We are veering towards a more serious topic today that I’ve wanted to address for a while, and it’s about the negative repercussions of the aegyo trend. A recent controversy over kpop band Tiny-G’s Dohee has provided me with the perfect opportunity to address my personal concerns with Korea’s contagious aegyo culture. Interested? Read on!
For those who don’t know what aegyo is, it’s a Korean trend a lot of girls and guys have adopted – it is a look that exudes cuteness, pureness, innocence, and adorable naïveté. For girls, it may be expressed through light pink blush dabbed on the center of the cheeks, or with playful, childlike posing. Here is an example of a male kpop star channeling his aegyo:
Seems harmless right? Wrong.
Recently, Korean photographer Rotta showed off some professional pictures of Kpop idol Dohee, and suddenly was subject to a huge wave of criticism. Netizens thought it inappropriate to sexualize a youthful looking girl like Dohee by having her wear short shorts/underwear and posing in seductive ways. They even labeled it as “phedophilia” (full article here). Here are some of the photos:
When I read the article, I was literally so confused by Korean netizens. Phedophilia is defined as older individuals having perverted attitudes towards very young adolescents (at most below the age of 15). Dohee is 21. She is an adult. Even though she is part of a kpop group known for their aegyo-style, she gave clear consent to be styled and photographed in the way she was. If you want to criticize this photoshoot for inspiring pedophilia, why don’t you see that aegyo-style itself does that – as a trend, it inherently sexualizes ‘underage’, naive girls and guys. Korea after-all coined the term ‘bagel woman’, which refers to an ideal woman who has a baby’s face and a sexy figure (big boobs and butt).
So, the question I have is: your culture has been the harbinger of sexualizing cuteness ever since the hallyu wave started and you never complain. The ‘bagel woman’ was created, and you remain silent. But if the sexualization is too overt, even if the model is a 21 year old, you vehemently blame the photographer for being perverted. Why can’t people realize that aegyo is not a complete personality but just a mask? Just because Dohee dresses herself up to be like a middle school child because her agency wants her to, she is 21 and has the right to express herself sexually.
A few years ago, IU, the queen of aegyo, had a controversy where she was photographed with a male kpop star and she was wearing PJs. Netizens critiqued her for ruining her ‘Korea’s Sweetheart’ image by implying she was in the same bed with a grown man. What do you want from her? Her kpop agency may make her dress up all naive, but IU was also 20 plus at the time – is she just not allowed to mention the letter S.E.X until she’s married??
Come on guys, stop imagining that aegyo defines all that a person is, and stop blaming individuals – look at the faults of the trend itself! Aegyo is a hypocritical mess, claiming to veer away from sexuality but at the time sexualizing people in the most twisted, hidden way.