KPOP idols and the age of risk

Is age just a number? In an entertainment industry where appearances, images and concepts are given much more importance than everything else, sometimes you just can’t help but wonder: Just how old are they really?

When I saw this photo of 2NE1’s Minji on “W” magazine I couldn’t help but have mixed feelings over it. I do understand that the concept of the whole shoot is to show 2NE1 as “bad/ fierce yet stylish girls” but somehow seeing a 15 year old holding a gun just does not seem right. Much more surprising are the netizens’ reactions that sounded like they didn’t mind at all. Most of them commented along the lines, “Minji’s gun photo is so cool!” “She looks bangin’! She looks so badass!” While I do agree that she DOES look fierce, and what I love about her is that for such a young age she displays enormous talent and energy. I’m sorry, but I find it ironic that she and YG got blasted when she wore pajama-like pants with Care Bear penises on them and now that she’s holding a gun blatantly in a photoshoot no less—and no one says anything but “she’s so cool?” I do recognize the fact that it’s not her fault the stylist put her in those clothes (which reminds me of one of Shinhwa’s mafia mvs). However, what does this situation reflect about how KPOP image works and how netizens/audiences perceive and receive such portrayals and images? It seems pretty skewed and pretentious to me.

Even when Minji first came to the limelight her dance moves and attitude fit every category of fierce. She was rolling on the floor in high heels, bumping, crumping and doing chest pumps… Remember when she danced to Black Eyed Peas’ “Imma be” at the girl group dance battle? She was so damn good! You gotta give her props for pawning the other girls. But when you listen to the lyrics of the song it goes: “‘Cause i’mma be shaking my hips, you gonna be lickin’ your lips, I’mma be taking them pics, looking all fly and shit… I’mma be ya bank, loaning out semen.” Classy. It’s quite understandable since YG’s music has always been hip hop and it would be ridiculous if she wore a frilly doll dress and did cutesie patootsie dances ala Kara’s Pretty Girl. I’m sure that would make headlines! But where does one draw the line?


On the other hand, 4minute’s Hyun Ah, 17, also hasn’t escaped netizen criticisms when she came out with an extremely short dress (which is actually a top) during the group’s “Muzik” performances.

Even 4minute’s maknae So Hyun wore a mini-dress that went up to there.

Again, the stylist should take the blame, but is that all there is really? How about the company which allowed or conceptualized such an image in the first place? And how come no one says anything when Hyun Ah dances like this:

So when it comes to clothing it’s not okay to be over-sexualized but when it comes to choreography it’s totally fine? When I read netizen comments they all seem pretty biased. People flame and bash Hyun Ah, but think that Minji is cool, defending her and her Care Bear pants. So does that mean that what’s age appropriate in terms of dance and appearance is preferential? That it doesn’t matter as long as you look cool or hot? I’m not preaching conservatism or advocating that idols who are minors should get all covered up. I’m just really confused. People overreact and tell them it’s inappropriate to wear sexy stuff but it’s all right to ACT sexy, and sometimes they don’t mind AT ALL.


We have seen this also in f(x)’s Sulli and Krystal’s image in Chocolate love:


The question of age does not end there. The youngin’s are not the only ones who have problems.

Recently Brown Eyed Girls’ Narsha revealed her real age on Strong Heart—she’s actually two years older saying, “This is the first time I am revealing this since my debut four years ago. When I debuted, I said that I was born in 1983 (meaning that she is 27). But I am actually going to be 30 next year. I was born in 1981 and I took off my real age by two when I did my profile.” Days after, JeA and Miryo said, “The truth is, we were not born in 1983, but we were actually born in 1981, which makes us the same age as Narsha.” News reports post the headline as BEG “deceiving” the public with their age.

It’s sad to think that these women had to hide their age when they debuted, for fear of not being accepted by the public. We all know that nowadays idols just keep getting younger. Why reveal only now? Is it because they or the company felt it’s okay since they’ve pretty much established themselves in the biz? I just hate the stigma that comes with idols having an “old age.” I mean, so what?!! If you watched BEG’s Mnet scandal, a guy (who acted as a PD) said that he prefers After School because Narsha’s old. He said it as a joke and as a cover-up, but still!


BUT.. The question of age does NOT seem to apply to KPOP’s resident sexy diva Hyori.

Again, we see a trend here. It’s okay to be “old” (Idunno how 30 is even old!) as long as you’re HOT. So it all boils down to this: The young idols are made to look and act mature for their age, while the much older ones are pitted against them in the already competitive world of KPOP. In the end, even though it’s an all known and overused strategy, it’s all done for the reason that “sex sells.” Don’t get me started on how for guys age doesn’t seem to be that much of an issue.


Kwon So Hyun

Hyun Ah

Sulli and Krystal

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that they’re just regular teens when they’re all hidden under images and concepts…

P.S. Sorry for the delayed updates! This article does not mean to bash on anyone. It’s just some of my observations and opinions.

News source: AllKpop


9 Responses

  1. OH WOW !!!Your are sooooooooo Right ^_^

  2. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently too. I think you could include Sulli and Krystal (only turns 15 in 2 days!) from f(x) because their Chocolate Love mv was kinda o.0

    With BEG being deceptive, I’d think it’d be influenced by Nega Network too. They were probably competing with younger groups so they couldn’t very well be much older than the competition. Now they’ve solidified their place in the industry a little more now, so it’s not such a big deal. I just hope people won’t care that they’re older because they’re gorgeous and hella talented 🙂

  3. well, you’ve unleashed a logical point! i have nothing against minji, though making her act like so sexy could be very alarming since she’s a minor, same thing goes with the 2 girls of 4minute. wait a minute!!!! did that case happened to WONDERGIRLS, Ahn Sohee in particular, wherein she gyrated her ass during their sexy dance number together with Jun Jin while the latter sang SEXY BACK last year?

    when it comes to age, i think Koreans should make a change on mindsets. They don’t want another Miley Cyrus in the making, ayt? You get what I mean? Also, age is nothing as long as you can make yourself hot, reinvent yourself constantly and absolutely, can kick asses like no other. Philippines also has the same issue when it comes to age, because when you go to auditions to their reality talent search shows, age is a factor. There is an age limit, except if you’ll be joining to shows like Survivor Philippines and Pinoy Big Brother.

  4. Before I forget, when I’ve heard about Narsha’s confession, I absolutely admire her for doing so. I am not a fan of Brown Eyed Girls, but they kick asses like 4minute and 2NE1. Their reinvention is great—-from eye-candy to smexy goddesses.
    Besides, Narsha doesn’t look like she’s about to turn 30. I look older than her to think I’m already 27.

  5. Before I forget, when I’ve heard about Narsha’s confession, I absolutely admire her for doing so. I am not a fan of Brown Eyed Girls, but they kick asses like 4minute and 2NE1. Their reinvention is great—-from eye-candy to smexy goddesses.
    Besides, Narsha doesn’t look like she’s about to turn 30. I look older than her to think I’m already 27.
    Sorry, forgot to add great post! Can’t wait to see your next post!

  6. Because these girls are marketed as older we can kind of forget that they’re not of legal age yet! I mean It’s good that they’re getting experience from the entertainment business but I think this can be considered exploitation as well.

    You can compare it to that video about a girl dressed exactly like Britney Spears with questionable dance moves. We sometimes overlook that they’re only 4-5 years older than that girl.

    And on the topic about “experienced” divas, age is but a number. Look at Sandara, she’s only got 4 years till she hits the 30’s but it’s her attitude that keeps her young. I think the K-pop industry seriously needs to just chill the eff down. Too much pressure on young girls to be mature and older idols to stay young can’t be beneficial to both parties. Talk about self-esteem issues. Jeez. Ok I ranted too much. I’m just going to end with a saying I live by everyday:

    “Beige don’t age.” -Margaret Cho.

    • I agree about exploitation tendency. Some of these girls are just being told what to do… I remember making a post about a little girl in Star King who danced to Wonder Girls’ So Hot in leopard print outfit. And the Baby Wondergirls, 4-5 year old kids who danced to Seo In Young’s Cinderella, Son Dambi’s sexy dance, etc. and the cute little boy who did Rainism. Geez. It’s too much too soon!

  7. lol, Miley is so funny! I love her.

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