Point / Counterpoint on Sexualization of Teen Kpop Idols

Should a law ban sexualizing of K-pop teens? – The Korea Herald
Should the Sexualization of Teens in K-Pop be Banned? – The Grand Narrative

James Turnbull of The Grand Narrative directed us to the Korea Herald opinion piece, as well as bringing up some edits to his side of the argument.

An astute observer of idols would probably know the way the pro and con sides would argue to some extent: exploitation versus the slippery slope, symptom of broader social ills versus the triumph of unfettered capitalism, with both sides claiming they’re looking out for the best interest of the idols. However, it’s nice to see this debate take place in a more mainstream setting and find some interesting wrinkles as a result.

The most interesting part about James’ argument is his emphasis that a single regulatory body decide what is and is not acceptable, and that enforcement be kept consistent for all involved. It’s common sense, but common sense and bureaucracy don’t always go hand-in-hand.

Cho Dae-won, a professor in entertainment management who also represents an entertainment group, writes the No part of the editorial, and his most interesting point is that if applied rigorously and fairly, then sports figures would also have to be included in such assessments. Being very unfamiliar with Korean culture and pop culture, I’m not sure how valid this is – sports has a much more utilitarian explanation for their uniforms, though if Cho is talking about racy promotional images that would make more sense.

I know where I land on this, mostly because I’m predictably libertarian and predictably pro-pedolicious idols. While I sympathize greatly with James’ belief that there are deeper problems in gender relations that the idol world exacerbates, I’m always leery of having any government make decisions that require nuance and even-handedness. And if we let the free market decide, as Cho argues… Well, they seem to have already cast their vote with their dollars, right?

And Lord knows, if there’s a loli-idol prohibition in South Korea, we may see the impacted groups relocate somewhere that’s more welcome, where lolicon is at least a little more acceptable in the social landscape. (Or has more vocal supporters.) After all, GP Basic flew to Japan to get their groove back as idols with “Jelly Pop”, and now are back in South Korea. Tapping the Japanese market is the trend in the Kpop industry anyway, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Japan become an eventual haven for the more risque aspects of younger hallyu acts. Which may not be a satisfactory answer for anyone, but could be the eventual realpolitik for the idol world.