KPOPALYPSE INTERVIEW – Kpopalypse (episode 4)

It’s time for another Kpopalypse interview, as Kpopalypse is interviewed once again!


Did you know that Kpopalypse is willing to help any caonimas with their university and school projects?  Now you do!  The above caonima contacted me for an interview and I spent about an hour talking to him about sexualisation in the world of k-pop.  Read below and enjoy!


So this is for a university thing, right?

I’m writing an essay/research project on sexualisation in k-pop, and your article “healthy porn for men“, the dog-whistle article, that article pretty much inspired me to start writing on the topic.  I thought why not just ask the person who actually wrote the thing that inspired me!

Did you have any particular angle in terms of what you’re writing about?

Probably in terms of the ways that k-pop targets a specific audience, like you mentioned, and the ethical considerations surrounding it, when it involves minors or people underage…

Or rather, the lack of ethical considerations!

Or the lack of ethical considerations, yes!


You talk about western examples of dog-whistle that existed in the past with spanking in Hollywood, can you explain more on how you found out about this dog-whistle concept?

The actual term dog-whistle term I first heard about in relation to politics, there is a phrase “dog-whistle politics”.  Something might have an innocent-sounding message to everybody but a very specific meaning to a certain group.  I heard that first used in relation to the artist Death In June, he was accused of using dog-whistle politics because his music and imagery plays around with the aesthetics of Nazism.  It’s not really a political group, there’s not any “white power” stuff in there at all, if you look at the lyrics it’s not pro-Nazi whatsoever, but as it’s using similar imagery one of the criticisms levelled at him was that he was engaging in dog-whistle politics, by dressing up a bit like a Nazi and saying stuff that might make people who were into that sort of thing might think “he’s one of my kind”.  I don’t think that those criticisms of Death In June are particularly valid, which is why I didn’t use this example in any of my articles, but that’s where I first heard the term.

So basically it’s visible towards a certain audience but it just seems normal to any other regular person?

Yes, that’s right.  The much better examples that I’ve used in blog posts, were from Hollywood.  I used a scene from Spartacus where they’re talking about oysters and snails, and it’s all happening while a naked man is giving another naked man a bath in a bathhouse.  That was very obviously a way to get the homosexuality in there in a way that would be palatable to Hollywood censorship at the time because it was 1960 when the film was made, but it would still also be understood by a gay audience.  For someone who was gay at the time and heard these two people naked in the bath together talking about “do you prefer oysters or do you prefer snails?” – they knew exactly what that meant, it’s fairly obvious.  However someone who was not gay, it would probably fly over their heads, they probably wouldn’t quite understand that it was a reference specifically directed at trying to address the homosexuality that was in the original story that Stanley Kubrick couldn’t put in the film itself.

Would you say that in celebrity culture, regardless of whether it’s Korea or western celebrities, is dog-whistle always incorporated?  And not just in terms of sexuality but in other messages as well perhaps?

I wouldn’t say always, no.  It depends on context.

What came to my mind was something like Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time” where she dressed up as  a schoolgirl, and there’s a lot of talk about how schoolgirls and uniforms are being sexualised, and that she was a pioneer of that perhaps.

That’s always been the case.  When people first discover that they are sexual beings, it’s when they’re at school, because that’s when you hit puberty, while you’re learning things.  Most people who grow up do go to school, and while they are there they see people of the opposite sex – or maybe the same sex, if they’re into that – and they’re learning about the fact that they’re sexual.  Of course they can’t necessarily do anything about it at that age, because maybe no-one likes you because you’re ugly, or you want to focus on your schoolwork… there’s a million reasons why no sexual activity may actually happen, but you’re still surrounded by people who you might be attracted to potentially, all wearing these school uniforms.  That’s why school uniforms are such a fetish, because it brings people back to those early days of puberty when they remember what it was like to first have sex or at least to first have sexual feelings.  So when Britney Spears or any k-pop group is doing poses or pop dances and stuff like that in a school uniform that’s just maybe a little bit racier than the average school uniform, then that’s trying to evoke those same sort of feelings.

So the school uniform is like a code, that evokes people’s first sexual feelings in school?

That’s an example of dog-whistle that’s actually understood by almost everybody.  It’s one of the more obvious examples.  In Australia we had the group The Divinyls, who are a classic example of this.  The Divinyls had a singer called Chrissie Amphlett and she had an overtly sexual image and she wore the school uniform on stage a lot, right from when she was young, right up until when she died which was not that long ago, she was in her 50s and she was still wearing the school uniform.  It was something that became very synonymous with her, and there was a very sexual presentation.  Her massive hit in the United States was a song called “I Touch Myself” which was about masturbation.  Once again it’s playing on exactly the same thing, but if you talk about The Divinyls and Chrissie Amphlett in Australia with anyone who is of the age who remembers them, you never hear them being mentioned in a negative way – ever.  Australians really really like Chrissie Amphlett and they all thought that she was hot in that school uniform!

Was there ever any negative feedback from the audience?

No, never.  Not that I can ever recall.  The only time when there was a controversy was when she released that song “I Touch Myself”, that got banned off MTV in Australia at the time, but that was more because of the lyrics.  I think Madonna’s “Justify My Love“, which was the most overly sexual thing Madonna ever did in terms of video presentation, and The Divinyls’ “I Touch Myself”, those two songs were released around the world about a week apart.  So in Australia they censored the Madonna one and thought “while we’re at it we’ll censor The Divinyls too” because they were both seen in a similar sort of light, even though in my opinion they were quite different in a lot of ways.

You used EXID’s video for “Lie” which is pretty open about being sexual…

It’s fairly obvious – and the director even admitted that he was doing it, for that reason.

Even Hani’s original fancam that got them to their popularity, that could be seen as a direct form of sexualisaion, with the dance moves and the outfits?

Well, a girl in tight clothes dancing in a sexy manner is obviously meant to generate sex appeal, just like when the guys do it in k-pop.  There’s no difference there, if anything k-pop is an anomaly in that aspect because on stage the men are usually sexualised a lot more than the women.

Do you think this still becomes an issue when a group directly sexualises themselves, when they’re all of age, like with EXID?  Does it only become an issue when its targeted towards minors?

I guess that depends what you mean by “an issue”.  For some people it’s probably an issue if anybody does it, if they’re incredibly conservative people who don’t like to see sexuality on the screen.  For some people it’s probably not an issue even when younger people do it, I mean I.O.I did it.  It depends.  What does “becoming an issue” mean?

Since I’m tackling the subject of sexualisation based on whether it’s ethical or morally right to do so, what would you say is the limit of ethics?

Are you asking what are my personal ethics, or…?

Your personal opinion, because myself I would be fine as long as the person is over the age of eighteen and he or she has consented to doing so.

It’s a bit of a tricky question to answer, because firstly, “consent” in the field of k-pop is a bit of an interesting situation, whether you’re above age or not, and whether you’re dancing sexy or not, and whether you’re wearing a school uniform or whatever.  I think a large percentage of the people who are in k-pop groups really don’t want to do a whole ton of stuff that they have to do, and I’m not necessarily talking about anything sexual here.  I know T-ara didn’t particularly want to get dressed up as Indians to do “Yayaya” for instance.  They really hated that concept, no doubt they were taking the clothes out of the boxes and rolling their eyes and saying “oh my god, they want us to wear this shit”, and there’s not much that’s sexual about those clothes.

I remember miss A didn’t want to do “Bad Girl Good Girl”, they completely hated that song.  There’s no consent in k-pop, is that what you’re saying?

For a start, what you’ve got to understand is that these people in groups, they’re not necessarily wanting to go along with quite a lot of things, but they’re doing it anyway, and the main reason why they’re doing it anyway is because they have to.  They understand that it’s a business and they’re trying to make good on being k-pop stars and achieve fame and fortune so they’re like “if I want to get there I’d better do what the boss man says”.  It’s not like they really have much of a choice.  Maybe if you’re on Girls’ Generation’s level you can call the shots a bit, but your average group has got no choice, in anything, really.  So there’s that, and that has to factor into any discussions about ethics.  There’s a business model, and the business model is in the entertainment industry, and in the entertainment industry sex is something that’s interesting to a lot of people, people respond to it…

Sex sells, right?

Yeah, so that’s what people put out.  There’s more examples than I could give, you don’t really need any.

Maybe groups like EXID with their form of overt sexiness, have come to the realisation that they’re sexualising themselves but you then put up the example of April with “Dream Candy”.  With groups like that you mentioned a lot of the dog-whistle codes, and visual messages that will target and arouse a specific audience… does this become more of a concern when it involves things that on the surface seem innocent?  The members themselves might not know that they are being sexualised towards a niche audience.

They may or may not be aware, you don’t really know.  You’d have to interview them, and you can’t really interview anyone in k-pop about that kind of thing, because they’re not going to just talk to you about it.

It would be very controversial.

You’re only going to get the truth about that sort of stuff after people have finished doing their run in the world of entertainment.  I think if nothing else, the April girls would understand on some level “we need to look good, we need to look appealing to other people”.  In that video they’re very carefully styled, they’ve all got lots of makeup on, and they would know that the makeup and styling isn’t for nothing, that it’s a presentation industry.  The other thing you have to consider is that a group like EXID may be of age now, but when they were in training leaning how to do that stuff they possibly weren’t.

That’s a good point.

That’s the case with pretty much almost every single group that’s in k-pop that is an idol group.  They all started training when they were teenagers, or younger.  Whether they debut when they’re eighteen or when they’re seventeen maybe isn’t that relevant, they’ve probably all been taught how to do the “sexy moves” when they were a lot younger than that.  That’s embedded in everything, whether you see it or whether you don’t see it.  Some groups might make it a little more obvious, or they might wait until they’re 18 to debut so there’s not a controversy in the media when they’re showing their legs in suspenders or whatever, but the fact is they had to train for a few years first to be able to do that to that sort of level.  That’s behind closed doors, in a company with probably a male CEO, so…

So the make CEO will understand how to sell these girls to other males, pretty much?

What I’m saying is – there’s an amount of ethical considerations that you see on the surface, where you can make some form of judgement and say “I think that’s okay because they’re over age, but I think this other group over here might not be quite so okay” and then there’s the ethical considerations of the stuff that you don’t see.  The amount of stuff that people see that they’re horrified by or whatever, that’s just the stuff that the agencies think is okay to show you.  There’s a whole bunch of other stuff happening that people are kept well away from.

I’m thinking of using the example of Produce 101 for my university task, because I watched this show myself, from start to finish…

Are you feeling better?  [laughs]

I feel like, maybe because I’m of similar age to the people there, I didn’t feel like their were certain codes that were being sent to get people aroused by girls in school uniforms, or underage girls wearing full makeup… that’s a good example from my own personal experience where the show doesn’t necessarily target me but targets a more niche audience like older people who might be more aware of these sexual codes.

So what are you asking?

How do people develop that understanding or awareness of certain codes that are included in the dog-whistle?

They’re just specifically attuned to it already.  For instance, going back to the Hollywood example, if you were a gay man in the United States or a western country that was exposed to Hollywood entertainment a lot in the 1950s or 1960s, you don’t have a lot of entertainment options when it comes to looking at something that you find personally sexually appealing.  The whole industry is geared towards a straight audience, at that time there was no gay media, there was no Queer As Folk or anything like that, it’s “you’re either a straight hetero or you’re scum and we’re not going to cater to you”.  So if you have those predispositions in your brain already, you see everything through a slightly different lens.  When you see two men on the screen, your reaction is very different to when a straight person sees two men on the screen who might just see two men talking.  A good Hollywood example there is Ben Hur, which was a retelling of the Bible stories to a large degree.  The character Ben Hur is played by Charlton Heston, who was an extremely conservative anti-gay guy in his real life, and there are scenes with Stephen Boyd where the director and screenwriter kept this a secret from Charton Heston but gave Stephen Boyd instructions along the lines of “look at Charlton Heston like you’re gay and you want him” and of course they were trying to imply a gay relationship.  Gay people would have picked up on that, they would have seen the eyes he gives him… it’s a bit like when you’re trying to understand flirting, some people are good at understanding that and some people are not, and the people who are good pick up on all the non-verbal cues.

K-pop is a much more sexually conservative world of pop music than the west is.  That’s gradually changing, maybe, but there’s very strict censorship codes on TV in Korea, they’ve got to make sure everything fits the standard and they don’t want anyone to get into a controversy.  Something that’s considered right out there in k-pop like Stellar’s “Marionette”, by western standards that’s really not that racy at all, it’s not even close to the stuff that you’d see in a Nicki Minaj video, not even in the same ballpark.  When you’ve got that large amount of censorship, that’s where the dog-whistle comes into play more often, and that’s why it exists.  In western pop music you don’t need it, if you want to put sex on the screen you can just do it and it’s not that big of a deal.  In Korea you can’t really do that to the same level, so if you want to do something that has a sexual feeling to it, you have to sort of play around the edges a bit.

So because in the western world because there’s very minimal censorship there’s actually no need to use a lot of dog-whistle codes, but with k-pop to get through the censorship you need them to appeal to certain audiences?

We were talking before about girls being underage, but nobody’s targeting pedophiles only, because that’s a very tiny demographic, that’s a very small amount of people.  Most people who are making these things, they just want to tap into the normal sexual feelings that everybody has, but they can’t do it overtly because they’re not allowed to, so they have to do it subversively, they have to get the message in there somewhere, and there are all sorts of ways of doing that.

One subject I want to talk about is innocence and how in k-pop innocence is very marketable.  People who lie to maintain the idol’s innocence, they try to prevent them from getting into dating scandals because if they date someone they’re considered “impure” perhaps…

When promoting her first two albums, Britney Spears would talk often about how she was a virgin and had never been kissed, which I’m pretty sure no-one believed.  When she finally got the adult image she came clean and said “yeah that was all bullshit”, but it does sometimes happen in the west too.

People like IU or Suzy who have been “claimed” by the nation as their little sister or their first love…

Which is creepy as fuck, by the way.

Yeah, I find that weird.  People described them as having an innocent image.  Does IU’s “childlike” appearance contribute to people wanting her to remain innocent?

Who knows.  There’s probably a whole bunch of psychological factors at work.  It’s obviously something that is a successful marketing point at least up to a degree – you can’t do that forever, obviously.  Apink have tried, but at some point the audience is going to have to turn around and say “obviously you’re fucking, somehow”, I think everybody knows deep down that they’re not really that innocent.

I wanted to talk about how people treat things that are the same unfairly.  For instance with Rotta and his photoshoots with Sulli etc, people are against him in the way that he overtly presents pedophilic ideologies, unlike Produce 101 which is very hidden in a way.  On one hand Rotta is very much hated by netizens, but on the other hand Produce 101 is incredibly popular in Korea.

I don’t know if Rotta is that hated, he’s still making a living.  If you’re a photographer, and we’re talking about photography as a career, and I’m not completely up to date with everything about Rotta ever, but my understanding is that people had a problem with him because he was shooting sexy idol shots but then he’d also take photographs of kids for other people, and somehow that was a problem.  That pretty much puts him in common with every professional photographer ever, because if you’re a professional photographer, it’s a hard gig, it’s hard to make a living out of that, so you have to diversify your portfolio.  You might be shooting a wedding on a Sunday, you might be down at the strip club on a Friday night shooting girls, or you might be at a rock concert shooting rock guys, on the weekdays you might be going to school to do school end-of-year photobooks, and you just have to take the work where you can get it, you often don’t really have much of a choice.  You can’t say “I shot in a strip club so I’d better not do this upcoming school photo because people might realise I’m the same photographer”, it just doesn’t work like that.  You’re just a photographer, you’re just doing what people tell you and taking the photos that people want you to take.  The only reason why people notice it with Rotta is because he’s well-known.  If you go to a photo studio and ask to see some professional photographer’s portfolios, you’ll see all sorts of different stuff.  The pedophilia I think is largely in people’s heads.  There’s nothing about his photos that is illegal, there’s nothing that would come up on a blacklist or anything like that.  If you’re just looking at the photos objectively, if you saw those photos on their own, and you didn’t know who the photographer was, you’d probably just think “oh it’s just some photos of some kids, I can see they’re focusing on the clothes, I guess they’re child models and they’re trying to sell the clothes for a supermarket catalog for kidswear”.  I understand that he did actually take the photos of the children with the parents’ consent, so people who are saying “you can’t take photos of children in clothing”, they’re seeing that through the lens of Sulli or whatever and that’s where people are getting the objection from but it’s really happening inside their own brain, it has nothing to do with the real world.  I’d be extremely shocked if Rotta actually had any sort of agenda in terms of pedophilia.

He just does it because he needs to make a living?

I’m sure there are pedophile photographers out there, just like there are pedophile whoevers, but I don’t think you can draw a conclusion just like that.  I think you need to have something more concrete, so I think the objections about Rotta are a bit silly really.

He’s just catering to the audience?

If you’re a photographer and you’re getting tons of work, the way you prioritise is by money.  If some extremely rich person says “here’s a crapload of money, take some photos of my kids”, then you go “okay”.  If some idol CEO then says to you “okay we’ve got this group, we want to have some sexy photos, can you please do it, here’s a bunch of cash”, then you go “okay”.  There’s no agenda about it – he’s being dictated by the people who want the photos.  Photographers who do it for a living generally don’t get to choose what they take photos of – they get hired.

I wanted to talk about the concept of acting cute and aegyo.  People doing the aegyo, especially girls, is that something that contributes to the dog-whistle, or is that just something they do because it’s cute?

I’m sure some people like it in a sexual way.  Personally if my girlfriend started doing that I’d maybe take her to the doctor [laughs] but it’s pretty clear that there are some guys who really like that sort of thing.  In terms of sexuality, and I did do a post about this, sexual tastes have a very broad spectrum.  Some people like the raunchy Stellar “Marionette” sort of look, some people prefer the cute thing, which is more of a sexual turn-on for them.  Getting back to IU and “innocence”, an “innocent” image is a turn-on for some people.

If you’re a performer, anything you do is going to be perceived as sexual by somebody, just because humans are sexual creatures.  If you’re underage, you’re unfortunately still going to be perceived that way – if you’re doing things that an adult does, then you’ll be perceived in an adult kind of way by some.  The most extreme example of that kind of thing is how in some countries there are beauty pageants for really really young girls, and of course they’ll say it’s not sexual at all but you can bet there are some people there who are looking at it for that reason.

You mentioned SHINee in your first article…

I’m still yet to write the male equivalent of that article, but it’s coming!  I’ll touch a little on it now.  Obviously sexuality cuts in both directions and women are watching this stuff for the sexy guys or whatever, but there’s also women who like the cute guys.  So it’s not just all about when oppa takes his shirt off – obviously there’s some girls who really like that, but there’s plenty of girls who like a guy in a suit, or a guy in casual clothes, or whatever – just like with men, there’s sexual tastes with women that are different to the standard of what you might perceive as “sexy”.  With the male videos you see a lot of eye contact straight to the camera, staring at you like they’re your boyfriend, and in some videos they’re doing things so you can more easily imagine them as your partner or your boyfriend.  There’s the guy giving you a birthday cake, or he’s doing something with his friends and turns around and looks at you like you’ve just turned up and he’s like “never mind my friends, let’s look directly at you and give you a big smile”, so it’s playing on young relationship fantasy.  I’m sure a lot of women really appreciate that sort of visual.

So it’s pretty much the same with guys and girls because all k-pop is trying to do is sell stuff and sell their idols to a specific audience, so they’ll do whatever it takes, whether it be by making them act cute, by making them dress up in suits and look manly or whatever is going to sell?

Whatever they think is going to go over with the audience.

There’s a higher moral ground that people place, “cute and innocent” concepts have a higher moral ground than something like Stellar, but it’s actually just the same because it’s all under the same purpose of trying to make money, right?

That’s right.  It’s just two different sides of the same thing.  From an industry point of view, they don’t care whether they’re going to make you look like the “nation’s first love” or the “nation’s first whore”, they’ll do whatever they think is going to work.  When someone is putting girls in a “cute concept”, they’re not doing it because it’s “morally better”, they’re doing it because they probably see “oh there’s been a few sexy concepts lately, let’s do this one instead, it might work better to help the girls stand out” or they looked at the girls and thought “these girls suit this type of presentation a bit better, we might have more of a market impact if we give this particular girl this particular type of look”.  That’s why they’ll change it up randomly as well, so suddenly you’ll get a “sexy” group do a completely 100% opposite type of concept, because they’re just trying to stand out and do different shit that works and that goes across with the audience, and it’s a bit like playing the lottery.  Did anyone ever really predict that Suzy would end up coming across the way that she did?  Did anyone really predict IU?  For every IU there’s a thousand other people wanting to be IU who didn’t make it, because the presentation might not have been quite right, or they didn’t have the right song, or weren’t wearing the right thing, or couldn’t get on a certain show or whatever.  The music industry doesn’t approach these sort of questions from a moral standpoint, they don’t care about morals.

They care about money.

They care about “what can we do, and what can’t we do, and within the framework of what we can do, what will get the results that we want?”.  Moral questions are ultimately irrelevant, because in business nobody cares.  I mean, yeah, obviously they don’t want to go so far off the deep end that it’s going to offend absolutely everybody, but that’s not a moral issue, they wouldn’t do that just for marketing reasons.  It’s not like they’re going to stay up at night losing sleep because they offended someone, they’re going to stay up at night losing sleep because they’re not making money and getting back in the black, or because they went a bit too far and got banned off some show that makes money through exposure.  Hopefully that’s clear.

That pretty much explains why the Produce 101 producer tried to make “healthy porn”, right?  Because he wanted to make it sell, and as a matter of fact it did sell.

Yeah.  He saw a marketing niche and said to himself “no-one’s quite doing this the way that I envision it, let’s try it and see if it takes off” and it did take off, it actually worked really well, so obviously there’s a market for it.  The other thing to consider is that there are people who are attracted to really young people, and that is mainly other really young people.  If I’m in school and I’m 13 years old then I’m probably attracted to the women in school in my year who are 13 years old, that’s quite normal.  A lot of those people are watching TV and watching YouTube as well.  I personally don’t want to see 15 year olds wearing black leather, to me that’s really icky and cheesy, but there’s probably some 15 year old boy out there who really appreciates it.

I have a few friends who follow k-pop in general, and sometimes there are girls who follow other girl groups and guys who follow other guys groups.  Do you think you can follow a group without being attracted to them or aroused by them, but just like a form of admiration perhaps?

Yeah sure, absolutely.  The sexual side is only one side of the many different ways in which they’re trying to get inside your head and get you to like these people.  They use the sexual side because biology is very strong.  Biology is a lot stronger than sociology, so people will naturally tend to go toward their own biological impulses, whether society approves or not.  Biology is a very strong thing in all humans, however that’s not the only way to skin a cat.  I really only care about the music to a large degree, I guess if there’s girls I like in groups that’s nice, it’s probably better for me if there are than if there aren’t, but it’s not a deal-breaker if it’s like all ugly girls, if they have a great song I’ll still say “wow, that’s a great song, I hope this group lives a bit longer so they get another good song like that one”.   I like some of the boy group songs as well, if they’re really good they’ll pop up on my favourites lists, I’m not into guys but I’ll just recognise what I think is a really good song.  There’s all sorts of reasons why someone might find someone relateable or want to stan them or whatever you want to call it.  Sexuality is powerful and probably one of the main ones, maybe even the main one, but it’s never the only thing.

Just like how you mentioned music isn’t the only thing that’s being marketed, right?  Mostly it’s the idol?

Yes.  Yes, the music’s part of it.  Yes the sexuality’s part of it.  there’s also things like the personality, or the personality that they’re trying to push as their real personality, you see that when the idols are doing MCing gigs, they get those gigs because it’s a way to showcase their personalities and how they’re relateable and stuff like that.  It’s not really about sexuality, although some people will view it sexually.  So that’s another aspect.  Even things like how good a dancer someone is, or how good a singer someone is, there’s plenty of people who appreciate those elements regardless of whether they’re attracted to the person, or even if they like the song.  Someone might say “I don’t like this song, but gee that person’s a really good dancer” or “I don’t like this song, but that person’s a really good singer, I like how they sound” or whatever.

So there’s a multitude of reasons someone might like someone.

And if you’re in a k-pop company and you’re trying to market stuff, you want to try and market someone on every level you can possibly market them on.  You want them to be potentially attractive, but you also want them to look good on TV and come across with a good personality people will like, and you want the best possible song you can have for them as well that’s going to make the biggest impression.  So you’re throwing all those things into the mix and hopefully it all clicks into place nicely and you come out with a superstar person and the end of it like an IU or someone like that, which is a good example of where the elements have worked well together, but there’s a lot of cases where they don’t work that well.  That’s the gamble you’re making as an agency is to try and get that all together so it fits.

Do you think that because of these immoral things that people do, many people try to escape the idol life and they only use it as a headstart perhaps?  Like girl groups disbanding after seven years because maybe they’re sick and tired of being sexualised constantly?

Even the male groups disband after a while.  There’s not many people who are going to watch a 40 year old idol when there’s 20 year old idols available to watch.  That’s the way the industry thinks about it.  If a girl group gets seven years, that’s considered a pretty good run.  After that, all the girls are probably in their mid-20s at least, and there’s a bunch of brand new groups coming up.  South Korea being a society that’s so heavily based on looks, that’s a really big deal for them.  Sometimes you do see the older people looking good in the videos, and you’ll look at it and go “wow this person’s still got it” but they have a ton of makeup on [laughs] and it’s quite a lot of work to get someone who is 40 and make them look 20, it’s easier to just hire 20 year olds.  Also they want young performers because they want the really young fanbase, because a really young fanbase is a really rabid fanbase, as the fans get older they tend to get a little bit more sensible, they don’t impulse-buy so much stuff!  These days youth is more highly prized than wisdom and experience!  [laughs]

That’s all for this edition of Kpopalypse Interview!  While having other people interview me is nice, I’d rather interview YOU, so if you’re someone who is/was active in the world of k-pop on some level, get in touch!


9 thoughts on “KPOPALYPSE INTERVIEW – Kpopalypse (episode 4)

  1. You’ve linked that last video before but let me say I love you for it because Craig is my spirit animal. Watched every night when he was on the late late show. Did you watch him on the Australian telly? I understand the show went out there on a proper channel for a while.

  2. You know, for your complaints about improper Shure Super 55 use, isn’t that mic set up wrong in your “Kpopalypse Interview” graphic? Or have I learned nothing from you, and am still wrong? (I don’t think it’s an actual Shure Super, right? It’s whatever Taeyeon is singing into on the article you have about Shure Super usage I think, but I don’t know the general “class” of mic). The mic also doesn’t have a cord coming out of it, so that would probably be the bigger issue for anyone trying to use it, I guess.

    Also: Rotta – what he posts on IG isn’t his full portfolio, presumably, but an abbreviated version to establish branding and grow a fanbase /client base/ interact with other artists. I’m in a somewhat similar field, and that’s what we use public-facing social media accounts for. I imagine even if, for example, he did huge numbers wedding pics, if he wanted to be hired as a landscape photographer, he wouldn’t post most of the wedding stuff he did as part of his social media image, because it dilutes the brand. This isn’t the case if you’re desperate, but it seems he’s famous enough in the circles that matter (the ones that will hire him for glamour work) not to need to show us everything he does. With that, I suppose one could judge him harsher than you let on, but it seems like he might just be using the “cute” aesthetic in a non-sexual way, besides his obvious predilection for it with adult women (he has a ton of pics of pareidolic face images and animals as part of his IG brand, and I imagine he isn’t sexually attracted to those and no one thinks he is).

  3. “all k-pop is trying to do is sell stuff and sell their idols to a specific audience”

    What is truly impressive is when they get fans to support the company in general (eg. YG stans). Then they can phase out an existing group and transfer the customers across to the new group.

  4. Good, read! Enjoyed your perspective, as usual.

    Side note: For some reason, it finally hit me that you have an Australian accent, and it’s completely changed my reading experience.

    • I haven’t seen any idol girls stripping down and having same-sex makeout sessions, but the boy groups are notorious for this. Even the “adult-oriented” girl groups don’t get as sexually extreme on stage as Super Junior.

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