The success of the “Korean Wave,” or the wide spread of South Korean pop culture such as music around the world, has been attributed to the strict and regimented lifestyle imposed by that country’s talent agencies on their talents. With K-Pop idols and groups being picked out from auditions, subjected to intense music and dance training and then kept in line by rigid contract regulations, the usual image the world has of Korean music stars is that of a mostly squeaky-clean and straight-arrow reputation. But recent developments in the industry coupled by the recent arrest of a top-profile idol looks to cast a shadow of controversy over the Korean Wave.
K-Pop is pushed further to the brink as on Thursday, March 21, singer Jung Joon-young was arrested by South Korean police according to USA Today. Jung had earlier admitted in a public hearing that he had been sharing voyeur videos of women in sexually explicit situations taken without their consent. The Seoul Central District Court then sent a warrant for Jung’s arrest over allegations that he secretly recorded his intimate relationships with various women, distributing them over online group chats.
A similar story revolves around Seungri of Big Bang, currently on extended hiatus while its members undergo mandatory South Korean military service. Seungri ran publicity for the Seoul nightclub “Burning Sun,” closed last February following charges that it arranged for prostitutes to be given to VIP guests. The singer was suspected of involvement in these arrangements, causing him to retire from Big Bang. On a larger scale, hidden cameras on South Korea’s public toilets and motel rooms have captured clandestine footage of mostly females, 1,600 in all, and live-streamed on pay-only video sites. These developments have caused indignation among South Korean women and painted the country’s normally unstoppable music industry in a bad light internationally.
These recent scandals with big-name K-Pop celebrities attached has been seen by South Korean government officials as a contemporary form of a longtime facet of the country’s patriarchal culture where men grow to view women as anything from subservient to mere objects of gratification. Their Minister of Gender Equality and Family Jin Sun-mee has called out the current controversy for its blatant display of toxic masculinity. It proves to be an uphill battle however, with some recording labels allegedly protecting their talents to maintain their baby-faced public image by paying off or intimidating potential lawsuits.
Image courtesy of Fox News