The K-pop industry has always had strict standards for idols. Female idols are expected to embody the epitome of Korean beauty. They must maintain a friendly public persona. These invisible standards have long dictated the lives of female idols.
However, as time progresses, more artists are realizing the limitations of these standards and seeking to break free from them. BLACKPINK Jennie openly expressed her concerns about these constraints: “Frankly, many aspects of my personal life have been restricted. There are many things I couldn’t do just because I am an idol, and I used to be very afraid of expressing myself.”
In early 2023, Jennie made headlines by starring in “The Idol.” In the series, Jennie raised eyebrows by wearing revealing outfits and performing sensuous choreography alongside male dancers. She candidly shared her feelings, “Over time, I have been able to express my personality more, but people perceive this as breaking the mold. And now, I want to break more boundaries, set a precedent for those in my culture, to prove that you can comfortably express what you want.”
The provocative costumes and sensual dance moves were deemed inappropriate within the confines of K-pop’s standards and Asian cultural norms, sparking debates about whether this performance was an artistic expression or an inappropriate display of the woman’s body.
Crazy Horse, where Lisa performed, asserted that her involvement “represents the pride and freedom of women.” However, this message was not clearly conveyed.
Jeon Somi and Yoon Mirae have faced discrimination just because they are mixed-race. Both have made concerted efforts to challenge Korean perceptions of mixed-race individuals and promote multiculturalism within the K-pop industry. Black Swan has redefined the K-pop landscape as a multinational girl group without any Korean members.
Amber, Hwasa, and Hyorin are shining examples of successful idols who boldly defy conventional Korean beauty standards. They convey the powerful message that people should never feel confined to a particular appearance or style of dress.
Jessi stands out for her fearless and outspoken nature. She openly engages in discussions on sensitive topics such as plastic surgery and women’s bodies—subjects many other celebrities tend to avoid. Jessi is well aware that her frankness isn’t always embraced in Korea, but she firmly believes that her choices are far from being wrong.
Gain of Brown Eyed Girls fearlessly uses her music as a medium to explore sensitive themes, frequently delving into topics related to sexuality and the toxicity present in relationships, as seen in songs like “Bloom” and “Fxxk U.”
Hyuna consistently steers clear of the traditional “pure” concepts, confidently engaging in sexy dance performances and sporting revealing outfits in her performances.
Like 2NE1, BLACKPINK crafts an image of alpha females—an image that sharply contrasts with the conventional sweet and pure image of most girl groups. This identity is palpable in their body of work, especially in the song “Tally.” Jennie candidly shared her experience with the song, “Tally is one of the first songs where we could really use the f-word, but I couldn’t belt it out loudly and clearly the first time we performed it. I remember having to position the microphone slightly farther away, and I wondered what if people think this is wrong? It’s our fans who give us the support and confidence to enjoy performing this song to the fullest.“
While these artists are making significant strides in breaking stereotypes, it’s essential to acknowledge that not everyone may readily accept their bold moves. Fans have the right to voice their opinions, whether in support or opposition.
Constructive criticism is encouraged, but it’s crucial to draw the line at hurtful comments or body-shaming, as the well-being of these artists should always be a priority.