The oversexualization of K-Pop idols

At first glance, Korean Pop newcomers NewJeans’ new single sounds like any generic, oversexualized pop tone: “Made a little cookie, baked it just for you, but you know that it ain’t for free, yeah, made a little cookie, It’s too soft.” However, that perspective drastically changes when the lines above are sung by minors who are 14 years old. 

Since its beginnings in the 1990s, K-Pop carries an abysmal track record in brushing off socially problematic issues in their music. Possibly one of its most lucrative methods in selling their products is the oversexualization of young idols. Unfortunately, most fans ignore this problem in the face of a successful capitalist market. 

The roots of K-Pop lie in the entertainment companies which hold a large monopoly on the Korean entertainment industry as a whole, allowing idols to become “products” created by the companies to appeal to the “consumers”. 

NewJeans, the newest girl group from the entertainment company HYBE,  includes members who are 14 to 18 years old. “Cookie”, one of their tracks, received negative attention for its uncomfortably sexual themes, suggestively inviting its listeners into their “house” to “eat [their] cookie”. 

ADOR (All Doors One Room), the subsidiary record label which manages NewJeans, refuted all claims by stating, “when [ADOR was] making the album, our vision for original and wholesome music was crystal clear to us.” However, it is an undeniable fact that there is a far more sinister meaning hiding underneath the innocent lyrics. The “wholesome music” is only a ploy to exploit NewJeans’ image of adolescence and purity, making it embarrassingly clear what ADOR’s intentions are for NewJeans. 

While ADOR made an effort to hide their exploitive intent, girl group Stellar fell victim to sexual exploitation when their company forced members to wear highly revealing clothing in a music video. Although Stellar disbanded in 2018, it does not seem likely that the market’s oversaturation of sex appeal will end soon, as shown with the recent debut of NewJeans. 

While I am a passionately self-acclaimed K-Pop connoisseur, the oversexualization of minors is not something that should be overlooked by fans. For 30 years, this issue has been overlooked as people continuously give the excuse that Korea is not familiar with American sexual slang. However, K-Pop’s entire musical culture is derived from American and western music, giving the industry no justification for the sexualization of minors and exploiting them for their own monetary benefit.