Our Thoughts on the T-ara Break Up
Ok, so we had a regular, plain-ole, easy to talk about TL;DR planned for this week about life in Korea and our experiences and stuff. It was gonna be smooth and easy! Then, the whole scandal with T-ara erupted, and we received messages everywhere: on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and our Email, asking about our thoughts on the matter.
So, we talked about it amongst ourselves for most of yesterday and half of today, and tried to figure out exactly what we wanted to say. We know, after all, that our opinions aren’t the most orthodox ones. We don’t feel outraged or sad or disappointed by the rumours, nor are we intrigued by the accusations or the juicy gossip or conspiracy theories (someone sent us an email suggesting that this was actually a plan by Korea’s president to distract people from some issues with Incheon Airport’s privatization). We’re indifferent to all of that. What we are interested in, though, is the dynamic between members of Kpop groups, and the operations of Kpop as a business, especially its marketing aspects. We’re more interested in the workings of the company and the final product in the music than in the idols and their personalities and personal lives. That’s the approach we’ve taken with our Kpop Music Mondays, and that’s the approach we’ve taken here with the T-ara controversy as well.
Hopefully we expressed ourselves semi-decently in our video. There are a few things we didn’t include, though.
We didn’t have the time to address the age ranking system in Korea and how it would affect the members in a kpop group. You’ve probably heard of kpop groups calling a member the “maknae” of the group. To those of us living outside of Korea, that might just means the newest or youngest member of a group. But in Korea, the maknae of a group or company has TONS of responsibilities to the older members. That includes being extremely respectful to the older members all the time, following orders without complaint (which could be costume choices, who gets the best seat in the car, first pick of anything), and they also have to do things for their “unnies” and “hyungs”. For example, maybe they’ll have to eat last, or hand out all the coffee, they might have to clean up after everyone eats in the dorms, or share a bathroom with the other youngest/newest member. There are tons of things the maknae has to do for their elders. Why? Because their elders were once maknae’s to someone else, whether in school, at a job, or at home so this is the time for them to be respected by someone younger then them. You’ve got to think of it like being in the army, where the maknae is the new recruit and everyone else is ranked higher. The reason we bring this up, is because Hwayoung was the maknae of the group (taking over Jiyeon’s position) and thus had to take over the submissive role of a maknae. As outsiders who aren’t in the group, there is no way of us knowing whether or not she was respectful enough to her elders, if awkward situations arose regarding her level of respect, or if perhaps her unnies were abusing their position as elders. I bring this up because I’ve seen a lot of pictures popping up on the internet claiming evidence of bullying because Hwayoung is getting last pick, or getting the worst seat, or being forced to eat something on a variety show. To me, that kind of treatment happens to the maknae in any kpop band and I just can’t see it as solid evidence against the other members of T-ara.
Another thing we wanted to talk about but quickly glossed over in the video about the stresses that arise from a hectic schedule: we talked briefly about how kpop idols go from place to place to place, do one thing, don’t rest, do another thing, don’t rest, travel somewhere else, barely rest in the car, do another thing, don’t rest, so on and so forth. In the video we mentioned how difficult it must be to be with each there all of the time, but we also think that it’s not just a matter of the amount of time they spend with each other, but it’s also a matter of them being overworked, sleep-deprived, and exhausted…AND THEN having to buddy up to each other.
Hell! Think of it this way: the two of us are one of the sappiest, lovey-doviest couples you’ve ever barfed rainbows over watching. When we’re deprived of sleep, though, and our schedules become too packed with lots of movies and other projects, we get snippy with each other when we’re planning and filming. It’s nothing bad, though, like fighting or yelling or anything like that, but we get short with each other, you know? And we’re married. I can’t imagine what it’s like for Kpop idols who work harder than us, for longer hours, with less food, AND THEY’RE NOT EVEN MARRIED TO EACH OTHER! We can resolve our disputes with snuggles and kisses. How do kpop idols resolve their disputes?
Another thing we glossed over: let’s look at T-ara as a group. They’re, what, seven members, right? Seven pretty, highly driven and motivated girls, plopped together for an infinite amount of time, who are viewed by the public in very superficial terms…and they’re all between 18-26. How about the fact that GIRLS ARE CATTY!* There’s bound to be cat fights happening all the time! We know the majority of our demographic is female: you know, you MUST have experienced being in large groups of girls and how not-so-smoothly that often flows, right? And this isn’t for just T-ara alone. We often wonder what are Girls’ Generation like with 9 members. How about After School? GOD DON’T MAKE ME THINK ABOUT AKB48!!!
Altogether, put a bunch of young girls together in a high stress scenario with little rest, a broken leg, and the constant need to put their best faces forward: there’s BOUND to be tension and eruptions. We’re not condoning anyone’s actions within the group, primarily because we will never know what actually happened between them (and news sites are more interested in stirring things up rather than reporting on news), so we won’t say who’s right and who’s wrong. What we will say, though, is that we suspect every band is going through their own crap, and they’re not skipping around with sunshine and lollipops everywhere.
We really hope that people don’t take this as a statement that we hate Kpop or that we’re saying bad things about Kpop with this video and post. Not at all. What we don’t like ABOUT Kpop, though, is the idolatry that goes on, how fans get so caught up in the lives of artists, and forget about the music itself. Whenever we meet a Kpop idol we always get comments like “how did you not faint or scream when you met blah blah” but to us, they’re just normal people. The two of us here at Eat Your Kimchi don’t give a burning crap about the lives of idols, how dreamy they are, how they act on TV shows, or anything like that. We barely even know the members names most of the time, and it shouldn’t matter if we know their names or not. What we care about is music. We want to talk about kpop not as fans who worship the idols, but as people who appreciate the music. You know what we’re saying?
This is Martina, who wrote this blog post, and I understand that some people have completely misunderstood and been deeply offended that I said “girls are catty”. I clearly have poorly worded this and have made people think that I’m making a generalization about all women, and I’m sorry that it came across that way.
So let me further attempt to express my opinion somewhat clearly: In my personal experience of the world, which differs from your personal experience, I think that girls, BUT NOT ALL GIRLS, tend to be more catty than guys. However, guys can also be catty, but in my personal experience, I found that my male friends were much much less catty. My definition of “catty,” which might differ from yours, is when people create fights over trivial topics due to jealously. Examples of what I think are catty behaviours: saying mean comments about someone’s looks, being jealous about the attention someone is getting, purposely lying to someone to make the other person look bad. I absolutely did not mean that T-ara broke up due to the sole fact that they are female.
It was not my intention to offend anyone, and I’m honestly sorry that I did, but now I’m concerned that I’ve doubly offended you in the explanation of what I meant, so…I’m not sure what else I can do now apart from build that igloo I talked about in the video.