10.16.2012

Reaction to Seoulbeats Review of K.Will’s Please Don’t music video 케이윌 이러지마 제발

Contributed by Enzo Cho'Gath in our continuing Queer Corner series

K.Will’s Please Don’t music video

K.Will

I had heard of K.Will quite a few times but with an overall lack of interest in Kpop, I didn't give him much of a fair chance. But when The Kimchi Queen posted a link  to the singer's most recently released music video, I decided to give it a chance. K.Will’s music video is ground-breaking.

Homosexuality has, for (too) many years, been a subject of controversy throughout the world. However, Korea has taken a relatively unique stance for quite some time- Korean society largely just acts like homosexuality doesn't exist. In a society where genders are separated eagerly and early, where men - via their forced conscription into the army - are pushed into all-male environments for nearly two years at a time,  even acknowledging the fact that homosexuality exists as an orientation could be awkward to many people. The consequences of sex segregation go beyond gender discrimination, and may obscure social dialog about homosexuality. As one friend put it, "It's not gay when you do it because there are no women around."

But attitudes are changing and the Korean media, over the course of the last decade, has finally begun to represent homosexuality across its various mediums. Starting with the outing of popular actor Hong Suk-cheon, the visibility of homosexuality went from invisible to camouflaged and eventually to Blockbuster status.

Films in the early 2000s such as Bungee Jumping of Their Own (2001) and Momento Mori (2001) often silenced the subjects of homosexuality that they presented by claiming other realities about them- for example, that the gay relationship wasn't really gay because one man was actually a woman reborn into a man's body (oh, woe is me!), or that the lesbian relationship was somehow an allegory for the 'otherness' of communism. What?

However, in 2006, homosexuality was increasingly represented  in larger volumes and huge grossing films like The King and the Clown (2005)and later Frozen Flower (2008). Homosexual relationships were openly portrayed in these films, a big step for a society that still remained largely conservative toward accepting homosexuality. Dramas such as Coffee Prince (2007), Personal Preference (2010) and Life is Beautiful (2010) wrestled with the issues as well with the last even portraying the grueling efforts of coming out to one's family and the trials that come with it.

Starship Entertainment - K.Will
In the world of Kpop, however, there has been very little progress. With Hallyu resulting in Korean media being exported to countries that remain even more conservative, Korean pop companies appear to have avoided much interaction with homosexuality and its presence in society. K.Will's "Please Don't" music video features a very clear and inarguable reference to homosexual love; this is a big game changer.

The issues that homosexuals in Korea face with regard to societal and family pressure are no joke. Life is Beautiful also deals with these issues and there is a telling episode in which the gay character Tae-sub's own uncle calls him "mentally deficient" because of his homosexuality. K.Will's video leaves the exact relationship of the two men ambiguous, but it appears as if they lived together, and that the woman has not been around for terribly long. Therefore, it is not a stretch to argue that the two men had been involved with one another before one was pushed to marry, a story that parallels what happens all too often  in a country that places such high value on filial piety.
All in all, I am both surprised and pleased by K.Will's efforts and hope to see more progress like this in the world of Kpop.

What I was not pleased with was the response of the website 'Seoulbeats' to the video.
In their article, contributor Nicholas  reviews the video and somehow either misses the entire presence of homosexuality, or  obliquely refers to the main actor's pain and desire by writing simply that:
"The Music Video concludes with the Heartbreak Maserati stationary amongst flowing traffic, as the “ideal” pairing was shown..."
In fact, throughout the entire review there is no mention of homosexuality, queerness,and the word 'gay' cannot be found at all. References to the current drama "Reply Me 1997" abound in the article and the comments, and this a drama well known for it's portrayal of a homosexual relationship, yet somehow the author completely forgets that K.Will's video is an ode to unfulfilled gay love. I immediately left this comment at Seoulbeats:
"How can you write an article on this video without even using the word 'gay'? This is a big step for South Korea and you've completely ignored what are actually some very big social ramifications. This video is the story of a gay couple that was broke up when one of them decided to marry a woman. That is a huge social issue in Korea and one that is very real. By not even mentioning the homosexual content (and instead only obliquely referencing it as "the ideal pairing") you're erasing something that should be discussed. This is a huge oversight and overall poor journalism."
This review could be an opportunity to discuss the changing landscape of Korean culture and the opening up of sexuality in such a conservative country. Especially after Seoulbeat’s great coverage and discussion of Gain's solorelease "Bloom" I was very surprised to see how the K.Will Please Don’t review failed to cover an important issue in any society today.

Instead of bringing the issue at hand to the forefront, the writer has instead erased the presence of homosexuality and K.Will’s voice. Surely someone who writes for a Kpop website is aware of how rare these opportunities are and how this can signify a shift in society. Yet they choose to participate in the silencing of homosexuals and this is by no means acceptable.

In a society where people of alternative sexualities already have little voice, representation or rights (homosexuality is still classified as a mental disorder), taking away any opportunity to be treated as equals is unequivocally wrong. Social progress is made by the airing of these issues and silencing someone's voice or their identity is akin to shaming them for that identity.
I do not ask that every writer discussing homosexual content in Korean media be a fan; air your opinion when possible as openly as you'd like. Post openly about how homosexual content is ruining society- I don't care. It is everyone's right to express the opinions that they hold. What is not acceptable is when a Staff Writer speaks on behalf of a dedicated groupof writers who are interested in the larger picture in pop. Seoulbeats is an ongoing project of discussion and dissection” and  chooses to deny the existence of a group, for whatever reason that may be.

Since Seoulbeats comments standards indicate that they expect their readershipto respect all opinions. We will not tolerate racist, sexist, homophobic or any other vulgar comments that disrespect our writers and our readers I hope in the future that Seoulbeats will reconsider on the dialog they present on these topics.


References: 
Kim and Singer. “Three Periods of Korean Queer Cinema” in Acta Koreana. Vol. 14 Num. 1 June 2011, pg. 117-136

Referenced websites:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=PdUiCJnRptk, Accessed 2012.10.16
http://www.starship-ent.com/kwill/, Accessed 2012.10.16
http://thekimchiqueen.blogspot.kr/2012/10/k-wills-new-single-is-fantastic.html, Accessed 2012.10.16
http://seoulbeats.com/2012/10/please-dont-give-k-wills-effort-a-miss/, Accessed 2012.10.16
http://seoulbeats.com/2012/10/why-ga-in-gets-a-pass-but-hyuna-doesnt/, Accessed 2012.10.16
http://seoulbeats.com/about/, Accessed 2012.10.16

Image credits:
005 K.Will.jpg - Source [http://rawr6127.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/img6811f.jpg], Accessed 2012.10.16
005 K.Will Starship Source [http://www.starship-ent.com/kwill/], Accessed 2012.10.16