Pop groups under fire for hot shows

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Pop groups under fire for hot shows


In K-pop, how much is too much? And, more to the point, how little is too little?

Korean girl groups have once again come under fire for crossing the boundaries of good taste and appropriate content for younger fans, especially for their live performances on popular music programs.

Groups like Girl’s Day, AOA and Rainbow Blaxx in particular were singled out for choreography that was deemed too sexual and responded by modifying their routines and toning down the more racy elements.

“As many girl groups are under fire for performing provocatively, we decided to eliminate the part where the girls stroke their legs with feathers,” said a representative of Dream Tea Entertainment, the agency behind Girl’s Day, in a statement on Saturday.

While sexy outfits have long been a big part of K-pop groups, many have recently upped the ante, with less clothing and more suggestive moves, trying to lure in viewers.

Girl’s Day kicked off what can be called a “sexy war” when their latest single “Something” took the No. 1 spot on many charts earlier in January. The music video and live performances of the song featured the group’s sexiest stylings since their debut in 2010.

They were followed by Dal Shabet and rookie girl group AOA, both of whom featured choreography that simulated touching their private parts.

Although people recognize that “sex sells,” some overboard performances on state-run TV channels during popular block times in the afternoon caused discomfort to the parents of younger fans.

There is no set of rules regulating how sexual dancers can get on music shows, so the producers and the Korea Communications Commission have to regulate the performances themselves. If a group gets the producers’ approval, they are allowed to go on stage, otherwise they need to make adjustments.


The dances and stage costumes of some K-pop girl groups, including AOA, top, Girl’s Day, above left, and Rainbow Blaxx, above right, have kindled controversy about sexual suggestiveness in the dancing and videos of idol bands. At the request of broadcasting agencies, bands have toned down their choreography. [NEWS1]

“We do not have tight rules about this, but we do have our own standards,” said Kim Joo-hyung, producer of SBS’s live music show “Inkigayo,” in an interview with Ilgan Sports, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily. “We watch a video of the choreography beforehand to see if it needs any adjustments and check the outfits during rehearsal. I tell the agencies of the girl groups not to put me in a situation where I am called into the commission’s office.”

Another set of standards applied to the performances is the “balance between the choreography, outfits and the overall concept,” according to Kim.

Despite risque parts, if the three factors work together to some degree, the performances go on without much adjustment; however, if certain moves are intentionally emphasized in a provocative way, they should be cut.

Kim also explained that they are going to “completely remove unnecessary close-ups of specific body parts or movements.”

“We check the outfits and choreography during rehearsal,” said Lee Se-hui, producer of “Music Bank” on KBS2. “If there is too much exposure, we give directions to change the outfit on that day. When the signature moves are too provocative, we keep the camera distant.”

Despite the producers’ efforts to restrict excessively raunchy acts, live music shows have been criticized for lacking an objective judging system.

For groups marketing themselves as sexy, especially for those having a hard time getting noticed, this is a double-edged sword: Go too far, and your career could be jeopardized, but you also increase the chance of getting noticed and hitting the big time.

“With so many girl groups in the K-pop scene, the competition has gotten excessive, naturally leading to a battle of who can wear the least amount of clothing,” said an official from one of the girl groups’ agencies.

“We are worried about criticism for pursuing such concepts, but what’s certain is that it’s not our primary concern.”

However, recent controversies over the girl groups’ performances have become too serious to overlook.

“In the case of Girl’s Day and Dal Shabet changing their choreography, we [the production team] asked for a milder version, and the agencies as well were willing to alter the choreography if needed,” said Min Cheol-gi, producer of the MBC music program “Music Core.”

By Um dong-jin [estyle@joongang.co.kr]
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