By NATASHA IMAN
WHEN it comes to relationships, the K-pop scene paints a different picture from that in the Western world.
In a world where K-pop idols secretly walk hand-in-hand in the wee hours of the morning just to avoid the paparazzi, it is no wonder that openly revealing one’s relationship is a bad idea.
Perhaps the root of this lies in the fact that certain Korean entertainment companies often include a strict “no-dating policy” into their long-term contracts, eliminating the need to announce their clients’ relationship status.
K-pop idols not bound to these contracts, however, are often left in limbo as to whether or not making public their relationships would get them public backlash.
If an artiste is to reveal that he or she is dating, zealous fans are often left feeling disconnected from their idol and resort to shunning them on the rationale that if they don’t remain faithful to you, then why should you remain faithful to them?
From an outsider’s point of view, it is hard to comprehend this level of obsession with Korean idols, but as a fan myself, it is easy to justify their reactions as fangirls (and boys) spend hours and hours labouriously preparing gifts and following their idols around the world.
While some fans may throw out occasional irrational comments on sensitive subject matters like relationships, most of us stick with the mantra “what you don’t know won’t hurt you”.
In recent times however, more veteran artistes have been coming forth with news of relationships, creating unsettling feelings between fans who choose to view it as a publicity stunt.
The artiste that kicked off this chain of confessions is none other than Shindong, a member of the popular South Korean boy band Super Junior.
While most idols choose to reveal their relationships in a less cryptic manner, Shindong chose to challenge his fans and included a coded message into his “thank you” section of the group’s 4th album.
The code strung together letters and numbers, and went something like: “B2B8, B4B9, B3A8, B3C6, B4B9, A4A7B4, B5B6B2, B5B8, A2B8”. It did not appear to have a specific meaning behind them until Korean fans managed to break the code, and translated it as: “Nari, let’s get married. This is a proposal, I’ll love you, forever.”
The news was then confirmed by Super Junior’s management SM Entertainment – Shindond was indeed dating a non-celebrity. It did not come as a surprise to his “everlasting friends”, though, as he had previously been in involved in scandal with another woman and pictures of them can be found on Internet message boards prior to the announcement.
After the confession trend gained momentum, it was not long before we saw Wonder Girls’ Sunye announcing that she had been dating a non-idol.
Wonder Girls, the idol group behind the hit song Nobody, had been busy promoting their new track Be My Baby when Sunye chose to announce her new relationship status on the variety programme, Strong Heart.
She cautiously began her announcement by stating that she had been guilty of violating the “idol code of conduct” and continued by saying that she had met someone a few months ago, generating a wave of gasps among the other guests on the show.
Sunye also added that she had been encouraged by the CEO of her company to reveal her secret relationship.
Reluctant to reveal details about her partner, she stated that he does not live in South Korea and is much older than her, further fuelling the curiosity of K-pop fans around the world.
The latest addition to this confession chain is none other than South Korea’s very own “Sexy Queen” Lee Hyori.
Unlike Shindong and Sunye, Lee Hyori did not choose to reveal her newly found lover herself. Instead, she got a company representative to make the statement:
“Lee Hyori and Lee Sang Soon have known each other for over a year, but they’ve only been dating for the past five months.”
Sang Soon, a noted Korean singer-songwriter, had previously collaborated with Lee Hyori to release a charity project single entitled Remember; they began dating after the release of the charity album.
The announcement of her relationship with Sang Soon drew both positive and negative feedback from netizens, which led her to tweet: “We are all insects under the sky… People that are a little better looking, people that are a little uglier, people who have it better, some people who have it worse… what meaning does this all have?” in response to comments about his looks.
While fans are slowly becoming more accustomed to idols releasing their relationship statuses, it does not necessarily mean that Kpop fans will suddenly be more inclined to accept that their favourite idols are out and about.
Although it seems fantastic to believe that these idols will be “ours” forever, we are eventually forced to come to terms with the fact that they are humans, too, and have a life beyond K-pop stardom.