JYJ3 note: This is Part 1 of an article written by Professor Lee DongYeon, who teaches cultural theory at Korea National University of Arts. We decided to translate this piece due to its strength of insight and its relevance to understanding how the situation between JYJ and SM is perceived by intellectuals as well as by the general public. DNBN, among other Korean fansites, have posted the professor’s article and we believe it is our duty to share it with international fandom. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.
JYJ, K-pop’s exiles that refused to be ‘slaves’, what will be their destiny…?
K-pop is at the peak of its craze. In Tokyo, Beijing, Bangkok, and also Paris, London, New York, K-pop is emerging as the new global pop. Via TV and internet, K-pop is claimed to be global icon that lets the world know about South Korea’s cultural excellence. But how much do we actually know about K-pop? On what condition has K-pop come into the spotlight of global pop? How the music of K-pop is created and consumed? Is K-pop really substantial?
K-pop is not the K-pop that we know because K-pop covers only idol music. And K-pop’s exterior and interior are disconnected because the perspectives on K-pop of international K-pop fans and domestic music fans are different. K-pop is like Samsung that ascended the throne to become a global company with its ‘no labor union’ myth. Although idol groups have worked hard and became global stars, there is no way for them to speak properly about their worries and pains. Like global company Samsung that doesn’t have a labor union, K-pop is global pop formed through unlimited competition without freedom.
It’s true that the global craze of K-pop exists but it has been exaggerated by the media. Why? Because there is a relationship of deceit between the media and entertainment companies. In 2010, in order to cover SM Town Live in LA, more than 20 media organizations in South Korea were involved. After enjoying a free ride, many praising articles came from the media the day after the concert. Thanks to this, SM’s largest shareholder Lee Sooman’s stock rose to almost more than 6 billion won in a flash. Lee Sooman’s stock price exceeded 200 billion won now. At the end of last year, market value of YG Entertainment CEO Yang Hyunsuk publicly listed on KOSDAQ touched 140 billion won. In 2011, Korea Tourism Organization sent support in the form of 300 million won to SM Town Live in Paris. Receiving intensive support from media and government, K-pop has conquered domestic market and is entering into the world.
K-pop is a transnational phenomenon which has support from global fans from 10s to 20s that love pop idols. Rather than proving musical skills, actually, it has hit the jackpot by filling empty space of vanished pop idols in the world market of pop music. Since the music of K-pop now refers to American pop music’s trend, it creates unique music added with dance skills; and an ironic situation that takes place is that K-pop is copied in third world’s music market.
Professor Lee Dongyeon of Korea National University of Arts has started a series that gives an account of K-pop . Professor Lee Dongyeon played a great role in the birth of Korean Music Awards and has taken a serious approach to Korean popular music through his books such as ‘Idols’. In this series, the secret of K-pop’s exterior and interior, music and industry, production and consumption is dug up. This series which composed of 10 topics in total will come to readers every week. Its first topic is JYJ, who show us most clearly the current situation of K-pop.
JYJ are K-pop’s outcasts. They are K-pop’s Homo Sacer, i.e. cursed outcasts. In Roman law, Homo Sacer is a banished man who may be killed by anybody, and who is removed from society and deprived of all citizens’ rights. Of course, JYJ are neither political refugees nor a social pariah group. We can’t conclude that K-pop’s box-office stars JYJ who still possess a great fandom are unfortunate like those miserable and lonely political refugees. But the fact that they can’t do what they want to do in their own country carries the nature of exiles and outcasts itself.
For even now, JYJ still haven’t been able to have normal broadcasting activities in Korea. The congratulation performance at closing ceremony of IAAF World Championships Daegu at the beginning of September 2011 was the only broadcast activity of the year. Although their official album, released 2 years after coming out of TVXQ, sold well in Korea and abroad, they couldn’t win a single prize in domestic music awards. Considering the fact that, despite the poor environment of music market, their debut album [The Beginning] and 2nd studio album [In Heaven] each sold more than 350,000 copies, it’s hard to understand why they weren’t nominated in music awards. Being appointed as Goodwill Ambassador of ‘Jeju Island – New 7 Wonders of the World’ and then getting canceled with doubtful reason, being scheduled to appear on KBS television and getting canceled abruptly in one day, if we look back, we can guess who systematically interfered with their activities or can assume that there are interest groups that synchronize and connived with each other.
Many fans of JYJ believe that the obstructer is their former agency, SM Entertainment. They think this because it seems that the only group who can put the brakes on JYJ’s domestic activities is nobody else but SM Entertainment, who was displeased with the 3 people’s breakaway from the beginning. Publicly uncovering the unwarrantable unfair contract and the opaqueness in profit division, JYJ put SM Entertainment in trouble. JYJ’s fans think that SM is interfering JYJ’s activities as much as possible in order to show an example of what happens to people who betrayed them and tacitly warn its affiliated idol groups on the [important of] obedience. It’s the story that you can only find in the gangsters’ world. Even though SM says that they received a mortal wound because of the lack of activity of their best idol group, TVXQ, which stemmed from the contract issue; I believe that with the production power SM holds, they can place any trainee group they debut into TVXQ’s position. To them, TVXQ is a devoted son who brought to them entertainment producing power and at the same time, a concubine’s child that they can throw away at any time.