The making of K-Pop

Standing beside me was Jon Toth, a twenty-nine-year-old white guy, a computer scientist who had driven twelve hours straight from New Mexico. Toth is a fan of Girls’ Generation, a nine-member girl group in the process of recording its American début album, with Interscope Records. At the time he stumbled across the Girls, on YouTube, Toth was an alt-rock guy; he loved Weezer. “I was definitely not the kind of guy you’d expect to get into a nine-girl Asian group,” he told me. But before long Toth was studying Korean, in order to understand the lyrics and also Korean TV shows. Then he started cooking Korean food. Eventually, he travelled all the way to Seoul, where, for the first time, he was able to see the Girls—Tiffany, Sooyoung, Jessica, Taeyeon, Sunny, Hyoyeon, Yuri, Yoona, and Seohyun—perform live. It was a life-changing experience.

“You think you love them, but then you see Tiffany point directly at you and wink, and everything else that exists in the world just disappears,” Toth wrote on Soshified, a Girls’ fan site. “You think you love them, but then you see Sooyoung look you dead in the eye and say in English, ‘Thank you for coming.’ ” Toth concluded, “I might not know how much I love these girls.”

Here is much more, interesting throughout. How about this?:

Double-fold-eyelid surgery, which makes eyes look more Western, is a popular reward for children who get good marks on school exams. The popularity of the K-pop idols has also brought Chinese, Japanese, and Singaporean “medical tourists” to Seoul to have their faces altered to look more like the Korean stars. Some hotels have partnered with hospitals so that guests can have in-house procedures; the Ritz-Carlton Seoul, for example, offers an eighty-eight-thousand-dollar “anti-aging beauty package.” Women come to have their cheekbones shaved down and undergo “double jaw surgery,” in which the upper and lower jawbones are cracked apart and repositioned, to give the whole skull a more tapered look.

For the pointer I thank Viktor.


And the Korean pop music scene even has it own version of birthers (though perhaps amusingly, it seems directed towards academic achievement) -

'In 2010, it was announced that Epik High would go on hiatus after DJ Tukutz enlisted in his mandatory military service, whilst Tablo and Mithra would be working on solo careers until DJ Tukutz's return. However, in mid-2010, a group of internet users raised doubts about the academic background of Tablo, who majored in English and English Literature at Stanford University. Led by two fan sites, most notably "We Demand the Truth from Tablo" (Hangul: "타블로에게 진실을 요구합니다"; also known as "Tajinyo", Hangul: "타진요"), some netizens claimed that Tablo could not have graduated from Stanford with both a Bachelor's Degree and Master's Degree in English and Creative Writing, respectively, in just three and a half years.

It became front-page news in Korea in June 2010, when one of the fansite's manager, who goes by the username, whatbecomes, claimed that that Tablo's academic record was "not making any sense" and showed what he believed to be inconsistencies in Tablo's transcripts. Even though Tablo posted his official transcript and other legal documents online, many netizens refused to believe him, and called for other documents such as his immigration statement and diploma to be released.[25][26] Tablo visited Stanford University in late August to clear himself by re-printing his documents on camera, and many of his acquaintances and former professors from Stanford attested to the validity of his academic background on camera. The documentary was shown in two parts: "Tablo Goes to Stanford", and "Tablo and South Korea Online", which respectively aired on MBC October 1 and 8. However, despite the documentary, and Stanford's administration clearly siding with Tablo, membership at "We Demand the Truth from Tablo" increased to as many as 190,000 within a few days, as numerous netizens refused to believe Tablo or the documentary. Tablo left Wooliment entertainment during the Tajinyo incident because the label did not follow through when they said they'd help.

On October 9, however, police confirmed that Tablo had indeed graduated from Stanford, having requested information beyond what Tablo had already provided, directly from Stanford University. South Korean police filed an arrest warrant domestically and with Interpol for the arrest of whatbecomes, who was revealed to be a 57-year old Korean-American named Eung Kim living in the United States.[27] In addition, twenty-two netizens received summons indicating they had been sued by Tablo for criminal defamation. The fansite was shut down soon after by its host site, Naver, following the results of the investigation, which also revealed that whatbecomes had fraudulently used a friend's ID number to create the website, violating Naver's terms of service. However, many members of the fansite joined another community called "We Demand the Truth from Tablo 2" (Hangul: "타블로에게 진실을 요구합니다2", or "타진요 2"; "Tajinyo-i" for short), which has a membership of over 33,000 netizens despite proof provided by the police that Tablo did indeed go to Stanford University.'

Sounds like anti-Asian surgery...

And no, WordPress, I will not slow down, this is my first comment today, you...

Wrong. The double eye lid is a common, but minority, trait among Koreans.

A comparison might be to white women dyeing their hair blonde or getting blue contacts -- a common trait that most whites find attractive.

Perhaps better, due to the permanent nature, is laser hair removal. Some white women have very little body hair, some have a lot. Less body hair is considered more attractive by most people

>A comparison might be to white women dyeing their hair blonde or getting blue contacts

Surgery: it does not mean what you think it means.

"Less body hair is considered more attractive by most people."

For Christ's sakes, don't get me started.

"What? It came up organically"

Adult young women tend to have larger eyes than adult young men and older women people, while adult young women usally have a smaller jaw profile than men.

In this context, there is a more likely reason for those surgeries among women (not that beauty and sex typical/exaggerated characteristics are one and the same).

The (much lower!) prevalence of these surgeries among Korean men is more surprising...

Korean don't get double-eyelid surgery to make themselves look more western. About half of them have double eyelids naturally and it (along with pale skin) has been considered attractive since long before a European face had ever been seen there.

What is interesting about K-Pop is the crushingly brutal Studio system they have. You are not really looking at Girl's Generation. You are looking at the work of SM Entertainment. Which is one of the Big Three Korean music companies. All of them scout for young talent. Sign them to highly restrictive contracts. Put them through brutal years - and it is usually years - of training and education (plus plastic surgery these days). Get some people, and they are usually the same people, to write some songs for them and then they are off. They also buy up most of the airtime so no one else gets a look in. In fact most K-Pop bands are more or less interchangeable. The best way to distinguish them is by how many members they have. And to a lesser extent how slutty they dress.

It became a bit of a scandal for Girl's Generation because they have made no money so far. They get a small amount of pocket money from the label, but they are still paying back what they owe for all that training. And I expect they always will. The economics of K-Pop is bizarre even by Hollywood standards because they don't even make much money from record sales any more. The members of GG could not even afford health insurance.

So their only real chance, I suppose, is to trade this fame in for becoming a mistress or perhaps a second wife of someone rich. But then perhaps it is better than making TVs for Samsung.

The eyelid surgery is a smart investment for aspiring actors and singer. It allows you to convey more emotion -- especially to non-Asians.

Simple google searches will reveal the before-surgery appearance of many famous asian starts -- like Jackie Chan, for example. The pictures make clear these stars would not have become global stars with their original eye appearance.

It is a subtle effect. The heavy lid can make an asian appear dumb, slow, or tired to audiences. The double eyelid still looks asian -- nobody thinks Jackie Chan isn't asian. But revealing more of the whites of the eye make the actor look more alive, alert and engaging on screen.

An actor needs to emote and the eyes are the window to the soul.

"The pictures make clear these stars would not have become global stars with their original eye appearance."

No, they don't.

Lucy Liu. Single eyelid. End of story.

I had lower jaw bone surgery for medical reasons (insurance paid all of it - could have bought a pretty nice car for the total cost of that experience) a decade ago. It's excruciatingly painful and I would never ever suggest to anyone to do it just for looks.

The full article did not mention DBSK (TVXQ) which is the most successful boy band of SM. Three members sued SM as well and SM uses its power in K-Pop to stop those three members from appearing on TV....scary...

What's wrong with this Toth guy? What a weirdo.
I don't know about these older white guys who are into K-Pop girl bands...
Korea has a relatively good music scene outside the mainstream K-pop thought, there's some good hip-hop groups like Leessang and Epik High so it's not all manufactured girl and boy bands.

"I don’t know about these older white guys who are into K-Pop girl bands… Korea has a relatively good music scene outside the mainstream K-pop thought, there’s some good hip-hop groups like Leessang and Epik High so it’s not all manufactured girl and boy bands."

Girls on the far right tail of attractiveness dancing around in high heels and tight-fitting/revealing outfits might have something to do with it.

No, no, no I mean you can say they're attractive but guess what there's boat loads of attractive celebrities that doesn't mean you make comments like “I might not know how much I love these girls.”

You've not been to southeast Asia if you think it's weird. I live in the Philippines most of the year, am middle aged (though look 10 years younger and am fit) and have teenage (as in 18, 19 yo) girlfriends. Not a big deal. Korea though is out of bounds for most westerners, as is Japan; too pricey. But Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Philippines are fine. Demographics and poverty are the drivers. The unanticipated --what is it called, consumer surplus?--of poverty and too many young people. Hooray for Ray.

FACT: East Asians want to look like white people. Whenever extreme race-changing plastic surgeries with East Asians come up there are a bunch of East Asians who like to go surgery by surgery to show that these people are trying to look like East Asians. No, they are not. You can look at individual procedures as well as the whole thing and see that their goal is to look like white people. There is East Asian artwork before Europeans in any great number travelled to East Asia which show what East Asian beauty ideals looked like. No East Asian is trying to look like that anymore. Even something outside of plastic surgery shows how radical beauty standards have changed since East Asians have come into contact with Europeans like men’s weight. Before contact with Europeans, East Asians revered morbidly obese men. The Chinese Buddha is extremely overweight and the same for every leader. Look at the sport of sumo wrestling China produced where two very fat men wrestle each other. Now in East Asian media you see East Asian males depicted as muscular or slim. It’s from the influence of European beauty standards that this happened. East Asians are shaving down their cheek bones so they have less broad faces like Europeans. East Asians have brown eyes and black hair, no other colors (don’t show pictures of mixed race East Asians to try to disprove me). Dying their hair lighter colors particularly blond is very popular. Many times East Asians are unsuccessful in changing their hair color to blond because of inexperience or impatience and end up with chestnut brown hair. I see that a lot. Eye contacts are fairly common. The use of skin bleach is rising. Light skin is probably the only issue East Asians have a legitimate claim to being a longstanding East Asian beauty standard. The most common surgery of all is eyelid surgery. There are several different types of eyelid surgeries which changes the shapes of the eyelids to various degrees. East Asians are not born with round eyes, they don’t grow up with round eyes. They want round eyes to look like white people. East Asians are so bothered by their natural appearance that they denigrate East Asians that remain natural like Margaret Cho as ugly while praise white-wannabes like Honey Lee. This is a very interesting topic, one that is rarely talked about because East Asians want us to believe that they naturally look like this and it’s not about looking like white people.

OK, can someone explain this to me?

I just watched Gangnam Style on YouTube, and, though I'm clearly not the target audience, I was still confused. It wasn't that it was terrible. It's that it was so middle-of-the-road in every respect that I cannot see how it excites any passion whatsoever.

The girls were better looking than average but nowhere near beautiful.

Their dancing was about equal to high school varsity: i.e. much better than mine but not even close to professional.

The song was bland. Again, better than anything I could do but lacking in any distinctive anything. I mean, I don't like the song S&M but at least I can remember it.

The whole thing reminded me of nothing so much as a group that would make it to the middle rounds of one of those talent shows and then lose out.

Do you find Lady Gaga to be exceptionally beautiful or a great dancer or a great singer? LMFAO? The song is catchy and anthemic and the video is very humorous even if you don't understand Korean. That makes it easy to understand why it's the big breakout internationally despite other artists being more talented.

I don't think that's even a remotely fair comparison.

These girls simply don't look like professional entertainers to me. They look like a group of high school kids who wanted to emulate the Spice Girls on their own — without any of the professionals the Spice Girls had to write the songs or choreograph the dances or control the cinematography to make them look hot.

Of course, that's the problem with matters of taste. You can say that your kid banging on a pot sounds better than Mozart and there's no real counter.

I just thought the amateur vibe might be part of why people like them: because they are no better than anyone, they could be anyone and thus are uniquely accessible in ways that people with talent (or manufactured by talented people) are not.

You changed the subject back from Gangnam Style (a song by a solo male singer) to Girls Generation/SNSD (girl group) unclearly above and it's also not clear which song you're talking about. Regardless, I find the Spice Girls borderline in most of the ways you seem to -- attractiveness, singing/dancing talent, songwriting, choreography, video direction, etc. I don't really care for SNSD either but I could easily make the case that they exceed the Spice Girls at everything listed except maybe beatmakers/songwriters which is probably a wash.

The "amateur vibe" you're talking about I don't see, I generally get the opposite effect from K-pop, it's heavily manufactured and polished, and almost nothing seems real or authentic about it -- even the videos have this "every single frame has been heavily photoshopped" feeling. With a few exceptions K-pop idols don't generally look like everypersons either; they are chosen for their looks and often height as much as base talent. At the same time they outwork their counterparts in other countries by a ridiculous margin and are generally better singers and dancers too and their behaviour and image is notoriously policed by their handlers and the public.

Gangnam Style = Korean Macarena

There's not really much more analysis warranted.

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