Recently G-Dragon from Big Bang, a Korean boy band, was reported to be caught by authorities for smoking marijuana.
Because of this, the originally scheduled comeback of next month may be delayed. Even though G-Dragon didn’t smoke marijuana on purpose (“I smoked a cigarette that someone had given me at a club,” G-Dragon said. “The smell was somewhat different from that of a regular cigarette so I was slightly suspicious that it was marijuana, but it is true that I smoked it,” he said.) and his final punishment was light (a warning), his future in the entertainment world and the leadership in Big Bang is extremely dangerous. His morality will certainly be doubted in South Korea despite of the fact that he was actually pretty “innocent”.
This is the issue I am going to talk about today: the morality in Kpop (and Jpop).
As I have mentioned before, Kpop industry has been focusing on the perfection of their superstars and idols. As a result, these idols MUST make sure that they always look good (at home or at supermarket) with good fashion, good hair and good makeup on. When not weaing makeup, usually these stars will wear sunglasses and hats to cover their natural appearance in order to preserve the “perfect” and pretty image that fans have. And most importantly, they have to be perfect in their behavior, language, and relationships.
Many entertainment agencies forbid love relationships – if you really have one, hide it, hide it as deep as possible! The reason is that these stars need to be single, or “available”, to their fans all the time, so that the fans will feel how genuine the stars are toward them. Having a relationship will ruin the fantasy of the fans and therefore the stars will lose their popularity – and the lover will get severe attacks by fans. This may sound a bit crazy to new comers, but it’s in fact pretty accurate. Take the example of Jonghyun from SHINee. In October 2010, he revealed that he was in a relationship with Shin Se Kyung, an actress nicknamed “goddess” by her fans. The news was groundbreaking. Over night both Shin Se Kyun and Jonghyun was harshly criticized by each other’s fans, and anti-fan cafes grew rapidly. This couple eventually broke up in June 2011 “due to miss-match of their schedules” according to the agency of Shin Se Kyung. However the reason was debatable – SHINee hadn’t come up with new albums after Jonghyun got into a relationship, but when SHINee debuted in Japan and started preparing for new albums, they broke up.
Another huge issue the kpop industry cares about idols is their language and behavior. These stars may never ever swear in front of the camera, or give gestures to annoying paparazzi (well, there are exceptions for swearing like Super Junior, but they did so for an entertaining and funny effect for the real-life shows). They always NEED to smile, look happy and welcome their fans no matter how chaotic the situation is, or how rude and franzy the fans may be. They should NEVER express their opposition or dislike toward any other idols or entertainers, and fights and quarrels between group members are considered “disunity” and signs of breaking up. These stars may never get caught being drunk, smoking or dirty-dancing. Certainly these idols need their own privacy and in deed they may have habits of smoking or going to clubs, but fans rarely get the chance to really see them doing so – it ruins the image.
Now let’s go back to G-Dragon. But why is this issue about marijuana so serious? It has something to do with the laws and common sense resulted from these laws and policies in South Korea. Unlike a super liberal country like the US (sometimes I think it’s too liberal), marijuana in South Korea – or in Asia in general, is not only something that’s illegal. It represents mental failure and serious immorality. Smoking marijuana equals stealing, robbing, raping and intentional injury – even drowning a baby. In addition to his singer and idol social status, this issue may have serious effect on him and his life. Luckily, due to the fact that he smoked the weed unintentionally and that the amount of the weed was very small, G-Dragon got a warning instead of going in jail.
The situation in Japan is very similar to the situaion in South Korea: no relationships, good behaviors, and good languages. So many times that an idol gets expelled from the agency or sealed because of underage drinking or street fighting. Uchi Hiroki, a former member of contemporary boy group NewS, is one perfect example. Uchi Hiroki drank alcohol when he wasn’t old enough in 2005. The command from the agency was almost immediate: He was forced to quit all kinds of performing activities immediately and was canceled the membership of NewS. He was pushed back to the dark behind the stage and was given a life-time cautious sanction. He was buried for 3 years until 2008, and in 2008 Uchi Hiroki finally stepped onto the stage again, but he could never go back to NewS anymore. Even though he eventually made it back to stage, the fame was gone forever.
Different from the entertainment world in the US, the morality standard in Asia (mainly Korea and Japan as I discussed) is a lot more strict for the superstars, and the consequences of the violation is a lot more serious too. These superstars in Kpop and Jpop industry truly are not only doing their job just on stage – they are carrying the burden of being idols every moment of their lives, and they are always working, establishing and maintaining the “perfect image” that’s vital to their survival.