I’m sure many of us have noticed the rise of the all things Korean. I’m sure all you need to do is go into an Asian restaurant with a TV, grab a drink at Sakuraya, or even go to your local gym (they were playing Gangnam style at mine!).
I must confess that I too am a bit of a fan and was present at the large K-pop festival/concert last year. Haha. When people find out they usually think its strange – a Pastors wife who’s into K-pop. Though I do think I’m getting a bit old for it. “You don’t seem like a person who would be into K-pop” they say. I grew up as a mainly a J-pop fan. People were into many different asian artists – Jay Chou, Lee Hom, BoA, Utada Hikaru…so many songs we sing at Karaoke.
One day, I got a bit bored as there weren’t many new releases of the groups I like, so I started investigating K-pop. Admittedly, the image of K-pop is not great. Many people probably see the skinny, leggy girls dancing in unison or pretty-boys with a flash of abs.
Firstly I’ll clarify that I’m not into all of K-pop. K-pop a very broad term. It can include all different genres of pop, rock, ballads, hip-hop, r&b, dance, electronic etc. Basically, its just the same as Western music, except the music comes from Korea. There is also Korean Contemporary Christian Music. The groups ages can vary from teenage to early 30’s. I don’t like all genres, and I don’t like all groups. And not all groups are great/talented.
With any secular/created thing, it can be used for our enjoyment or we can idolise it. There are great aspects about K-pop at the same time we need to be discerning on its impact for us as Christians. At the same time, there are some concerns that I do want to address for us as Christians, which probably come more from the popular Mainstream K-pop.
1. Unhelpful depictions of beauty:
I guess if you watch anything long enough you’ll start to aspire to them somehow. South Korean is famous for its use of plastic surgery and I’m sure many K-pop individuals have had it done (and many admit they do). While I’m not going to comment on plastic surgery itself, it can be unhelpful for many girls (and guys) if we aspire to something which is unattainable. They have people looking after their diet, fitness, schedules, hair, make-up, bodies. They have huge budgets to ensure their music videos look amazing. I’m sure their photo-shoots are touched up.
One thing I am concerned about is the fashion that comes along with many music videos:
“Legs, legs and more legs. From Girls’ Generation to After School, 4Minute and Miss-A, it seems that no shorts or skirt is too tiny for these Korean girl groups. You can see them flaunting their long, flawless legs in music videos, concerts and TV performances, and even the cold winter didn’t deter them from doing so at these award ceremonies.” (RazorTV as quoted by Asia Pacific Journal)
For Westerners, perhaps cleavage is the ‘sexy’ thing. In South Korea, while showing cleavage is frowned upon, there seems to be no limit for how short the shorts/skirts can get. For guys, it might be the ‘chocolate abs’.
This can potentially bring about feelings of insecurity – about your skin colour (too light/dark), the shape of your face (is it V-shaped?), your body (do I have an S-line?), your build (do I have abs in the right place), your legs (are they as beautiful as so and so’s?). Yes, its fun to maybe watch make-up videos of how to copy your favourit celeb, but we all know in real life that they don’t look like that! You can see this by the frequent ‘bare-faced’ looks of various celebs. As Christians we know that external beauty does not last (see previous post) God is concerned with the inside.
“Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes.” (1 Pet 3:3-4)
2. Some may not be suitable for various (age) groups:
With the popularity of Gangnam style, you could hear the song everywhere. One of my relo’s kid’s unfortunately picked up the catchy phrase ‘eyyyy sexy lady…’ from the song and kept singing it. So not every song is appropriate for everyone. This video of the boy from the Gangnam style clip. He was discovered because of his TV show appearances. Although its great he dances, the kind of thing he is copying from TV is pretty concerning:
At 5 years of age, he probably has no idea that such kind of movements are sexually suggestive, he’s just copying what he sees.
Some groups have ‘sexy concepts’. I don’t encourage this for pre-teens or young kids. Some music videos are rightly banned or given an age-rating for those reasons as their dances are too raunchy or they contain swear words.
It’s not just younger kids that need some restrictions. With any group, there are also weird fans. There are middle aged ‘uncle’ fans for some girls groups like Girls Generation. If you are a guy, perhaps it may not be the most helpful if you’re favourite groups are all girls groups (same goes for girls). It’s pretty hard to believe that you’d like them ‘for their music’. Perhaps we need to evaluate more on whether particular groups or music videos are appropriate.
3. Sexualisation and objectification of girls
Unfortunately I see many of the girls groups are so young yet many times they have sexy concepts (their costuming, dance moves) which encourage people to view them sexually.
There could be a lot said on this. I just recall being at the K-pop concert with Kara came on with ‘Mister’ which has the famous ‘butt-dance’. You could just hear the young guys behind me…it was pretty sickening. That song came out in 2009, which means their youngest member was about 15…and that dance is nothing compared to some other dance moves out there.
4. It has the potential to be a great time-waster:
I suppose any hobby or music or whatever is capable of being used to waste time. There are so many music videos to follow, new groups, new songs, music countdown shows, K-pop news, not to mention all the K-dramas and movies.
With anything, we Christians need to exercise self-control. If our friends see that we are just the same as them in this area then this is not a great witness to them. (Perhaps you also need to review the way you obtain your music and dramas etc.) So you may not be able to catch up the latest news or view the music video before your friends. But perhaps some level of sacrifice is needed.
Ok, so I’ve painted so many negative aspects of mainstream K-pop but please don’t let that scare you away. I’m sure exactly the same things can be said of Western mainstream music.
There are many fun aspects to K-pop with its catchy tunes, amazing dance choreography and its slick and polished music videos and performances. The solo/group members are always crazily hardworking and many of them are extremely talented singer/actor/writer/musicians etc. There are also some Christians within K-pop (which we’ll look at in a future post).
Can you be a Christian and watch Harry Potter? or The Simpsons? Or movies with violence? or sexual content? or be into gaming? I think there are unhelpful ways to be involved and we need to be aware of the dangers. For some people, it may not be appropriate. For some, you may need to evaluate and find its not helpful for you to keep listening/watching. Otherwise I feel it is something that can be enjoyed while being discerning.
Perhaps you disagree with me. Love to hear your thoughts.
Update: given some of the comments, I’ve written about how to break a ‘K-addiction’ here.