20130518_seoulbeats_taran4chrisbrownThe year is only half gone and already we’ve had many incredible news stories to talk about. Whether it be dating scandals, slips of the tongue, or unthinkable collaborations, what piece of news shocked you or caught your attention the most so far this year?

Mark: T-ara probably would have won been on the top of everyone’s list for 2012, and they’re already making their bid for 2013’s most talked about headline. The entire Chris Brown, Dani, and Palms debacle that resulted in CCM further discrediting itself as a management company is so head-scratching hilarious that I feel like I’m being hoaxed. This can’t all be real right? Somebody please tell me that this is some elaborate set-up and that everyone involved was in on it. I bet Hwayoung is secretly enjoying this.

20130604_seoulbeats_theglossLeslie: I think some of the most intriguing news has been Olivia‘s impending debut in The Gloss. My initial reaction upon hearing the news was excitement simply because of the fact that Korean audiences tend to be — at least from what I perceive — staunchly against change. They like their music, television, any and every kind of entertainment to be consistent and the same. So it was nice to see them step out of the typical East Asian pool for once.

But, mulling over it, thinking of it from the perspective of being a minority, and then reading Patricia’s article about it, I can’t help but think about the continuous perpetuation of colorism in Korean culture. It just reminds me of Kai and Taemin calling his so-called “darker” skin a personal weakness. Thus, it only makes sense that Olivia would be Caucasian since that follows the East Asian standards of beauty requiring fair skin. While it’s great to see Korea lowering their xenophobic caution tape, it would be even better if they lowered it in acceptance of that which is actually different.

20130621_seoulbeats_ygNicholas:  Without doubt, YG‘s approach to his new guy group. Yes I get how it’s supposed to be survival of the fittest, how it’s always wise to put your money and promotional efforts on the most successful endeavours and how such idol-centred reality programmes are the in thing now, so he’s just following the trend. Still its pretty exploitative to pit trainees to the death (figuratively) for their success, and have their self-worth be judged by others. Plus between supporting my semi-successful football club, and trying to parallel park as a newly minted driver, the last thing I need is white knuckle tension from something supposedly relaxing like idoldom.

Fannie: For me, the most exciting and shocking news was Sunye‘s wedding announcement, as an idol getting married at or near the zenith of their career had been virtually unheard of up until that point. I loved following all the details and I loved the fact that everyone — from observers to participants in K-pop — was genuinely happy for Sunye’s finding love and starting a family, even if it temporarily leaves the Wonder Girls as an active group in a questionable status.

Mark: I agree that Sunye’s marriage is pretty revolutionary for its time, but it comes at the heavy price of putting her group’s future in jeopardy. Sunye does deserve to live her life as a civilian though, and I think she handled the situation and the media very well.

What’s also shocking is the positive response that Hyeri is getting for dating Tony An. She’s getting the usual flack any female celebrity would get for being ousted for dating, but it’s resulted in a rapid rise for Girl’s Day who, combined with their sexy turn, are far exceeding anyone’s “expectation.”

20130303_seoulbeats_wonder_girls_sunye_james_kissShweta: I’d like to extend it further to just the mass numbers of celebrity weddings and couple reveals that have been going on this year. We were lucky to find out about a handful of celebrity relationships before this year. Now it seems like relationship are getting outed all the time or at least speculated. What I find most interesting about this is the increase in prevalence of tabloid culture (at least from our perspective as international fans), the kind of responses people have to different couple relationships, and what those responses show about cultural perceptions. Be it Baek Ji-young, Sunye, Lee Min-jung, Kim Tae-hee, Kim Min-hee, etc., it seems like women get most of the bashing when a couple is “outed” or about to get married.

Most responses are not necessarily anger towards the female celebrity for taking their partner off the market or not being good enough, it’s more criticism towards them for dating X-person: Lee Min-jung is an idiot for dating Lee Byung-hun, Baek Ji-young is a slut and dating advantage of Jung Suk-won, Kim Tae-hee is stupid for dating Rain who is already in trouble, and so on. It’s like the public is blaming the women for deciding to date whomever they do date or marry.

On the other hand, I never seem to hear anything similar from the male standpoint. Lee Byung-hun scandals are usually mentioned via Lee Min-jung’s “stupidity,” Jung Suk-won is never told that his noona relationship is bad for him, Seo Taiji gets next to no flack about being much older than his wife-to-be, and celebrity men can joke around about wanting to date 15 years younger than them.

I guess the counter argument would be Hyeri not receiving much criticism, like Mark mentioned, though I think the increase in popularity for Girl’s Day is curiosity stemming from scandal, much like Secret’s case. Anyhow, the one good thing about all of this is that celebrities can be less fearful of public relationships, because the enthusiasm for these events is sharply declining.

Mark: And nobody puts Park Si-hoo at fault for rape…

20130316_seoulbeats_DMTN_danielLindsay: I found the drug scandal with Daniel of DMTN to be very interesting from a cultural stand point. Having grown up in the US, I am used to celebrities doing drugs and getting arrested for it on a regular basis. And do they lose their careers? No. Heck, Lindsay Lohan has been to court so many times I lost count. I’m not saying Korea should be like the US, and I don’t think the court should have let Daniel go scot-free — drugs are still illegal after all — but I do feel bad for him that this scandal meant the end of his livelihood when it might not have if he had been in a different country. Although I suppose you could say that he knew the laws in Korea and made the choices he did in full awareness of the risks.

Another interesting point with this scandal was how poorly the “official” statements were handled. Is he dealing or smoking or denying all of it? Having conflicting information certainly didn’t help Daniel’s case. We may never know why his company thought selling weed was less offensive than smoking weed, but boy were they wrong. Daniel should have just played dumb from the beginning like his senior G-Dragon and then maybe he could have at least maintained some form of respect in the K-pop music industry.

Ambika: I actually thought it was better for him to openly admit to acting as an intermediary and feign ignorance of the the severity rather than attempting to cover it up. Since it wasn’t just Daniel’s arrest, I feel like his involvement would have come out at some point, so it would be better to cop up to it from the beginning rather than face other charges for attempting to evade the law. Sure this was disappointing, especially since it looked like DMTN was finally getting a fresh start wit a new company and a new name to maybe get out there more, but I think given time and depending on the sentence, if he chooses to return to the K-pop world, it would be possible.

Miyoko: I’d say Block B‘s lawsuit with Stardom, mostly because it was surprising how predictably it played out, when there was so much hope the situation would be different.

20121018_seoulbeats_blockbIt was a surprise when the group initially sued because they just finished a good run with “Nillili Mambo,” but when people thought about it, all the claims of mismanagement made sense. Though the fans didn’t know any more details than usual, it was like they could almost piece the situation together by looking at the group’s lacking promotion cycles, dorms, etc. The fact that Block B filed as a united group was different, and their legal team put out timely statements; there was light at the end of the tunnel. Then the injunction was dismissed and the court favored the company, just like anyone would’ve predicted with any other group. The “resolution” and response from Block B raised so many questions for me about the particularities of their contract and the state of contracts in the K-pop industry overall, that it’s still an intriguing topic… just in a depressing way.

Ambika: I was mostly surprised because although they’ve had a good run and impressively built up popularity with not nearly the amount of promotions that other groups of that level have, it was still about a group with okay popularity breaking away from their label, something that’s difficult even for the highly popular and usually ends with some type of sacrifice. It seemed like they had all their ducks in a row for the proceedings, but the ruling seems to suggest otherwise. Either way, as the group refuses to work with Stardom, which is a fairly ballsy move, I wonder what the group can do at this point.

Mark: The Block B outcome is indeed depressing, especially because many thought that there has been progress since JYJ.

20130208_seolbeats_secret_hyosung_yesOne thing I learned from K-pop this year is the flexible meaning behind the term “democratization” and how it applies to the organization known as ilbe. It’s still very puzzling from an international fan’s perspective, but also very real to those who are involved. Though it resulted in greater exposure for her group and higher sales figures for Secret‘s newest release, Hyosung actually took much of the heat off of T-ara N4 for her slip of the tongue. And now Crayon Pop is perhaps using this same strategy to get its members in the spotlight?

Ambika: And I suppose to lighten it up, other news I found surprising was Henry‘s solo debut. I really didn’t think SM would take the risk with Henry considering he and Zhou Mi weren’t even a part of a majority of Super Junior‘s tours until recently. And since SM was touting this new artist as the first male solo one from the company in 13 years, I would think it would be a new face rather than a solo debut from a member of a subunit. But instead it’s Henry all drawn on and driving shirtless and with an actually good title song. Crazy. It’s things like this that make me want to know why SM does the things it does.

(Images via: Stardom Entertainment, Core Contents Music, The Gloss, SBS, Elle, 2Works, Ltd., Yes, SM Entertainment)