Fascist K-pop?

I was excited when I saw the latest video to Crayon Pop’s Bar Bar Bar, the viral hit featuring the wacky ‘piston dance’. This is because it’s filmed at my local subway station, Noksapyeong – presumably because this is the international version of the video, and Noksapyeong is where all the internationals live. And also because they dance in front of slides at a local zoo I’ve been to. Come on, this is cute:

However, a less-cute connotation arose when it emerged that singers had used derogatory slang towards ex-presidents. This article plays it down:

The girls have added to the controversies when a number of the members recently posted controversial comments online, which many perceived as mocking former presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun.

It’s a little more serious than that. Presidents Kim and Roh were both liberals; the terms used, one of which translates as ‘cripple’, came from Ilbe – the “Daily Best”, a far-right website. Among other terms, its netizens use “hong-eo (skate)” to describe everyone from the province of Jeolla, the site of the Gwangju Massacre, when the military killed over 1,000 pro-democracy demonstrators. This is because a skate (presumably in a fish market) smells rotten – just like the people the military killed. Basically, Daily Best is telling leftists they’re as good as the corpses the Korean government killed. And when they’re not denigrating leftists, they’re insulting the 7 year old in the Gangnam Style video for having a Vietnamese mother. Nice. Needless to say, these statements are at odds with the squeaky-clean image of Crayon Pop.

Crayon Pop members claim they’ve never visited the website, and didn’t know the terms’ political connotations. My sources on Korean culture believe this – their misspeaking is simply picked up from popular slang. I’d let it go at that, except there’s a worrying right-wing turn in Korea right now. There’s the scandal in the United Progressive Party, where a representative has been recorded plotting pro-North Korea armed insurrection in the event that the North invades. The scarily-named Revolutionary Organization counts 100 members and doesn’t have any weapons – if this story isn’t fabricated, it marks a new distance from reality by so-called leftists. It may simply be a feint designed to cover up the national intelligence agency’s interference with last year’s election, distracting from the growing calls for reform. But it’s sharpened the stick used to poke the left, giving succour to quasi-fascist groups to tar the entire left as pro-North. It’s also emboldened some eager young capitalist to report his professor for teaching Marxism. So, given the context, it doesn’t really matter whether the piston-dancers are secretly fascist or just ignorant: their slang marks a disturbing attack of right-wing forces in Korea.

Not to end on a bitter note; here’s the next video by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Invader. As before, the music leaves me cold, and the choreography is uninspiring, but her design sense – or that of her art director – is incredible. Vegetable men? Kenji-masks? So cool:


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