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Minami 3
About Korea not Japan, here's a quotation I lifted from a comment by Subdee:

I'll say again that I don't think the point is necessarily to maintain a fantasy of availability. I think the main point is to be more relateable to the (young) audience. Korean middle school students are also frequently under a dating ban until they pass their high school entrance exams, they also have to sneak around on dates and not get caught, etc. It's the same reason there are few co-ed idol groups (because Korean middle schools are also sex-segregated).
My immediate thought when I first read this wasn't that it must be wrong, but that it makes assumptions that don't make sense to me: that no matter the differences among Korean middle schoolers in social class, social grouping (e.g., freak, jock, nerd, skater, or whatever the various groupings are in Korea, not assuming they're the same in all neighborhoods), religion, opinion, etc., they're all more or less living the same life and doing the same amount of homework and sharing the identical attitude towards whether stars should date. Whereas I'd expect a whole range of all of these. And if an issue is controversial, there'll be vast differences of opinions even among one's friends and in one's social set. So I'd expect that there'd be constituencies for all sorts of star behavior, not just for one type of star or star behavior. So if there really is an almost-across-the-board dating band for idol performers, or at least a don't-ask-don't-tell policy (I don't know that either is true, in Korea, not paying attention to the supposed-personal-life-of-stars aspect as much as some of you do), the question would be: why does one constituency seem to outshout all the others?

Also, what does "being under a dating ban" mean in regard to a middle school student? Even if parents say you shouldn't date, I'd think the crucial question would be what does your peer group and what do your friends think. They're the real enforcers here. Not that you want to get in trouble with your parents, but if you and your friends have a positive attitude towards dating (whether you want to risk it or not), then if you get caught or get in trouble or are afraid to you'll still likely have a positive attitude towards idol stars who date. Also, from Subdee's description, I'd think the ideal star would be one under a supposed dating ban who nonetheless dates, gets caught, but doesn't always give way or show remorse, or whose remorse is obviously only pro forma.

Speaking of which, over in Japan, according to Mat, Sashihara Rino won the election as most popular member of AKB48:

Worth noting about the Minami scandal, which you might not want to note since you have 500 other things worth thinking about, is that in their yearly election of the most popular member this June, the winner was big surprise Sashihara Rino, who had a recent bf/sex scandal end with her 'demoted' to a sister group of AKB48 (no hair cutting). Give away two minutes of your time though and you'll see this post-win interview bit which showcases the carefree attitude that's made her popular and gained her haters at the same time http://vid48.com/watch_video.php?v=OXABKRNX556Y
I like in the interview how she thanks the scandal mag that caught her with her bf. Reminiscent of 50 Cent back in the day thanking the New York Post for boosting his popularity by their attacks on him.

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"Reminiscent of 50 Cent "

The "I get money" line is def close to rap braggadocio:


"I don't care if you throw all the ice in the world — you're payin' five bucks and I'm makin' 10,000, baby. So SCREW ya!"
--Iggy Pop, to the hecklers during the last ever Stooges show, 1974* (though with vastly more ambivalence than 50 Cent, I'm sure: Iggy, after all, is the guy who sang "Honey, come and be my enemy so I can love you too").

*I'm not counting Stooges reformations as Stooges shows, even though I guess I have to admit they are.

For what it's worth, there was a post up at askakorean - which of course I can't find right now - about conformism in South Korea. From what I remember, the argument was that because SKorea was a war-torn, agrarian, rural country made up mostly of villages as recently as 60 years ago, there's a lot of pressure to conform to expectations and it's hard to break away from convention. I don't have personal experience with this, of course.

In general, people complain that pop stars live in their pop star would, and have problems that aren't relatable to normal people, right? Of course, Kpop has become pretty decadent lately - and I don't just mean more-openly-focused-on-sex-drugs-and-status decadent, but more self-referential and self-obsessed, which is a sign of artistic decadence.

The self-proclaimed Korean at Ask The Korean is hardly worth referencing. He's got an agenda, and has distanced relationship with the truth. Good for a laugh or two, but I'd take anything I read there with a healthy grain of salt.

Naver or Daum cafes offer a much better glimpse into the mindset of your average Korean, and if you don't read Korean, don't worry! These days you can find English-language bloggers if dig deep enough.

Excellent, thanks very much for the reality check. I did notice that the AaK Korean is a rockist...

I want to underline the idea in my post, which is that I don't believe there is, say, a typical Korean middle schooler. That's because I don't assume that all Korean middle schoolers are the same gender, come from the same social class, belong to the same social group, have the same set of friends, subscribe to the same politics, have the same religion, etc., much less have the same temperament. (I say this while knowing almost nothing about Korean middle school.) So even if a particular Korean is a conformist who is having difficulty "breaking away from convention," whatever that means, he (let's say it's a he) would still have to make a choice as to what conventions and which people to conform to. If he's a Christian, how does he avoid running counter to Buddhists? And since not all Christians belong to the same sect or congregation, how does he avoid differences from his fellow Christians? If he's conforming to his peer group, does that mean he's going along with his parents, too? And so on.

I'm skeptical of any broad social generalization such as "it's hard for Koreans to break away from convention." And assuming you're remembering the Ask A Korean guy's argument correctly (really, was it that unsubtle?), I can't make sense of it. I mean, get rid of the phrase "war-torn" and change "60 years ago" to "80 years ago" and you could be describing African Americans; but would anyone claim that African Americans as a whole are particularly conformist — more so than most people — and are under more pressure to conform and so find it harder than everyone else to break away from convention? How is that any kind of an argument? You could just as easily replace the word "more" with "less," in regard to American blacks, in regard to Koreans, etc. Why wouldn't undergoing urbanization inspire flexibility rather than conformity? Why wouldn't it pit children against parents? And if Ask A Korean's argument applies to Koreans now (if it is his argument), why wouldn't it apply to most Latinos in America now, or most European immigrants to the United States in the late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth? Or the ones who stayed in Europe, for that matter. They generally went from rural to urban too (and some then went suburban), and many had come from a background of famine, civil war, oppression, and so forth.

(This doesn't mean we shouldn't think about what pressures South Koreans are under; just that we should assume that there are a multiplicity of pressures, and a multiplicity of reactions to them.)

Edited at 2013-09-16 02:10 pm (UTC)

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