Category Archives: K Pop

More top-quality Korean K-Pop journalism

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Not for the first time, the Korean media is demonstrating that it is completely unreliable even when reporting on issue of great seriousness: A woman claimed that she was sexually assaulted by an unnamed idol, and then retracted the claim that the idol was involved, so a Korean media outlet posted a picture of a particular idol–you know, just some guy they picked out of a hat or something–along with the story. Because why wouldn’t you?

Fucking Christ.

Again, remember that, with K-Pop news, the best case scenario is that you are reading an accurate English translation of some incredibly shitty journalism.

ETA: Oh, nice, a Japanese K-Pop news Twitter account put a Block B hashtag on a Tweet about the story (it’s been deleted, and they’ve apologized). Good to know that shitty, irresponsible K-Pop news reporting is truly a global phenomenon! The best bit is that Block B was IN FUCKING JAPAN when the assault happened!

And this is why I don’t see the point of judging musicians on things other than music

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Asian Junkie did an article on the BTS remake of “Come Back Home” by Seo Taiji & The Boys, in which he states that he likes the remake better than the original…because he doesn’t like the way the members of Seo Taiji & The Boys have conducted their dating lives.

I’m an “old” K-pop fan, but the whole group is creepy as fuck. From YG grooming his wife to Lee Juno sexually assaulting women to Seo Taiji cutting (a teenaged) Lee Ji Ah off from the world and doing the same to Lee Eun Sung (her work before & after meeting him), getting defensive for them is pointless anyway.

In general I like Asian Junkie, because it tends to be relatively less delusional than most K-Pop sites, but COME ON.

What do we know about how the members of BTS treat the women they date? Absolutely NOTHING!!! I mean, there’s this rumor and that rumor that maybe someone dated someone at some point…but as for the details, it’s all pretty much cloaked in secrecy.

Why is it cloaked in secrecy? Why is this the norm for the industry? Precisely so that the public will have a nice, convenient blank slate on which to project their own desires.

Do you want the members of BTS to not date, because they just love their fans so much they couldn’t possibly? DONE.

Do you want the members of BTS to all be secretly engaged in massive gay orgies with each other? DONE.

Do you want the members of BTS to all be ultra-pure virgins, like the man your parents tell you you’re sure to marry one day, as long as you stay pure yourself? DONE.

Do you want the members of BTS to be automatically boning every attractive girl group or actress or groupie that passes them by, without any consequences? DONE.

Do you want the members of BTS to be noble and enlightened men, who would never abuse a woman, emotionally or otherwise? DONE.

Just like magic!!! Wow, it’s almost unbelievable how perfect they are, and that to every observer….

Since this seems to happen every single time

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Whenever Zico does a solo, you get this whole crowd coming out of the woodwork yammering on about how he doesn’t support Block B and how he’s going to leave and then the other members will all starve and die and yadda yadda yadda.

Which wouldn’t matter to me if I didn’t then get a bunch of traffic to this post as well as a gaggle of queries like “Is Zico leaving Block B?” or “Zico doesn’t like Block B?” There’s definitely a significant population out there who sees this Zico-leaving-Block-B bullshit and assumes that there’s actually something to it–indeed, that mentality is so prevalent that someone’s dumb prank got taken really seriously by people who then left a bunch of abuse on Zico’s social media.

Obviously I’m not psychic, and hey, one day Zico might indeed leave Block B! I don’t think it’s very likely for a lot of reasons, but I can’t say it’s absolutely outside the realm of possibility–he’s not a slave, for fuck’s sake.

I can, however, say that Zico has been putting out solo material since November 2014, those solos have been awfully successful, he also does very well with endorsements–and he has yet to leave the group. Nonetheless, every time he does a solo release, agitation begins anew over the possibility that he might leave Block B. In fact, even if Zico hasn’t done a solo release, what can best be described as scares crop up periodically–some other K-Pop group loses a member for whatever reason, so of course that means that Zico is about to leave Block B.

It’s especially interesting because at this point, other Block B members have also done solo work–Park Kyung most notably, but Taeil and U-Kwon have both put out commercial solo releases. A lot of the music Bastarz has put out has been written by P.O, with B-Bomb contributing the delightfully obscene “Tightly”; when the sub-unit’s members aren’t busy doing live theater, Bastarz gets booked on a regular basis, has performed abroad quite a bit, and even holds its own fan meetings. P.O founded a theater group, and so far he’s helped write two plays that have done quite well.

And yet I have never seen a scare over the possibility that, say, Park Kyung will leave the group to go solo, or Taeil will leave the group to sing angelic love songs to fish, or P.O will leave to focus on theater, or U-Kwon will leave to do musicals, or Bastarz will spin off forever and ever, amen.

Never.

So, what’s going on here? With the people who like the group but don’t know it well, and who are just kind of nervous that Zico might leave, I think they think of Block B as being like a more-conventional K-Pop group. The business model with those often is just to see which member the public will latch on to, and then to ditch everyone else ASAP. Likewise if the business model is to trot out a new group (and retire the old one) every few years, the label’s not going to care about keeping the members happy, which understandably makes them more likely to leave. Those aren’t KQ/Seven Seasons’ business model (KQ’s too small, for one thing), but I can see why someone who is used to mainstream K-Pop would worry about a group leaking members–or just disbanding for no particular reason, like Sistar did (surprise!).

The other, not-minor contributing factor, though, is that Zico has a lot of haters who just love to start this shit. Most of the people who express such concern over what Zico’s oh-so-imminent departure is going to do to the rest of the group don’t actually give a fuck about the other members of Block B. After all, if they cared enough to know what the other members were actually up to these days, they’d know not to worry–the group is far less reliant on Zico than it used to be, and I don’t see that trend reversing.

But that doesn’t matter to them, because what they really want is to tear Zico down, and convincing others that Zico is about to leave the rest of the group in a basket on the steps of a church (or maybe in a cardboard box in the middle of the interstate) is simply part of the selfish bastard! narrative that they’re trying to sell.

I’ve seen Zico stans flip anti, and it’s about what you’d expect–he won’t marry them disappoints them in some way, and all of a sudden he’s the most horrible baby-eater on the whole entire planet, and the rest of Block B are his pitiful victims (just like the former stan was, OMG). The mentality seems to be that if you put some effort into a celebrity, and then you decide that you don’t want to stan any more–well, that can’t be because stanning is simply not really that gratifying an activity to begin with, or because maybe your tastes changed, it has to be because the person you were stanning is worthless scum. (Splitting!)

You throw in the people who hate Zico because he dated their imaginary wife, and the people who are just trolling or want to upset anyone who likes Block B, and lo and behold you have this bottomless well of Zico is going to leave Block B! If that worries you, just keep in mind that it’s completely disconnected from any kind of objective reality–the people who are out there planting those seeds don’t know what’s actually going on with the group, nor do they particularly care.

Freedom: BAD

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So, hey, Taeil’s song is doing quite well, even though he didn’t do a video and probably isn’t going to do any music shows.

This is my favorite comment on it all:

Yes. And Taeil managed to score with this inexpensively promoted single in spite of competition that included the likes of G-Dragon. Taeil did it without videos that involve filming for 48 hours straight, or having to do a concert where some weirdo got on stage and grabbed him, or all of the million other things I’m sure G-Dragon is going to have to do, because that is the “benefit” of working for a large K-Pop label–getting exhausted and molested by creeps.

Instead, a guy who clearly doesn’t like appearing in videos (the only one I’ve seen him in is this one, and I think he wore that chador because they wouldn’t let him wear a burqa), gets to do what he’s comfortable with, which is singing live.


How oppressed he must feel right now.

I honestly don’t understand why anyone thinks that Taeil doing what he wants to do, and experimenting with different forms of promotion, is such a terrible thing.

How is this treated when a Western artist does it?

When Beyonce surprised the entire music industry this month by releasing her latest album, “Beyonce,” only on iTunes first — with no warning, no other promotion, no launch parties, no advance radio play, none of the traditional pre-sale retail hype — she showed how only a true star can break this industry glass ceiling. When it comes to business savvy, she just joined the lists of the greats.

Beyoncé joins the lists of the business greats. Taeil is a pitiable slave, horribly mistreated by his lazy, worthless label.

Jesus. What a load of crap.

One of the major reasons people go indie is CONTROL. That way, you don’t have to do the things you don’t want to do. And you can experiment with all kinds of weird shit that would be unthinkable under the traditional system: Do I need to produce paper books? Do I need to sell my music, or can I just give it away?

But when Block B says things like, Do we really need to appear on year-end shows? Do we need to appear on music shows at all? Do we need to do a CD? Do we need to do a video?–well, that’s when some people lose their shit. (And it’s not even like this kind of thing is unheard of in K-Pop: K.Will doesn’t usually appear in videos; IU hardly does music shows anymore; Nell doesn’t usually appear on television at all.)

Here’s something I’ve learned: When people insist that you must do things in a particular way, they either 1. don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about, or 2. profit from you doing things in that particular way.

So, Block B must always promote the traditional way, even though the whole music-show rigamarole didn’t do much of anything for “Make It Rain.”

Why? Because it’s better for the fans.

Oh, yes: The fans. Fans in any other industry are expected to enjoy and support the property. Fans in K-Pop petition to kick someone out of a group because he didn’t invite them to his wedding.

Remember: It’s OK to be a slave as long as you’re the fans’ slave. After all, they paid for ya!

And this isn’t just coming from K-Pop’s peculiar culture of idol fandoms. It’s also coming from the belief that a K-Pop label is some kind of Big Daddy, and the artist is a helpless little baby who needs to be led around by the hand and patted on the head and ripped off shamelessly.

Taeil can’t not want to do a video, because Taeil does not have agency. He can’t refuse to do things–it’s impossible! That would suggest that he has free will and is an adult!

But…we all know he can’t be an adult–he’s Baby Taeil!

Oh, well….

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Can we talk about the cost issue? Oh, I have already? I’ve pointed out that K-Pop labels typically charge expenses to their talent? Have I mentioned that one reason Dok2 has money is that Illionaire Records has all of one employee, and he’d rather do more himself than pay for other people to do it all? Yes? All right, then.

Why are Korean song titles so hard to translate?

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So, one thing that people often notice about K-Pop song titles is that their English translations can vary–sometimes a whole lot.

It seems like in recent years a lot of Korean acts have gotten better about putting up English titles on iTunes, so at least there’s usually an official title (although it may be completely different than the Korean title). But that typically happens only once the song is released–when something’s being teased in pre-release, like Taeil’s upcoming song, an official English title is nowhere to be found, and the English translations can seem really chaotic.

That’s not because the translators don’t know what they’re doing or anything–it’s because English and Korean are very, very different from each other, and things that we take for granted in English don’t always happen in Korean.

Keep in mind, too, that one goal of a Korean title is to be memorable to a Korean-speaking audience. A native Korean speaker trying to come up with a song title to appeal to other native Korean speakers isn’t going to have ease of translation into English as a goal. Think about all the English-language songs that have titles like “Nothing Compares 2 U” or “If You Seek Amy”–no one’s trying to make all that easy to translate into another language, and why would they?

(Although I should point out that sometimes Korean/English wordplay is very much a goal. Block B’s “H.E.R” is “헐” in Hangeul; 헐 is a Korean slang expression meaning something along the lines of “Oh, my!” Likewise the song title “U Hoo Hoo” is a play both on the English word “you” and the Korean word “유흥,” yooheung, which means pleasure (and, yes, it can have adult connotations).)

So, let’s take a gander at the Korean title of Taeil’s upcoming song, “좋아한다안한다.”

“좋아한다” is the declarative form of 좋아하다, which means to like. More specifically, 좋아하다 is a kind of portmanteau verb common in Korean; 하다 means to do, and a lot of the time Korean takes a word (like 요리, cooking), tacks on a 하다, and gets a verb, 요리하다, which means to cook.

So, what’s the 좋아 part mean? It means that something is good. This isn’t quite the logic we’d use in English, but it is logical: In Korean if you tack together good and to do, it doesn’t mean to do good, it means to act as though you think something is good, or to find something to be good–in short, to like. (The same thing happens when you tack together pretty and to do–it doesn’t mean to do something prettily, it means to find something pretty or to like it.)

“안한다” is the declarative form of 안하다, which means to not do. (안 means not; 하다 still means to do.) What aren’t you doing? You’re not liking–that’s why 좋아한다 and 안한다 are stuck together as “좋아한다안한다.”

But who’s liking or not liking what?

This is where Korean gets VERY different from English: You don’t have to say! 좋아한다안한다 is a grammatically correct sentence in Korean–you don’t need a subject, you don’t need an object (although you can use both if you want). “Like not like” is fine!

In real life, a Korean speaker wouldn’t use a sentence like 좋아한다안한다 unless the context made it totally clear who was liking/not liking whatever or whoever they couldn’t quite make up their mind about. The fact that this sentence is grammatically correct doesn’t mean that Koreans necessarily talk this way–except in dramas, of course, where no one ever communicates clearly with anyone else, because then you wouldn’t have 16 episodes’ worth of relationship problems!

So part of the issue for people trying to translate a title like “좋아한다안한다” into English is that, if that phrase is all you have, it’s basically impossible to come up with something that is both an accurate translation and grammatically correct in English. Until you get a look at the lyrics and have more context, you are without a clue as to whether it should be I Like/Don’t Like You, You Like/Don’t Like Me, She Likes/Doesn’t Like Him, or even We Like/Don’t Like Them (or You or Me)!

But the other really interesting complication is that, just like writers of Korean dramas, writers of Korean song lyrics (and Korean poetry too, or so I’m told) often deliberately use the ambiguity inherent in phrases like 좋아한다안한다 (an ambiguity, remember, that could be easily cleared up by the simple addition of a direct object).

Once some of the lyrics of “좋아한다안한다” were released, the translators could say with some certainty that “좋아한다안한다” means Likes Me, Likes Me Not. But if you look at those lyrics, things aren’t quite that straightforward–after all, the tricky part of starting a relationship is that both people involved have to like each other the same way and at the same time. So, just like the beginning of a relationship, “좋아한다안한다” is not quite as simple as Likes Me, Likes Me Not–and that’s on purpose.

Taeil reminds us that you can’t evaluate lyrical quality based on a translation.

Another song title where this happens is Block B’s “했어 안했어,” which literally translates as “Did Didn’t.” If you look at the lyrics, the most-straightforward interpretation is Did I or Didn’t I?–as in, I told you to stop hanging around with that guy and to not call him and not text him constantly, didn’t I? Huh? Did I or didn’t I?

But the other meaning, of course, is Did You or Didn’t You?–cheat.