…This mostly pertains to your abuse of female fans. Yes, I’m talking to you, managers of Beast, 2pm, SHINee, DBSK and any other idol group whose managers think it’s acceptable to punch, slap or body-check fans. I shouldn’t have to talk you through why, exactly, it’s inappropriate to strike a woman in the way you’ve continuously done, but I will, seeing as no Korean news source has made a big enough deal about the continuing violence.
There are three things worth analyzing about this situation, first is the way in which idol culture actually encourages this type of obsessive fan–so it is very odd to see this violence used against them–second is patterns of violence against women, in general, in Korea and lastly is the role of the idols themselves in the situation.
Execs at entertainment companies are smart. In Korea, they know that the best way to make money is by targeting women with pretty boy idols. They know that, even though they spend as much to produce an album as their American or Japanese counterparts, their top-selling artist will make nothing close to a top-selling American or Japanese one. Why are fanclubs so important? Why is fanservice such a huge deal? Why do idols make cheezy video messages to their fans? I’m sorry to say it’s not because they love each and everyone of you, it’s because their management says that they have to do that to get loyalty.
How does loyalty equal big bucks? A lot of these idols want to be good at what they do. They are worked to the bone, they sign unethical, idiotic contracts and some find idol life and fame a better alternative to sleeping under a bridge like DBSK’s Yunho once did. So, of course, they are genuinely appreciative of their fans. But not as much as their companies will have you believe. It’s not just about love, it’s about loyalty–blind loyalty–and if you want to talk about butthurts and flamers, they are symptomatic of, and necessary to, idol culture. This is exactly what the companies want, they want their idols to be stalked, because those stalkers are buying 5 albums, they want fanclubs to have colors, to feel special, to feel as if they have to buy an album even if they only like one song, or, worse, they have to like the entire album, period. Loyal fans, emotionally invested fans feel obligated to buy.
“I’m single”, “I don’t have a girlfriend”, “I have no time for girls because I have so many wonderful fans!” Cue the cheering and screaming. Idols are instructed to deny having a significant other, but not for their privacy or self-preservation. They do it because this leaves young girls with the audacious hope, no, the sure knowledge that, “if only he met me, I could have him”. This is obviously patently false but they don’t know that so everyday a young girl waits for the airport arrival or Music Core exit, to get that much closer. They are non-violent, non-threatening, and instead of an autograph or conversation (or declaration of love) from their favorite idol, they get attacked by their clearly frustrated and ill-tempered managers.
†† CNBlue’s Company “The event happened on the 11th [Of Feb]. CNBLUE tried to enter KBS building for a rehearsal but too many fans were in the way. Even with the help of security guards we could not secure the way into the building so the group decided to help out. As that was happening, a fan almost tripped Jong Hyun by grabbing on and pulling his hoodie, to which the manager reacted violently. Our entire staff apologizes to fans about what had taken place; the manager has been given appropriate punishment and nothing like this will ever happen again.”
**SM Apology – “It seems this SHINee video is from their schedule during August of last year. We apologize to fans for this sort of unbelievable behavior. We will do everything in our power to prevent such incidents, and of course at the company level all managers will comply. Again, we are deeply sorry.”
The girl should not have grabbed onto Jong Hyun’s hood, the SHINee fan should have kept her distance, the DBSK fan (below) shouldn’t have come charging at any of the boys, but the reaction was–though, as expected, opposite–completely unequal to the previous action.
DBSK’s Manager (to be fair, this girl was charging at them like a raging bull, but still, maybe he shouldn’t have blocked her like a tight end)
This easy violence against women isn’t isolated to just these burst of violence caused by idol culture. On the whole, the Korean entertainment industry is almost decidedly screwed up, slave-like contracts, Jeon Ji Hyun getting her phone cloned by her management company (by no means rare), over-sexualized yet faux-innocent girl groups, it almost seems unreal. And for women, in media (see: Jandi and Junpyo’s relationship in BOF) and on the home front (see: the late Choi Jin Sil and her ex-husband’s relationship), things for women aren’t so hot either. Things have gotten a lot better in Korea, a lot better, but we still have Shin Dong saying that girls have to be prettier than boys, in public, and managers hitting girls, in public, without fear of consequences.
Here, I want to make a distinction. It is very different, obviously, what occurs in public and in private, this dichotomy is seen everywhere all the time. And while what happens in private is the reality of a culture, what one thinks is acceptable to do in public is another, equally important reality. That Shin Dong, thought his sexism was acceptable (or not sexism at all) says a lot about how things are in Korea, but the backlash also shows how things will be. That the managers had no qualms about striking a fan, even in the fully-acknowledged presences of cameras, shows how things are, the backlash shows how things will be. However, that the backlash came in the form of faceless, nameless people on the internet and no brouhaha was caused by the press, exhibits (besides the unethical, hegemonic synergy of media, which is another post in itself) that the people who demand the change, can’t or won’t stand up for it.
Sure, Shin Dong and other men now know not to say such things, but have they learned that it is actually wrong to think it? The managers now know that it was a mistake to be caught on camera hitting a fan, but do they know that it was wrong to do it in the first place? Because here is when we have to take a look at the way all women are treated. Domestic violence, less-valued work, spousal abuse, rape, sexual assault and the fact that any woman has to be wary of walking alone at night, all connect and these three managers hitting girls, regardless of the latter’s trespasses, are just another bullet point in the power point presentation (if you’ll excuse the metaphor).
It’s not just that these fans for female, but they were girls, they were kids, maybe teenagers but still the weaker of the two. I can point to the widespread use of corporal punishment in schools (you can see any drama pretending this is funny), the age hierarchy or the concept of seniority. Managers may be on a power trip, already in a bad mood, wanting to assert their power and knowing they can with little to no consequences.
In all these situations, the idols seem not to know what is going on, and when they do they seem genuinely concerned (in SHINee’s video it looks as if Minho and Taemin move towards the girl when the video ends) but we can’t know for sure. How many other undocumented acts of violence towards fans have occurred? The idols couldn’t have been ignorant to all of them. Idols barely get a say in there day-to-day lives, so you can’t expect them to take any sort of responsibility for this type of negative publicity. And at the end of the day, this all fits comfortably in what idol culture is and its by-products. Entertainment companies create fake, perfect, desirable girls and boys, they make them act in ways to secure fiercely loyal fans, they depend on this loyalty to result in album sales.
So at the end of the day, I have this to say. Entertainment company execs, hire body guards; big, wide, muscular bodyguards. It’s tempting to tease the fans with proximity, without them fearing giant men, but it gets increasingly frustrating to hear the same BS when all the problems you have with security can be solved with 2-4 giant bodyguards. Entertainment companies want the fans to want to touch the idols and they want the fans to think that they actually can due to the scant security, but it’s not worth the harm that can be done and has been done to idols (Yunho getting poisoned) nor the violence that has occurred to fans.