If you think back to when you first discovered or were introduced to the world of K-Pop, it probably was not so long afterwards that you read about a “scandal” of some kind.
It tends to become something that the average K-Pop fan is used to seeing. Yet you can find yourself hoping vehemently that the latest controversy does not involve your favourite group or personal bias. If it does, it can be fairly upsetting, especially if it seems to be an honest mistake.
There are so many different types of events that can be considered “scandals” by the South Korean media. Here we will try to outline a few in categories:
This is probably the biggest category of controversies in K-Pop. One of the reasons for this is the fact that rumours of a relationship can stem from even the smallest of clues. For example, a photograph a male a female celebrity together or two people spotted going out for a drink together. SNSD’s Jessica has been involved in both of these examples with Super Junior’s Donghae and 2PM’s Taecyeon respectively!
There is a very low probability that K-Pop Idols go into the entertainment business without knowing that their private lives will be a hot topic for news media and fans alike. However, one can imagine that it’s very hard to put something like your relationship with a boyfriend/girlfriend under the limelight for all to scrutinize and talk about.
Therefore, celebrities are left to make a very difficult decision when they decide to enter this kind of companionship – to tell or not to tell?
When using the example of idol SE7EN and actress Park Han Byeol, it is clear that they have both gone through many difficulties during the 7 years their relationship was kept a secret as well as after it was revealed to the public.
The stress of keeping everything away from the public eye and lying about their marital status put quite a strain on the couple. When a personal photograph was leaked to the world, forcing the two to come clean, they both suffered the consequences of loss of fans and the added pressure that they were being watched as a pair.
Personally, I feel it seems like the Korean media and public will react worse to the news of celebrity relationships if it has initially been kept a secret from them and revealed without the couple’s knowledge. In the case of BEAST’s Junhyung and KARA’s Goo Hara, the pair both formally revealed their relationship through their agencies whilst still in very early days. For the most part, fans seem supportive and they appear to manage quite well at maintaining a good amount of privacy.
Still, the underlying problem here is the fact that celebrities can be pressured into revealing a relationship through these scandals, and relationships can be hard enough WITHOUT all those eyes on you.
There is obvious reasons why this would warrant a controversy. One of the main differences between the West and the East in their reaction to illegal behaviour by celebrities is that the stars from the East can suffer a lot harsher consequences than Western stars.
BIGBANG’s G-Dragon was caught up in a scandal involving marijuana use towards the end of 2011 this caused his promotions in Japan to be suspended completely until further notice and all his contracts concerning the companies he was an advertisement model for were put in jeopardy. There was also his fellow BIGBANG member Daesung who got into a car accident due to speeding which then led to him being a suspect in manslaughter. Daesung hid away for months due to difficulties from this, he understandably did not want his show his face during such a time (before he was, thankfully, found to be not guilty).
Of course, celebrities can only expect their credibility and careers to go in a rapid downward spiral if they are caught engaging in illegal behaviour. However, a prime example of the danger of scandals in the South Korean media would be involving popular variety MC Kang Ho Dong and his alleged tax evasion. Even though Ho Dong was also found to be not guilty in this case, he took a long hiatus from the entertainment industry from which he has yet to fully return. The fact that the case was taken by news outlets and spread throughout the public sphere meant that Ho Dong felt that the only honourable thing he could do was to remove himself from the industry. Despite consistent calls for his return, he remains away from the cameras.
Here we have something that can also put Western and Eastern entertainment industries at a stark contrast. Manners make up a large part of many Eastern cultures, marked by huge differences between formal and informal speaking as well as physical etiquette routines.
So where Westerners may dismiss impoliteness as “Diva” behaviour, Easterners really do not.
Last year, girl group T-ara were in the firing line for showing an apparent bad attitude some performances of their songs “Why Are You Like This?” and “Roly-Poly”. Netizens were quick to point out that the girls were seen chatting and laughing throughout the sets. It was later clarified by member Hyomin that the behaviour was part of the choreography for their songs and that everything was just a misunderstanding. The members had to reiterate this on many occasions before the issue was eventually dropped.
There is also the more recent case of Block B’s attitude during an interview in Thailand. The boys were seen to be in high spirits, but carried on laughing and joking around even when the interviewer brought up the flood disaster that was plaguing the country at the time. This was understandably seen as extremely disrespectful behaviour as many Thai citizens lost their lives in the disaster. The resultant backlash was huge, with many Korean individuals voicing their shame that a Korean group had been invited to another country and acted in such a way that reflects badly on the nation.
The members were quick to apologise for their actions, with each posting a lengthy apology on their official fan cafe. Zico, the leader of the group also took things a step further and shaved his head to symbolize his remorse; he also cancelled all of his scheduled activities.
Even after this, there were reports of Block B’s members receiving death threats directed at themselves and their families.
These are only a few examples of the many and varying scandals/controversies that have arisen in the K-Pop industry over the years and I am sure that, whilst you are reading this, you can recall a lot that I have not covered.
If I am to give my personal opinion regarding this subject, I definitely think that some of these incidents deserve the consequences that they get, however the majority of the time I am shocked to see what an over-reaction has occurred due to these events.
This could be partly due to my Western heritage. That is, perhaps I see some things as not such a big deal because of my culture and even though I would like to think that I am able to adapt my perspective to see it another way, there is no denying that I will not be able to do this fully.
On some occasions though, I think a lot of people forget that celebrities are also human beings. Every single person on the planet make mistakes and regrets things that they have done and I am a firm believer that nobody is above anyone else in any way, regardless of backgrounds, achievements or status. As the saying goes, the importance in making mistakes can be found in learning from them…
At the risk of making everyone sick, I am going to leave the clichés there!
One more thing I must say on the matter is that I dislike it when other celebrities make their opinions on these controversies known through social networking sites such as Twitter. By all means, they should have their own opinions on matters and they may feel offended or upset by events, but I think that putting them out for the world to know when you have no prior involvement in the situation will only add fuel to the already uncontrollable fire.
If you are involved in it, talk. If you are asked about it, answer honestly. But if not, I do not think it is anyone’s place to speak.
Of course these are just my opinions and it is always interesting to know what others think about such things. Feel free to comment/discuss/get angry below!
[Sources used: Google Images, Allkpop.com, Allkpopnews.com]