[Op-ed] Korea’s Insatiable Idol Worship: A Postmodern Tragicomedy

Disclaimer: This is just my opinion based purely on my personal observations and nothing more. I do not claim any academic or professional merit to this piece. I am only commenting on the larger societal trends I have noted in Korea’s idol culture, and it is not my intent to target or bash any particular idol. The sole object of this piece is to critique arguments and logic, not the people who have espoused them.

Korea’s Insatiable Idol Worship: A Postmodern Tragicomedy

By: Jimmie of TheJYJFiles

For a country that purports to be at once the most atheistic—a little more than half the population claims to believe nothing—and the most monotheist—four of the world’s 10 largest churches (by congregation) are located here—Korea sure does love its idols. Young, pretty and dressed to the nines in flashy clothes and the ideal personality, they come in sets of four, five, nine and even thirteen. They are capable of attracting an army of fanatical followers. Their songs are played ad nauseam in every corner of the country. Their faces fill up the four corners of our television sets. In fact, there is hardly a television show or radio corner that is not dedicated to or run by some idol or other.

Is it perhaps because this nation, sandwiched all its life between two powerful empires and constantly under threat of attack, has always needed and sought heroes? Could this be why Koreans are so prone to making heroes and to hero worship?

And more or less, the Zeitgeist has been gracious enough to provide Korea with unexpected heroes at exactly the right time. Kim Yushin, Lee Soonshin, the more controversial Park Junghee and Kim Daejoong have all entered the national scene exactly when such personalities were needed most, in spite of circumstances that should have made their existence and entrance impossible. But now, in this day and age, even with the looming threat up North, the Korean public has little need for those kinds of heroes, yet the insatiable desire for hero-worship remains. And so a significant portion of the public turns to ‘idols’, investing in them all the their hopes, dreams, ideals and expectations…essentially moulding them into surrogates of perfection. The adoration and fervour that the public showers on idols is enough to convince anyone that these idols are indeed immortals. It appears that many of the idols themselves believe themselves to be immortals.

Yet, the recent dramarama on Twitter involving Kim Junsu of JYJ and several big-name SM idols show otherwise. What the self-righteous replies of these idols—replies that never failed to reference the necessity for “gratefulness” to the Powers-that-Be—exposed is not an unquestionable connection to the self-sustaining Divine but an inability to escape this ephemeral, No Guarantee humanity. It is both unfortunate and amusing, much like something out of the Theatre of the Absurd, that these idols don’t understand who their true Masters are. Just as the OBS producer stated with sharp precision, the Power that idols truly owe their allegiance to is not their management company or CEO but their fans and, through their fans, the larger Korean public.

Just as the Korean public makes heroes, it just as easily destroys them the minute said heroes make a mistake or disappoint unstated expectations. Not even the greats, like General Lee Soonshin, have been able to escape this fate. The followers of yesterday become the executioners of today. Offend the right expectations, dash the right fantasies, and fans turn into antis in under an hour. Whether they are conscious of it or not, whether they want it or not, idols are nothing more than empty vessels without a voice into which the public pours its unattainable desires. Although the public worships them like gods, at the end of the day, idols exist at the convenience of the public and to satiate its whims and fancies. When and if the public finds it no longer convenient to worship a certain idol, it throws the idol away without a moment’s hesitation only to replace it with a new one. At such moments, it becomes clear who is really in control.

Several high-profile idols have objected in recent months to being referred to as “slave” or to having people speculate whether or not they are under “slave contracts”. Departing from the question whether or not these idols are under “slave contracts” (not likely, thanks to the efforts of JYJ and their fans and the Fair Trade Commission of Korea), idols are not allowed to be free-thinking individuals either. Just ask Jay Park. The Korean public did not hesitate to remind him, ‘We will love you and worship you if you be and do as we say. You are not supposed to be anything else. If you disappoint our expectations and the moral standards set by us without your knowledge or input, we will not hesitate to rise up against you and bury you into oblivion.’ For all the adoration, fame, money, cars and houses an idol may have, his life and person are controlled by others. In other words, the idol and idol worship in Korea is a lesson in objectification. The projected configuration of the idol culture—the variety programmes, the ubiquitous stage performances, the radio talk shows, special events just for them, even down to the CD packaging—communicate that idols are little more than objects for the public’s use, howsoever the public may decide to use them. Yes, *cough*Heechul*cough*, it is possible to buy a house or cars or go out for drinks and still be a slave.

A slavery that appears to be anything but…

It all amounts to little more than a postmodern tragicomedy, really. One I’m sure the members of JYJ are well familiar with.

I personally was not around to witness the societal reaction to the lawsuit filed by DBSK members Hero Jaejoong, Xiah Junsu and Micky Yoochun, and I can only imagine its effects. I can only imagine the angry red tide of fans turning into antis and flooding unrelated forums on and offline with fabricated rumours in exercise of a mistaken right to revenge. I can only imagine the accusations of greed, disloyalty and treachery leveled against the three by the larger public based on standards the three have no control over. And I imagine that on some level this is why Jaejoong, Yoochun and Junsu put up with the ridiculous terms of their unfair contract for so long—they would rather be slaves by contract than face the consequences of declining to play the public’s slave in this postmodern tragicomedy. More than a year after the lawsuit was first filed, the consequences of this fallout remain, even in the international fandom: ‘Dong Bang Shin Ki were supposed to be five immortal talents who sing and dance for us forever…they were supposed to laugh and smile so we too could laugh and smile and forget our troubles…they were supposed to make us proud to be part of the world’s largest fandom and give us the ability to boast about how perfect they are. How could they disappoint us like this??? Ugh! I’m leaving!!!! >.<~~~ !’ The members of DBSK occupied the roles of ‘gods of the East’ for so long that even their own fans forgot, when push came to shove, that all of them are 100% flesh and blood.

For all the connotations of immortality attached to the term, the lifespan of an “idol” is on average very short. After filing a lawsuit against the biggest idol factory in all of Korea and in a way that exposed the behind-the-set stage effects that make it the Wizard of Oz, JYJ have pretty much ensured that their own lifespan as idols were over and they would never be allowed to re-occupy their former positions again. If they were to stay relevant in the Korean mainstream, they would have no other choice but to become something more.

The only chance an idol anywhere has of surviving beyond his expiry date is to undergo a legendary transformation (even if he was already considered a legend as an idol). He must transform into and be recognised as an artist as well. It is a difficult feat anywhere in any music industry, but in Kpop it might as well be impossible. A rare exception that comes to mind is Seo Taiji…but he started out as an artist and intentionally pulled out the minute Korean society tried to impose on him the label of idol. Furthermore, as many are aware by now, the Kpop system and the mentality of the industry’s biggest players make this transformation all the more impossible.

But perhaps the trusty old Zeitgeist is moving again.

Slowly but surely, JYJ are emerging from behind the curtain as artists. The level of experimentation, boldness and maturity displayed by the music in Their Rooms leaves little room for doubt on this. The process has been anything but smooth, and along the way they have made plenty of errors (both artistic and managerial), as several ill-advised tracks on The Beginning attest. But that’s okay. The life goal of an artist is not to embody perfection but to bring forth a masterpiece. The artist is judged not by his ability to conform to social expectations or standards of morality but by the expression of his art. Whereas idols are intentionally produced and marketed to be passive reflections of society, artists have a long and proud tradition of challenging society, pushing it to reflect upon itself. If it is the lot of the idol to be used, it is the prerogative of the artist to be respected. Because, even if he is brought down, even if he goes through life penniless and unnoticed, he will go down free and with no regrets.

Now, forces that would rather that JYJ remain as idols and that find it more convenient that the members of JYJ be remembered as idols, are trying to incite the Korean public, the real makers and destroyers of heroes and idols, with nationalistic rhetoric. Their general strategy is to manipulate the public’s growing patriotic attachment to the Korean Wave by propagating the following logic: ‘The Korean Wave is at the height it is today thanks to a surge of popularity in Kpop. Kpop is in turn able to be so popular because of the business practices and policies of big entertainment management companies. JYJ and their lawsuit are threatening the business practices and policies of these companies. Thus, they are threatening the Korean Wave.’ In reality, this is one of the most unpatriotic arguments ever fabricated, not least because its proponents are really out to secure their own private interests in the name of public ones. For eons, nations have made idols, but it is Art that makes and defines the nation.

If the Korean government is serious about sustaining the Korean Wave, especially the global appeal of the Korean music market, it will start devising policies and systems to support artists and not simply idols. A recommended first step would be to remove all existing obstacles that stand in the way of Korean artists producing Art that will have longevity and represent well Korean culture. For the music industry, this would mean revoking the licenses of and effectively dismantling shady associations that are little more than cartels, such as the Korean Entertainment Producers Association (KEPA) and the Korean Federation of Pop Culture and Arts Industry (KFPCAI). Thus far, these cartels have contributed nothing but nonsense and vitriol to the debate and are seeking to manipulate the allegiance of the Korean public for their personal gains.

But, in my opinion, the biggest assignment lies with the fans of JYJ. Very little mental strain is required to be the fan of an idol—it mostly consists of projecting one’s fantasies on to a surrogate—but to be the follower of an artist is to turn one’s habits upside-down. Just as the members of JYJ are transforming from idols into artists, will their fans be able to make the challenging transition from idol worshippers to artist followers? Will they be able to genuinely respect JYJ even whilst knowing full well that these three men are simply that, men and not gods? Spazzing is fine—and psychologically necessary, of course—but will JYJ fans be able to honestly appreciate the value of JYJ’s output as much as they do the trio’s bodies? Will the fans be able to support—and fight for if necessary—their artists’ quest to realise that elusive masterpiece and to claim what is their right—to die free and without regrets?

As they say at Intermission, ‘To be continued…’

Shared by: TheJYJFiles

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48 thoughts on “[Op-ed] Korea’s Insatiable Idol Worship: A Postmodern Tragicomedy

    • Okay, now that I have somewhat have my thoughts gathered …

      This was an insightful piece, you took into consideration so many aspects of Kpop culture that has puzzled me so much.

      I recently read Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” and Flann O’Brien’s “The third Policeman” and it’s so unnerving when you realise that the weird dizzying worlds of the two books are so much closer to reality than we are ever able to admit to ourselves.

      I do hope that JYJ fans can make the transition from idol worship to following artists. It’s a much more healthier fan/celeb relationship. The cool thing about being an “artist” as apposed to an idol is the fact that no matter how much criticism you get, you cannot be completely written off because you have created art…. something tangible. If you take away the company who produces all their music, thinks up concepts, etc, from an idol … what do most of them have left?

      It’s sad really :/

  1. Very enjoyable to read your article and I’ve inhabitable looked for your writing while browsing the website everytime. Thanks Jimmy…another thoughtful perception of Korean wave in related to JYJ situation.

  2. I must thank you again for writing such a thought-provoking piece. I do hope people will start seeing the real issues and begin realizing that the show SME is running is no longer supposed to be the norm. Unfortunately, and this is really saddening to me, most of the HoMin fans are refusing to look at things as they are happenening now and are just choosing to keep the idol imaged tagged on Homin. I feel frustrated that they are limiting themselves as well as their idols from attaining a status of more than just an adored doll – prettily dancing and singing.

    JYJ has indeed grown from being the regular idols to the artists that they have been and still are striving to become. In answer to your questions in the your paragraph, YES. I am proud to say that. And I will stand by them until the end, and even after.

  3. “The members of DBSK occupied the roles of ‘gods of the East’ for so long that even their own fans forgot, when push came to shove, that all of them are 100% flesh and blood”

    I really think we sometimes forget this thanks to the image they have been portraying for a long time.

  4. wow… I like this article… this is so good.. true enough, Korea should demystify the ‘idols’ instead replace them as real people and real artists… this way they would address them as human not some totem or something…

  5. Thank you for this most insightful article Jimmie. As someone who was never a DBSK fan to begin with I guess my history and perspective on what happened with the group is quite different from the original DBSK fans’ experience. As my name suggests, I became a fan of Yuchun from SKKS drama. Being part of the new Ajumma/Auntie fan base, I had no idea who DBSK was, let anyone any of its members. However, I got to know about Yuchun, and thereby what happened to him, as well as JaeJoong and Junsu, and how they became JYJ and their battles with SM. After some research (thanks to JYJ files for this!), I realized that I couldn’t just sit still and not do something. For me, this legal battle is not just about JYJ but something so much bigger than them and when they were being attacked, especially by other SM artists, I became mobilized–much like that ajumma/auntie army that you wrote about a while back. I am very aware how difficult this battle has been for them in their fight to seek justice, which they so rightfully deserve to do and have courageously decided to take on, it made me like them even more–I liked them for standing up and take the road less travelled. Living in such a Confucian and patriarchal society like Korea, such a decision could not have been easy–in many ways it would have been so much easier to just live with the status quo. However, I think despite the difficulties that they have and are going through right now, I believe that this is an important watershed time and a critical turning point in their lives as well as in their careers. When I think of JYJ, I don’t see them as as your typical idols (whose lives will eventually fade out–as trends will always do) but as emerging artists–mature, experimental with more longevity in the long run. In the end, I think they have opened a whole new world and life for themselves. I am a firm believer that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I believe the same applies to JYJ too. Not to sound too cliche but this really is a whole new beginning for them and I have a feeling that their careers are about to turn many more pages and chapters in their journey. I for one look forward to hearing and reading more about them in the future.

  6. I must confess that your article put in black and white what I couldn’t figure out. Although I knew idols were playing a role that don’t reflect their own personality, I was always surprised when the difference was said out loud. It is like the industry is helping us melting both the artist and the person as one individual, and getting us disappointed if one these two does not bid his/her part of the contract…

  7. That was an amazing article ~ sorry to be off-topic but I really admire how you can put out your thought so well, organized and beautifully worded
    On to the matter,
    Since I dont know much about the Korean history, this is a really insightful piece to help me understand where the idol culture came from. I myself find it surprising that from what I see, the korean music industry, or the media involved, mostly revolves around idols ~ hence creating situation where the fans’ attention is on the appearance, the clothes,the dance step, how well they match their group, etc…and only some focus on the actual quality of music presented. I mean, by title, singers are ppl who can sing, or rather can sing WELL to differentiate themselves from the general masses that LOVE to sing . And idols are marketed as singers, by default [in my opinion]…So it baffles me so much to find some fans praising their idols on everything else BUT their musical talent/ability
    Dont get me wrong. I do love some idols group that DO have the talents, and/or the great personalities that come along. To be honest, DBSK was and is labelled as an idol group. So when I started to know of them, then love them till now, it was all in the idol culture environment. My point is idols are great, but it shouldnt be all about the idols. It is ridiculous to see most of the line-up for music award shows in korea [or at least the big one that I know of] are mostly idols.
    I am really glad that JYJ know what they have to do – to break out of the idol mold – and so far, I agree with you that they’re really on the right track. Its not all about being “perfect” and have success all the time. Its in the trying and experimenting and growing as artists ~
    Like you mentioned, JYJ fans need to change our mentality from that of idol worshipper to artist follower, it is something that makes me wonder as well.
    well, I spazz, ALOT, on things that are not of their talent as well…. but it was the talents of these 3 men that pulled me into their fandom in the first place [I come to love their music way before I see any picture of the group, and know who is who. its really just a bonus that they are exceptionally handsome and adorable] …then naturally comes the love for them as people, and then I ended up loving them for anything and everything that they are. So where is the line really?
    Again, thanks for a really good read and to reflect upon ^_^

  8. A very inspiring piece.

    I noticed too that in this “battle” that JYJ has, it’s not only the Korean society that is looking at them in such a perspective, but surprisingly the international fandom too. (it really came as a big surprise for me) I thought the western world would have seen it better and understand their move better, but they are harshly judged as well. Maybe it’s because occasionally we like to emulate what we idolize as well, which in this situation the Korean fandom, as well? Sorry for the long tangent but it just makes me wonder.

    Anyhow, really loved this article that you wrote, Jimmie. I plan to read it later today when I get sleep and coffee so I can ponder over it more. It definitely deserves another re-read. Thank you for sharing!

    • I just want to clarify something you said in your comment. International fandom is not a western fandom – it is truly international. It has more western influence than Cassiopeia or BigEast, but it is still made up of all the Asian fans who speak better English than they do Korean or Japanese.

      But on your comment about international fandom looking on the boys as a commodity — that’s how they were presented. They were consumer good to be provided on demand and SME did an excellent job at filling that demand. Whether the individual fan can see past that to the exhaustion and the frustration of 5 young men is often–I hate saying this–a matter of age. Younger fans are more likely to be self-focused, not seeing beyond that their toy was taken away. That starts to change around age 20 (hopefully), which is why I think Cassiopeia stepped up so beautifully in the past couple of years.

  9. Jimmie, this piece is so spot on.

    The necessary changes will only make the Korean cultural scene better. Art is Art. The practitioners of Art are Artists. JaeJooong, YooChun, and JunSu are Artists. They are coming along in a time and place where their efforts will lead a pathway to the betterment of the cultural scene. For all those who are having trouble accepting, recognizing, and seeing the change, this will be an arduous path, but one that is completely needed.

    We can all fear change at first, but as @ Chunnieauntieandgranny mentioned earlier, “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” So, you manage to live on, and tell about it.

    Thank you for continuing to spark lively debate, and thought. I will put money on the fans of JYJ, they understand what the real deal is. This is why the guys have made it this far on faith, their fans believe in their Artistic Talents, and support them all the way!

  10. Unfortunately, I think one of their biggest problems is gonna be their fans soon. I’m not sure if the fans have enough maturity to stay with the boys for the long run-just imagine if one of them gets (or goes public) with a girlfriend, that would be completely disastrous and they would lose a lot of fans that way. But I’m really hoping that most fans will fight for happiness in ALL aspects of their life, and not just their professional careers.

    • Personally, I would love to hear that one, two, or all of them have girlfriends, get married and have children. Obviously, as they mature and get older, some fans are bound to move on, however, true fans will only want the best for their future, especially with all the hardships they have had to deal with in the past 2 years.

    • As JYJ mature, so does their fans. I was one of those naive fangirls who sulked for days because oppa was rumoured to date someone, but those days of silly naivete had long passed. I laughed when I think back about who I used to be – simple-minded idol worshipper only caring for what the boys could give me and not the other way around. At my age now (I’m turning 24) and as someone who works for a living, I empathized more with the boys and their struggle, and in turn, is able to reinvent my whole perspective of the fandom and ‘idol’dom. Just like the boys who, as Yoochun had rapped, had a sudden revelation of painful truth, I went through the same thing as well.

      In my opinion, it is possible for the fandom to mature with the boys and accept that JYJ now are not the Hero, Micky, and Xiah that are ‘glossed over’ and ‘perfected’ when they were in TVXQ. We’ve seen proofs of that surfacing recently through various campaigns to get the boys’ talents recognized. We’ve seen a new rise of ‘ajumma fans’, and therefore, while we lose the naive fans to the mass, we’ll gain new ones who are loyal and have the power to change things for the better for the boys.

      🙂

    • I was actually just thinking about that. A while back when Seven announced he had a girlfriend, he lost half of his fan base….but as Jimmie (BTW, thank you for articulating so beautifully the state of JYJ in the backdrop of Korean entertainment/society) noted, they are now emerging artists. They are being exposed and have exposed themselves to different circumstances and situations and those fans who have stood by them is also changing. They are also gaining new fans who are not so much married to their idol status. It will be interesting to see how they, JYJ and their fans evolve.

  11. Yes, I realize a lot of people think that TVXQ are God, but they aren’t… It’s a simple reason why JYJ filled the lawsuit, because they’re human, they have human’s need, money, freedom, comfort and happiness, etc
    I am too, part of JYJ fan, and I realized though even some of us are mature enough, there’s some of us who’s not mature too, sometimes, our childish behavior was influenced by how much suffering JYJ had, but sometimes, it was unreasonable anger toward SM, HM and HI realized that in Korea and international fan, little by little people had opened their eyes, what worried me is Japan…

    • In Japan they were already seen as artists, I think fans accept the three working separately. They filled 200,000 seats and had both their CD and DVD as #1 on the Oricon charts. I’m worried about the business aspect of it, how the actual lawsuit is being viewed and their split from Avex. But then they have a better chance at a smaller career in Japan, they could go back to playing the smaller venues and do very well. (I’d kill to see them at the Budokan)

      • Japan seems to be more complicated than korea. They are still bound by their contract to Avex and when it expires I wonder if Avex will still actively pursue to block them in japan. Avex, personally is more unpredictable so time will tell how things turn out.

        Hopefully, things will clear up this year and they’ll get a chance to perform in japan even if its at a small stage.

  12. Thank you so much for all of this well thought out and insightful articles…It’s a breath of fresh air in this fandom… Don’t get me wrong, I love being updated with what is going on with JYJ but the immature attitude of some fans and antifans really irk me in a way that it shouldn’t. But I breath and listen to any of their songs and I’m alright again. As a fan of the original group, I always felt they were different in that they developed in a different manner from all the idols of their time. I think their time spent in Japan has given them an opportunity to become artists as they had some artistic freedom there. What ticked me off about the current situation is how when A Song Without a Name Part 1 came out, some people were saying that they shouldn’t be singing /writing about such things. Recalling my reaction to those responses and after reading your article, I think what irked me the most was that some fans were putting restrictions on their musical capabilities. I am hoping I am one of the fans that will continually see them as artists…I think it’s also one of the reasons why I love these guys is that they have true passion for music that is hard to see in some artists today… I recall when Yoochun and Jaejoong were doing promotions for Melody and harmony and performed at the Boy Pop Factory concert that was held at a hall that housed less than 1,000 people if I’m not mistaken, and was filled with fans of other musicians, they were genuinely happy with such a small crowd that listened to them sing. And Junsu, that boy is filled with music(and video games and soccer but mainly music..;p ..lol). I have a genuine wish for these guys to succeed sometimes I wonder if I’m siding with them because they are the David going against the Goliaths of the music industry not only in Korea but Japan, but then I recall how I genuinely believe these guys because they have NEVER disappointed me by lying or giving up what they truely believe in…. And I do hope I get to see them with a girlfriend or a wife..I have a feeling that Yoochun is really looking and I wish he finds someone..All of them deserve somebody special that will be with them through all of this chaos…

    Again thank you for not only providing us this pieces but also invoking deep thoughts…

    • I think the “Colors” promotions confirmed for Jaejoong and Yoochun that they were doing the right thing professionally. They looked like they had so much fun doing all of those shows, and they got to play with a bunch of different musicians. It think they will have similar opportunities when they get back there.

  13. this article really enlightening… we always forgot that these people are also humans… at this moment I’m in deep thought… weighing everything that is happening… i just hope that the people involve in this so-called drama between JYJ and SME would learn something from this… let us always remember that these guys are all humans, they are not perfect… once or twice they are going to make mistakes…

  14. am i ready to transform myself from idol follower to artist follower? Well I from the very beginning is an artist and music lover happen to love an idol K-pop band which I accept as more of an artist than the image people dubbed them to be. Well I like them as DBSK but the love and respect I gain for them was when they perform as Tohoshinki. Am I ready? Well I always been be one and I believe thousands of fans out there love and recognize Tohoshinki because we salute them as an artist to begin with. Thus I dont see the problem at the very least among International fans ^^
    Thank you for this article. Its a great wake up call for those that still haven’t realize the path JYJ as choose that is as an artist ^^

  15. How I wish you could show this view to the judge whose in charge of JYJ lawsuit! It’s very insightful!

    ‘Dong Bang Shin Ki were supposed to be five immortal talents who sing and dance for us forever…they were supposed to laugh and smile so we too could laugh and smile and forget our troubles…they were supposed to make us proud to be part of the world’s largest fandom and give us the ability to boast about how perfect they are. How could they disappoint us like this??? Ugh! I’m leaving!!!! >.<~~~ !’

    Admitted that I'm guilty of that at the beginning of the lawsuit! It was out of the blue, so the pains, drama and craziness almost make me left them. But glad I didn't give up on them! JYJ is priceless!

    Thank you so much!

  16. Thank you very much! this needs to be published and spread to everyone who listens to KPop and/or follows JYJ-SME conflict. I believe this is very enlightening and positive. 🙂

  17. Another thought-provoking read, Jimmie. Thank you. 🙂

    Two years of being in the middle of the war of who’s-right-who’s-wrong, I had many opportunities to think and re-think about what I know about the boys, idols and fandoms. And oftentimes I found myself questioning what’s most important; and it’s hard to define what is and what’s not when it comes to this fandom.

    This is a difficult transition phase for not only the boys, but also their fans as well. We have to recognize that while they do get new fans AFTER the lawsuit, some time and space should be given for those who had followed them for so long to adjust their perspectives. Imagine having the carpet pulled from under your feet – it takes a while to deal with the pain of the fall and stand up again. When the fandom received the ultimate ‘shock’ to its core, many find themselves at a crossroad – to follow and ‘suffer’ with the boys as fellow human beings or to stay and fight to protect our ‘five perfect Gods’? As can be seen now, the infamous ‘red ocean’ has now parted, making way for two distinctively different sides. For a fandom that is known to have many success stories to its repertoire, it is a huge blow to be at the center of all negative focus and the sample case of what-ifs and if-onlys.

    It’s truly a test of faith for fans and JYJ alike, as you’ve pointed out in the article, Jimmie. The boys are still at a phase where they are looking into themselves and discovering who they are as ‘artists’. Sometimes we do see their ‘idol’ qualities coming forth and pushing the ‘artists’ to the background, and that’s only natural.

    It is a fact that JYJ is born out of the distorted world of ‘idol’dom, and they, just like their fans, are used to having people ‘worship’ them to a certain extent. Having to go from being well-known and highly regarded idols, to being the artists that have a lot to prove could be extremely difficult and emotionally (+ physically, financially, mentally etc) taxing for the boys. Fans who had been with them all this while will also have to face the flood of harsh criticism of the boys being ‘less than they were’ and ‘not up to par with other artists’, and it would hurt. Fandom is personal, no matter what people say. Even the boys (at least, Jaejoong) admit to feeling insecure about their ‘spot’ in the fans’ hearts. That idol-like mentality of being at the center of fans’ affection is still deeply ingrained in the boys, and would always be a part of who they are. In my opinion, denying them of their ‘idol’ status is like denying their history. Thus, I’m more inclined to see them as ‘idol-artists’ – a combination between artists who have control over their artistic goals and directions as well as personal pursuits, and idols who possess charm and glamour to ‘satisfy’ the need of mass. They are, however you want to argue it, ‘artists’ with all the qualities of ‘idols’, plus more.

    I have a feeling this idea might be unpopular to most, but well. ^^;;

    If we are honest, we will admit that we like to see them looking good on our CD case that’s been packaged nicely. We feel proud to see them topping charts and getting awards. We love it when they gain recognition for their talents as well as their looks and personalities. We buy their albums and we go out of our way to make sure they get the exposure they need. We continuously struggle to prove our fandom is still very much relevant in the world of Kpop, and we do know that being relevant means increased consumer values. Most of these seemingly superficial pursuits shouldn’t matter, and I’m aware of that, but these are what create JYJ fandom. The boys are honest when they say they like and appreciate the attention and recognition of others, and that they would want their work to be both an expression of themselves as well as a form of financial investment.

    They might not be ‘Gods of the East’ anymore, but they do have this notion of being the best etched in their person and it’s inevitable for fans to compare them with their past. Because they were ‘that’ good, and the comparison, to a certain extent, is a positive challenge for them to get better and better. What the boys and fandom need now is lots and lots of positive energy. Help other fans realize the reality of this change, and create a realm of realistic yet dare-to-dream fandom. Give the boys constructive criticism that help them achieve their dream, cheer them for their success and be respectful towards their failure.

    This fandom will always has a bit of the idol-worshipping quality to it, and it is simultaneously good and bad. Recognizing this is important so we could appreciate the boys for who they really are, and the fandom for what it is. No one says we can’t be ‘idol-worshipping’ fans who are rational and respectful of our boys’ personal choices.
    And I believe, we are capable of being JYJ fans that could cherish their past and at the same time fight for their future, and ultimately make way for the boys to live life with no regrets. 🙂

    p/s: gosh, this tl;dr comment takes forever to write. /braindead.

    • wow
      A+++++++++
      love your comment, and agree with everything
      “we are capable of being JYJ fans that could cherish their past and at the same time fight for their future, and ultimately make way for the boys to live life with no regrets”
      I think so to ^_^

    • I agree, this is a very thought provoking topic, which is why I keep hanging around to read the comments.

      I like your take on the “idol-artist” idea. I think we are going to be seeing a very interesting combination of artistic freedom and the idol aesthetic from JYJ. The reality show is an example. Personally, I was hoping they’d avoid that, take the respected artist path instead, but they might hit upon the balance that appeals to a very wide segment of the public. They want to show us an attractive image, but we also know they are living on their own, making wrong turns, figuring it out as they go. That’s also very attractive to a fandom going through the same thing.

    • WOW very good COMMENT.
      You make very good points and I agree.

      There’s always an transition. So they might meet a
      balance at ‘idol-artists’. The best of both worlds. Cause
      being an idol isn’t ALL BAD and being an artist isn’t ALL GOOD.
      Nothings like that on earth lol.

      Things in life is ALWAYS a hill. Each extreme leaves you with some toxicity. It’s best to stay at 50 mark where you get the maximum of both ends (oh lawd Homin brain image lol). Keep your balance. Tightrope.

      Right now they’re trying to find that, they’re idols trying to
      find that 50th mark, swaying from one extreme to the next.
      A feel for both ends to see where they rather be. Mistakes and lessons.
      Life. And the fans are on the same path.

      Girl yes I love your comment.

    • Love your comment! I like the “idol-artists” idea, because I agree, they haven’t completely shed their idol images. And from a financial side, by having some “idol” left they get modeling endorsements like NII, etc., which maybe isn’t what they’d love to be doing but it does bring in some money and exposure in Korea, which is important to them.

      I’ve noticed that a lot of the video stuff JYJ is making for their fans shows more of the “everyday JYJ,” and I think it fits well with being idol-artists. Not all of the video is just artists, because some of it is glamorous and for the fans (like Jaejoong’s Intermodulation making DVD), so it’s more like an idol’s video. But it’s also different from purely idol video, because it’s showing more real and natural sides to JYJ. At first I was a little doubtful about the reality show they’ll be doing, but after thinking about it more, I see how it would fit with this trend to their video releases and I hope it will be another good way of showing them as idol-artists.

      Thank you for this:
      “And I believe, we are capable of being JYJ fans that could cherish their past and at the same time fight for their future, and ultimately make way for the boys to live life with no regrets.”
      You really said it so well! I’m not going to stop cherishing their past. It makes me more determined to fight for their present & future.

    • just…omg…im speechless…your comment is AWESOME. i have nothing to say, you´ve said all i wanted to write xDD
      super A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

  18. “Yes, *cough*Heechul*cough*, it is possible to buy a house or cars or go out for drinks and still be a slave.”

    I thought the EXACT same words when I made my (coughs) semi essay comment on jyj3 Under the post about him.

    “For eons, nations have made idols, but it is Art that makes and defines the nation.”

    (claps)

    “But, in my opinion, the biggest assignment lies with the fans of JYJ. Very little mental strain is required to be the fan of an idol—it mostly consists of projecting one’s fantasies on to a surrogate—but to be the follower of an artist is to turn one’s habits upside-down. Just as the members of JYJ are transforming from idols into artists, will their fans be able to make the challenging transition from idol worshippers to artist followers? Will they be able to genuinely respect JYJ even whilst knowing full well that these three men are simply that, men and not gods? Spazzing is fine—and psychologically necessary, of course—but will JYJ fans be able to honestly appreciate the value of JYJ’s output as much as they do the trio’s bodies? Will the fans be able to support—and fight for if necessary—their artists’ quest to realise that elusive masterpiece and to claim what is their right—to die free and without regrets?”

    THISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS….THIS THIS THIS THISSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!

    I’ve been a fan of artists and groups who went from idol to artist, artist who went from idol to human so I already know the process of having to appreciate an artist and the process of realizing your fav stars are not gods. I just want to know are YOU JYJ family READY. Like really are you ready? They’re growing up. No more Angel Su yo (as cutsy as it is, I know, but it pains him to do that lol y’all know it do lol cause he a grown man) I’m just saying. I’M READY, you ready? We ready.

    (patiently waits the next part).

    • “They’re growing up. No more Angel Su yo (as cutsy as it is, I know, but it pains him to do that lol y’all know it do lol cause he a grown man)”

      xDDD jajajaja i really love the “Angel Su” stuff but i think is time to let it go, Junsu have said it before, he´s a grown man, but fans still want him to do the “cutie stuff”..hes not confortable with it, thats obvious, he´s 25 for God´s sake xDD Anyway i find him so cute but not because the angel Su, or the dolphin voice…he has that cute aura, his smile, his voice…whatever xDD

      And yeah, i think im getting ready for the transition, so lets love JYJ like real fans.

  19. I’m speechless, I really do. Thank you so much for share your thought in this article, it’s really genuine and smart. I love how you put the fact and analyze the situation in a very mature way. I’m glad I found your web.
    Nobody perfect, that’s what I believe in. I can see flawless in JYJ and I can accept them because that’s what make them human, a normal human that I can trust and grown to love. How people try to make their idol as “God” it scares me because it’s so easy to hate them when you found that your “God” is not perfect when they should always be perfect.
    For me, I see JYJ more than an idol, I like them as an artist. Their song, their voice and their personality is something that I found really genuine. I can see myself twenty years later still able to enjoy their music (and maybe fangirl-ing over the 20-years-later kim jaejoong ^^”).
    Thank you for this amazing article, I have read almost all article in your webpage and I have to say, your article make me respect JYJ and their mature fans more.

  20. This got to be the best article I have read about KPOP. An eye-opener to the real situations in the Kpop Arena.

    Will they be able to genuinely respect JYJ even whilst knowing full well that these three men are simply that, men and not gods? Spazzing is fine—and psychologically necessary, of course—but will JYJ fans be able to honestly appreciate the value of JYJ’s output as much as they do the trio’s bodies?

    These questions got me smiling and nodding because I have been thinking about these things even before JYJ filed the lawsuit. I think that they’re way too talented to be labeled as mere “idols” (no offense to the idol groups), I mean, they have created music that moves you to tears, chilling you to the bones…music that goes beyond language or age barriers…music that will certainly be never forgotten, something close to eternal. And I believe that it’s just a bonus, a very special bonuse, that they look so freakingly gorgeous. But I know I love them not only because of that but because they have such genuine personalities, not perfect but definitely very honest personalities that you can’t help but adore. I do hope too that the fans would see this…

    I will keep on praying for them to be stronger and courageous to face the still many struggles in their way to, finally, be recognized as ARTISTS in their own motherland.

    THIS! The life goal of an artist is not to embody perfection but to bring forth a masterpiece. The artist is judged not by his ability to conform to social expectations or standards of morality but by the expression of his art. Whereas idols are intentionally produced and marketed to be passive reflections of society, artists have a long and proud tradition of challenging society, pushing it to reflect upon itself. If it is the lot of the idol to be used, it is the prerogative of the artist to be respected.

    Thank you so much for this Jimmie 🙂
    Will be waiting for part deux!

    • And yeah, I would like to thank you for another thing. For citing this one: Yes, *cough*Heechul*cough*, it is possible to buy a house or cars or go out for drinks and still be a slave.

      Because as much as I love Heechul, what he said was just really shallow and stupid. I just feel a bit disappointed because I expected something more ‘smart’ from him. ): This just shows just how much small-minded some people (I’m not solely referring to Heechul in here) in this situations.

  21. I love your article, & the subsequent fan comments. It’s great to know so many of the fan’s do/are seeing the boys as human beings, individuals with minds, desire’s & lives of their own, & not just as some pretty toy to play with, idealize & toss aside when JYJ disappoints them. I always feel that this is why Jaejoong continually asks fans to keep loving & supporting JYJ. I think he’s really asking us to REALLY see HIM, listen to HIM, hear what he has to say, to love him for who he REALLY is, fault’s & all, not for the image fan’s project on him, or the lie’s other’s circulate about him. Sometime’s I wonder if they feel torn apart by all the fan’s pulling & pushing at them, wanting more & more of them, & I wonder if that’s part of why Jae feel’s so lonely – trying to live up to the images other’s have created of him so he doesn’t disappoint his fan’s, even if that image isn’t the real Jae. At time’s I think Jae love’s & has far more concern for his fan’s & their feeling’s than some of his fan’s really have for him.

    Also, we don’t know if Jae & Yunho are gay and/or had a romantic relationship, neither do we know, after everything that has happened, if JYJ & Homin really do want to re-unite. Whichever way you look at it, there is a huge amount of pain involved in the break-down of DBSK for all 5 members – MORE SO THAN FOR ANY FAN – & it takes time to resolve those feelings. I know many will bash me for saying this, & I also realise that for many it is their way of showing their support, but personally I feel it is insensitive & disrespectful to all five boy’s for fan’s to keep pushing for a DBSK reunion, & particularly for Jae & Yunho to “re-unite”. If it’s not what they want, or even if it is but circumstances beyond their control continue to make it impossible, then we shouldn’t keep pushing them. JYJ calls us their family, & to continue pressuring them for what we want from them, instead of being grateful for what they choose to share with us, makes us no better than SM.

    PS Jaejoong, if by any chance you read this, it wasn’t your face, body or even your music that initially made me fall for you. It was, & still is, your integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, silliness!, uniqueness, individuality – YOU – that I love, respect & admire.

  22. Thank you for all the insights which you give. My only comment is on the final note. I think anyone who is reading on this site has long ago made the transition to support these 3 no matter what. Actually, in this respect SM is doing JYJ a favor. The more they persecute them, the deeper my commitment is to support them in whatever way I can and as long as they are entertainers.

    My only real concern is the outcome of this lawsuit. My greatest dread is them getting a multi million dollar fine that they cannot pay and having to go back to SM against their will.

    JYJ has already turned the corner to be artists. The Music Essay songs and the beautiful book with their writings are like a breath of fresh air compared to the manufactured Kpop sound. I agree with the twitter comment by Jo Jin Kook today that he likes Mission better than their sound as DBSK. Although the harmonies and dynamism were so excellent in DBSK, there is this feeling of abundance in their creativity now that is really unsurpasses.

  23. This article is worshipping JYJ.
    You are right! Kpop idols are slaves, but rich ones!
    And by the way, JYJ leaves SM for no reason but MONEY (and a little freedom). And always remember that JYJ still is working in korea, in kpop industry, so nothing has changed, their fans are still as same as before, because they’re korean, and leaveing under korean media influence.
    P.s: sorry for bad english…and please don’t get offended, I didn’t mean to bash JYJ, or koreans; I just wanted to say that Entertainment industry is all about money, and none of those idols deserves worshipping.

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