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Our Thoughts on the T-ara Break Up

August 2, 2012


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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.



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Our Thoughts on the T-ara Break Up


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  1. In case you think it’s weird that I’m commenting on such an old video, I’m on an S&M maraton >.< But I was just wondering, if the only exception you'll make to your aforementioned rule is Chris Brown, are T-ARA now also in your bad books having worked with him? x x x

    2 years ago
  2. You guys couldn’t have explained it better

    3 years ago
  3. What I want to know is why they decided to go to Korea in the first place. Were they already fans of Korean culture before they began teaching?

    3 years ago
  4. MWAHAHAHA!!! Hahah that’s so awesome!! See, parents do good things sometimes :p

    3 years ago
  5. I agree, both on the bullying vs. normal fights and the “I wouldn’t spend a cent on celebs who act like assholes” (though in my case I would worry less about wasting money on hedonistic activities and more for stuff like hate speech, violent behaviour, rape, murder…). Actually, I think it’s wrong to dismiss T-ara’s behaviours as just normal parts of petty bandmate conflicts, and I don’t need biased fan-accounts to believe so. The only materials I trust in this whole affair are T-ara’s Twitter messages, because seriously, what are the odds of someone simultaneously hacking multiple Twitter accounts around the time of Hwayoung’s tweet? Well, as I read that stuff the first time I remember thinking “Wow, writing passive-aggressive comments for the whole internet to see in reply to your fellow group member’s neutral post? Acting all together to have the upper hand? And e-hi5’ing each other as if you were heroines for doing all this? Girls, that is ugly”. Those tweets might not be evidence for actual bullying, however the whole thing sure smells like potentially career-hurting public shaming (little did they know that those comments would’ve involved the entire group in a scandal, instead of just putting the maknae in a bad light) and in general lack of professionalism. And yes, I don’t particularly like the idea of financially supporting an idol, thus someone created for young people to look up to, if evidence suggests that she/he’s the kind of inconsiderate, venomous person who might end up ruining someone’s life one day. I can always listen to songs on YT for free, if the music’s worth it.
    I was also a bit disappointed by the fact that S&M didn’t mention neither how KKS’s uber-exploitative, manipulative and overall creepy managment style might be the main reason major conflicts might have arised within T-ara, nor the fact that CCM’s poor handling of PR is making the situation much worse than it would initially have been.

    3 years ago
  6. Just saw your edit, Martina.
    You have my support. I’m afraid some people just don’t understand poetic license or language usage such as generalisation anymore.

    In saying that, Korean guys are incredibly good looking.

    3 years ago
  7. IMO, T-ara should be disbanded (dismembered? lols) because they are unprofessional. I’m sure there are lots of band mates that don’t get along but the way some of the girls behave publicly is really shameful. They hurt one girls image on stage and they hurt themselves. When you watch the youtube movies- their bullying is so bold. It’s not right.

    But I blame the management company. They didn’t deal properly with two major CoEd School scandals (Kangho and then Soomi). And as much as I dislike SME, I’m sure Papa SM wouldn’t tolerate a second of that nonsense. CCM, get your house in order.

    3 years ago
  8. Hooray! SANITY!

    3 years ago
  9. Haii~~I was wondering if u guise watched the Canadian team play in the Olympics this year…? If u guise did, what do u think about it? Do u guise have any messages for our athletes? As a fellow Canadian, I hope u guise can help boost the team spirit with your encouraging-ness!! Thanks <3

    3 years ago
  10. Haii~~I was wondering if u guise were watching the Canadian team in the Olympics this year. If I guise did, what do u think of it so far and if u have any messages for them??

    3 years ago
  11. To be completely honest, I didn’t even know about any of this until you announced what your next TL:DR was going to be.

    I agree: We don’t know what really happened and we never will.

    . . . . It does suck that all of this was made public, though. (Only because that leaves it open for theories and rumors.)

    3 years ago
  12. here’s a question.
    how serious is the whole ‘fandom’ thing in korea?? its pretty serious in some countries…so i was just wondering about it and how it works in south korea?
    like the ELFs, SONES, VIPs etc

    3 years ago
  13. I just wanted to put out another “THANK YOU” for this post AND video, clarification or not. Let’s face it : while one may not be able to say “GIRLS ARE CATTY” as a general rule… THERE ARE TONS OF CATTY GIRLS IN THE WORLD :) . TONS of them.

    I’m a girl, and even *I* recognize this. I’m not particularly catty myself because it would be quite hypocritical (you know, comments about looks and stuff) and it would also probably bite me in the ass later, but I completely understand the video.

    And guess what ? You guys are SO AWESOME that for some reason, when Psy’s “Gangnam style” got out and you reviewed it, I was tempted to watch the video. And I did. Me, the anti-YG person. And guess what ?

    I enjoyed it O_O . Me. Who was resisting resisting resisting as much as I could. That’s how powerful you are, hahahahaha XD !

    3 years ago
    (And providing me with good laughs with the “fart (f-art? O.o) incident” at the end of the super serious un-EYK like talk X”D )

    3 years ago
  15. very good video, your guys’ maturity was awesome, bravo for this

    3 years ago
  16. I some time wish some people in Korea think like you guys. I just hate it how they attack one or more in the kpop group to blame them for the other person problems. I agreed with you guys a 100% there human just like us that make mistakes all the time. That’s why a lot of kpop stars commit suicide which is sad. We should just let it go and just hope the best for the all the girls and for every kpop group that is going through the same thing. Oh you guys know about AKB48 cool. Now that’s a huge girl group o.0.

    3 years ago
  17. BRAVO!!!

    One more detail nobody is mentioning:
    Hwayoung has a twin sister. One of the disadvantages of twin closeness is that the closeness may make twins more conservative when socializing with others since twins tend to form their own communicative team, with their own language. They may then be very shy when they have to communicate individually with others.

    Sometimes what is interpreted as being outcast, it may simply be Hwayoung’s social skills.

    3 years ago
  18. Gonna put my question first, so it doesn’t get buried (and I’m a new viewer, so sorry if this has been covered already, slowly working my way through all the videos): What kind of subjects do Korean students study in high school? What exactly is an arts high school? Do places like that in Dream High even exist? (That’s one question, I swear).

    Hmmm, I’m a girl and I didn’t find the comment about cattiness offensive at all; I work in a predominantly female workplace and I’ve found it to be rather true (not generalizing, just making a personal observation). And I admit, I can be catty at times, and I think I have more catty moments than my male peers…so maybe that’s why I wasn’t angered by the remark.

    Anyhow, I saw this story erupting and thought many of the same things that were brought up in the video. I mean, even family members with shared DNA fight; put people who aren’t even distantly related and all super-driven together and expect them to get along perfectly 100% of the time? That’s just a fantasy. I mean, even bands that seemingly get along well in public, even with those I can detect moments where it’s clear one or more members needs time off from the others.

    Let’s take my fave band: MBLAQ. On camera, I’d say these 5 guys are as close as brothers, and as an observer, I believe I can feel their love and affection for each other. However, they can be downright cruel to each other – EVEN ON CAMERA – and they do indeed bully each other; yes, it may be in the realm of harmless teasing, but that kinda stuff builds up. One day, it’s all fun and games; next day, BOOM, Joon’s looking like the world is collapsing around him or Mir’s looking like a kicked puppy. So, yeah, even in seemingly close groups, these fractures exist. I accept that, and as a fan, I say, if it doesn’t affect their work, I let it go.

    3 years ago
  19. I know you didn’t want to talk especifically about T-Ara, but it was not possible to not talk about Core Contents Media CEO, Kim Kwang Soo.
    [email protected]/2012/07/
    kim-kwang-soo-makes-vague-press-release-proceeds-to-use-the-jyp-e[email protected]/2012/07/
    I agree that every group has their bad issues, but I believe in this case the company and the CEO had a really big responsibility about how bad everything turned out.

    3 years ago
  20. I gotta say, I think you guys hit it right on the nail! We DON’T know what is going on. And we never will. Chances are both parties are in the wrong. That is usually what happens.

    And people need to RELAX about famous people. I work at a restaurant that has many pro-athletes that come in. Now, I personally don’t care much about sports. Yes, I do like some teams, some sports, but I don’t pay attention to the details.

    Point being some member of a hockey team came into the store got a drink and the girl I was working with pointed out how he looked like a hockey player. Proceeded to search who he was, and got giddy once she matched the picture up with the face. It is just weird to see steps go backwards (from knowing the celeb on TV, seeing them, go crazy; rather than seeing the person, look up who they are, THEN go crazy)

    I guess I can keep such a level head because of two reasons. One I grew up with a famous person in my town who was level headed. I grew up in the same town as Bruce Springsteen. Which was good because he just walked around town like a normal person. I don’t know him personally, but just standing behind him in Starbucks and being more concerned about your Soy Latte keeps you level headed about celebs.

    And the second reason is because I worked briefly in TV. I was in a few commercials for FOX. Knowing HOW we picked some people for TV spots was- well crazy. I kid you not when I say I would hear my boss ask his wife to be in ads, and other TV spots because it was just easier than looking for people. It is sort of like what Simon and Martina say about “why is this person famous?” on a much smaller scale. A lot of it is chance mixed with talent. I had the talent to work in TV, but I just happened to work for the department that filmed promos.

    3 years ago
  21. Great response. I really can’t understand how people go so far to insult T-ara with no solid evidence to justify it when this sort of behaviour can lead to devastating consequences. This could seriously have affect on everyone’s mental well-being and the fact that I once got a reply basically saying “Good, the less members the better” has me severely worried.

    As for Tl;dr: How would you say foreigners are portrayed on Korean television? I recall a brief talk from you guys during the “blackface” incident and there was that outrageous MBC documentary, but it can’t be all bad.

    3 years ago
  22. I think it’s really difficult when one already established group gets a new member, like in this case. As you said they have to learn first how to survive in the Kpop world and second how to get along together so the band can survive too. I mean if they’re not friends or at lest in the same kind of relationship the band is bound to break up and soon.
    And when all of this is more or less done and suddenly a new member comes he/ she have to do it alone, not always with the help of the others. It’s really difficult, I remember Kyuhyun from Suju and Seunghyun from FT island talking about it. Let’s not talk about how the fans react or how the old members can get protective with their positions and exclude the newby. It’s always hard to be the new kid after all.
    So yeah I think this is the problem with T-ara. I personally won’t like it if my favorite group gets another member either. And I’m just a person who listens to them, how the members or the new guy feel?
    I’m not saying she was bullied or was difficult to work with. I’m just stating that probably she just couldn’t join the group properly.

    3 years ago
  23. Excellent take on the whole issue. It bewilders me, how people are just being swept by the reports and rumours, taking sides without knowing actually what went on and is going on. (You know how we always talk about kpop bias, and I am surprised fans of the other members turn against their biases so quickly.)

    And indeed, people forget that kpop idols, or any idol out there in fact, are humans. A kpop band is like a mini society, some click, some don’t, and every one has a different standing in this “mini society”.

    It’s really disappointing how their company has chosen to handle everything, from when the problem first started, to how everything exploded and now continue being a crazy PR mess. That’s the worst thing in this whole drama-rama.

    T-ara has really great music and it would be such a waste for them to disband just like this.

    3 years ago
  24. I’m so happy you aren’t like some other people that pick sides in this fight. I myself found out about all this T-ara stuff a few days ago and I was surprised how people choose sides so quickly and made such hateful comments, when they don’t even know what really happened.
    I’m not really interested in girl groups when it comes to k-pop, because I just can’t listen to them for a long period of time without a headache. (I have a really sensitive sense of smell and hearing and because of that I get migraines all the time. Too much perfume on a person or high pitched voices all around me and I’m not able to move because my head is ready to explode or I will barf all over things till I fall asleep.<- I'm serious, first time this happened I was 8 and thought I will die, since then my teacher didn't wear any perfume and I was seated by the window.) So I can't really tell what I think of T-ara as a group at all, because I don't know them and I can't even name a song by them, that's how good I know girl groups.
    But what I can tell is, yes it really is hard to live with a bunch of girls (I'm a girl myself, just to make it clear) in one room for a long period of time and trying to get along(Not saying that guys don't have any problems when in such situations). I used to dance (like tango, quickstep, rumba, pasadoble and such dances) and we had a training camp, where we needed to live in dorms for almost a month. It was hard, we woke up at 5:30am and went to bed at around 11pm and had a 30 minute break in the middle of the day, after lunch. And all the time I spent there I was constantly together with 5 girls I shared my dorm room with. I can't say that I didn't like them, but after the camp I started to look at them in another light. Like one girl was talking behind the back of the others and accusing them without knowing the details herself (we had a stealing incident), so I told the others that they might want to talk with the girl, before she goes to the trainer and gets them in trouble(I didn't even tell them what she has said, just that they might want to talk to her). Next thing I know, after a while I'm treated like a traitor by the girls that were accused, because I told them IN DETAIL what the first girl has said and they are now best of friends, so I in a way betrayed them too, go figure. I don't even want to think of the scenery that might have happened if we had the whole Korean age thing going on or if we had the public eye to worry about.
    So yeah, living with strangers 24/7 with not enough rest and trying to get along is really hard. And I agree with you Martina, guys aren't so catty as girls, that is one of the reasons I had more guy friends then girl friends in school. xD
    I mean, if girls fight it's usually like "Lets all ignore her and later on call her names", but when guys fight they punch each other in the face and in the end have a man hug and go get a drink together (I have actually witnessed this).
    I'm sad that because of media people are picking sides and what not, maybe if this wouldn't have gone in public it wouldn't be so messy.
    Hope you won't get bashed too much about saying your opinion and that some people will actually listen to what you said and understand that idols are people too, because some just treat their stars like they are gods and then get disappointed when they show their human side.

    3 years ago
  25. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE tell me what that song is at 2.52 when Martina starts air drumming. Only my boyfriend and I are talking about how it’s similar to a song he wrote blah blah and I just wanted to know what it’s called :] xxx

    3 years ago
  26. It makes me deeply sad when a woman talks about women like that. The “a bunch of girls together is like a bag full of cats” idea is a really low concept to put out there of the gender that includes you, Martina. Girls can be bitchie as boy can bullie and be violent and on and on. Is a short-minded point of view that impoverishes our already poor condition in the world. We, more than anyone, have to take care of each other. Let’s!

    3 years ago
  27. I love the way you guys addressed this drama. When I received an email alert about the video, I cringed a little when I saw the title but you approached the topic with a good intentions. Thank you very much for this.
    Just to add on, this kind of thing has happen with two groups I am familiar with from the States and England (Original Destiny’s Child and original Sugababes). Those two groups were people who met at school or grew up together. It goes to show you whether you formed a group by yourself or a company put you together it isn’t easy working in a group.

    3 years ago
  28. You didn’t offend me Martine…girls are catty, especially the girls at my school -_-;

    3 years ago
  29. and yet martina was saying the other day that bang yongguk is dreamy (x hehe. i understand. we all have that little fangirl within us somewhere. but anyway, you guys never fail to intrigue/amaze/have me nodding in agreement with your opinions

    3 years ago
  30. hwayoung is older then jiyeon.

    3 years ago
  31. woww good job! thankss ;p

    3 years ago
  32. Well, U-Kiss solves their disputes with ”
    snuggles and kisses.” I’d be lying if I said I wish I was joking but I’m not. Hahaha by the way this is something their darlin’ leader has said himself.

    Anyway, your point of view isn’t lost on me. I was asked by a friend which side I toke but I was troubled. Being someone who at one point was bullied I felt myself feeling very sympathetic towards Hwayoung. With all these evidences started coming out I was even more swayed to her side. Some things were blown out of proportion but still I understood the point.
    But I thought about it harder. Let’s take Infinite for example. They are certainly a playful bunch but I’m sure they’ve had their disputes. If you watch any of the series shows they take part of you’d notice sometimes the members gang up on one member. More often than not it’s Sunggyu, their leader. How do we know if it’s all in good fun of making jokes about their oldest member? It’s true the members do this much more publicly so it doesn’t seem like secret. Hidden in plain sight comes to mind. For the record I don’t believe Sunggyu is bullied by his members.I think it’s his grandpa image they are trying to enforce.
    My point is that any of these incidents could be singled out, taken out of context and called bullying.
    I hate to bring another group into this but I can only think of this way to show my point.
    I’m not saying they didn’t bully her but I’m also not saying I’m convinced it’s as severe as the public keeps pushing.

    3 years ago
  33. Thank You for saying this!! this is really what fans need to hear!! I always feel like fans just take things too far sometimes and they need to learn to back off!

    3 years ago
  34. lol! I love the awkward turtle!

    3 years ago
  35. Idols have a lot of gas…

    3 years ago
  36. Wow this is the first time ive actually seen you guys get serious about something. I never thought to factor in the work a maknae has to put in. I do however believe some of the older members of T-ara abused it.

    3 years ago
  37. I loved that last paragraph of your written post. Why people get so ( well lets be really blunt) psycho over bands, I’ll never know. “Kpop Idols” are just people and I think people forget that. Maybe they are people that have vocal talent, dancing skills, visually pleasing, and/or well groomed by agencies but none the less they are still people. I really appreciate their effort and talent but I would never start a fight over it or be an over zealous fanatic and dwell on it. ON anther note, I really agree with you on the CB ( I refuse to say his name because it would bring attention to is trifling a$$) topic and I feel that he should never be able to make money in the music industry again.

    I’m done.YAY!!!

    3 years ago
  38. Well done! I completely agree with you guys! Even SHINee admit that in their early years Minho and Key didn’t get along at all. These things happen, and I think it would be a whole lot easier for everyone involved if people didn’t expect idols to be perfect.

    3 years ago
  39. Hi Simon and Martina, it’s not always true that maknaes do all those stuffs you mentioned in your comment. For example, wonder girls leader does cooking and cleaning up. Not the maknae. It depends on the people themselves. Everyone is please then it’s fine. Love and respect is more important. It’s not about the age.

    3 years ago