“It’s been a long time comin’ but we here now” -more like, where the hell have you been? Our first Seoulbeats roundtable was quite the experiment; haphazard, irreverent and really long, some of you liked the roundtable and some people didn’t. We decided to do a second one, but in a different more constrained format. Of course getting a bunch of people from different time zones together to discuss kpop isn’t easy. So there was no rush.

Problem is, we did manage to get together for a nice thought-provoking discussion- but you know how some television series have “lost episodes”, shows that were done in prior season but never made it to air? ….Yeah. So here is our “ lost roundtable” so to speak. The discussion is based on a video that was released some time ago, but ultimately, the topics we discussed are still culturally relevant.

This video was the basis of the discussion:

Which led to this discussion: There’s been some dialogue over 2NE1 being promoted as “strong, independent women,” so with all the dark, sexy masculine concepts floating around, maybe we could have a discussion concerning “What makes a k-pop entertainer a good role model?” SNSD are always criticized for pandering to their male fan base, but is their new image [Dark Soshi] any better? Should it even matter, and why?


Just gonna jump into this briefly, but I think it’s so ridiculous that Jinu’s boasting about the “miss independent” movement in Korea like it’s a totally new thing, and then CL commenting about how it’s a good time to be a woman in Korea. False, dudes. Korea’s treatment of women is so deep-seatedly horrible that it’s gonna take a lonnnnnnng time and a trillion fierce girl groups to come along before they’ll make even a budge in society.


Exactly! That was pretty much what was bothering me about that story, but I wasn’t able to put it into words! I would really like for us to have in depth discussion on that.


Thank You! I thought I was the only one.I think it’s great that women have a new attitude about their roles in relationships. But I wouldn’t go as far as to call it anything close to being independent. Korean women still are being heavily controlled by their patriarchal culture (not unlike other societies). Until they get “real” power, like in the workplace, I don’t think it’s appropriate to pretend that things are wonderful for women. I think a really independent Kpop artist is one that can talk about real topics as well as pop culture. I think Tasha is a better example for speaking out about her experience with racism (Black Happiness), which is still a serious issue all over the world.


Ok, another question to move discussion a little bit. With most girl groups adopting a “mature” concept, is this some sort of facade to make Korean women seem powerful and sexy? If I were just to judge by kpop performances and MV, I would never realize the gender issues that are rampant there. I still think I don’t to an extent. Is there anyone in the media that you think is doing a genuine job of empowering Korean women?


Hmm, that’s really hard. So many people think that women have to be sexy to be empowering. And while the freedom for women to express their sexuality after a long history of people suppressing it is great and I don’t mind it at all, I think exploiting it and associating a woman solely to her sexuality is as much as a problem as making her hide it. What bothers me more is that in Korea they often pretend that “sexy” is merely a concept, not really sexy and you’re a perv or hypersensitive if you recognize it as such… For example, BEG had ‘Abracadabra’ and it was risque and then Ga In had to claim that she was a virgin to counteract the “controversy”. It reminds me of the whole Britney [Spears]/Virginity thing. She had this highly sexualized image, but apparently it was all okay if she claimed she was a virgin.


I’d say that it definitely is better for a woman in Korean society than it used to be it is still not great. I for one would never accept that my husband HAD to go to those escort bars every night because that is just how the business culture is there. Also, the fact that a woman’s career is basically over if she has a child is ridiculous.) I also found this article on kill heels, I know they’re pretty, but are women basically subjecting themselves to a form of modern day foot binding?

source: My Daily, April 4th

10cm or more, is the key to stimulating calf muscles more and more thin, and making a thin, more feminine leg line. Enough to tolerate the discomfort, kill heel effects are great. There is no beauty without effort. Actresses show off their tears, overcome the leg line and will continue in the future.


And got to thinking who invented high heels and who brainwashed everyone into thinking they make a woman more sexy/beautiful? i decided to look up some history and found this:

  • In ancient Rome, sex trade was not illegal and female prostitutes were readily identified by their high heels (Wilson 2005)
  • Already we can see issues of domination and submission being associated with shoes much like the lotus shoes of China. Indeed, Chinese concubines and Turkish odalisques wore high shoes, prompting scholars to speculate if heels were used not only for aesthetic reasons but also to prevent women from escaping the harem (Kunzle 2004).

Reasons against wearing high-heels, which are almost exclusively health and practicality reasons, include:

  • they can cause foot pain
  • they can create foot deformities, including hammertoes and bunions
  • they can cause an unsteady gait
  • Women who wear high heels frequently have a higher incidence of degenerative joint disease of the knees. This is because they cause a decrease in the normal rotation of the foot which puts more rotation stress on the knee

Reasons for wearing high-heels, which are almost exclusively aesthetic, include:

  • they change the angle of the foot with respect to the lower leg, which accentuates the appearance of calves
  • they change the wearer’s posture, requiring a more upright carriage and altering the gait in what is considered a seductive fashion
  • they make the wearer appear taller
  • they make the legs appear longer
  • they make the foot appear smaller
  • they make the toes appear shorter
  • they make the lower leg muscles more defined
  • they make the gluteus maximus more defined

I’m not sure if I’m totally going off on a tangent, but I think it’s all related.


I think that is absolutely relevant. And something like the ‘kill-heels’ probably hits closer to home than we realize, since it’s not a phenomenon intrinsic to Korean society. And it also makes me think about how we, as Westerners, look at the country’s obsession with unrealistic standards of beauty (not to mention our own homeland’s obsessions with beauty) and our obsession with k-pop and how it could begin to affect us after prolonged exposure to it..

Personal Anecdote:

One of the first things I learned about the cultural aspects of South Korea was the plastic surgery. Upon entering college I discovered how commonplace the eyelid procedures were, but had until my infusion into k-pop had no idea how extensively plastic surgery factored into the society. I always thought the exaggeratedly long legs of anime heroines were but a fantasy, until I saw the chopstick gams of SNSD. And I was a bit jealous. Being a Black American, it’s (often true) sweeping generalization that our culture places less focus on looking like Halle Berry as long as you love yourself.

It was the same in my family, the inner appearance is superior to the outer -and I believed it, still do. But being thrust into a completely foreign culture and trying to comprehend so many aspects of it made me reevaluate my own culture, including my own preconceived notions of South Korea and my interest in them.

I mean of course it was all horrific. Middle school girls mentioning nose jobs as casually as a dental exam, Pop idols virtually unrecognizable from school photos from a few years prior. I sat there in judgment, because how can any country that requires a photo to determine you employment in a company have their priorities in order.

But really, can I? You see I am blessed/cursed with the short stocky legs that many Asian women tend to genetically acquire. In addition to that, I have the calves of a shot-putter – muscle that I never earned I can tell you that much. Even after dropping over sixty pounds in the last year, it seemed like while my legs and calves were smaller, I still felt that frustration of them not being ‘attractive’ enough.
Upon discovery of the oft-maligned calf reduction, of course your first response is horror – the possibility of losing the ability to walk just to get smaller legs?! Ridiculous! But then you think – I’m sure many Korean entertainers have gotten it done, and I don’t want anything too drastic; I would be lying if I didn’t say that the prospect was and still is very attractive to me and that makes me feel a bit guilty. So I guess what I’m saying that in a way I can understand. And also if someone wants to enhance his/her looks it’s their right. But it sure as hell shouldn’t be a necessity to get by in the world. Neither should concealing your personality, whims or sexual desires because a patriarchal society demands they do.


I think plastic surgery is OK if the person is doing it for themselves and not for others; and I think too that most people do do it for themselves. But where can we draw the line on that? Say I want double eyelid surgery because I think it’ll make me look beautiful. Is it really my thinking? What if I grew up hearing others tell me that single eyelids were beautiful? Would I then think that double eyelids were ugly? And what if I grew up in a society where plastic surgery is not such a commonplace? Would I then even consider plastic surgery at all? It’s definitely worse on a person if they’re in a society where beauty goes synonymously with plastic surgery.

I think it’s intriguing how Asian society puts such a heavy emphasis on outer appearances (beauty, how one should politely present oneself, etc) but suppresses inner expressions (sexuality, independence, freedom to speak one’s mind, etc). Although S. Korea hasn’t gone past that strong patriarchal mindset yet–although some most certainly think they have–I think they have reached the beginning stages (or the beginning of the beginning at least).

Sources: MyDaily, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-heeled_footwear