, the ‘first girlfriend/boyfriend’, or the ‘first ‘time” has probably led us to think we were not ‘adults’ yet, or along similar lines, like there was something still ‘childish’, ‘immature’ about us (I know I have, at least!) That pressure is horrible, and if not handled well can lead us into making rash decisions and long-term regrets. ‘Standardized’ sexiness and adult relationships, ideally, have nothing in common, but media likes to convince us otherwise, as we see with the way K-pop likes to frame what “maturing” is all about: being sexy and attractive to those around you by rendering yourself the object of the ‘gaze’.
(However, there is a fine line between pinpointing the wrongs between how ‘sexiness’ is portrayed in media and slut-shaming: to subjectify an object is the former; to further objectify the object is the latter.)
It’s not easy to instigate changes in the way mass media works, which is why audiences are usually targeted. If many of us can watch these music videos and performances while retaining a critical eye, so can many others.
I hope this addresses your question well - I know I may have left a few unanswered thoughts but do drop by again if you want to continue the conversation!
EDIT: Any thoughts on the guys’ side of things? I feel it’s similar, the constructed junction between “mature” and “sexy”…
Oh man, this is finally done. As promised, I updated my About page and opened up the submissions box; and fixed up all minor details I told myself I’d do like last year. Anyways, whether you’re new to this blog (hi and welcome and thank you for following!) or not, hopefully you’ll find this helpful!
Everything you need to know is on the sidebar, where you can find:
About AKF: A bit on the background of this blog as well as its intentions and where I’m coming from
AKF FAQ: Just some off-the-record info, most of which were personal questions asked by readers
Recommended blogs: a list of websites and blogs I personally recommend for awesome insight and discussion!
Communicate: Your options if you want to comment, ask/request something, submit something, etc.
I hope I covered everything. If there is any confusion, that’s what my ask is for!
akiryu26 reblogged this from angrykpopfan and added:
Oh no, my bad! I opened up my submissions to encourage them (or a form of them - makes for a better alternative than the ask box and its stupid word limit) but I guess I didn’t advertise it as much as I should have :( Well, either way, when you find something you want to write on, it’s more than welcome!
EDIT: My submission box isn’t even open at the moment. I am SO SORRY I WILL CHANGE THIS RIGHT NOW
Hey there! Thanks for sharing your thoughts; and no worries, I get what you’re saying.
I am myself a “POC” (Filipino), thus I’m not Korean, making my perspective on political and societal issues in Korea that of an outsider. Because of that very reason (just to be extremely clear), I do my best (sometimes with fail, but that’s all right - I want to be called out sometimes) to not assume expertise or in-depth knowledge about any issue I discuss - I’ve gotten my education on Korean culture and society from research, studies, as well as from Korean peers, but I will never be an “insider” to any issue pertaining Korean identity and nationality. (I seriously need to update my “About” section since I discuss this more articulately there aaahhhhrgu.)
Also, if it is relevant, though I was born in the Philippines I grew up in Cambodia and received American primary education there. I now live in Canada; received my secondary education here. In terms of “racial” background, I am indeed a “POC”, especially as I am here in North America; but when it comes to cultural background, I feel I’m sort of navigating through different realms - I don’t consider myself having been acculturated in one, single “culture”.
All of this plays into the way I view things when it comes to K-pop, Korean society and anything else I bring up on this blog. My views are definitely biased, which is why I always try to encourage dialogue from others because I know there are always more than one side to any story.
I hope that clarifies things! Also, I am the sole runner of this blog……… it gets lonely sometimes. (PS. Guest posts are welcome!!!!!!!!)
Hi, thanks for coming by!
Wrote on this a bit in the past: http://angrykpopfan.tumblr.com/post/28918510244/i-know-this-question-may-come-across-as-stupid-and-as
To sum up, it would be awesome if K-pop embraced ethnic and cultural diversity as much as it markets it, but we’re definitely not there yet, unfortunately. And even if we’re inching close, it will not come without conflict and a clash of opinions.
That’s fair - “indie” is supposed to mean that a group or an artist does not belong to a label, but it often gets thrown around quite broadly to the point it sometimes signifies a stylistic genre of music rather than a descriptor of how a band or an artist operates or produces. Something interesting as well are those “indie labels”, which I see sort of as start-ups by an artist or a group of artists.
Perhaps the better means of comparison between acts like SNSD and 10cm is indeed the “idol” label. None the less, I trip over myself when pondering what it means to be an “idol” (more thoughts spilled in this old post), and even whether in the context of K-pop, the labels “pop act” and “idol” are interchangeable. Quite a technical discussion, but with implications on the way we as consumers perceive K-pop.
Thanks for stopping by!
I failed to drop by in time to wish you all a great start to the new year!! 2013 would have not been another purposeful year for AKF if it wasn’t for you readers and thinkers - thank you for sticking with this blog, keeping alive and motivated through its ups and downs :) May 2014 bring more resourceful dialogue and discussion from this blog to you; and all the happiness and enlightenment in your journeys ahead!
You undoubtedly have every right in the world to feel offensive, and it is just an outright shame that K-pop continues to don the blackface, and with zero knowledge of its derogation towards many parts of the world (those that make up the global audience of shows such as “Running Man). But that exactly is the reality of the Korean entertainment industry, as well as the society as a whole - blackface and its history is not part of the common consciousness in Korea as it is with many of us and the societies we live in. We have to remember that many of us live in a very different bubble than those in the industry; and again, as I have stated many times whenever I address this issue, this is not a justification of it, but rather a way of trying to see where this is rooted.
This may be a weak comparison, but off the top of my head, we can somewhat parallel this to the image of the rising sun in popular American culture, whether it be in fashion, music, TV, etc. To consumers of products that don this visual, it may just be some harmless stylistic and aesthetic appeal with connotation to Japan or “Japanese”; but to many Koreans, this comes off as offensive as it was a symbol of Japanese imperialism, particularly their occupation in Korea. Only small parts of the popular consciousness know this, and everyone else continue a neutral, if not positive, reception towards that image. Of course, I am sure there are efforts to complete obliterate its usage in frivolous ways, as there are in the Korean entertainment industry (or outside of it) to spread awareness about the wrongs of blackface… the only problem is industry powerholders themselves are not listening.
But again, I doubt it’s all relatively “innocent” or “mindless” (if that is the impression some may have gotten from my spiel). You have a bunch of ridiculous assumptions still be broadcasted in either verbal or visual form. The infamous comment by SNSD’s Taeyeon on a radio show about Alicia Keys, or that from BIGBANG’s Seungri on his fear of being “attacked” by the black man whose van he accidentally entered in America, and many similar all show the gravity of the lack of intercultural education and sensitivity in Korean society, as well as many societies all over the world whose histories have been just as internal-looking and closed as Korea’s. How they have developed over the centuries may have been out of the hands of those in the present, but the present is in the driver’s seat for what’s to come.
What I personally sense from the industry of K-pop is how as much as it is being received from many parts of the world, it still fails at being receptive towards those parts of the world. What I mean by this is that though you have international fans and consumers, what the industry continues to spew back to us is not reflective at all of its diverse audiences, both within Korea and outside. You still have these instances of blackface, as well as many others such as cultural stereotyping (either “positive” or “negative” ones… all of which are ultimately negative), phenotypical glorification (such as light skin over dark skin, skinny over big), etc. It’s about time that the industry start facing these issues publicly, constructively and seriously, and I think our frustration is also rooted in the fact that this still has yet to take place. It will take a bunch of time though, as well as a bunch of mentality changes; but the advantage is that K-pop has a global audience who continue to be adamant about these things. And K-pop and Korean society is a tough cookie - multiculturalism and ethnic diversity and respect towards it are still incredibly young in the country (remember, it is not like the US or Canada where much of their histories are stories of immigrants and “race”…. but even if that is the case, these things still happen. I think the difference is the way the localized public reacts to it - there is a greater sense of alert and readiness on a bigger scale to confront the issue than there is in Korea), as social benefits and rights for foreign settlers today are still very much lacking. It’s aggravating that it comes up again and again, but we definitely just have to keep talking about it and incrementally taking it to the next level, from discussions among ourselves to hopefully, opportunities of discussion and policy changing with industry insiders themselves.
I hope I addressed your concerns clearly and to your benefit! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts (and sorry this is late ialjdfajkgf)