Women in the K-Pop scene are internationally known for their talent, skills, and good-looks. However, they are also often criticized for looking too similar and manufactured, even by Western standards.
Girl groups produced by local talent management firms in South Korea are molded to become almost indistinguishable from each other as the agencies go for the similar innocent-looking, girlish looks in their promoted acts.Park Boram
Popular singer Park Boram is among those who were “transformed” to fit the K-pop star formula, NPR reported. As a young girl, she had to go through multiple and sometimes radical changes to become the star that she is today. Like many in her craft, Park underwent a four-year training course to study techniques in dancing, singing, and acting. The biggest change she underwent was totally altering her looks, which involved her losing 66 pounds, and modifying her face and her hair.
In her debut single, officially titled “Beautiful,” Park chose to sing about her transformation. Interestingly, the song’s Korean title directly translates to “I became pretty.”
The accompanying music video also shows Park watching her diet and working out, while singing about “eating only a banana and an egg each day,” and how “overdoing it was worth it.”
“I think a lot of people, after listening to this song, were motivated to exercise more, lose weight and diet,” she told NPR. “I think a big reason is because I put my story into it. Like, one banana, two eggs — eating just that, and you see the results in me, and that was motivating for people.”
The rigorous training and changes that Park went through is no different from what other K-Pop artists must undergo to succeed. While the same can also be said of the male counterparts, the Korean entertainment industry has placed a heavier burden on the women. Entertainment companies, which built the entire K-Pop culture from the ground up, designed it around very specific features and characteristics in mind and artists are molded into such traits.Girls’ Generation
K-Pop is also unique in the sense that it is backed by the South Korean government, which treats it pretty much like a commodity. According to Quartz, the government invests significant amount of money into K-drama and K-pop as “cultural exports.”
In an interview with Quartz, South Korean music producer Ryan Jhun, explains how like its singers, even K-pop songs are manufactured:
“Usually we get a lead from the company, and based on that, we take about two weeks to a month to write a song, and deliver the record for the specific artist. It’s like making customized clothes for the artist. Creating everything as a package. If you listen to it, as a mathematical formula, it’s very eclectic: there’s pop, EDM, hip-hop. If [the song] is for an idol group, it needs to have tons of different color. There is someone who is the rapper, someone who is the soft vocalist … we put everything together.”