2015 is well underway and everyone seems keen to make sure this year turns out better than the last. In the world of K-pop, where controversial opinions are hushed, it’s extremely refreshing to even hear a cheeky comment from an idol which goes against social norms. Last year’s article highlighted some of these idols, but, seeing as a new year is underway, it seems appropriate to touch on this subject again to celebrate those idols we can look to for positivity this year.
Amber is an idol that was mentioned in last year’s article, and since her solo debut, she has continued to show why she’s one of the most socially important idols out there right now. Last time, we discussed her reinterpretation of beauty standards in the idol industry, which is something that her new song “Beautiful” touches on again. The song centres around accepting yourself, and despite this being a cliched topic, Amber’s sincerity makes it well worth a listen.
Ever since her debut in f(x) around five years ago, many have questioned Amber’s sexuality, basing their assumptions mostly on her appearance. These speculations often take a derogatory tone, criticising her for her tomboyish appearance and speaking of homosexuality as something unacceptable. Notably, Amber never flatly denies people’s suggestions, as some other idols who are offended or upset by the suggestion that they might be anything but straight do.
This positive attitude of hers came through when she recently appeared on Music Access, a radio show hosted by NU’EST‘s Aron. When asked about the rumours she hears about her dating both male and female idols, Amber’s response was brilliantly refreshing.
It’s just so funny, but it’s really cute. I don’t like it just because it puts my friends in a very awkward situation, but I like it because it’s kinda… People say I look like a boyfriend where I can take care of people, and that’s actually very nice to hear. It’s nice to hear I’m good with my friends so it’s a little flattering – it’s awkward, but it’s nice.
Amber is still clearly uncomfortable with the rumours that surround her, but who wouldn’t be when their dating life is being nitpicked in the public eye? Amber’s only problem with the rumours seems to be that it puts her friends in an awkward position, rather than the fact that some people are suggesting she is gay. Her response, despite it timidly tip-toeing around the issue, shows that she refuses to paint the LGBT community as something negative by flatly denying any rumours about her sexuality. Regardless of whether she is straight, bisexual, lesbian or anything else, it’s vitally important that she doesn’t react to people’s speculations about her sexuality in a negative manner.
In fact, Amber seems to own the idea of looking like her female friends’ boyfriend. Her comment shows that she takes pride in being able to look after her friends, rather than being offended by the ‘masculine’ label. Amber has shown time and time again that she takes an inclusive approach to the world, and keeping her immense popularity in mind, this certainly bodes well for a potential change of attitude amongst the public.
When it comes to inspirational and respectable figures in the Korean music scene, Tablo‘s name is often mentioned. Tablo has voiced his opinions on everything from racism to fatherhood and stands as a beacon of light for many K-pop fans who often find themselves shaking their heads at the problematic remarks we often hear from idols. Just skimming over Tablo’s lyrics alone reveals the depth with which he looks at the world.
Through Tablo’s actions and words, it is evident that he is doing his best to create an honest and intelligent discourse in the industry. Shows like Superman Returns, which Tablo is on with his daughter Haru, celebrate fathers’ relationships with their children in a society which still very much sees child-rearing as a feminine role. Tablo’s precious and open relationship with his daughter breaks down the barriers that may deter some fathers from enjoying a loving relationship with their children.
Tablo is also known for his outspoken views on a range of issues, which he often expresses in interviews, in his lyrics or on Twitter. Tablo’s retweet a few months ago regarding the awful occurrences in Ferguson demonstrate concern for global issues. Especially in Korea’s context, it’s vitally important to spread awareness about racism and foster a caring global society.
These handful of examples demonstrate that Tablo is one of the key figures stimulating intellectual discourse in the music scene, fusing poetry, philosophy and rap together for a potentially great social effect.
Finally, another rapper known for his outspoken lyrics is B.A.P‘s Bang Yong-guk, who puts issues like crime in society or living a frivolous life into the spotlight through his music. His lyrics and the group’s image have always carried a somewhat rebellious and revolutionary tone, setting them apart in the K-pop landscape.
Yong-guk is also well known for the consistent and genuine charity work and volunteering he does. Celebrities are often spotted posing for cute photo ops with orphans or abandoned puppies, but this is often nothing more than a staged publicity stunt. In Yong-guk’s case, however, his dedication to helping others proves his genuineness. It’s recently been revealed that each B.A.P. member has only made $17,000 (USD) over three years of promotions, which is an absolutely measly amount. Although Yong-guk himself has a bit more money than this in his account due to his participation in the song-writing process, it’s probably still not a fortune. This fact makes it all the more incredible that Yong-guk still does not hesitate to donate to the more needy. Many of us probably rationalise that we should not donate to others because we ourselves have very little money, but in reality, most of us are in the position to help to some extent.
In light of B.A.P’s recent fallout with their company, TS Entertainment, Yong-guk can be seen as the one leading the charge against the maltreatment. With the spate of recent lawsuits against restrictive companies, it is not farfetched to imagine that Yong-guk will be the one leading the group in a new direction in the aftermath of their lawsuit.
The broader implication of this is that it has drawn light to the unfair working conditions and lack of laws to safeguard workers in Korea. High profile lawsuits, such as that of B.A.P, are forcing people to confront the issue, and someone with Yong-guk’s attitude holds great potential for being a public figurehead for the cause.
In many ways, idols are people we aspire to be like. The very name ‘idol’ suggests that we should look up to these people since they are somehow better than the rest of us. Most of the time, however, we attempt to emulate idols in shallow ways, usually by trying to copy their appearance or clothing styles. Instead, we’d be much better off looking at the idols who have proven themselves to be brilliant role models due to the content of their character. These idols are not just potential role models to us in our personal lives, but can actually go some way to changing societal attitudes. They are, after all, the ones in the spotlight, and hopefully some will attempt to use their public profile for good.