Opinion: Why New “Inkigayo” Rulings on 19+ Music Videos Will Not Work

Inkigayo collage

Any opinion expressed in this column is the writer’s only and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Soompi Editorial Team and its management.

When SBS announced that “Inkigayo,” its flagship music show, was no longer going to count music video hits from music videos rated 19+ as part of its chart ranking system, my initial reaction was to think, “Poor HyunA.” Her latest single, “Red,” has close to 7 million views on YouTube, all of which will count for zip when SBS is compiling its charts, seriously denting her hopes of a victory on this weekend’s show.

But then I had a long think about it and came to realize that HyunA is probably not losing any sleep about this at all. She is an established K-pop megastar, and is probably at the point of her career when music show wins are nice, sure, but they don’t actually mean that much anymore.


Of course, the real issue here is not HyunA, it is that old K-pop chestnut: are Korean music videos stepping over the line? SBS seems thinks so, and that is possibly why it has decided to make the new ruling. As “Inkigayo” is rated suitable for viewers aged 15 and over, in a way it makes sense that hits on non-family friendly music videos should not be counted. After all, the show airs at 3pm on Sundays, a time when a lot of younger viewers could be tuning in. Although it stops short of a ban on artists with 19+ videos, it does send out a warning shot of sorts.

The problem with this move is that it comes across as a half-measure. The fact is, under these new rulings, an artist like HyunA can perform a song that has a 19+ video on “Inkigayo,” and the song can even chart — it is just less likely that artists like this will win the Number 1 spot.

Although I am not usually in favor of any form of censorship, I feel that if SBS is really serious about the idea of discouraging artists from posting 19+ videos, it should impose a blanket ban on any artist performing a song with a 19+ video. Again, I don’t like censorship, mainly because I think it doesn’t work, but if the producers of the program said, “Sorry, this is a family show, and you can only perform here if you are promoting a family-friendly song,” at least the message would be clear.

You can see why they are stopping short of making a ruling like that, though. Infinite’s recent video, “Back,” was given a 19+ rating for scenes of violence, but SBS and advertisers know that for many fans, an Infinite performance could be a reason for many to watch “Inkigayo” in the first place.


Violent scenes have resulted in 19+ ratings for other male acts, too, such as VIXX’s “Voodoo Doll” and Kim Jin Pyo’s “Walking Dead,” both of which had pretty gorey videos.

Although it might take a lot of courage of the part of the producers of the show to turn away the likes of VIXX, HyunA and Infinite from performing if their videos were rated 19+, at least that way we could actually understand what it is SBS is trying to do. And if it is acting out of moral principles, we could get a much better idea of what those principles are that way.


Some may argue, however, that the label of “too violent/sexy for TV” can occasionally get some acts more publicity, rather than less. Witness, for example, the debut of 4L, a girl group which has yet to appear on a single mainstream music show. The group has only released one song so far (“Move,” on August 4), but the girls have already garnered well over six million hits on their official YouTube page with just four videos: three teasers for “Move,” and the M/V itself — a feat that is extremely rare for a debuting K-pop act from a fledgling talent agency. “Move” may well be one of the raunchiest K-pop videos ever released, and not making toned-down TV appearances has probably only added to the group’s edgy appeal.


Yet, even in a case like this, SBS could send a strong message to K-pop acts: keep it clean, or there is no space for you on our family shows. Stronger measures might even convince the likes of KBS, MBC and Mnet to do the same. If there was no chance whatsoever of a television appearance, a lot of groups would have no choice other than to comply. Not every group can pull off a stunt like 4L’s. Without TV exposure, less popular K-pop acts don’t really have a hope of making it big, and perhaps even bigger stars like HyunA, VIXX and Infinite would take this into consideration when making their videos. 

It seems as though, with this new ruling, SBS is trying to take a stance on censorship without actually censoring anything. If the network, or any other media channel wants to take action on the issue of adult themes in music videos, nothing short of a firm ban will do. Anything else comes across as a compromise.