K-Pop Without Miniskirts: Can Female Groups Survive?

This week, The One Shots‘ writer Saphy gives her take on the new South Korean overexposure law that has people talking about a possible ban on miniskirts.

There’s only a few concepts female K-Pop groups can use nowadays to appeal to the public. You can have the cutesy bubblegum pop type a la Girls’ Generation, the overly sexy type like SISTAR, or the hard-hitting independent hip hop type such as 2NE1. And it’s no secret that most girl groups have significantly smaller fanbases than their male counterparts, who, contrastingly, have hoards of female fans willing to spend their hard-earned money on their favorite oppas. If the domination by male rookie groups in 2012 was any indication of these management companies’ belief that the boys are where the money is at, the journey to becoming a successful female entertainer these days is undoubtedly a more difficult one.

So how do these companies make a profit with a female group? By capitalizing on one of the fundamental pillars of marketing and advertising, of course: “Sex sells.” And we’ve all seen how these female idols can rock miniskirts and heels like there’s no tomorrow while looking damn good in them. But considering how limited opportunities are becoming for female entertainers, what happens if you take away that sex appeal, the one thing that has worked time and time again to attract male fans and convince them to emotionally throw down the big bucks for the goods?

Well, we might just find out the answer to that, thanks to a new South Korean law that came into effect on March 22, 2013. As one of the first new policies enacted by the country’s recently inducted leader, President Park Geun Hye, the law looks to combat public indecent exposure by penalizing perpetrators with a fine of 50,000 KRW ($45). However, the law does not elaborate on what qualifies as “overexposure,” leading to much confusion, but one can guess that celebrities wearing revealing outfits will most likely suffer the brunt of this attack in order to set a good example for the rest of the public to follow.

With some stage costumes, I like to reason that their designers simply ran out of cloth, but for the most part, I think that management companies do a pretty decent job of incorporating sexiness without letting too much hang out. After all, we all know that K-Pop isn’t just about the music; many fans are drawn to the genre because of how unbelievably perfect these idols can look. Whether these physical qualities are natural or artificial, they are put on display via short, sexy outfits that can make any fan envious. And frankly, they have every right to show it off, as long as they don’t let it all hang loose.

But now that K-Pop fashion staples like miniskirts and microshorts may be banned, what will these ladies wear? And just how short is too short? How will authorities even determine the shortness of their skirts and dresses? Will they all start carrying measuring tape around with them and approaching random females to measure their bottoms? Sounds like a recipe for possible abuse of authority, increased cases of sexual harassment and a slew of lame pick-up lines to me.

Korea already has a rigid standard for what is appropriate for women, and taking away their right to wear minis seems pretty unfair, especially when there’s no mention of a ban on shirtless men. That can equally be seen as “over-” or “indecent” exposure. I mean, some people could get offended by the sight of sexy, muscular men without a shirt on. I have yet to meet a complainer, but hey, it could happen.

Given that the parameters for the law have yet to be clarified, we cannot be sure how it will affect the Korean entertainment industry. Depending on its rigidity, I predict that we will see a decline in female debuts as management companies will be forced to work tirelessly to find an effective new formula to replace the time-held belief, “Sex sells.”

Do you think the females of K-Pop will be able to succeed without their sex appeal? Who knows? Maybe this could be a blessing in disguise as companies focus more on the talent rather than the image. Be sure to leave your opinion in the comments section below.

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