The Year that was 2012: Scandals Galore

In this third article I will be looking at the scandals that occurred within the Kpop world and the impact they had on netizens and me.

Who doesn’t love a bit of gossip, gossip makes the celebrity world go round. In fact most of the so called ‘rumours’ we hear or see are created by companies to gain publicity for their artists upcoming movie, single etc.

This year the scandals came thick and fast with some even threatening to derail a whole company and exposing the dark side of Kpop. Some so called scandals saw idols becoming brave an exposing a part of their lives that were otherwise kept in the dark to avoid upsetting fans, Here are a few that certainly got me talking:

The T-ara debacle
2012 was marred by the sudden ‘departure’ of Hwayoung from successful girl group T-ara. It seemed that the CCM their agency wanted to make changes to deal what they deemed bad behaviour by some members of the group. For an in-depth analysis of the story check out my previous article on it here.

Netizens (those unforgiving voices on the internet) reacted to the reports of bullying and started to boycott and plan campaigns against the group and the owner of CCM Kim Kwang Soo, In the worst public relations ever seen by a company, Kwang Soo blamed Hwayoung creating more and more sympathisers towards her and she came out slightly unscathed.

What this scandal showed was the dark side of Kpop and the realities of putting a group together. Of course groups aren’t going to get on all the time and there may be fights and disagreements. These are emphasised and magnified when said group is with each other nearly 24 hours a day.

Furthermore with the competitive nature nurtured in these companies artists have to make themselves stand out but also easily fitting into a group. It didn’t help that many people already had bad thoughts towards CCM and it’s over working of the girls and the inherent criticism they faced from their CEO on a public level. Once stating that they were being lazy and that they would face consequences. Sure, you would be lazy after doing a long hard day with no room for sleep or rest and having to be perky even though your eyes want to close.

It shattered the myth of the happy Kpop world that so many fans expect, that these ‘families’ love each other and being under these companies is the best thing since sliced bread. The T-ara members were slung through the mud and experienced pure vitriol thrown at them. Advertising deals cancelled, even members losing their acting positions on dramas.

CCM didn’t come out in the best light, although the T-ara girls continue to work and promote their music. It seems their reputation has been damaged and they are fighting a battle to regain the trust of their fans.

As for Hwayoung, leaving T-ara could be the best thing to happen to her. She can now choose her own path and possibly try to make a name for herself in 2013.

Love is in the air
Kpop fans are a dedicated bunch whose love for their biases knows no bounds. Companies have exploited this and have created personas and people that these people can fall in love with. This is the fundamental pinpoint of girl and boy bands. The members present themselves as belonging to their fans and make their songs seem personally written as if said member is singing directly to them. These stars are always on the market and are perpetually available. However once real life comes to play, fans turn sour.

Look at the case of Justin Bieber, pop’s golden boy. As soon as he announced that he was in a relationship with Selena Gomez many fans took to twitter abusing and threatening her, How dare he take away ‘their boyfriend’, this was an outrage and the need for them to vent was so strong.

Kpop has seen so many people denying their dating others in order to keep their fans happy. Singer Seven (from YG Entertainment) kept his near decade relationship with model Park Han Byul. As soon as it was revealed he was in relationship he lost approximately 100,000 fans from his fan café. All because he revealed that he had been in love for a long time.

Being a star is no easy feat, the control and the endless schedules makes having a regular life difficult. Even if you wanted to socialise and meet someone you have to navigate the paparazzi and figuring out whether your romantic interest likes you for who you are or just for your celebrity status. Of course if you do get in a relationship where can you actually date? You cannot go to a coffee shop or movie without being mobbed by paparazzi and fans alike. So some stars have taken to having ‘car dates’, where they can meet each other in secret. These are essentially fleeting moments, how relationships can thrive is a mystery to me.

2012 proved to be a big year for relationship reveals. It seemed Kpop stars were rumbled by the media or felt it necessary to get things off their chest. Goo Hara from KARA and Junhyung from B2ST’s love story pretty much sums up how most of these were conducted:

This coupling came out of the blue for most fans and it was reported that when Goo Hara faced some terrible times she relied on Junhyung to get her through. Like most idols they did know each before with agencies confirming their friendship but nothing of their relationship. The couple were then spotted on a casual date in the early hours of the morning and didn’t shy away from the paparazzi capturing their images. It seemed they were happy to reveal their relationship, although Hara has stated that finding time to date is hard putting a strain on the relationship, In a sense they were able to make the announcement themselves (even though they were ‘caught’). Similarly actress Shin Se Kyung and Shinee’s Jonghyun were caught dating by the cameras and were forced to reveal their relationship, although it fizzled out. Unlike the Hara story, the actress faced a lot of abuse and hatred from Shinee fans who were upset at the pairing. Not surprised that ended.

Then there was the adorable pairing of Yoo In-Na and Ji Hyun Woo who fell in love on the TV screen during the drama Queen Inhyun’s Man. Ji Hyun Woo confessed his love for her at a press conference with his family, fans and the media present. She was embarrassed and he stated that he meant it and would do so again. Much time departed and then on her radio show she stated that she was in fact Ji Hyun Woo’s woman.

Of course special mention goes out to Sunye from the Wondergirls who were still trying to break the US. She announced she was in a relationship with a Christian missionary and then announced her impending marriage to him recently receiving many congratulations from fans and other people in the industry.

There are other countless examples of stars feeling that they can speak out about their relationships. In fact it takes away the endless are they, are they not questions the media usually prints again and again. This bold move (which in an industry is hell bent on creating fantasies) shatters the myth that idols are nothing more than just perfect people who are there to serve fans. It shows that they have real lives and real concerns.

IU, no longer the ‘nations little sister’

When most people think of IU, they think of a sweet innocent girl who sings pretty songs about falling in love and finding herself. Although she is practically 20 (an adult) she has been marketed as the pretty sister that all the girls want to have and had become a huge hit with uncle fans (older men who are fans of said idols).

It seems that IU had forgotten the protocols of Twitter and had tweeted a picture of herself and Eunhyuk from Super Junior in a somewhat compromising position. Many fans jumped to the conclusion that she had been spending some ‘alone time’ with Eunhyuk and that she had spoiled the virginal image she portrayed. There have been calls for her to apologise and disgust at the fact that she has seemingly showed an adult side of herself. This whole scandal to me was ridiculous, netizens (again) jumping to conclusions and tarnishing her as a terrible person.

We all know that when music companies sign artists they create an identity that we can all buy. This is essential in business, take for example Apple. When we buy an IPad or IPhone, we are buying into the brand as much as the technology. Same thing with IU, when she first gained attention she was a young teenager. Her management sought to continue this theme even as she aged and became an adult.

This restricted her growth and also her material in my view, by being so placed it meant she cannot tackle adult themes. If she is the perpetual little sister does that mean she cannot show her growth as an adult and her struggle with adult life? I guess not.

The response from her agency towards this scandal was terrible labelling Eunhyuk as a friend visiting another sick friend in the middle of the night and sitting on a sofa. Many fans retorted back ‘a friend who happens to have his shirt off……right!’
There is talk of IU becoming more mature in her future material and this is important not only for her but for the industry. The need for perpetual youth is prevalent but people cannot be young forever. A 20 year old woman should not be acting like a teenager. That goes for the whole industry.

So what for 2013?

More ‘scandals’ are likely to come up as more and more idols begin to feel free to reveal their private lives. Others might be too afraid of the media circus that might ensure and the constant nitpicking by netizens. I wonder whose going to be providing the next scandalous gossip for me to talk about next year.

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