Unfolding “Female Empowerment” in KPOP

 

Girl’s Day is a four-member South Korean girl group that debuted in 2010 under Dream Tea Entertainment (girlsdaydaily.com, 2013). On June 24th 2013, they released a repacked album “Female President,” and they won their first number one rank in a music broadcast program since their debut with a title song with the same name (allKpop, 2013). The song also did very well domestically in South Korea as it peaked at number 6 on the Gaon Weekly album chart, a system that tabulates song and album popularity on a weekly basis in South Korea (Gaon Chart, 2013).

Like the title of the song, “Female President” speaks very strongly of female empowerment, questioning why a female has to be the passive one in expressing their romantic interest to an opposite sex. With a catchy beat, it tells the audience, presumably girls, to “come up to him and kiss him first” and that “now is the time, [they] can start first” (kromanized.com, 2013). The song alone has a great message, and with a catchy beat, it can very well empower females in the South Korean society. However, the music video tells a whole different story.

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The video starts with shadows of the members’ bodies onto a screen, dancing in a provocative manner, and the scene quickly cuts to the members dancing to the choreography of the song in identical outfits. The outfits have minimum clothing with the members’ midriffs showing, where it is been “portrayed in advertising and elsewhere as the primary source of women’s capital” (Gill, 2009).

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The exposing fashion continues as the scene cuts to the members singing dancing on a different setting of the stage. The lyrics go on and question the listeners: “our country has a female president, why are you so serious? What’s the problem? If a girl kisses first, does she get arrested or what?” while the members dance daringly in short dresses and outfits. While the lyrics empower and embrace female sexuality, the music video puts female in a objectified way where they are viewed as male pleasure, exposing themselves and posing with fancy vehicles, for male pleasure.

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(YouTube, 2013).

A part of their choreography is with the members facing the camera and the audience with their backs and shaking their butts to the beat. The camera work cuts back and forth between the dancing and silhouettes of the members dancing. While the lyrics repeat itself, the message that the video sends changed: it now eliminates the members’ individuality, personality as nothing but their bodies. They are filmed and viewed as females who have their bodies as their best asset, and they are now using them to gain maximum attention. The audience is now viewing the performers’ butts shaking and bodies curving in aggressive ways with a male gaze, where the performers become nothing but visual pleasure to the audience.

By sexualizing the music video, Girl’s Day failed at attempting to empower their female fans but rather, they send another message that the only way to “empower” female is to by conforming into female objectification. They are telling their fans that by showing off their bodies with provocative fashion and movements, they can achieve “female empowerment” where they have the attention of the males. This is a dangerous message to send because freely expressing sexuality is not an empowerment for females anymore, “where once sexualized representations of women in the media presented them as the passive, mute objects of an assumed male gaze, today women are presented as active, desiring sexual objects who choose to present themselves in a seemingly objectified manner because it suits their liberated interest to do so” (Gill, 2009). In other words, despite the lyrics, “Female President” still serves as an evidence for female objectification in KPop.

With over 6 million fan club members world wide, Korean music awareness and influence have been increasing in the past decade (Koreaherald.com, 2012). They have the ability to influence the entertainment sphere not only in South Korea but potentially the world. Sexualizing a female empowerment message for chart performances is a marketing technique, not a socially responsible decision. Therefore, Girl’s Day and their agency have a big social responsibility of what messages they are sending out.

 xoxo,

Princess Bry

Bibliography

 

allKpop (2013). Girl’s Day win their first ever music show on canceled July 7 ‘Inkigayo.’ Retrieved from: http://www.allkpop.com/article/2013/07/girls-day-win-their-first-ever-music-show-on-canceled-july-7-inkigayo

Gaon Chart (2013). Retrieved from: http://gaonchart.co.kr/

Gill, R. (2009). Supersexualized Me! Avertising and the ‘Midriffs.’ In F. Attwood (Ed.), Mainstreaming sex: The sexualization of Western culture (pp. 93-99) . New York: I. B. Taurus

girlsdaydaily.com (2013). Retrieved from: http://www.girlsdaydaily.com/

Kromanized.com (2013). Girl’s Day – Female President. Retrieved from: http://kromanized.com/2013/06/23/girls-day-female-president-%EC%97%AC%EC%9E%90-%EB%8C%80%ED%86%B5%EB%A0%B9/

Koreahearld.com (2013). Riding the ‘Korean Wave.’ Retrieved from:  http://nwww.koreaherald.com/common_prog/newsprint.php?ud=20120924000627&dt=2

YouTube (2013). GIRL’S DAY – FEMALE PRESIDENT(여자대통령) M/V. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xF3MC8PWgJE

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