Friday, September 2, 2011

Rant: South Korea's Music Video Bans

I've been contemplating on starting a new topic to feed my guilty pleasure of picking on South Korea. I seriously have no real problems with the country, but some things that they do make me say "wtf, Korea!?". One thing that has bothered me about their musical acts presentations, whether it be on stage or in a music video, is what is appropriate and what isn't. This little question has popped up quite a few times like when I heard that G-Dragon was being fined for his live performance of "Breathe" or when YouTube's Simon and Martina recently reviewed Teen Top's "No More Perfume on You" video and also answered a question about appropriate clothing in Korea.

It's been expressed many times that I'm not a kpop fan, simply a listener of Korean music. Also, the fact that I have no problem with the fandom or the country or anything related, but there's so many questionable things that go on in this industry and, in this post, I want to focus on the whole musical ban issue.

Now I must point out that every country has different standards of what's appropriate for the public to see. Surprise, surprise, there are videos that have been banned in this fine country called the U.S. of A or even subjected to late night broadcasting. Back in the day when music videos really mattered with promotions and kept up with the trends, BET had a segment called Uncut which featured low budget and/or raunchy rap videos such as Nelly's controversial vid of his remix of "E.I.". MTV also had to do the same with some of their videos and even dedicated a countdown to the most controversial videos such as Nas's "Hate Me Now" and, one of my favorite music videos of all time, the Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up". Japan also has standards for what they can and can't air, although some of their choices can be a little questionable at times. In the beginning, Dir en grey had to edit PVs for it to be aired like "Mazohyst of Decadence" and "Obscure", but lately I've seen sexual (yet somewhat tasteful) things like a good portion of Koda Kumi's PVs be aired [check out her latest PV for "Koso Koso"]. Even though there's conflicts on the censor business in both countries, Korea throws me off the most.

Let's start the topic with one of the examples mentioned above, G-Dragon's live performance of "Breathe". After releasing his first solo album, Heartbreaker, the Big Bang leader went on tour and one of his performances caused some concerns among parents and the Ministry (or whoever dictates what's inappropriate for the kiddos of South Korea). During the live, there is a part where he's expressing how he sees the girl of his dreams or something and he climbs into a bed with one of the female dancers. Through the eyes of the parents and dictators of all things appropriate in South Korea, they saw this as a sexual demonstration for the younger audience...therefore inappropriate. Apparently, the problem was so serious that there was a possibility floating around that G-Dragon could've gone to jail for it or simply pay a high fine for the display. Along with the live, the public pointed out mature content from the album which was already explained in the beginning. It's amusing to me since Koki Tanaka of KAT-TUN can get away with his performance of "MAKE U WET ~Chapter 2~" in Japan that also involves and, as a bonus, highly sexual lyrics. I guess a bed is going too far for a live performance in Korea, but humping the air and floor is perfectly fine.

Not good enough of an example? Alright, here's a few more inappropriate actions from some other kpop artists. Sistar's "How Do You" was brought to attention due to the presents of poles that they technically danced next to as opposed to twirling around them like a stripper for about 10-20 seconds. Rain's "Love Song" video had to be edited for airing due to violating traffic regulations for running down a street as oppose to his shirtless little Chippendale's dance [not that I mind]. Lee Hyori refused to edit her video for "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang". The Ministry wanted to ban the video for the fact she didn't wear a seat belt while driving and the dancers danced on a bus and in the middle of a street. DBSK's "Before U Go" was placed on the hit list of controversy for supposedly promoting gambling and violence.

Aside from physical acts, there's also been lyrical debates. Most of them seem ridiculous and are very tiny things that can be misinterpret by idiots who would take it literally. Some examples are Block B's "Freeze!" for the lyrics, "Send all your friends home/I'm waiting for you right here" as some eschewed interpretation of a one night stand when it really doesn't mean anything. B2ST's "Rainy Days" and Kim Hyun Joong's "Please" have faced the same problem of strange, nitpicking lyricism. Then there's the use of slang that corrupted the minds of South Korea's youth through GD & T.O.P's "Knock Out" and 4Minute's "Heart to Heart".

Now not all of the Ministry's concerns are nonsensical, some of them I can really understand why they can't be aired or have to be broadcast later due to the content of the video or lyrics. Bang Yong Guk's "I Remember" is a violent video, but it is a tad graphic and even Sunny Hill's latest video "Pray" could possibly be a little too much.

But sometimes sexual or violent material gets aired and no one says anything until after everyone has seen it...or it simply slips through the cracks like Teen Top's "No Perfume For You" that displays underage guys being in a bar that serves alcohol, dating older women, and practically encouraging cheating in their lyrics. HyunA's "Bubble Pop" had sexual choreography, yet no one really said anything until after the fact. I'm sure Rania had some issues with "Dr. Feel Good", but everyone was already exposed and it seemed pretty pointless to say anything.

I guess in some ways it's nice the Ministry doesn't want South Korea to be "corrupt" like Japan or even worse the U.S., but some of the things they let go or ban are just a little too much. I wonder if the artists are tempted to sugar coat everything to some nursery rhyme. At least some of them have commented on the banning issue. In my opinion, it's a noble thought to protect the citizens, but sometimes they really need to stop turning every little thing into something negatively influential. And if they want to ban stuff, they need to be more consistent with their claims rather than letting one group go while another before them is suffering the consequences for an equal or greater offense. Now I don't want the Ministry to go on a banning spree because of my opinion, because, honestly, music is a way of expression to connect to the audience through thoughts and feelings. You can't censor life. There will always be sex, drugs, alcohol, and violence scattered somewhere and the public can't escape that. Seriously, I'm pretty sure western culture will not contaminate the innocence of kpop, so relax and don't overthink the content.

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