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.

  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. This video gave me a whole new perspective of Kpop idols/singers to reconsider. I don’t particularly hate or dislike any group like for any superficial reasons spread around by the media, but I never had an upfront empathy for them like this either. I’ll make sure to keep an open mind next time another ‘scandal’ or ‘report’ is brought to my attention, especially to may favorite/bias group haha. P.S. I feel a little embarassed for getting sucked into the vacuum of fangirldom, but I don’t regret uberly loving my favorite group *ahem*DBSK/Homin/JYJ*ahem *ahem*Changmin*ahem* XD XD!

  3. You guys couldn’t have explained it better

  4. i agree with every single word in this article. i came to my senses when DBSG broke up … i was so blind to the kpop industry until that happening…

  5. Hi, Simon and Martina. What do you think about the child labor in music industry? I mean, we always speak about the child labor in the textile industry or in the mines, but we never speak about their work in the entertainment business that, I think is as the same level as the works I’ve told before.

  6. There’s 3 sides to every story. Yours, mine and the truth. You guys did a great job explaining the whole kpop situation. :)

  7. I agree. I’m not one to idolize, because people are people. They make mistake, the have bad days, but they learn from them (hopefully). When I see a famous person, I don’t fangirl, because if I was in that position, I would want to be treated like a normal person. Isn’t that what all people want?

  8. I am seriously crushed though , that T-Ara is gone now, regardless of the situation @_@  You know? I mean, T-Ara was one of the groups to get me into K-Pop and I’ve always stayed in tune for all their latest hits and yeah :< 

  9. I was curious as to what jobs are available for foreigners besides teaching English. What about if they have a Master’s or Doctorate in a field (such as medicine or any other specialized field)? And if they’re fluent (or at least semi-fluent) in Korean? Thanks!

  10. I basically agree on this article, like any reasonable human being, I suppose. There is a concept, however, that I can’t endorse: let’s care only about the music. I know you’re only trying to be neutral because of the lack of information but, sorry guys, I can’t do that. I don’t care about the gossip but I do care about these girls as persons. I like K-Pop, but there are some disturbing issues that I can’t forget. Exploitation and overwork are among these. We all know that the distance between Gangnam style and Foxconn style is thin. This is not the moment to turn the head saying “who gives  a damn about their lives, DJ turn the volume up”. Yes, the stress can easily make people fight, but today Soyeon risked her life while running between schedules. Let’s use the wide audience of this site to say stop to this crap!

  11. wow…idk why you had to apologize martina…people should understand that you weren’t making any generalization about women…jeez people! way to assume the worst about martina!! next thing you know EYK will be a hot topic because touchy people just focus on that one comment martina made about women…and even if martina did believe that all women are catty, who cares! it’s just her opinion….it’s not going to be life-changing to any of us!…wtf..>.> 

  12. to S&M (simon and martina) I have a really good question that’s similar to what many have made, I am aware that you have made a video where u talk about some of the koreans reaction to american videos and I’m preety sure that some have asked you what are the odds for a nonkorean to make it as an Idol in the kpop industry. but my question to you is, whats the status with Nicky Minaj and what are the odds for someone (a female to be precise) with the same mean swag making it in korea? even if the words aren’t as offensive?

  13. I was just wondering what happens in korea when people fight? What happens if someone slaps someone? What gets you jail time? And how does that work?

  14. i wonder how many takes it took not to laugh their asses off doing “eat your kimchi style” lol

  15. It’s sooooo hot & controversial issue we mention!!! I think no one can b sure to speak it out whos right or wrong. All we’r able to do is just not being one of them talking about it. just watch it whats going on later. :D

  16. My question is: How did Spudgy and Dr. Meemersworth get their names? They’re so unique and adorable!

  17. I would really like to know about the ‘Rock Scene’ in Korea. DO they have good rock bands? How big a crowd do they pull? And do foriegn bands like Metallica / Iron Maiden, etc perform in Korea?

  18. How big is the average Korean flat? And how much does it cost? Is it cheaper to live in Korea compared to Canada?

  19. I was curious as to your opinions on this. I know that you guys were teachers and did you ever have to witness the teachers hitting students? This video has been passed around a lot and all of the people i know who have seen this are outraged that adults would beat children like this. Especially ones who are supposed to be trusted as a teacher.


  20. Simon and Martina i don’t know if this was asked before, but what is your opinion about fans that exagerate (i think they are called saesang fans), and what is your opinion when idols get annoyed/angry at them ?

  21. Martina, no need to apologize AT ALL. I am not offended in the least! I do also agree that women are much more catty than men, because that is also my personal experience. Men CAN certainly be catty, but not to the same degree as women. Anyway, thanks for speaking out! Don’t apologize for it! <3 you!

  22. Simon, Martina; what are your thoughts upon the DONG BANG SHIN KI??

  23. I will admit that sometimes, I think you guys are just a wee bit harsh about some of your music video critiques, but then I watch videos like this and it reminds me why I am going to buy an EatYourKimchi shirt. Thank you guys for being so logical, it is really refreshing to hear such common sense. I agree with everything you pointed out, including the blurb about Chris Brown.

  24. Simon and Martina! How do Koreans view men with facial hair? Considering that Korean men seem to often be very clean cut, is facial hair present in Korea and how is it viewed in Korean society?

  25. Honestly, the victim in this ‘case’ isn’t just Hwayoung or T-ARA, it’s both of them. We really have no freaking idea what these guys are actually like behind closed doors, and I think this is something kpop fans forget too often, and how could they not? That’s the whole point of kpop, to interact and to believe that you know your idols on a personal level. That’s why these issues get blown up bigger and bigger until they explode and cause damage to all parties.

  26. I was so addicted to kpop that I started to fail school and my parents took away my computer for a month and I thought I would die without it but i lived and I learned that I don’t need to get so obsessed over my bias or idols because I can live without them and it wont kill me.

  27. I have the exact same view on kpop and all musicians! My friends and others always care so much about what members are like and what they do, think, wear, say but personally I couldn’t care less. I’m only really interested in the music :)

  28. But Shinee gets along well…and most of the groups too. I think T-ara members are just a little jealous of each other or hwayoung really is difficult to get with but i think the break-up is really a little too over the fence. they auditioned, they wanted to get in they got in and boom! they know it’s their responsibility to be with each other and perform together. it’s also their responsibility to forgive each other. They worked hard for so much and they just kick hwayoung out…very unfair. hwayoung must feel bad because together they conquered the world and then she gets kicked out because of a trivial matter. i don’t know what happened but i don’t like it.

  29. I think you addressed this issue quite well, and I agreed with everything you stated. To be honest I didn’t even know about this until your video, but either way you broke it down really well. What I really wanted to comment on though was the following two items, 1- you had me rolling with the musical farts. LIke literally rolling in my bed with my sore stomach muscles and all, thanks for that. 2- Martina you looked so adorable in this video. Your style is always cute and sweet and fun loving and I am sure you hear that a lot but it makes me happy to see.

  30. The thing is, I never see Dongho do any of those maknae stuff.
    I don’t know if that’s because the hyung’s are nice, or he just has an attitude you don’t want to touch. :)

  31. iv been telling people that there just people that work for a company since i found k-pop no noe belives me though

  32. lol speaking of farts, i literally just saw this right before watching ur tldr.

  33. Thank goodness for others who think rationally. Sometimes it really seems like a miracle to me.

  34. LOL people will always be offended by something or another. Love the vid & absolutely love the fart song hahahaha………
    People just need to realise that they are not always seeing the whole true picture. Don’t just assume based on their own assumption.

  35. “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”
    This is soooooo entertaining lol What an interesting guess……

  36. You guys, I have respect for you. You really looked like you had a difficult time filming it. You were definitely talking slower than usual. But your message came across clearly. I agree 100%. Sometimes people forget that idols, and celebrities or public figures, are human just like the rest of us. They have bad days, get angry, experience moments where they just want to rip people’s heads off. Yes, it is their jobs to maintain a certain “perfect” public image, but they shouldn’t be witch hunted if they happen to slip and fall.

    It’s sad that a majority of idol life is mostly about their personalities and not their actual music. Netizens, or onlookers as a whole, feel like they have this right to scrutinize idols in every which way they want. Which they don’t. And it’s just sad how the idols and their companies can’t help but be bullied by these netizens and their awful comments. If you ask me, the real bullies here are netizens themselves.

  37. Hey Simon and Martina, I recently started my freshman year of university and I am about 3 hours from my hometown, but it feels like a country’s width away. Both me and my roommate are home sick. How did both of you react to the absence of you parents and how did you overcome the sad feelings when you went to college and moved to Korea?

  38. I just loved Martina’s gesture when she said: “well, not SLEEPING together” LOL

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