The banning or censoring of a song or music video in South Korea is a fairly common occurrence. These measures can be taken by particular broadcasting company or the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF) for a variety of reasons. Of course, censorship laws can vary widely from country to country – what might be seen as unsuitable for daytime broadcast in one culture can be perfectly normal for another and the respective boundary lines are forever being debated and changed. In this list, we have gathered a few examples of K-Pop songs that have been subject to banning and censorship. Some of the reasons behind these cases have been understandable, whereas some could be called downright laughable!
1. Lee Hyori – ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’
In this 2010 MV from the incredibly successful ‘K-Pop Queen’ Lee Hyori, we see her drive a lorry without a seatbelt on, and her dancers frolicking on the roofs of buses and running in the road. This was enough for KBS to smack it with a ban as these scenes were: “inappropriate and violate road traffic regulations”. KBS were not the only ones to react this way however, as MBC gave it a 15+ rating and SBS a 12+ rating. Rain’s ‘Love Song was also banned by KBS for his running in the road during the MV. Road safety is important, kids!
2. Crush – ‘Give It To Me’ (Feat. Jay Park and Simon. D.)
When looking at the English translation of these lyrics, one can argueably understand why the decision was taken, by KBS again, to ban the track’s broadcast. It is quite a hot and heavy song about an man and a woman spending the night together and not a lot is left to the imagination!
3. Fiestar – ‘One More’
“Just invite one more person for you and me. Into our little room. Someone who’s done this more than us. Now is perfect, One, two, three” – yes, it would seem that this song alludes to having a threesome! It is for this reason (as well as a fact that the MV apparently hints at a threesome at the end) that MBC has banned the song from all of its programming. The video also involves a little voyeurism, which was not referred to in the banning explanation, but adds to the quite risqué elements in this concept. (Funnily enough, it ended up as the third video on this playlist completely by accident!)
4. 2PM – ‘Hands Up’
MOGEF initially placed a ban on this song for its apparent allusion to alcohol in the lyrics “Get your hands up and put your drinks up“, but later reconsidered the decision and lifted the ban. They could have been talking about a drink of orange juice after all, right?!
Interestingly, a ban that MOGEF placed on PSY’s song ‘Right Now’ for the same reason was lifted because of PSY gaining in global popularity – questionable principles indeed!
5. 10cm – ‘Americano’
A song about coffee, how can this be banned? Well, MOGEF dubbed the track as “hazardous for children”, but it was not so much for the expression of love for coffee, but for the lyrics’ mentioning cigarette smoking on top of that. As you might expect, this action was met with a lot of criticism, and it made many question how some things get past censorship in society whilst others do not. Where does one draw the line?
6. PSY – ‘Gentleman’
Another ban from KBS here, and PSY gets it this time because he kicks a traffic cone. Okay, so he does indeed abuse public property, but what about his removing of a chair when a woman is about to sit, subsequently causing her to fall on the ground? Of course, being the exact opposite of a gentleman is the concept of this video – it’s humorous! However, it seems KBS takes their treatment of public property more seriously than the treatment of females. Hmm! (I’m sorry KBS, I didn’t mean that, please don’t hurt me!)
7. GD & TOP – ‘Don’t Go Home’
YG Entertainment have certainly ran into a lot of obstacles regarding censorship, a lot of which involve BIG BANG leader G-Dragon. However, this time around, MBC found a few problems with one of TOP’s rap parts in the song. The entire track could be said to imply the persuading of a woman to spend the night and TOP admits to being drunk. For MBC, this made it “unfit for public broadcast”.
8. Crayon Pop – ‘Uh-ee’
Though this track is classed as Trot – an inherently Korean genre of music, the use of the Japanese expression “pikka” is used in the phrase “pikka bbunjjuk”, which is an expression to communicate something shiny or sparkling. This was enough for KBS to ban the track as they felt it was not in accordance with the high standards they hold for the involvement of the Korean language. The expression was later changed to the full Korean “bbunjjuk bbunjjuk” which has a similar meaning. It should perhaps be noted that, unlike MBC or SBS, KBS is a government funded station, so it’s stricter rules and regulations can be understood a little better considering the pressured position it holds. However, many still think that banning a song because of a Japanese word was quite silly, even given the two country’s tumultuous history and subsequently occasionally shaky relationship.
9. U-KISS – ‘Quit Playing’
Surprisingly, all three of Korea’s major broadcasting companies were in agreement in the banning of this music video’s broadcast. The choreography was deemed too inappropriate for broadcast. Again, one might be able to see where they are coming from when you watch the MV, the dance is indeed quite sexualised when compared to average mainstream South Korean standards. While there is no actual kissing or highly intimate scenes, the choreography involves some fairly sensual moves and bodily contact. Given that their latest album is entitled ‘Mono Scandal’ though, surely you can expect some scandalous goings on, right? And U-KISS and their producers were fully aware from the start that this concept would have a 19+ rating.
10. 2NE1’s – ‘I’m Busy’
The use of a curse word in this song was the reason for restrictions being placed on it. It was slapped with a “disruptive for youths” label because of the language. Interestingly, their English version of ‘Can’t Nobody’ was also restricted for the same reason. 2NE1 are girls who mean business and their language clearly communicates that, it would seem!
BONUS TRACK: PHANTOM – ’19’
As a bonus, we have included an entertaining track from PHANTOM, which is a tribute (of sorts) to many of the songs that have been banned or censored in the past! Do you recognise them all?
Do you have any opinions on/suggestions for this playlist?
Let us know your thoughts in the comment section please!