• scuttlepants

    That’s interesting; Headspace training (mental health) tells us that everyone “does the best with what the have”, meaning they use strategies that get them the results they want, even if others can see those strategies are flawed. This article rings very true to that theme. I do feel sorry for Taemin and I can agree with you that his issues are no doubt caused by his doing “the right thing” in regards to projecting the persona his company wants.
    It’s particularly interesting because I would prefer idols be themselves- I don’t feel I have ownership of them and I would rather get to know a little of the real them than a fake image. I wonder if this is a western fan difference?
    On another note, K-Pop artists will eventually have to stop getting younger; there is a finite minimum age for existence!

    • bigmamat

      It is most certainly a Western fan difference. There are so many differences in Asian and western expectations of their stars that it’s hard to cover them all in a single post. A good example is about honesty. Westerners will tolerate quite a bit of crazy or even antisocial behavior from a star as long as they are impressed with the person’s abilities. Robert Downey Jr. is a perfect example. For years he was plagued by drug addiction and crazy drug seeking behavior yet he continued through most of it to work. Americans didn’t boycott his films and even when he was at the height of his drug problem years he was still receiving praise for his acting ability.

      • scuttlepants

        Yes, I genuinely don’t understand the concept of a fan’s ‘right’ to K-Pop stars, possibly to control or influence K-Pop stars’ lives, which seems to be prevalent in South Korea. Obviously there is a big culture difference there!

      • Isabel Medez

        True about the Western fan difference…
        I remember watching A Jimmy Kimmel vid on YT where Ryan Seacrest was the guest. He was very formal, avoiding controversial questions by answering very politically, just smiling at Jimmy’s usual sarcastic remarks. And when I read the comments on the vid, most of them were hating on Ryan. Saying things like he’s not being himself, he’s “playing safe” because he wants to keep his job, he’s fake & all that. W/c made me think…

        What Ryan showed on that show is actually what Kpop idols are trained to do. I guess Ryan has been in the business for too long that he has learned how to keep his mouth shut & be prudent. Sadly, the way westerners saw it, he was “playing safe”. I understand that Hollywood fans value “being true to yourself” images, I do, too. I just feel sad for Ryan because he’s just seen as someone “fake” in an industry that’s so full of criticism.

        And then I watched a Strong Heart episode where Leeteuk had a lot of airing time coz he just answers a lot of questions. Then one comment below said, “Leeteuk is Korea’s very own Ryan Seacrest.”

    • maldita

      K-pop artists aren’t getting younger. WE are just getting older. A new crop of 16-year-olds will always be around to debut. It’s just that we get older while the K-pop circle of life continues on churning new jailbait idols once in a while.

  • http://www.m-rated.tumblr.com/ Michelle Chin

    in daily life, we try to present the best of ourselves to generate a good first impression. in idoldom, you have to present the best of yourself every moment possible because your life is under scrutiny 24/7. i can imagine how suffocating they must feel to behave all the time but fans can be quick to judge and punish – especially anti-fans. though anti-fans are irrelevant but they matter from a marketing perspective. you don’t want your artistes (product) to be associated with negative connotations. and being “brand representatives” or “products” of entertainment companies that actually compete with one another to get the most market share, they have to ensure that they do not deliver faulty “products” and by doing so, they have to monitor their behavior well — even resort to lying. no fan wants a “faulty product”; something that goes against fan expectation or the fantasy that their oppas are perfect. yes, fantasy is what k-pop is for most. i see how my girlfriends drool over their oppas (i.e. omg, marry me!) and bleed their wallets for their oppas (i.e. take my money!).

    the above example is of course, really extreme but it is by no means, false. entertainment is a business: 10 percent art, 90 percent money. it’s turning into the next fashion industry in which designers and art themselves become irrelevant and it’s all milking the cash cows. maybe it already is. it’s just that we don’t see it because it’s veiled in flashy colours and hooky music.

    • bigmamat

      That’s the problem right there, Koreans see their idols as products. Westerners have a different overall attitude about their entertainers. We don’t call our entertainers “idols” we call them “artists”. And along with that title we give them a certain amount of license to be creative with their artistic output and with their personal behavior. Ever heard of Micheal Jackson? Well, I can think of no other artist in our history that was allowed to get away with more crazy shit and it never hurt his actual career. Almost everything he ever did artistically was golden. If the American public can except a black guy who turned himself white that was tried for diddling little boys then they are willing to except just about anything for a good dance tune.

      • http://www.m-rated.tumblr.com/ Michelle Chin

        um, it’s not specific to korean entertainment industry. it’s happening in the classical music industry as well…

        • bigmamat

          Which classical music industry, do we have one of those in the U.S.?

          • Nate Broadus

            As a matter of fact, we do — it’s just not pimped out and put on display like pop music. You have to dig beneath the crust to find it. It’s not going to be hanging out on a corner with its lacy leg extended like, say, Katy Perry.

      • Nate Broadus

        Our teen pop stars are as micromanaged as any Korean idol (except they aren’t discouraged from having a life). Disney follows a very similar formula to Kpop. The stars have to be squeaky clean, always a little bit more put together than the average person. The difference comes in what is expected of them once the camera goes off. Disney stars can cut records, get loaned out to other studios for movies and such, plus — and this is the big one — they get to go home at the end of the day.

        Our teen pop acts are product to the average American consumer; we just don’t expect them to be a soulless automaton every minute of their lives.

        As long as they play the part on tv and in the studio, they can go out and live a normal, if heavily exposed, life when they’re not.

        • Lillerz

          We do not call them idols. I mean people can say so and so is my idol but we can say that about anyone. It means something entirely different in Korea.

          • Nate Broadus

            I agree that the usage of the word “idol” has different meaning in Korea from what it is in the USA. I only felt compelled to point out that we absolutely do call them idols here — but without the expectations.

            What is expected of an idol is definitely different when you cross the ocean. However, we do call them idols in the good ol’ US-of-A. The term “teen idol” is an American creation (circa 1958, iirc, attributed to Ricky Nelson — though the idea of pop idolatry goes back even further to people like Valentino and Sinatra). We were the first to brand an entertainer an “idol,” and we still do to this day. My sister used to have a subscription to every teen pop mag ever conceived (I used to have to put thirty Teen Beat magazines in a black bag and stuff them into the closet. F*ck knows why it was MY job to do that — they were her “pamphlets.”), and they reveled in referring to entertainers as idols. That may be where the genesis of my dislike for the term lay.

            The only difference is, it’s just a name here. It carries no inherent promises of servitude, or implies that the person with the title is obligated to devote their lives to upholding the name’s power. It’s just a tag — a title that amounts to an adjective and nothing more. The only thing that makes them “idols” here is, they are idolized by people.

          • Lillerz

            Yeah, no one does that anymore. They get called teen sensation or a teenybopper. I can’t think of the last time someone got called a teen idol. Actually I think it was 80s movie. These days the only idols are american idols and that’s the truth at least with similar meaning to how a korean person would mean it. Icons entertainers artists, Idol isn’t used anymore. At least not the way I think you mean it. I haven’t watched nickelodeon in a while and maybe they still do it there. But again I think its a really old way term of a teen star. That like you said doesn’t carry the meaning it does it korean. It’s rarely used as a title anymore more along the lines of a description of dedication. She’s my idol, she’s my teen idol. Or she’s my fashion idol. Etc etc etc. Someone I looked up to for any particular reason basically. Where as in korean you call someone an idol it tells you what they do, what to generally expect and how everyone will act. In USA it just doesn’t get used as a title like that anymore. No one calls our current teenyboppers idols, do they?

          • Nate Broadus

            Yep, they still do. I have a little cousin who just loves the Disney flavors of the month and so I get an earful of that stuff more than I would ever care to hear it. Idol as an adjective still gets tossed around like cigarettes in the pen — along with the others you described.

            Modern American culture isn’t as progressive as they/we would like to think. Each generation seems to get less creative and instead of creating, they reach back to sample from previous generations. That’s why our pop stars release so many 80’s throwbacks and pretty much the same auto-tuned, voice boxed house/techno beat and just change a drum beat here and there and call it unique.

          • Lillerz

            hahaha I see. Well I’ll take your word for it. I stopped watching disney ages ago. I mean every now and then I go back but not for high school musical crap or whatever they are pushing these days. I’m a 90s ‘itch and I just can’t bring myself to cling to my golden tween days of screaming when I see a boyband. Unless it’s Nsync at which point I have no shame. Every generation needs a tween sensation, although I don’t remember ours being as free as they are now. As for unique, is that even possible at this point? I think stuff just gets recycle every 20 years which allows for the fresh and new effect.

          • Nate Broadus

            Sampling is one thing, but when you take:


            -then use it to make:


            …It’s just a little shameless. Sort of like Kim Kardashian is a little bit conceited — or Glenn Beck is a little bit of a massive douche.

          • Lillerz

            I didn’t connect those two at all. Hahaha, can’t believe she’s ever even heard this song before.But maybe I am just being a snob. Like I said, I don’t believe in originality in music anymore. It’s all be done before unless something completely new is invented I expect nothing less. However, can’t deny that is quite shameless did she even give credit for it? Probably not. Anyway, excuse me while I revisit the 80s.

          • Nate Broadus

            That song is significant because it literally began the MTV age (the first music video ever played on MTV — which gets even more ironic when you realize that MTV reality video stars killed the video star that killed the radio star; talk about a musical circle jerk.), so it wouldn’t surprise me if Nicki Minaj had heard of the song before. That doesn’t make it any less shameless, though. The only thing her producers change is the tempo.

            As for giving credit, she probably did in the liner notes — otherwise, I think she buries her head in “Roman Zolanski’s” velvet pillows and hopes like hell people won’t notice. You know, not taking into account that there are millions of people out there that lived through the 80’s and haven’t had their frontal lobes removed.

          • Lillerz

            I actually am aware of the video’s history. But I still think you are giving her more credit than she deserves. Now her producers no doubt……

            I am not defending her I am not a fan at all. It’s obviously a shameless copy of music no doubt but do I think her some mastermind thief behind it. Nope. Maybe because I have such a low opinion of her already. I think maybe someone did it for her and just present it as something new.

  • bigmamat

    Very good post and very topical considering this is a subject much debated with fans and often shakes out as korean fans against international fans. Companies are to blame but only partly to blame. Korean society is a “face saving” society. I’ve seen rants about this on expat blogs. Lying is often expected in order to “save face” not just your own but as a courtesy to others. That isn’t to say that lying in order to save face in western countries isn’t practiced either. Who hasn’t told the “little white lie” in order to save someone’s feelings? However, Asian culture takes this practice to another level. I have often seen long rants on expat blogs about some elaborate lie they were told over a trivial thing. This kind of lying often confounds westerners living in Korea. Koreans will often be brutally honest about some things like a person’s weight yet lie about something else that seems not worth lying about. I think your point is also well taken about the very young age of idols and their fans. This is often dragged out as an excuse for outright cyber bullying when an idol does anything that is considered contrary to their clean image. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen “but what about the kiddies” they are setting a bad example! Westerners aren’t any different than Koreans when a child star or young entertainment artist outgrows their childlike image. They are often shocked to find that little so-in-so drinks or smokes or god forbid had sex. Very few of our child stars transition to adulthood smoothly either. But for westerners the difference is degrees. Nobody expects young adults not to date or ever make a mistake. We only take a hard look at their behavior when it crosses a line that is way farther out in the west than it is in Korea.

    • mindlessnoise

      Koreans are considered the “Irish of Asia”. I think Koreans are pretty blunt compared to other Asians and many westerners as a matter of fact.

      For one thing, political correctness is not a big thing in Korea so you are going to have a lot of people speaking their minds frankly. In contrast, if you say anything politically incorrect in America, although there might be a lot of truth to it, and even when a lot of people are secretly thinking the same thing, you will lose your career over it, and there will be public shaming in the media.

      I think trying to project what goes on in the idol world onto Korean society as a whole is wrong. The idol world is so artificial that it doesn’t work. The idol industry is all about manufactured people, manufactured images, manufactured music, and manufactured groups that it’s not realistic to say all of Korea is like that.

      • Isabel Medez

        Haha! True about Koreans being blunt..

        My Korean friends just outright decline my dinner invitations sometimes. Like… if you live in the Philippines or in America, declining an offer is considered a little rude. But, I dunno… Koreans just do. Just say no w/o giving it a 2nd thought whatsoever. And you just learn to not make a big deal out of it coz it’s their culture.

        And when you actually gain weight, Koreans would sometimes tell you, quite frankly, that you gained weight. Like, do you really need to say that? My American friend told me that if you do that in America, you might slapped at the face. LMAO.

        “So talking about WGM and other shows where idols appear and Korea as if the world of kpop is a microcosm of Korea and Korean values is kind of ridiculous.” <— Amen. My male Korean friends get frustrated at how some Kdramas depict their male characters. Coz Korean males aren't really lovey dovey like how they are shown in Kdramas. And here comes some international fan expecting to have a Korean boyfriend and have high expectations about their emotional capacity.

        • bigmamat

          Well I watch korean movies and in most of them men are severely emotionally retarded. Most of them have a mommy fixation, an abusive father or none at all. So even if you use Korean entertainment as a jumping off point you still aren’t really seeing everyday dudes. You know guys you work with, Korea must have millions more of them. Any woman that thinks there are huge fundamental differences in male behavior anywhere they go hasn’t been paying attention.

    • The Musical Commentator

      Your reference to the expats got me thinking: would a Korean by confounded to know that we are (more) accepting of drugs, guns, etc.
      b/c currently in the west, we suffer the complete opposite thing. We’re way too lax on the image of public figures and give them way too much freedom. Look at Miley Cyrus, Paris Hilton, Jersey Shore, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, etc. Not exactly the best role models
      In asian culture, structure, stability, and honor are more valued, and people will go great lengths to preserve them.
      It’s an interesting phenomenon, the ailments of the east and west

      • find_nothing_here

        Yet Korea and Japan both have serious problems with public drunkedness. So much for stability.

        • The Musical Commentator

          At least they don’t have random shootings (in grade schools), IED explosions in marathons, huge drug problems, and planes flying into buildings :P
          During the events of the Fukushima plant explosion and the earthquake/tsunami, the Japanese were quite orderly and were able to evacuate quickly. If it was America, there would be looting and theft going on in the chaos. How do I know this? Just look at the LA Riots 1992

          • bigmamat

            So you went back 20 years, and BTW the riots in LA didn’t start because of a natural or man made disaster. The riots in LA were caused by social unrest. Where we failed in the U.S was after Hurricane Katrina but it wasn’t due to looting. It was due to poor planning and incompetent leadership. Korea and Japan don’t have random shootings because they don’t have guns or 225 million more people spread out over 50 states

            Oh and preach all you want about structure, stability and honor but it’s just a united front. Asian people’s be frontin….cause you have all the same ills we do you just try to hide it. One in 5 Korean men visit a prostitute 4 times a month. Every 26 minutes a sex crime is reported, public drunkenness, gambling come on now. People are people. Yeah, Americans are sex crazed, we like to party, but at least we’re up front about it. And even with all that I’d like to see you tell an American to their face that we don’t have any structure, stability or honor.

          • The Musical Commentator

            Yes, I went back 20 years; attitudes don’t change like the seasons, takes time. It doesn’t matter if the Riots were started by an alien invasion or a zombie apocalypse. The point is that there was no sense of unity, people took advantage of the chaos, and the gov did nothing to step in.

            Air rifles are still legal in Korea and Japan and probably also in China, and in my humble opinion, they’re still pretty good for killing/hurting people. You’re right, there aren’t 225 million spread out over 50 states. There are 50 million in ROK and 127.6 million in Japan, most of them crammed in the cities, perfect hotspots for a very successful and unsuspected shooting to go on, especially in countries that are unfamiliar with such incidents.
            Prostitution is a business, and it’s not like ppl can’t go to work cuz they’re busy banging hookers.
            Being upfront about orgies/crazy parties, etc. isn’t always a good thing. I don’t think it’s great to promote these kind of things to our younger generation. Just look the copycat parties of Project X. Some of those parties resulted in hefty damages to homes, a death, and multiple arrests. Although society can’t be perfect,we shouldn’t be so audacious about unhealthy activities for the sake of future generations.

            In America, we preach about “liberty and justice for all,” but that is also “just a united front.” An INDIAN man was stopped by airline security on my way to San Antonio b/c he “looked” muslim. There is a noticeable difference between a Sikh’s turban and a Muslim turban (and very few muslims here are out to get us). Did you also hear about the many ppl whining on twitter that the new Miss America “isn’t even American?” And don’t forget the outcome of the Zimmerman trial. The jury, regular citizens like you and me, decided that a man who shot an unarmed, “suspicious-looking” teenager is not guilty of murder/manslaughter.

            All countries think that ideals like honor, justice, freedom. etc are important, but some of those are held to higher esteem based on the culture. Did i ever say we don’t have ANY structure, stability, or honor? And did i ever say that Korea is some utopia?
            And what’s with the “you”? “I’d like to see YOU tell an American…” da fuq 0_o
            I’m a citizen of the United States. This “you” is starting to sound just a liiittle bit exclusive. Pray tell, what makes me an Amercan?

            Just accept the fact that shit goes on everywhere and all countries have their problems and all of them go against their beliefs from time to time.

          • find_nothing_here

            I think that I was under the impression that you were trying to present Korea as some “better” and “pure.” I didn’t see the end of your post and I apologize for not reading more thoroughly.

            Japan and Korea have extremely strict gun laws; in Japan you can own an air rifle, but that’s not at the same level of American firearms. Plus, if we look at gun violence we should look at daily casualties, which are a lot higher in America than in Western Europe and parts of Asia with stricter gun laws. So yes, we do have a lot of problems, I’m not going to discount that. I just hate the whole “I left American music because it’s nothing but sex and drugs! 1111” shtick.

            I guess to a lot of Westerners, the Korean act of face-saving comes across as being hypocritical or two-faced.

  • Asiabang

    To be honest, I think this image that Taemin is good at lying, is just that – an image. It’s an image which SM Entertainment has constructed. Everything Shinee, including Taemin, says on Weekly Idol or WGM or any other show, has been carefully scripted to fit in with their character.

    Is it really “lying” if you’re just assuming a character for your idol image? I think it’s best to think of idols as being like actors or comedians. They take on a character when they’re on stage or on camera, and it’s probably not what they’re like in real life. I think it would be foolish to ever think that we see the “real” selves of any idol.

    • bigmamat

      Problem is they aren’t allowed to have a “real life”.

      • maldita

        I actually think they have more of a real life than most people expect them to have. It’s just that it stays in private and hardly anybody (except the sasaengs, I guess) gets to see it.

        • Olliana

          I agree with you that they do have a real life. They simply are far more private about it.

      • Asiabang

        I think that the idea that they don’t have a real life is fabricated too. People would prefer to support a group that is working hard (or at least appears to be working hard) more than one that is being slack, right? I think fans find the idea that these idols are working so hard that they don’t even have time for their family and friends endearing.

        I know this is a pretty cynical stance to take, but I feel trying to be realistic is the best way to understand this.

        • bigmamat

          Realistic an Kpop don’t seem to go together. lol

    • find_nothing_here

      You can’t just create an image out of thin air. Not all idols are good at acting, so sometimes you have to play of the personality that they have. Sure, a lot of it is exaggerating some traits, playing down others. But to say that image is comepletely divorced from who most idols are as a person is a bit much.

  • cancertwin2

    Unfortunately I’ve been a fan of Kpop long enough to have seen several idols get caught ‘lying’. Anyone remember Leeteuk’s little situation way back when? A small lie turned into a huge disaster and even got a woman fired from her job. But what I thought was the most interesting is the fans that rebuked him because on some level fans are to blame when idols lie about dating and such. They expect them to be pure angels devoid of any imperfection. That’s just not realistic. As an international fan it can be quite uncomfortable when you first see your favorite idol step out of their assigned character. For me it was Max Changmin from TVXQ. After he had his image stolen by Xiah Junsu, he was at a loss but soon started being more himself. Some fans took it negatively because he was the youngest and was expected to be the cute one even though Xiah was more fitting for that image. Being cute never fit well with Max’s personality. Though he rubbed some Cassies the wrong way, in the end we got to see more of the real him. I’ll take the Dark Lord Maknae over the cookie-cuter image anyday.

    • sereneione

      I’m curious. So what was Leeteuk’s little situation?

      • maldita

        Back in 2007 or so, Leeteuk said on Sukira that Kim Yuna (the famous and beloved ice skater) rejected his friend request on Cyworld. ELF got pissed and attacked and spammed her Cyworld minihompy, saying things like “how dare she refuse Leeteuk.” Then Yuna’s fans counterattacked and it became one huge mess. Turns out that such a thing never happened and Yuna never got a friend request. Leeteuk only made up the story for something interesting to say in Sukira. SMH

        • sereneione

          Right. This little situation. Thanks for clarifying. I only replied now because I was commenting on another article. Coincidentally, a Leeteuk article. Sigh…

    • Lillerz

      yeah what little situation? :P I don’t pay attention to him so I am lost.

  • moar_coffee

    Really interesting article, the “keeping-your-image” part of being an idol is so prevalent that as I’ve become pretty desensitized to the whole idea. I pretty much assume whoever I’m watching isn’t really being him/herself. It seems like Korean celebrities are really aware of what their image is and how to maintain it, hence idols saying things on variety like “oh this will ruin his/her chic image”. Western celebrities don’t (publicly) confront their image that way, it would be seen as gauche to be aware that you’re viewed as cool. Western celebrities would be more likely to say “I don’t care what people think” than Korean celebrities. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the fact that they endorse everything under the sun. Nobody will want to hire you as a ramen spokesperson if you were brutally honest about your dating experiences.

    I do think it would be shortsighted to make this entirely an East/West thing. Celebrities deny they’re dating, or that they’ve done drugs, etc. here as well. Just because someone appears to be more frank about their life in an interview doesn’t automatically mean they’re acting out a persona any less than a Korean idol. I think of how crazy hilarious Russell Brand is in interviews, but he said himself he’s not like that 24/7. Look at how upset (some) people are with Miley Cyrus because of her new image, people feel that they were lied to about who she really is because for a long time her image was “Disney channel princess / girl next door”. Image manipulation exists everywhere, it’s just confronted differently in Korea.

    Once you watch start watching Korean interviews/variety it becomes an exercise in reading between the lines.

  • Hannah

    Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t these “white lies” sort of a fixture in Korean society? I remember reading online that “saving face” is very important in conversations/meetings–and in order to do so a small lie may have to be told. If this is the case, then idol-dom only amplifies this practice, because they’re having to preserve their image to millions and millions of people.

  • Sabah

    Excellent topic and insightful article! I think the issue might be rooted in the fact that Korean variety is a genre all of its own. It’s not lying or if we get technical about it, ‘acting’ like you see in dramas and films but then it’s not reality TV either. It’s somewhere in between: scripts with twinklings of real feelings.

    For this reason I give Korean Variety and Kpop personae a lot of lee way or rather I’ve learned to do so. In the beginning of my discovering Korean Variety and Kpop idols, you could say I was truly charmed. Nothing brought home this fact to me more than when I was trying to explain the concept of WGM to a someone who had never watched any Korean TV. She couldn’t understand how a program like that could work, and I was explaining it so terribly…

    “So it’s fake marriage, like pretend playing house that we used to do as children?”
    “But it’s all fake…”
    “Yeah, but the entertainment comes from their awkwardness at playing the fake/pretend set-up.”
    “But that’s fake too..”
    “Yeah…but no because they are really naive about these things…being idols and all…”

    Wait, what did I just say?…And that’s when I realized I’d bought into that image they were selling. I think mostly because it was so different to anything I’d seen before but that’s because (as I’ve been informed) Kpop and it’s variety is marketed mostly to tweens and teens in Korea. If say it was meant for people in their 20’s and 30’s then maybe, I say maybe, it would be more like Jersey Shore etc. Because as shocking as it was for me to find out, hehe, Korean people including idols are capable of that too! http://seoulnightlife.tumblr.com/

    That’s when the spell was broken and unfortunately I can’t go back to those days of believing in the Tooth Fairy or Kpop Idol personae. As much as I want to because yeah I still tune in, and yeah I still light up with Gary goes anywhere near Ace Ji Hyo just like I still leave out cookies and milk for Santa but it’s never gonna be like it was when I was naive. HOWEVER, I don’t knock it, not at all because I’m glad I had that time, I’m glad I was fooled because it was lovely and engendered warm fuzzy feelings AND I’m happy that they are ‘lying/fooling’ whole new generations both in Korea and Internationally because that happiness is precious. AND I’d have it last as long as people would let it because there’s plenty of time for growing up and accepting reality later…decades of it in fact. :( hehe

    • Tanya Joshi

      I couldn’t agree with you more, seriously. There’s just something a lot more charming in K-pop because you NEVER see that anywhere in the West, and when you get into K-pop/varieties/dramas, it’s just like you’re escaping from reality. Even though I’m kind of straddling on both sides of the fence for the honestly level (and I mean for the fans, not the for the idols themselves, because for the idols I feel bad that they have to keep up such an image for most of their lives and then just have those ideas lodged into their brains and continue it in their regular lives), because of your comment (and that Tumblr link), I realized that I like the image that they keep up a lot more than the truth.
      I personally, and I know I’m gonna sound really annoying because I’m the odd one out of the bunch, don’t agree with partying/clubbing, drinking, drugs and sex (I’m 19, so it’s not like I’m not at the age where people do these things regularly) and don’t participate in ANY (and I mean, ABSOLUTELY NONE) of it. You could say I am too innocent (more likely too naive), but it’s nice to have SOMEthing where you can just escape from life and enjoy the simple (even though, in truth, it’s complex) things that you find in K-Pop: the interactions between members, the innocent jokes, etc. But after looking at that link, I realized JUST how much they’re like the young people in the West. While I wasn’t expecting them to be innocent in real life, it shattered my opinion on who the real people are. Now, I’m not saying they’re bad people, but I realize that they’re people that I would actually not get along with or even dislike if they were, say, just my classmates (I know my classmates are nice people, but I just can’t relate to them) (God, I sound like a loser)

      There’s two sides to the honesty level, as in the effect on fans. One side is that since they’re catering to younger people anyways, their lies are things that they must uphold because of the age group of the consumers. On the other hand, the K-pop-verse is just SO not like real life, that when fans realize what they’re oppas and unnies are really like, it’ll just be sad (once again, not saying they’re bad people. They’re just normal; in fact, too normal for my liking, but hey, what can I expect, there’s not that many people like me in the world anyways)
      But for the idols themselves, it really isn’t healthy. If the companies just loosened their grips on the image of the idols in general, I’m sure that there wouldn’t be as many scandals, and they wouldn’t have to worry about a “faulty” product (as Michelle Chin mentioned) because people weren’t expecting a squeaky clean thing in the first place (a great example is IU; if they just didn’t have that “perfect girl/Nation’s little sister” image in the first place, people wouldn’t have been insulting her so much).

      Anyways, sorry about the rant…
      Also, sorry if I insulted anyone in any way with my whole “I don’t like drugs, blah-di-blah” section, that’s just my personal opinion and how I live my life, so yeah…

      • Sabah

        Oh no, am I the one who told you the Easter Bunny/Santa don’t exist? Ah!!! Sorry…maybe I should take the link down…

        Firstly, you’re not a loser. There aren’t bad or good temperaments and personalities just different. We’re trying to create a civilization here and not a homogeneous zombie land (no offence to zombies) so you are vitally important for that diversity. Most importantly (and I think you’re going to like this part) the fact that you exist, even as a minority within your environment, means that there a possibility that someone like you exists in the kpop idoldom too. Yay! Personally Taeyang always seemed different to the norm…but I could just be fooling myself because I really just need to believe it, hehe. I posted the link not to suggest that this is the norm but just to remind people that diversity exists in Korea and Kpop too.

        Finally I agree with you about this lying/fooling being detrimental to the kpop image because it is very much like the story of the boy who cried wolf. Once you see a person as a liar even the truth they tell becomes tainted. Here’s hoping for a better and more diverse future for all of us fans and kpop idols alike!

        • Tanya Joshi

          No, really, it’s fine! I always knew deep down that that was how they’re really like. But your comment really brought that to the surface. It’s just like when I entered university last year, all my opinions of people were shattered (once again, they’re not bad people) but I enjoy living myway a lot more, and so I try my hardest to find people like me (and trust me, that is one of the hardest jobs ever). And keep the link up, haha. It was quite amusing to look at the things some people do on their free time for “fun”. I will still watch Kpop until I’m a few years older and will always keep the images I have of my favourite groups/people because, like you said, it’s a much better time that way, and Kpop is just a way to escape real life!

          • Sabah

            Yeah but I didn’t want to be the one that destroyed the illusion. Anyway, thank you for your kindness and not calling the spoiler police or something, hehe.

            I did read an article about how people in Korea think it’s weird that older people abroad listen to kpop, but then I know grown men that quote spongebob squarepants. Each to his own and all that jazz.

            I haven’t any plans to stop listening/watching Kpop and Kvariety shows, even though it’s not the same anymore but who knows what the future will bring. Like someone once said, you are all your stages at once, child, youth and adult AND you can’t disown one stage without killing a part of yourself.

          • Tanya Joshi

            Spongebob is the man, haha.
            I don’t want to stop listening to K-pop but the whole image-shattering thing definitely won’t be the reason I stop. One day, I will outgrow it, but I will never regret it, and it will always be special to me!

      • J2201987

        I personally, and I know I’m gonna sound really annoying because I’m the odd one out of the bunch, don’t agree with partying/clubbing, drinking, drugs and sex (I’m 19, so it’s not like I’m not at the age where people do these things regularly) and don’t participate in ANY (and I mean, ABSOLUTELY NONE) of it.

        No, you’re not the odd one out, as I’ve spent most of my life (including my past 8 legal adult years) not doing any of those things. I just had my first (and only) club experience when I turned 26 this year.

  • Diah

    “It seems inconceivable that people would believe such a ludicrous excuse”

    WAIT. People actually believed Loen’s statement?

  • ShineeWorld52911

    Just be real ppl. lying gets you nowhere because the truth will come out whether you like it or not

  • intheshort

    My philosophy about honesty in KPop: the wool will stay pulled over my eyes as long as I don’t blink too hard.

  • Jolly Roger

    It’s all part of the “saving face” imperative in East Asian cultures.
    Like the Japanese to this day still never admitting they did anything wrong in WW2.
    Everyone knows the truth (or at least can see through the lies) but as long as nothing is admitted, the charade can go on, regardless of how insulting to our intelligence the lies and excuses are.

    • mindlessnoise

      I think Koreans are a lot less into saving face than the Japanese. When ranking people or choosing partners, these variety shows can be very brutal. Idols are rejected as partners by other idols. Even female idols are rejected harshly for example when a male idol is asked who he wants to pair up with, he will literally push away the idol he doesn’t like as much.

      • Jolly Roger

        i hate that crap. most of the time these girls are still in their teens and early 20’s and still very self-conscious with not much self-confidence as it is, and some jerk-off treats her like she has the bubonic plague. Always wanted to beat down those a*holes who don’t have a clue about tact and compassion towards females.

        • bigmamat

          It’s a little like public bullying you know, because it’s designed to humiliate. I always hated the first two weeks of American Idol. Refused to watch it. Because it was nothing more than making fun of the crazy and the retarded. Most of these people have families. I don’t get it. Nobody in the family will take them aside and say, “man don’t do it”.

  • Juliana

    Might I translate this article in portuguese? It is really interesting.

    • http://seoulbeats.com/ Linds_SB

      For the purposes of allowing more people to read it? That should be just fine, as long as you credit Seoulbeats and the author when you post it :)

  • Guest

    honestly i don’t like to think about how scripted shinee is in everything. like you can’t even trust what they (and other idols) say about simple things. makes me sort of depressed when i think that they are just like a manga character, but at least the manga character is being straightforward in its fakeness. :/

  • Guest

    lol omg i hate taemin on wgm. not because i’m jealous (naeun is beautiful and my fav member of apink) but because it makes me like him less because of how obvious some of his lies are. i don’t mind scripting. but i don’t understand why he would say in one episode that he’s never dated, and then in another one that he’s had multiple gfs. honestly if he’s going to lie he might as well be consistent.

  • Guest

    “..he has developed an almost compulsive lying habit.”

    Wow lol now I feel sorry for whoever marries a kpop idol. I don’t think I could be in a relationship with someone who lies all the time.

  • mindlessnoise

    I was thinking about this issue recently so this article is really timely for me. I think the fact that so many idols become trainees and debut at a young age is the problem. They live their lives in a fishbowl way from a really young age, 15? in Taemin’s case. They can’t really be themselves. They have to always think about their image all the time and get everything approved by the company first. It’s a bit like the movie Truman with Jim Carrey. We never know if they are showing their true personalities at any one time or whether they are portraying an image the company wants them to display, even on reality shows where they are supposed to be natural and themselves. I don’t think it’s a healthy way to live.

  • Lava

    I actually realise more and more how common lying is in korean entertainment when I hear idols or actors being known for being really honest, it’s so strange to me how honesty can sometimes be so fascinating to the cast on these variety shows!
    Also in Taemin’s case, I’m sorry but it’s totally his and his parents fault that he lies so much, come on no matter how young he debuted there are plenty of other idols in his position who also debuted young and live in the entertainment world, he just didn’t learn that lying was wrong properly- in WGM he even giggles when he gets caught out it’s just weird to see a 20 year old boy lying like a child would.

  • Rosekirachan .

    I love this article! It analyzes the entire k-pop industry’s habit of lying thoroughly and interestingly. I guess the fans are so used to their lying that becomes unsurprising after a while; we know they lie, but we appreciate their music and image. If idols acted as normal people, there wouldn’t be anything special anymore. I’m sure every idol member in the industry told at least one lie in their career lifetime.

  • anonymous

    This was a well written article and I agree with almost everything in it, but there was a section that bothered me.

    “The “lies” they tell on broadcasts are fairly obvious to the trained eye, but the lies they tell in their personal lives are probably just as prevalent.”

    The “lies” they tell on broadcasts could be (or are probably) from a script, and these lies come off as lies when idols slip up or break consistency (thus revealing that they were actually lying), or when they just decide to tell the truth (rarely, I think – I can’t really recall a specific example at the moment). However, I find it a bit presumptuous to extend that to their personal lives and selves. We don’t know how well these idols have separated their public and private selves, and we don’t know how they interact within their personal relationships. Perhaps they are truly compulsive liars, or good liars (although good liars would be able to lie consistently, not slipping up revealing the lie), or they could just be poor at their responsibility to maintain their given persona. Perhaps some idols are inconsistent with the image, and they start to look like liars, but in that sense, wouldn’t an idol that has kept his crafted persona well intact be the better liar? While the dishonesty in the industry is very much obvious and all people in it do lie one way or another, it might be assuming to jump to a connection in their personal lives. After all, even the moments we see them “lying” are through recorded moments.

  • Smoky Round

    I think it’s sad that the idols can’t be themselves — one little slip and it’s over for them. KHJ, in one of the Barefoot Friends episodes where the members had to write a rap song and perform it, tellingly said he wanted to live like a non-celebrity for a day. That just for that one day he wanted to let it all out. I found the rap lyrics kinda of sad…. Perhaps that explains why he’s gotten more reserved in recent years.

    “There’s no Kim Hyun Joong

    Please give me your autograph

    Please take a picture with me

    You are so handsome

    Everyday, I repeat the same routine

    Most of the time, I don’t get to talk

    I’ll be honest with you, You’ll be touched

    After this song, I’ll be in remorse

    I’m a workaholic, always focusing on my image

    The game is on

    When off guard, I’ll be damaged

    I’m like a cicada singing on a tree

    I’ll disappoint you today

    I’m in a stormy period

    I couldn”t tell you, but I was too full to eat free food

    You don’t have to do that

    I’ll sign on the receipt

    I’m an innocent man, who prefers sports to girls

    I want to take a rest sometimes ”

    I guess most of the idols probably have similar thoughts and feelings.

  • Russ Wilkinson

    KPop has one product to sell and one product only, as does pop music in general…fantasy.
    No one is that popular, pretty, handsome, cute, etc. They have stylists, choreographers, voice coaches, acting coaches, composers, lyricists, producers, managers and press agents to create and maintain that product for the consumers…us.
    Once you get to the point where you can separate the product from the person (ie admitting that you have no clue who that person really is or what they’re like) the whole thing becomes enjoyable.
    Think of it as a scripted/unscripted movie with no basis in reality.
    I do have to admit though that learning to lie like some of the idols do and the casual way they do it is kinda disturbing.

  • Sabina Mohan

    I gotta say I disagree with people saying that lying and having fake on-camera personalities does not exist in American media. Any entertainment industry, be it Korean or American, is filled with people maintaining an image-whether it be bad boy or good girl in order to appeal to the masses. For example, if anyone has watched the Real Housewives of ATL you would recall that there was a scandal between Kenya and Walter in which Walter went on a radio show and said that their entire relationship was fake.Yet it still didn’t And let’s not forget when Britney first came out and they were portraying her as this virgin sex pot, only for it to unravel later on. I used to work in a newsroom and you’d be surprised how many people were actually completely rude and obnoxious off-screen but on-screen would pull themselves together as if nothing happened and vice versa. The key is they feed off of what people want. Unlike Koreans, Americans love stars in scandals (sometimes too much so) and in most instances they don’t suffer a lot of repercussions. Matter of fact we glorify it to the point where we’ve become desensitized. Plus, it’s harder to cover things up when anyone with a cell phone camera can post video or a photo of you online where it becomes headline news. Whereas in kpop, the idols suffer economic repercussions if they’re caught in some sort of scandal. And this is not to say that there hasn’t been any scandals prior to kpop being more well known or that idols never lied until now-it’s more so Koreans and the kpop industry view images and scandals differently

  • sani

    it’s hard beinga a kpop idol when fans, saesang, netizen give a 24/7 attention to them. i mean a facial expression, a glance, a gesture, a middle finger worth a thousand words (specially for haters who don’t have a life). my religious, kind, nice friend gave a middle finger several times but she NEVER turn to a bitch. but it’s always diferent to idol.
    for idol i don’t ask them to be an angel like. but just simply down to earth and not big headed like feeling “i’m the best here, who you? you just nothing compare to me”.