If you’ve been a fan of K-pop long enough, you have without a doubt had to witness some of your favorite MV’s get blacklisted or banned for various reasons: explicit lyrics, vibrant sexual themes, lawlessness, deemed inappropriate for children, the list goes on. It is always an extremely uncomfortable situation. An MV is highly anticipated, upon its release popularity ignites like wildfire, and then suddenly our friend, MOGEF (Korea’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Family), catches wind of it and brings it down whatever they deem indecent or harmful to youth and society.
The progression of this blacklisting usually starts with the MV, and gradually rears an uglier head in the form lyric alterations, changes in choreography, and removal from daytime public broadcast. What’s worse is that these rulings usually come weeks after an MV has been released–which is plenty of time for fandoms upon fandoms to have cultivated infatuations for the original work, thus making a banning all the more awkward and frustrating for a fan to deal with as the material is changed or removed from the airwaves.
But perhaps if such a process were implemented online, where original K-pop MV’s are typically released, the havoc wrought in blacklisting MVs after their releases may prove avoidable altogether. This way, the content many of us will receive from the artists we love so much will be kosher enough for both the online world and public broadcast, effectively eliminating any potential future need to ban or blacklist MVs for content. At least, that is the only logic I can see in the Korea Media Rating Board’s decision to implement a music video pre-screening policy for all production content uploaded online.
A huge point of contention regarding this pre-screening decision is how this policy affects the dispersal of content. Public broadcast networks in Korea already have, and justly so, their own screening and censorship policies and modes for evaluation in place. And why not–TV is censored all the time out respect for common decency as respective cultural audiences see fit. However, the Korea Media Rating Board wants to now place censorship jurisdiction over original MV content published on the internet, where the viewer ultimately exercises their own viewing power and freedom. Of course, many people, including YG’s CEO Yang Hyun Suk himself, have voiced serious and legitimate discord for what many see as preemptive censorship. YG stated,
When it comes to public broadcasts, a lot of people tune in so I can somewhat understand the broadcasting company’s already-implemented screening system when it comes to music videos. But when it comes to the internet, [users] select to watch the footage they want, so implementing a pre-evalutation policy for not only music videos but teasers as well is a comical situation that does not exist anywhere in the world.
And while I’m not sure that such a policy does not exist anywhere else in the world, trying to control what kinds of K-pop music videos are okay to be on the internet does seem a bit far-fetched. But let’s consider what there is to both gain and lose here. Like I mentioned before, fans and fandoms are enraged when MVs are released, and then weeks later they’re deemed too sexy/reckless/influential/suggestive/etc and they get censored. Truthfully, it is an occurrence I’ve had to deal with one too many times as a fan, and blatantly put, it’s just outright annoying.
But if the original music video, which is usually released on the internet, had to abide by certain rules of production, then the fear of censorship later on is virtually nonexistent. What would bodies like MOGEF do with music videos that are already kosher? Thus, fans are free to enjoy and indulge in their music and music videos (because we all know music is very much a visual experience) without the fear of them ever being taken away or altered.
It also maybe worth considering the ideology behind this kind of censorship. Here’s what my fellow writer Subi mentioned a while back about censorship during a roundtable regarding MOGEF’s practices (linked above).
While many of us might think these instances of censorship are “silly” and/or “unimportant,” we need to think about this fandom. We of all people know this fandom better than anyone and so, we should know that things like the lyrics of a K-Pop song or the moves in a K-Pop dance probably have a greater effect than we think. After all, what came first: the drinking on dramas or the huge drinking culture? Censorship exists not to place limits on freedom but to provide safeguards.
And with such a large and reactive audience of young people bearing witness to the fruits of the K-pop industry, safeguards are more or less something we should be grateful for. The intention is not one of calculated evil, though many fans may perceive it as a safeguard against our eye candy (an accusation I am no less guilty of, let’s be honest here…)
But the ugly reality to this kind of censorship means we may never be able to experience the full extent of an artistic vision. Sure, when DBSK’s “Mirotic” was ruled as far too sexual for public airtime, in terms of broadcasts of the MV and live performances, which later forced the group to the change the chorus, I was upset (I mean, back in our early high school days, my friends and I were so excited to watch the Mirotic MV for the first time we accidentally broke a chair). But anyways, the original MV was still on the internet, so I could bask in all its ‘sexual’ glory as many time as I could hit replay. And I did. The same went for hits like Brown Eyed Girl’s “Abracadabra” (accusations including suggestive homosexual and BDSM themes, among other things) and Lee Hyori’s “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (accusations including overt road rules violations).
The thought of a pre-screening policy, however, suggests that MVs of the same caliber would never see the light of the internet, nor every be viewed by audiences at large. And while, yes, we technically would never really know what it is that we’d be missing out on, the fact that artistic freedom is being infringed upon still presents itself as undisguised matter. Regulating what we see and when see it is one thing. Censorship is alive and well and is going to exist whether we think it’s warranted or not. Regulating what we see at all from the music industry is a whole other issue, touching on problems of quality and originality, raising more criticism against the K-pop industry in general for being all too predictable and mechanical in delivery, especially just as K-pop begins to pick up momentum in the rest of the world. And suddenly, the matter at hand is much more complex.
The decision as of this moment, though, is not ours. Many, including YG, have urged that this policy be more evenly debated before being fully implemented. And I’m sure it will be battled by all the music executive that oppose it, because it is no secret how much weight they carry in the entertainment business. But even if the outcome rests in hands beyond our reach, it still maybe worth pondering how such a policy affects fans like us, and our K-pop experience. It makes me even ask myself just what kind of fan I would be had I not been able to encounter the music and music videos I have. Yes, I would still have another chair in my room, but that’s besides the point.
Is this kind of censorship good for fandoms like us? Will it really deliver us from the sexual and reckless behavioral evils as much as we give it credit for doing? Trying to gauge such a large music community’s benefit is impossible to say, really, but is it worth the artistic compromise? I’m not sure. Would I trade my K-pop experience, and all the blacklisted MV’s that came with it, for something more tame? Can’t say I would. But who’s to say future generations of fans won’t mind pre-screened MV’s that never get taken off the air? Who won’t have to deal with their music being ripped out from right under them? It is hard to say if this kind of policy will actually bring with it nurturing promise, or if it will be the dulling of the K-pop existence as we know it.