Happy New Years, Seoulbeats readers! A year has passed, and K-Pop is still going stronger than ever. You guys kicked the year off to a great start by participating in debates on a series of ethically controversial topics, including blackface skits, homophobia, blatant favoritism, questionable working conditions, and consumer exploitation.

Here are four individual comments we found to be particularly interesting from this week’s articles, as well a long but thought-provoking conversation between commenters:

Emma on Thank You, Idol, For Being a Human Being; You’re a Saint:

I completely agree when you say that we should expect these mundane acts of kindness that everyone should be doing in our idols. I also hate it when people let their idols off for serious things instead of looking at what they did as a crime or wrong, trying to explain it away as ‘just human.’

But I think that Park Bom‘s ‘stop pushing’ situation was not a very good example of too much praise. Yes, we SHOULD expect idols to be just as kind as everyone else in any given situation, but the reality is that most of the time, they just aren’t. When the SHINee thing blew up, lots of people got mad at SHINee for not doing anything. And lots of people tried to justify the fact that they did nothing about it for whatever reason. Whether they wanted to help but couldn’t do it or didn’t care either way is not the point. The point is that in these situations, idols TEND to (as far as I know) NOT stop their managers or other personnel from getting physical with the fans. The positive response to Park Bom, therefore, is based on the fact that you don’t get that from every idol, so when one does so, it’s fairly unusual. The general pattern is to not do anything, so something like this is a pretty big deal.

Let me give a different example, not related to idols.

On most of the West Coast as far as I know, it’s not polite to treat somebody differently if they are of a different sexual orientation than heterosexual. At least that’s how it is in Seattle, where I live. So therefore, if you treat someone differently because of this fact, you get heavily criticized. You WILL lose friends. It’s considered a common courtesy. But if you go somewhere else in the world that’s more conservative where people will generally treat you differently (read: NEGATIVELY) if they know that you are not heterosexual. So the general pattern in this other place is VERY different from the general pattern on the West Coast. Now, say, someone in the West Coast reads a blog article about someone’s experience of equal treatment and respect in this country EVEN THOUGH their sexual orientation is outside the norms. They might think ‘why is this worth writing about, isn’t that just being human?’ and be annoyed by the positive feedback on the article from all sorts of people saying what a saintly thing this was. Yes, it SHOULD just be being human, but in this other country, they haven’t gotten there yet. It’s a break in the pattern that could help even just a little bit at changing the pattern.

I’d like to think that when fans make a big deal of praising an idol for something simple, it’s like positive reinforcement. You do something good, you get lots of praise. While I think that idols SHOULD be as kind as anyone else, in certain situations I’m not seeing that pattern emerging.

Kim on Why U-KISS Deserves A Second Chance:

Like some people were saying U-KISS is the kind of group that grabs you with their personalities. Man Man Ha Ni got your attention so you looked into them and found out about them. I know that’s what happened to me. I liked their earlier stuff even if it was cheesy, but I can completely see why others wouldn’t like it. It was just awkward.

I’m not the biggest NH Media fan, but what they gave U-KISS as humans and not idols in their earlier years was slack/freedom.This was something that also hurt them. You can tell they didn’t have rigorous training and practices. NH knew they had to change that a little too late, but they did it with MMHN. Yeah, it was auto tuned, but it was a popular song that got stuck in your head.

There is no doubt that the boys have gotten stronger with AJ and Hoon. I say stronger not better for a reason. NH clearly does not know what to do with what they have/had. I’m just happy they stepped their production game up. Better writers and producers. I didn’t mind Brave Sound, but they just didn’t get much done afterwards. Kibum didn’t have the strongest vocals, but he brought that talker aspect to the group. He used to have lines when they 1st started. Alexander wasn’t a horrible rapper. I just don’t think he had that “idol” rap style. If you listen to the song he did with Hye Ji, it sounds like nothing he has ever done before. Hoon is a strong singer and AJ has that “idol” rap style.

[Oh, and while there are rappers who can sing I wouldn’t hold that against Eli or Dongho for not being able to. That goes for any group. NH wanted a  7 member group and while they aren’t using them fully are doing what they can with 7 people, I guess. Not every member is going to dance or sing as well as the member in those rightful positions. ]

Now about the article, I completely understand it’s an opinion. Maybe you’re not a fan of Kevin and Hoon’s voices, but they are really good vocalist. Kevin has a wide range that NH refuses to use. Hoon is pretty close to Soohyun. I wouldn’t sit here and say that Kiseop has an amazing voice,but he fits in well when you put him in a certain part of a song. AJ is actually a pretty good singer. You can tell he trained his voice after Paran stopped promoting. Like someone was saying most groups have about 1 or 2 strong vocalist. As much as I wish sometimes that every single member had an amazing voice it’s just not like that with every group. The company was going for pretty actually. They just didn’t realize things would pan out this way. These boys are talented. I think they have proven themselves over the years. They have just been given more to do with their talent and I wish people would see it. I still think they could give more vocally with the right songs though.

If the boys were given better direction from the beginning I know things would be different/better. I feel like all NH did was find a group of young guys and followed the same pattern as Paran. Their fashion style could have been better. Heck, it could still be more appealing. I get the wanting to be a unit with their style, but it’s okay to look at what everyone else is doing sometimes. They went with concepts the boys weren’t comfortable with. I also think because of their personalities and position in the kpop industry they lack that ego/confidence on stage that they need. Yeah, they are given the tough guy thing, but you can tell they just don’t have that cockiness in them or on stage. This really applies when they perform in Korea. Their performances outside of Korea are so different. They don’t have that same excitement a rookie group would have debuting. They don’t have that winning and fanbase confidence. What they do have is dedication that keeps them going. Hopefully 2012 is good to them.

They have such strange circumstances that it’s hard to compare them to anything or group. They stay afloat because of their fanbase outside of Korea. There are other things, but….yeah.  It’s just really strange.

Arbitrary_greay on The Perfect Girl Group: Leader:

If I can troll for a moment, the best idol leader (currently leading) is absolutely AKB48’s Takahashi Minami. Because an idol group generally has so very little creative control, the traditional definitions of leading don’t apply. Therefore, I see the ideal idol group leader as what’s in that video: someone who puts the group above themselves, someone who will be not only the spokesperson of the group to the management, but also the spokesperson of the management to the group. They have walk that fine line of negotiation and take on the burdens of when either the group or the management has failed.

But most importantly, a leader’s group must be willing to follow their leader. Ender vs. Bean, if you know what I mean. That’s where more traditional leading qualities come in, such as their ability to mold their group into a single unit on stage, and if necessary, a family off stage. The leader should be the final moderator in domestic/social conflicts and not have to bring in management, because if the group loves their leader enough, once confronted, they’ll be willing to put aside their problems for the sake of their leader, who represents the group.

In Kpop girlgroups, Kahi and CL best fit this ideal. Kahi also has to deal with large age gaps,(and deals with it just as admirably as any Morning Musume leader), and she’s got the management listening to her creative concepts. CL has two elders willing to follow her lead in a seniority-obsessed society. Props to them both. Honorable mention to f(x)‘s Victoria, who also has to deal with an age gap, and worse, bratty but competent maknaes. And because I am a bratty but competent maknae myself, I know how horrible we are for group dynamics. Major props to Victoria for f(x) not having imploded yet.

We don’t know whether Gyuri was in any way responsible for the rest of Kara ultimately coming back into the fold, so I wouldn’t know. I don’t hold them filing in the first place against her, because like in the video, bad things happen, and it’s how the leader responds to those things that matters.

I have a soft spot for Hyomin as T-ara‘s leader because she had the balls to defend her group against those complaints about their Roly Poly shenanigans, without it being brought up to her in an interview. But otherwise, I don’t how how she’s served as a leader to the group itself.

I don’t know enough about the other groups to accurately judge their leadership skills.

But it’s difficult to judge leadership skills in Kpop in general. As much as I wanted to list JeA above, all of BEG are such HBICs that they don’t much need a leader either, and Sixth Sense is super awesome because all of the members are individually being awesome, together.

SNSD is even more likes this. Taeyeon is not an ideal leader because SNSD doesn’t need a leader in the first place. All of the members are alpha-types that have learned to coordinate with each other, like a council of generals, and they just all take their commands directly from the management. They don’t need that middle-man. Them all being alpha-types is also partially responsible for their success, with their competitiveness driving them to outdo each other and pushing them to new heights. But if anyone of them tried to lead each other, it would ruffle feathers too much, and it has. The members voted to do Genie in sneakers that one time without Taeyeon, and she was a little pissed off by the sudden decision. Early footage of SNSD shows Taeyeon deferring to Jessica and Hyoyeon, who were the leaders in attitude due to their trainee seniority. But since, they now defer to Taeyeon, Jessica’s become infamously lazy, and Hyoyeon’s switched to being a giant oddball. Speaking of which, We’ve seen Jessica and Hyoyeon fight and make up on camera. Taeyeon does nothing, Hyoyeon and Jessica make non-apologies to each other, Jessica cries, group hug, everyone’s happy, back to business. Taeyeon attempting to moderate definitely would have made things worse, so is it good leading since she didn’t interfere? (But also, Taeyeon seems to hate and complain about idolling and the management too much to be that middle man.)

For that reason, I don’t know that the Leader is a necessary idol group type. Whether you need a leader or not ultimately depends on the personality of the members you have in there.

Anon on SNL Korea Thinks Blackface is Funny.. I’m Not Laughing:

I learnt about slavery in America in high school history in India. It was one chapter in world history. But I had never heard of blackface until I got into kpop and the issue kept popping up. So, I don’t agree with the idea that anyone who knows about slavery would also know about blackface or why it is offensive.

And this is the first time I’m hearing about African-Americans and watermelons as a stereotypical image.

The stereotypes that Korean shows display are the stereotypes that have been around in modern pop-culture, literature, music for a long time. I grew up reading about golliwogs in Enid Blyton‘s books and at no time did I realise how offensive that doll is. I doubt my teachers realised it because it’s so far removed from our experience. My point is you can consume and internalise stereotypes without realising it is offensive.

There are Korean rappers who use the word “nigga” in the way African-American rappers use it and I doubt they can even comprehend what a loaded word it is and why it’s different when Jay-Z uses it. They haven’t done any research about it.  They’re simply imitating someone they think is cool.

Having spent most of my life outside of America, I can tell you the stereotypes you’re referring to are very common and don’t come from research but from consumption of American pop-culture without any real understanding of that pop-culture. That doesn’t make it less racist but a lot of that racism stems from ignorance.

Conversation on WTF Moment: Choi Siwon’s Homophobia: (WARNING: LONG)


Choi Siwon of Super Junior, known for his devout beliefs regarding Christianity, had vocalized his own beliefs about this issue in the Yale Globalist. So he’s homophobic, what else is new? ”

First of all, just because someone is against homosexuality does NOT mean they’re homophobic. Please read the definition of homophobia carefully before you label anyone with that term.

I agree with your intentions; negative attitudes, ignorance, and bigotry should have no place in society but this does not mean everyone should accept liberal beliefs and views. You stated that Choi Siwon is a Christian and the last time I checked one of the tenets of Christianity was that homosexuality is a sin. Now this may not agree with your views but that doesn’t mean this is wrong either. In the end, they’re all just opinions on a sensitive matter and nothing can be called right or wrong. Your POV on this matter shouldn’t be heralded as being any more legitimate than those against homosexuality. And this does not mean you can just slap that homophobe label on Choi and call it a day.

Now about the behaviour between Choi and his male peers: yes, they do have romantic undertones which would directly go against his supposed beliefs, and if that were the case then by all means Choi Siwon deserves to be called a hypocrite with double standards who’s behaviour does nothing for the already struggling LGBT community within the socially conservative ROK.


Before we go sharpen our pitchforks and burn our torches we have to remember that we are viewing an aspect of South Korean society foreign to our western viewpoints. Whenever you look at a social phenomena in a foreign country – such as overly affectionate, homoerotic behaviour between young men (and women) being demonstrated under public light – you must be careful not to judge within an ethnocentric viewpoint.

Those overly aggressive fangirls who come to the defence of their oppas and unnis,whenever they participate in questionable behaviour, by stating that their favourite idol comes from a place unlike the vile, filthy, decadent, and – can you hear me snickering? – morally deprived West have a point. Behaviour such as this, which may be deemed romantic and unequivocally gay in some places, may also be seen as just perfectly normal and acceptable behaviour for straight individuals in others. My point is that we shouldn’t be offended with the seemingly double-standard behaviour demonstrated by Choi. He and so many other idols are a product of their conservative society just as I – and I’m assuming the author, Gil, – are the product of the North American, liberal society we grew up in.

Now to the darker aspect of the issue. Well, maybe what if Choi knows that what he’s doing IS hypocritical and morally irresponsible? Cultural differences aside, it’s hard to say that all this is innocent behaviour when there’s outright kissing involved. Even the blindest of fans cannot deny the homoeroticism in this situation.

I’m gonna be generous here and give Choi the benefit of the doubt, he’s not mocking homosexuality, he’s just acting accordingly in response to the positive reception this pseudo-homoerotic behaviour has pulled out from the fans. If this sort of behaviour gets fans to open their wallets and dole out cash then we cannot blame them, after all, as it’s been said countless times before, K-pop is a business where idols are the products being sold to the consumer fans. So, no matter how damaging those said actions may be to LGBT community, if that’s what fuels the business what’s not to stop these idols from doing it?


While I do agree with most of your points, I do have to point out this one little detail in your argument:

“First of all, just because someone is against homosexuality does NOT mean they’re homophobic. Please read the definition of homophobia carefully before you label anyone with that term.
I agree with your intentions; negative attitudes, ignorance, and bigotry should have no place in society but this does not mean everyone should accept liberal beliefs and views.”

That actually reminded me of my uncle during Christmas dinner, when he said: “Just because I’m against women working outside their home doesn’t mean I’m a male chauvinist. I’m not going to be an asshole to my female colleagues in my workplace, but that doesn’t mean I have to accept this whole women liberalization thing.”
But still, he’s not a sexist. How about that, huh?


Homophobia (noun):
1. irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals [Synonyms for ‘against’: about, across, adverse to (…)]

2. prejudice against (fear or dislike of) homosexual people and homosexuality
[Prejudice: (an) opinion or feeling for or especially against something, formed unfairly or unreasonably ie without proper knowledge]

If we’re going to be literal about it, then we can agree that there is no fair or logic reason to be merely “against homosexuality”, because homosexuality not only refers to one’s behavior, but also the sexual and romantic attraction – which is beyond human control. That alone makes the general statement of “being against homosexuality” a form of prejudice, which according to the thesaurus, is a valid definition for homophobia.

But we know that when someone says he’s against homosexuality, he’s not actually saying he’s against the “romantic attraction between same gender” because you can’t be against something that is natural and not a choice (it’s like being against trees). Truthfully, he’s saying that he’s specifically against that “the physical acts, behaviors and practices” that defines a specific community – homosexuals. Attraction is not a choice, but having sex is, and that is the main argument today’s Christians use against homosexuality while still trying to deny their homophobic attitudes all the while. In Rhetoric studies, that is called a ‘fallacious argument’ – I’m sure you’ve heard of that.

Because it is ontologically impossible to be “against homosexuality” without being “against the homosexual community”, as the homosexual community is defined by individuals who consumed and continue to actively consume the act of homosexuality. Therefore, when Siwon says ‘I am against homosexuality’, he’s automatically expressing an opinion against the existence of a homosexual community. And that is a feeling of homophobia.

You CAN be against certain aspects the LGBT community fights for without being necessarily homophobic, but you simply can’t say you’re against homosexuality in general without expressing a feeling of homophobia. Just like you can’t say you’re against black people having sex without expressing a feeling of racism, or be against Jews without expressing a feeling of anti-Semitism. It’s as simple as that.

Now you can argue that homophobia as a word carries an unnecessarily negative connotation because being against homosexuality is not necessarily wrong – but that is an entirely different matter.


I disagree with you when you state that any negative opinions expressed on homosexuality will always entail homophobic attitudes as well. Human sexuality is a murky subject where nothing can be strictly defined in black and white. There are those who believe that homosexuality is an unnatural phenomena and the people who engage in homosexual acts are wrong because what they are doing is abnormal and goes against religious doctrine.

Now, I cannot deny them that belief simply because I believe they are wrong but by all means I can also call them homophobic because by the very definition, it’s just that. Negative attitudes formed from prejudice and ignorance. But I can never really know the entirety of the situation because I’m viewing the situation from my perspective only. I judge based on my beliefs and values.

You state that homosexuality is natural because those romantic feelings are real and cannot be denied but when you really think about it, that’s your liberal thinking and not an outright fact. This is why I would hesitate to immediately judge Choi a homophobe base on his expressed beliefs since they do not explicitly state any intent of harm towards homosexuals but merely a disagreement with their supposed choice in lifestyle. Like I said before sexual orientation is a sensitive and touchy subject, one can be in disagreement with a specific orientation without necessarily being against the individual who identifies themselves as such. Therefore it is possible to think that the homosexual attraction/behaviour/lifestyle a person engages in is wrong whilst not necessarily condemning that person’s existence at the same time.

Unlike sexism, racism, and anti-semitism where the negative feelings are directly pointed towards the victims, a person who is against homosexuality may think along the lines of “I believe that what you are doing is wrong” while sexists, racists, and anti-semites operate on the belief that they are superior to those individuals as a whole. Discrimination is discrimination but this is where I think the discrimination talked about here deviates from the discrimination found in the latter three.


Human sexuality is only a murky subject in religion. Otherwise, it’s very clear under the scientific point of view. If homosexual attraction was just a ‘liberal view’, conservative parties wouldn’t invest millions in scientific investigations on the ‘gay gene’ so that in the future the sexual orientation of babies can be chosen by parents.

Therefore, I’m in no way expressing any liberal views by saying attraction between two males in certain species like the human species is not unnatural or made up, I’m saying a fact. Even if refuse to acknowledge the fact that has been several studies reporting the difference in responses between a brain of heterosexual person and a brain of an homosexual person (the first one was published in 1991), you can take your own conclusions by just looking at Mother Nature admire the homosexual couples between dolphins. And the very fact you even mentioned homosexual attraction as a something that could be a “liberal view” denotes “an opinion or feeling for or especially against something, formed unfairly or unreasonably ie without proper knowledge”: prejudice.

Just like sexism, racism and anti-Semitism, homophobia is a prejudice based on superiority of heterosexuality. When you say “I am against homosexuality” you are automatically electing the predominance of heterosexuality. It doesn’t mean you are condemning all born homosexuals, but you are directly or indirectly discriminating the existence of a specific community that is defined by homosexual attraction, behavior and lifestyle and underlining the superiority of your own community (heterosexual). Using religion to justify your sentiment against homosexuality does not belittle the homophobia implied in the statement.

If you say “I think miscegenation is wrong because my religion says so”, you are still expressing a racist feeling regardless of what you use to justify your opinion. You are discriminating a community of people that practices interracial marriage on the basis of race.

If you say “I think women liberalization is wrong because my religion says so”, you are still expressing a sexist feeling regardless of what you use to justify your opinion. You are discriminating a community of people that works and votes on the basis of gender.

If you say “I think homosexuality is wrong because my religion says so”, you are still expressing a homophobic feeling regardless of what you use to justify your opinion. You are discriminating a community of people that practices same-sex activities on the basis of sexual orientation.

Discrimination is discrimination. Period. There’s no ‘special exception for homosexuals’ just because some people don’t want to be called homophobes. If you insist in debating this further, perhaps an alternative platform wouldn’t be a bad idea since this post is getting overcrowded.

And that’s a wrap for this week! We look forward to hearing more commentary from you guys on future articles. Enjoy the rest of your weekend and stay fabulous~

(Ferris State University, The Daily Northwestern)