정준영, 버닝썬, 설리, 구하라.
앞의 둘은 너무나 분노하지 않을 수 없게 만들었던 이름들. 뒤의 둘은 너무나 슬프면서도 또 다시 분노하게 만들었던 이름들. 더군다나 구하라는 '아육대' 시절부터 '청춘불패' 등등 온갖 예능을 즐겨 보며 정말이지 좋아했던 아이돌이었기 때문에, 거기에다 어려운 시절 보내며 악착같이 살아왔다는 것에다가 '전라도 출신'에 대한 악플들까지 받아가며 살아왔다는 사실까지 겹쳐져 더더욱 안타깝기만.
요 며칠 새 외국 언론에 비친 K-POP의 그늘들.
The wholesome veneer of the South Korean K-pop phenomenon was shattered on Friday with the conviction of two of the country’s leading stars in a sexual abuse case that has shocked the country. (정준영, 최종훈 징역형)
버닝썬 스캔들은 한국 사회를 들쑤셔놓았으며 여성 인권운동에 기름을 부었다. 특히 젊은 여성들은 성범죄 처벌이 가벼운 것과 여성 혐오에 분노했다.
아역배우 출신 케이팝 스타 설리를 다룬 기사들은 악의적일 때가 잦았다. 여성 권리나 고령자 문제 등에 대해 공개적으로 말한다는 이유로, 케이팝 산업이 부추긴 '부드럽고 여성적인' (아이돌의) 틀을 깨뜨렸다는 이유로.
지난 주 설리의 친구인 구하라(28세)가 온라인 괴롭힘에 시달리다가 스스로 목숨을 끊었다. 전남친이 섹스 테이프를 가지고 협박을 하자 구하라는 고소를 했고, 특히 그 이후로 구하라에겐 mud(악플)들이 따라다녔다. 6월에 구하라는 우울증을 고백하며 인스타그램에서 호소하기도.
겉보기엔 반짝거리지만 케이팝의 쓰디쓴 현실은... all the legacy of South Korea's state-led industrialization, such as top-down, authoritarian management and an overexploited labor force, which it had seemed to have superseded. (국가주도형에 탑다운식, 권위적인 매니지먼트, 노동력 착취...)
The apparent suicide of a second K-pop artist in a month has cast renewed focus in South Korea on vicious personal attacks and cyber bullying of vulnerable young stars, and how it mostly goes unpunished. (벌을 받지 않는다!!!)
Tens of thousands of women agree. They've signed an online petition for the attention of the presidential office in Seoul calling for tougher sentences for those convicted of sex crimes - the majority of which in South Korea involve illicit filming. (불법촬영이 난무... 성범죄를 엄벌하라며 청와대 청원에 서명한 여성들.)
법원은 구하라 동의없이 최종범이 촬영을 한 걸 인정했다. 그러나 구하라가 둘의 관계를 유지했다며 불법 촬영이 아니라고 했다.
Once popular mainly just in Asian countries, K-pop girl groups and boy bands, like BTS, now command huge global followings. The genre has captured the imagination of fans around the world with its fusion of synthesized songs, video art, fashionable outfits and synchronized dance routines that mix teasing sexuality with doe-eyed innocence.
But entertainment industry experts have long warned about the dark side of the scandal-ridden K-pop industry, which has remained largely hidden behind its glamour.
The court acquitted him on the charge of illicit filming, saying even though there wasn't "an explicit agreement to filming, it doesn't appear that the video was filmed against the victim's will." Both the prosecutors and Choi appealed the suspended sentence. The appellate court has not decided when to resume hearings.
Voyeuristic public attention on sensational details surged. Shortly after the blackmailing charge was publicized, "Goo Hara video" and similar search terms trended on Google in South Korea. Online commenters attacked her with malicious rumors and accusations, and Goo warned of taking legal action against them.
One famous K-pop diet, known as the "Paper Cup Diet," involves eating nine paper cups — the size of the ones you'd find by water coolers — worth of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables every day. Discussion of this diet is also popular among on pro-anorexia forums.
During the dispute, Goo’s Korean agency didn’t renew her contract. A court sentenced Choi to 1 ½ years in prison on charges of coercion and assaulting and blackmailing Goo. The jail term was suspended, keeping him out of prison. Choi appealed and the trial is still ongoing. K-pop is highly competitive, with dozens of groups debuting each year.
Industry experts have long warned about the dark side of the scandal-ridden industry. Aspiring artists, as young as their early teens, train for years. Only a few debut and even fewer are commercially successful. The likelihood of their success increases if they sign with a handful of top entertainment agencies.
The industry is known to have strict rules for their stars — including dating bans, spartan training and diets, and sometimes slave-like and unfair contracts. Experts say the industry has additional requirements for its female artists, unspoken rules reflective of South Korea’s patriarchal society.
While the minimum sentence for rape in South Korea is three years, most online commentators said the penalties were too lenient. “The victims have to live in agony for the next 60 years, not just six,” one poster wrote on the country’s largest portal site, Naver. Another added: “I hear they burst into tears at sentencing. The victims will live in tears for the rest of their lives.”
Women in South Korea have had some success fighting for equality in what is a deeply patriarchal and male-dominated society, but they still face serious challenges unique to the country. South Korea ranks well below the global average on the 2018 Global Gender Gap Report, with major disparities in terms of wage equality and earned income for women.
Some say the fight is even more pronounced in K-pop. Yet despite working in an industry that pressures women to be perfect, Goo and Sulli tried to break the mold.
Veteran K-pop performer Hyuna and her bandmate E’Dawn were both terminated from their contracts with CUBE Entertainment in 2018, after they revealed their relationship – sparking international waves of anger and condemnation of the company. Many South Korean entertainment companies employ “dating bans” in their performers’ contracts.
For Western audiences, getting tattoos, going on dates, smoking a cigarette or even cannabis use may not be considered anything out the ordinary for a performer -- but in conservative South Korean entertainment culture -- especially for idols, they are considered taboo and in the case of cannabis, illegal.
It brought the country’s treatment of women to the forefront of national consciousness. Thousands of women protested at the Burning Sun nightclub in May, and over 200,000 people signed a presidential petition to demand an investigation into the revelations while others disavowed their former K-pop idols.
Whether Sulli’s death will change the way young outspoken female K-pop stars are treated, is yet to seen.
다들 알고 있었다. K-POP의 성과는 여혐과 아동노동의 산물이라는 것을. 소프트파워가 커졌는지는 모르지만, 한국처럼 '아이돌 산업'에 사회경제적 투자를 많이 하는 나라가 또 어디 있을까. K-POP 붐이 허상이라는 뜻은 아니다. 허상이 깨졌다기보다는, 가려놓았던 불편한 진실들이 이렇게 노출돼버렸다.