Sensual Content in Korean Music Videos

Hey ShoutOut Readers! Today, I’ll be sharing some of my own culture with you! I am an Asian-American (specifically, I am Korean). Recently, my friend and I were talking about Korean-pop singers and how shocked we were at some of the dances that the female singers were doing. However, once we started talking about this, we had to pause and think for a minute why we were so appalled when we’ve seen much worse in American music videos. So we started looking up K-pop music videos. We slowly started to realize the strange double standard Asian female singers were held to.

Female singers in Korea are held to a ridiculous standard. They are supposed to be sexy to a point to appeal to the audience but if they’re “too sexy,” then they are criticized by the media for their promiscuity. There is a fine line between sexy and obscene. The singer, Hyuna, in her music video for her song “Bubble Pop”, was criticized for her overly sexualized music video and it was banned from being shown again.

She was criticized for her “obscene” choreography and revealing clothing. There are other female singers who dance similarly but only a few are called out. The Brown Eyed Girls, in their debut music video “Abracadabra,” had a bit of controversy regarding an almost kiss between two of the members at the end of the video, as well as the sensual content (the song is about a girl who gets cheated on and kills her lover as well as the girl he cheated with), but they were not too harshly criticized for it.

Male K-pop artists, however, are not as scrutinized in their music videos. From what I can remember, the media hasn’t overly critical of male K-pop artists.

This so-called obscenity is not as shocking to Americans because of all the MTV music videos we are exposed to. With what we see on MTV everyday, a bit of provocative dancing is nothing. However, South Korea is fairly conservative compared to the United States. Women are often used as sexualized objects, usually scantily clad, in MTV’s music videos. However, Koreans have more difficulty accepting such things. Women are still used to bring attention to the music videos but to a much lesser degree than in American music videos. Also, when music artists incorporate dances with their music, particularly when performing live, they respect the conservative views of their audience and do not have very provocative choreography. However, even when they do include such dancing, it is not as provocative as it seems. Of course, I have not seen all the music videos in the world but here are a few that I have seen.

Below, the screenshot is part of Hyuna’s “obscene” choreography. However, if you look closely, you’ll see that Hyuna and the backup dancer are barely even touching.

There is also Jay Park, in his performance of his song, “Know Your Name.” He gets fairly close to a female backup dancer around 1:47-2:09 but again, if you look closely, you can see the two are barely really touching.

The dances are suggestive and very well-choreographed without any overly sexual content. When I saw this, I was very surprised. From the videos I’ve seen, dancers would just grind and be done with it but the K-pop artists’ dances that I looked up were surprising modest. I was very impressed but also disappointed that the media pays more attention to the content of the dances/songs only if a female is involved. It goes to show that, although Korea is conservative, the music industry is still willing to use women’s bodies to get attention.

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