Friendly boys or….???

The Korean industry has been gaining audiences and popularity around the world for the past few years. “Korean Drama”, Kdrama, and “Korean Pop”, Kpop, have gained popularity due to its appeal to the younger generation with its many twists such as crossovers, when singers star in a Korean Drama.  With its popularity stereotypes are created. Homosexuality is still a taboo topic in the Korean industry. Majority of the big companies and major channels in South Korea are hesitant to allow such sexual content to be viewed due to the fear of the public’s reaction.

The irony of having feminine male characters and gender bending story plots is what Korean Drama is known for. “Beautiful idols” are known to have feminine and angelic features that captivate young girls hence why fan bases are created.  Gender bending story lines is somewhat touching the lines between acceptable showing of a homoerotic storyline and brotherly relationships.  One example of this gender bending story line is a Korean Drama entitled The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince.

The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince somewhat became controversial due to its love story. A young man, Han-gyul, developed feelings towards a young woman, Eun-chan, who was dressed as a man. The underlying of having homoerotic story line and the “cuteness” factor made the series very popular and successful.

In the other hand a real based homoerotic plot, which featured two young gay men in a relationship, was cancelled due the homosexual content.  Life is Beautiful received much criticism from conservative mothers, which reasoned that the show is promoting homosexuality and is corrupting the minds of the children.  If the watched and actually analyze the Korean drama promoted acceptance and was very subtle about the depiction of homosexuality in the story line. The story line only highlighted the gay story in some parts of the show. The content did not revolved around the two gay men but of the entire family in the show. Even with much defense and praise for the story line from its many viewers the show did not last as long and the career of the two actors who played the two gay men was somewhat tarnished in the Korean industry.

Through much stereotypes in the television drama industry in the Korean media the music industry focuses on separating genders in a much thorough way. The battle of boy bands who start of as young innocent somewhat passive feminine mannerism and evolving into what is considered to be what a “man” should be like. A great exampled of these evolutions from feminine boyish persona onto a hard strong man is the band called Shinee.

Shinee is a prime example of evolution of sexuality. Sexuality meaning starting with an innocent image and evolving into sexualized men. The music industry is based on these evolutionary processes. In a way someone cane say it’s to preserve their fans and also reach out to different age categories.  During their process of becoming a recognizable group the boys were criticized for being too friendly with one another. Referring to Minho and key. The two members were apparently very “friendly”, which caused a stir in their fan based, but some find their brotherhood to be natural and innocent. The group age that had a problem were mothers, which are the older generation.

Feminine mannerism and boyish innocent looks are acceptable but homosexual representations are not allowed.  South Korean media has progressed so much and so has the culture but the sexuality is still a taboo subject.  Time will tell how South Korean media will progress in the acceptance of sexual explicit content and sexuality. Television and music.


Ahriz Diaz


4 thoughts on “Friendly boys or….???

  1. Sunny Lee: Your blog suddenly got my attention because the two dramas you listed were one of my favorite dramas that I enjoyed watching them. Your article was interesting in terms of looking from a non-Korean perspective since I am Korean. Korean people usually do not look at the irony of idolizing the feminine boyish looks and not accepting the homosexual representations. Part of it has to do with the fact that South Korea is still a very conservative country with Confucius ethics. It is funny how “The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince” was a huge success, and “The Life is Beautiful” was very controversial even though their stories were both based on a homoerotic story.

  2. (Thuy Dinh)

    I actually like watching Korean dramas and I totally agree with you on how South Korea are still very conservative when it comes to sexuality. Many k-pop boy bands seem a little too friendly to many people and sexuality is definitely still a taboo subject in the K-pop media image. Although South Korea media had improved a lot over the years, I can’t picture them accepting homosexuality representation in the media. For some reason it seems as though they are very serious over little matters such as smoking pot and skin-ship. Here in the United States, we’ll see famous people talking about pots and drugs and dressing half naked. But in South Korea, they don’t want these things to get onto the media. It’ll become a serious matter and they’ll take actions against the Kpop stars.

  3. HanJoo Lee: As a Korean who actually doesn’t watch a lot of Korean dramas, the fact that non-Koreans like you know more about popular Korean media still amazes me. I understand what you mean by Korean media still being relatively conservative. As a traditional Eastern country such as Japan and China, Korea is still rather quite strict about traditional ideals and beliefs, such as the age hegemony that the professor explained during one of her lectures. So a public taboo like sex being mentioned in mass media? Only a decade ago, anyone who did that would be considered pretty much a crazy and immediately be turned into a public offender. Although Korean media is still conservative compared to Western countries like U.S, I just want to mention that it has been becoming more liberal quickly and surely. As the way things looks now, it wouldn’t be that surprising to hear that Korean media is showing sexual materials, including homosexual materials, openly.

    Now that I think about it, they already have been talking about homosexuality rather openly on TV…

  4. One day I went to a teahouse in Koreatown, and they had K-pop music videos playing on the big screens everywhere within the restaurant. I noticed boy bands, and girl bands both had androgenous members. In the boy band they would be considered the cute member who you would want to take home to the parents and fall in love with because he would never hurt you. In the girl band, she would be depicted as the rebel without a cause. It is definitely a thin line k-pop musicians, and shows are playing with. I am not knowledgeable about South Korean culture, but I wouldn’t be surprised people would accept the androgenous look, but not accept the homoeroticism tied with it. But it can be seen that these acts aren’t homoerotic at all; maybe, they are just more progressive in gender identity?


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