Korean Girl Groups: Female Warriors or Delicate China Dolls?


The year 2009 was the year of the females (or should I say, “Girls Generation”), which led us to the hot discoveries of newcomers like After School while bringing in more fame for those like SNSD and KARA. Believe it or not, these 3 girl groups share an interesting fact in common: their debut concepts and themes revolved around the motif of being “strong women.”

As many of you may know, KARA initially debuted as a 4 member girl group in 2007 (then with Kim Sung Hee). Incidentally, their debut song, “Break It” managed to catch my attention as well as my awe. These ladies were nothing like those fragile “oppa protect me” gals. They were strong– fierce. They were different.

Fact is fact: KARA’s fan base was considerably smaller back then. Interests of teenage girls sky-rocketed while male fans were sparse. About a year later, KARA made their comeback with 2 new members (Kang Ji Young and Koo Hara) after Sung Hee’s leave and made a grand entrance with their new song, “Honey.”

So Nyeo Shi Dae, better known as “SNSD” or “Girls Generation” also made their debut in 2007. Their debut song, “Into the New World” was definitely an attention grabber. The song came off as meaningful and significant. Even the lyrics and MV had to do with being strong and overcoming obstacles and fears. They were effeminate yet strong– a perfect combination. But something is definitely missing…what could it possibly be?

After a short period of rest, SNSD made a comeback in the Fall of that same year with their full album, “Girls Generation.” A whole different concept with a whole new look– the samchon fans are now delighted.

And of course, After School. The sexy group of 5 ladies in their school uniforms. By this time, I knew what it took to catch my eye, and when it did, I welcomed it. Once again, these girls were different, and I sat in front of the computer screen with my eyes glued onto the “AH” MV. One word: FIERCE.

When I saw any news or articles regarding After School, I always paid attention to the comments the readers left (whether it be Korean portals or forums like Soompi), and most often (you guessed it!), they were female fans with messages and words of encouragement like “they have so much talent, but are so underrated.”

Not too long after that, After School made their comeback with U;EE, a new addition to the group. Soon after, “Diva” became a huge success and U;EE became the mascot of After School.

Starting to see a pattern?

The truth of the matter is, female idol groups undergo quite a variety of change, and one of the big deciding factor is concept. Is it perhaps a doctrine or a cultural issue? Male audiences in the Asian culture tend to embrace and accept the traditional idea of being the weaker and fragile gender, therefore creating the neccessity to protect the “helpless.”

Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule (such as Brown Eyed Girls, 2NE1, etc.). Could this be a sign that the K-Pop scenes have begun to accept new trends and new cultures? How long would it take for them appreciate the concept of a strong and independent woman as we do Beyonce or Christina Aguilera in the States?