[Op-ed] A Cosmetic(s) Discourse, Part I: The Eighth Cardinal Sin = Breaking up a Boyband

A Cosmetic(s) Discourse, Part I:

The Eighth Cardinal Sin = Breaking up a Boyband


Ever since the beginning of the lawsuit, and perhaps before as well, SM Entertainment has insisted that the sole reason Dong Bang Shin Ki members Kim Jaejoong, Kim Junsu and Park Yoochun were suing the company was because of their involvement, in the capacity of investors, in an obscure cosmetics company. The three members filed a lawsuit, SM claimed, in order to pursue their ‘greed for wealth’ hand-in-hand with this cosmetics company. As readers are by now aware, not long after, all sorts of rumours elaborating on, and catering to, SM’s interpretation of events has spread through the Internet in a manner a speck too organised for it to have been mere coincidence. A group of anti-JYJ fans who came to be known collectively as the “Hotel Girls” forcefully insisted that these rumours were “facts” by also providing photos, video-clips, links to websites (that look like they’ve been put together after a lark in the park and a night class in web-design at the local community college) and other “evidence” allegedly corroborating their claims. By now we all know where that ended up in the case of Korea…it involved a lot of kow-towing, officially recorded confessions and blubbering apologies on the part of at least 15 Hotel Girls.

The purpose of this article and those that follow is not to definitively dispel nor confirm these “facts”—or labour through separating fact from fiction—about the cosmetics business and JYJ’s involvement in the business. There are better sites and Internet platforms run by more experienced and knowledgeable people doing just that. In any case, what I find more disturbing is the discourse that buttresses the “facts”, or rather distortions and fabrications thereof, championed by the Hotel Girls. Hence, the purpose of these articles, of which this is the first part, is to expose this discourse in the hopes of neutralising its poisonous effects.

The Blame Game…Also a 9:1 Ratio

As similar conflicts around the world between management companies and their contracted artists have shown[i], there are usually a variety of reasons that bring singers to abandon their management: breakdown in mutual trust, lack of transparency in profit distributions, unequal assignment of rights and responsibilities between the parties, misunderstanding of contract terms, etc. Usually, it’s not unreasonable to say that both sides can be held culpable for the deterioration of the relationship. However, in the case of JYJ and SM, the cosmetics discourse would have us believe that all the blame must be laid on the members of JYJ and little, if any at all, can be accounted to SM.

The reasoning goes something like this: The cosmetics business was the reason for the breakup of Dong Bang Shin Ki. The members of JYJ were involved in the cosmetics business. Therefore, JYJ necessarily caused the breakup of Dong Bang Shin Ki, for which they must take full responsibility.

Not only is this faulty logic, falling into the elementary error of mistaking correlation for cause-and-effect, the argument itself comes across as so shallow and immature that it’s…well…cosmetic. Yet, it is a central idea in the discourse, because it is instrumental in sweeping all the blame on to the members of JYJ for splitting up Dong Bang Shin Ki so that none goes to SM Entertainment or its shady business practices. Once that’s done, it’s much easier to dress the trio up as criminals and place a bulls’ eye on their chests for target practice by public opinion. The cosmetics company itself, unfortunately for Crebeau and its employees, merely serves as an excuse—a vehicle—to actualise the real motive, which is the destruction of JYJ.

Of course, the breakup of one of the most beloved bands in Asia is no laughing matter. It has caused each member of the band no small amount of unhealthy emotions. Their fans, who have invested all kinds of emotions and affections of their own into the group, would have also have gone through enormous stress due to the split. It’s only natural given the level of attachment that long-time fans of the original Dong Bang Shin Ki have to their idols. But the histrionic hysteria and attacks against the three that this discourse was designed to inspire and does inspire are enough to convince anyone that Jaejoong, Yoochun and Junsu have committed an unspeakable sin against humanity.

This author handles cases dealing with refugees and human trafficking; this author has colleagues who’ve counselled gang rape victims in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Thus, the slightest notion even, that the members of JYJ deserve a place further up front in the line to hell—past the human traffickers, rapists, genocide instigators or even writers of unfair contracts and shady accountants—for causing the breakup of an idol group is so ridiculous that it makes any sane person wonder whatever was the point of education or the evolution of the human noggin.

But perhaps these analogies are too much for the sensitivities of those who have not seen this side of reality. Very well…let us dilute the focus down to our provincial and immediate context—lawsuit, allegations of unfair contract, allegations of greed via cosmetic company, breakup of a world-class group. Even so, the discourse frames the breakup of a boyband as a crime. More specifically, the crime of breaking up a boyband—and one at the peak of its popularity no less—is portrayed as being more offensive than the fact that its members were suffering from indignities brought upon them by a contract and related business practices so antagonistic to principles of universal social progress that they endanger South Korea’s international commitments. At face value, this position is too absurd for most decent and clear-thinking people to accept. However, the discourse is able to sell this claim through a rather clever embellishment in its argumentation.

Brand > Human Being

In practically all SM-approved statements issued to the public that point to the cosmetics business as the culprit for the lawsuit, there is an emphasis on Dong Bang Shin Ki’s “brand”. In other words, the cosmetics discourse appeals to the “brand value” of Dong Bang Shin Ki, promoting the idea that the “brand” must not be compromised, even if the integrity and rights of the individuals who give it any meaning are compromised on a daily basis. This obsession to preserve the brand or image of Dong Bang Shin Ki at the expense of the individuals that comprise it is rather ironic, given that SM owns neither the brand nor the individuals that give it significance.[ii] Legal research conducted by Korean Dong Bang Shin Ki fans further reveals that by Korean law, SM Entertainment is not even allowed to patent or “brand” the stage names of the five members[iii]. Consequently, whatever claim or decision SM wants to make using this “brand” argument is always going to amount to a non sequitur.

Furthermore, the discourse elevates the protection of the Dong Bang Shin Ki brand as something noble and on a morally higher plane than the actions of the JYJ members, who are caricatured as greedy, money-hungry and selfish for their investments in a cosmetics company. Yet, in reality, this line of reasoning, which abuses people’s emotional attachment to a national brand, veils a nefarious double standard. It is essentially saying that the ‘greed for wealth’ through personal investment should be condemned to the bottom of Dante’s Inferno, but the greed for ‘the honour of being the top Korean national brand’ makes one a saint. However, in reality, the logical processes of both overlap since both operate on and promote the same self-centred value system. SM itself is well aware of this. SM Entertainment personally invested (what many suspect is not theirs to invest[iv]) in building the Dong Bang Shin Ki brand so that it could make money—i.e., satisfy a ‘greed for wealth’—with the rising value of that brand. Effectively, the promotion and protection of a brand and the pursuit for personal wealth are part and parcel of the same rationale with the same objective of benefitting the self. And yet, the cosmetics discourse would like to make us all think that one has the higher moral ground over the other, so that those who’ve bought into the discourse and feel like they’ve been robbed of a plaything through Dong Bang Shin Ki’s split can claim a righteous anger that is in fact a self-centred tantrum.

I Dumb, You Dumb, We all Da-Da-Da-Dumb

As such, the discourse is designed to appeal to those still stuck at stage one or two of Kohlberg’s Six Stages of Moral Development[v] as well as those who are susceptible to stage one and two type thinking because of the emotional stress from seeing their favourite group split. In his seminal 1958 dissertation, “The Development of Modes of Thinking and Choices in Years 10 to 16”[vi], world-renowned psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg posits that the moral development of human beings has six identifiable stages, with each stage representing a more advanced degree of moral reasoning and ethical behaviour than the preceding stage. Stages one and two, often referred to as the “pre-conventional level of moral reasoning” are characterised by egocentrism, a lack of “recognition that others’ points of view are different from one’s own”[vii], and self-interest. The moral reasoning of stage one takes an action as being morally wrong if it is met with punishment or persecution—‘JYJ are getting blocked and shunned by the major TV channels and music shows? Well, they deserve it for filing the lawsuit’—and that of stage two defines a behaviour as right if it aligns with one’s personal interests and brings personal benefits.

The cosmetics discourse pushed by representatives of SM thus criminalises the breaking up of a boyband because it is only when that boyband is together and under SM’s full control that SM is able to satisfy its self-interest. The Hotel Girls champion the cosmetics discourse because, whether they are conscious of it or not, Dong Bang Shin Ki was nothing more to them than a vehicle to satisfy personal interests or emotional needs; the split of the group brought about by the lawsuit has made these people feel robbed and somehow wronged, and the cosmetics discourse allows them to vent their angst without looking like the psychologically and morally underdeveloped subjects that they are. Regardless of the embellishments provided by “facts”, the concept of “brand value” or morally indignant accusations against the members of JYJ or Crebeau, the central idea of the cosmetics discourse—the crime brought up by the lawsuit is not the unfair contract but the breaking up of a boyband—corresponds to the intellectual and moral capacity of a 10-year old.

But what if it wasn’t JYJ’s involvement in the cosmetics business that brought about the current split? What if it doesn’t make sense, either legally nor logically, that in 21st century Korea (or in any developed modern democracy with relatively transparent and stable financial institutions and laws), a small-to-medium-sized cosmetics business, no matter how “shady”, could cause the breakup of an idol group?

Written by: Jimmie of TheJYJFiles

Shared by: TheJYJFiles

Please do not add/remove credits

[vi] Kohlberg, Lawrence (1958). “The Development of Modes of Thinking and Choices in Years 10 to 16”. Ph. D. Dissertation, University of Chicago.

[vii] Kohlberg, Lawrence (Oct, 1974). “Education, Moral Development and Faith”. Journal of Moral Education 4 (1): 5–16. doi:10.1080/0305724740040102


40 thoughts on “[Op-ed] A Cosmetic(s) Discourse, Part I: The Eighth Cardinal Sin = Breaking up a Boyband

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention [Op-ed] A Cosmetic(s) Discourse, Part I: The Eighth Cardinal Sin = Breaking up a Boyband | The JYJ Files -- Topsy.com

  2. A very well written thought provoking article! Thank you for sharing, Jimmie. And I’m on my way to read about Kohlberg after this comment ^^

    When I went to visit JYJ’s Crebeau stores when I went to Korea, it absolutely does not have the feel of a reason enough for them to file this lawsuit, more than anything it feels like they’re just distributors of something like high end Avon (I’m not sure if everyone is familiar with Avon but can’t think of another related business), more of like what housewives do for additional income. After personally seeing it, that logic grew more absurd that it already was.

    I do not know why people kept highlighting this as the main reason when it obviously isn’t. We could see that after all these years that the case is progressing, that the weight of this has become less and less but still a lot of people refuse to move on with the probability that it is more likely, more than that. If anything, the only relation I could see with it to the lawsuit is that, even if they were interested in something so small, the company made it seem like it’s not acceptable. I mean, if I were in their position, it would make me really think about the future because even a minuscule investment caused such a ruckus. Isn’t that what makes a “slave contract”? Being limited in your actions, no matter how small?

    Also, I think the reason why this logic is continually being accepted by many, is that most people don’t bother to go beyond what they read, to find more facts to support or counter what they read before making a conclusion. Why can’t they just use their time to do that when they have all the time in the world to spread their hatred?

    I will surely read more about Kohlberg’s stages of moral development after this. Thank you!

  3. Awesome. It’s pretty shocking to me that anyone could believe the nuts-cuckoo rhetoric SM puts out. It and their tactics seem so transparently self-serving. Isn’t the larger problem that they know the risk to their current anachronistic business model if JYJ or any other individuals succeed without them? Reminds one of the RIAA’s attempts to thwart new music distribution mechanisms in the US.

    Thanks for the insightful, cogent and delightfully acerbic discussion. I look forward to part II.

  4. I was laughing at some parts and I was like, wow… I need to have this reposted someplace else… (I’ll keep the credits intact, I promise! ^^)

    This is a real good read. Another note-worthy piece from you Jimmie-yah!
    I love you guys soooo much!!!!!!!!

  5. tks for hard works!
    Regarding Hotel Girls, wasn’t they sued for defame Crebeau? Is there any related with JaeChunSu cosmetic rumors?

  6. I cannot believe that people would actually think that DBSK split up because JYJ invested in a cosmetic company.
    I Dumb, You Dumb, We all Da-Da-Da-Dumb <<< one of the best sub titles ever. I LOOLED when I read that.
    Thank Jimmie =))

  7. -The cosmetics company itself, unfortunately for Crebeau and its employees, merely serves as an excuse—a vehicle—to actualise the real motive, which is the destruction of JYJ.-

    I don’t get it. There has been posts and articles about Crebeau even before the forming of JYJ was anounced (2010). I don’t think anybody is trying to destroy anything, just trying to piece together what happened as accurate as possible. If the truth of what went down and how it went down causes some people to revise opinions, then well, it is valid.

    And this contined talk about “hotel girls” as if it was like some sort of boogeyman/scapegoat… :/

    -insisted that these rumours were “facts” by also providing photos, video-clips, links to websites (that look like they’ve been put together after a lark in the park and a night class in web-design at the local community college)-

    This here reeks of desesperation… Common Jimmie, thought you better than that. Didn’t you wrote that classy article of being the better fandom? Don’t give me the speech of “well, we must fight rumors/whatever because JYJ will de bestroyed”. Please, nothing is gonna happen to them, for God’s sake, just trust in the JYJ fandom. We’ll keep it quiet, we’ll keep it classy. We will hear each and every point of view and formulate our own.

    /unpopular opinion


    • SM isn’t stupid, what they’re doing right now is instigating the fans. A tactic they’ve used before! First, have an excuse that can be used to play the blame game. Second, boycott as many broadcast/radio stations as possible. Third, lower the support of the fans so that their artists don’t have anymore ground to stand on. Yes, it goes in that order! We are now at stage 3.

      Recently, there has been an enormous amount of new attempts to
      break the faith of JYJ international fans. How do I know? Because they tried it on me and on more than one occasion. Should I tell you where to go to experience it? If we, as JYJ fans, do nothing and remain quiet, then we’re looked upon as liars. How can we protect JYJ if we don’t speak out on their defense? I’m not saying to get all crazy (you know who you are) but if rumors are being spread, then we need to counter it. PLEASE JYJ FANS, DO NOT GO STARTING TROUBLE! LET THEM COME TO US!

      I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. DEJA VU!!!!!

    • Its clear that you don’t get this written piece at all, which I could’ve told without you saying that you don’t understand.
      Your argument is that articles about crebaeu was coming out even before jyj was officially formed….we’ll thats because SM started off blaming that company as the reason to JYJ leaving. That was SM take its first step to squashing the bug that was trying to get away (aka Jaejoong, Yoochun, & Junsu) Thats the way SM has always played. In a way the cosmetics company was both a shield and a weapon in the hands of SM. If as you say these were fans simplky trying to find answers then theres truly and inconsistency. These weren’t the actions of fans trying to find an answer these were the actions of fans read to play the blame game and as Jimmie so tries to explain a group who acts out in anger because they feel that something they cherish has been taken/snatched from them. But being incapable of looking at a wide picture they only see what they’ve lost and they act out because of it. It’s that really, the piece written here on explains that there’s no desperation what for what the world can clearly see on it’s own.
      And no one speaks of the Hotel-girls as if they’re the boogyman, if thats how you take it I really must laugh. There is a group of homin fans and jyj anti’s who have dislike of jyj and/or simply blame them for the split of DBSK/TVXQ and they have taken upon themselves to bring jyj down by spreading rumors/lies. Editing and manipulating facts. And just going too far. The usage of the name Hotel girls or hotel fans is in my opinion and important term because it separates the regular homin fans from the ones who are doing these kinds of things. The name HoTel fans come up a lot…why because you have fandom that is now busy working trying to spread light on the situations. You will also have situations where these fans will be spoken about because someone is trying to explain happenings in the fandom.
      You also didn’t seem to understand the “insisted that these rumours were “facts” by also providing photos, video-clips, links to websites (that look like they’ve been put together after a lark in the park and a night class in web-design at the local community college)” line, which is a bit funny to me…the line I mean. I love that line it’s an amazing on because it was in fact what these people were doing. The realness that they were trying so hard to create in it’s production looked so fake itself. Which is what Jimmie is saying. Flaws flaws and more flaws….with a little bit of irony. Which is what also makes you comment…your take on the words written a funny little joke itself.

    • Hi MM,

      Thank you for your opinion and your concern, too.

      “The cosmetics company itself, unfortunately for Crebeau and its employees, merely serves as an excuse—a vehicle—to actualise the real motive, which is the destruction of JYJ.”
      I don’t think you quite understand the context of this sentence. The subject here is the cosmetics discourse (and to a large degree, SM), not the cosmetics company itself or people trying to find out more about it. In any case, this entire article represent my findings upon analysing the cosmetics discourse, and as such as an op-ed, like the title up top claims. If you analyse the cosmetics discourse and come up with a different opinion, I’d be happy to discuss it with you.

      “insisted that these rumours were “facts” by also providing photos, video-clips, links to websites (that look like they’ve been put together after a lark in the park and a night class in web-design at the local community college)”
      I advise you to go to some of these sites that are the gathering places of the Hotel Girls (both Korean and International). I am not allowed to drop the link or name here but you’ll find it soon enough by asking around for the international fandom’s version of ‘Forever’. The reason I say what I did is not out of desperation but because I actually went to a couple of these sites and clicked on the links they provided…=_=…I was sorely disappointed. The linked sites look like a zeta version of a beta version from the late 90s.

      Also, by the way, this here that I wrote DOES represent one of the “each and every point of view” that you say you desire. And I have no problems with you formulating your own, granted you are open-minded enough to at least listen to those of others once in a while.



      • read all comments and articles from here and other,dont know what say!! just feel love you guys so much all JYJ fans and Cassies who support JYJ! very mature and intelligent group!!!

    • @MM

      You have got to be kidding me.

      Any person who for one moment believes the nonsense about Crebeau is either not playing with a full deck or wants to voluntarily be deceived. This whole campaign is not an accident. SME is using vulnerable young girls who do not have the intellectual maturity to separate fact from fiction. It’s just that simple. This is not complicated rocket science.

      The fact that they have been unleashed to continue to spread this fiction, is for sure ‘the act of desperation’. Desperate times, call for desparate measures, is the way I read it.

      Writing an opinion piece to describe how this is functioning, and the context in which it is functioning, is bringing light to those who need to continually be made aware of just how ridiculous this ‘cosmetics business’ claim is.

      The closer it gets to decision time, whether it is March or thereafter, more silliness is going to be seen and heard, than folks will want. I for one don’t expect any less from SME.

      “None are so blind, as those who refuse to see.”

      I simply CHOOSE not to be blind. Thank you Jimmie and TheJYJFiles for your continued efforts to bring enlightenment to the discussion. When I come to this site, I expect to see and read articles, postings, and comments that reflect my belief and support for JYJ. I’m not confused one bit on what I find when I open up this site with the click of my mouse.

    • Desperation comes from the Hotel Girls who tried so hard for the last 1 and a half year to destroy JYJ. The desperation comes from them who actually created a petition for JYJ to come back to SM.
      You have sarcasm included in your comment and I truly wonder if you thought over what you have just read. Sometimes if you don’t support the author then it’s better to stay off the keyboard and save the sarcasm to yourself. Jimmie doesn’t deserve this.

      did u re-read your comment before posting it miss/mister?
      you just made a fool out of yourself with your comment..
      DESPERATION? where? or are u the desperate one?

  8. Very interesting and thought-provoking piece. Must admit I never really thought I would read about Kohlberg’s moral theory and DBSK in the same article! Must say it is really enjoyable to read something intellectual and well-written. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I also like the atmosphere of this website, which seems to encourage discussion and transparency 🙂

  9. Thank you for writing this. It was an interesting read and actually made me think of how the whole thing with Crebeau affected the lawsuit.

    I think the Crebeau investment played a role in the lawsuit in that it diverted the public’s attention from the terms of the contract itself and instead allowed SME to claim that the suit was all about greed. Legally, I doubt if SME can actually use the Crebeau investment as a defense, especially if the terms of the contract by itself is found to be unfair.

    It’s frustrating at times to see how some people only focus on one part of the lawsuit (in particular the Crebeau investment), and not see the bigger picture which is the unfairness of the terms of the contract.

  10. Thank you for yet another provacative piece, Jimmie.

    From pschoanalytical viewpoint, SM and the Hotel Girls derived a false sense of catharsis from the tragedy inflicted upon JYJ. I can understand their desperation as March draws nigh, hard pressed for evidence, you reckon?

    Dear JYJ fans, let us anticipate the experience of cathartic justice when JYJ wins the lawsuit.

  11. It’s a pleasure to read your articles, Jimmie, as they are always thought-provoking and well written. Also it’s good that these op-ed pieces transcend the mere fangirling we are used to in fandom (and maybe that’s the reason why some people don’t quite get the idea of these and just call them “opinionated articles”) and dwells into a deeper analysis, using sociology, psychology and media theories ad references.

    The part about the brand reminded me of a quote from The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco: ‘Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus’ (‘Yesterday’s rose endures in its name, we hold empty names’).

    PS: Sorry for the bad English, I’m not fluent (I’m a Spanish speaker) and it’s kinda hard to express myself in English.

  12. People tend to focus so much on the Crebeau issue that they forget the court already made it clear that the contracts weren’t as fair as SM claim they are. I read the whole translation of the contract (the one translated by Precious) and even showed it to my brother who is a law student (in his last year of studies) and we both agreed that the contract is very one-sided and wasn’t fair to the members. I won’t call it a slave contract because slave is a strong word but it sure is an unfair contract. Moreover, even Precious admitted that JYJ didn’t see their contract with Avex since this contract was signed between SM Japan and Avex only. So JYJ (and Homin) don’t know all the terms of the contract with Avex and, knowing that they worked a lot in Japan, I think it is really uncomfortable and shady for them not to know exactly what’s going on there.
    Anyways, to be honest I can’t even understand why JYJ leaving their company created such a big fuss. I mean, sure it’s quite a serious and radical action but even a normal employee is allowed to quit when he feels like he isn’t happy anymore in his company. Maybe it’s because I am from France and in my country people don’t hesitate to protest or go on strike when they don’t agree with something but still, what’s the big deal ? It’s not like they are the first artists in the world to leave their company before the end of their contracts !
    And it’s funny how before the lawsuit fans were often complaining saying the boys looked too tired, performed while being sick/injured, that their schedules were too tight etc., and now some of them are turning their backs on JYJ and affirm that all is well with the world of SM.
    Futhermore, even if Crebeau did influence their decision to leave SM how can they be called greedy when we know that the penalty they will have to pay for breech of contract is over 130 million of won, which is just HUGE ?! (and also knowing there was/is no guarantee that they would/will win the lawsuit). I don’t think that even with their investments in Crebeau they would be able to pay such a crazy amount of money. Plus the mere fact of filling a lawsuit IS expensive (which also explain that they have to keep being active as much as possible). I know some people will say that SM filled the lawsuit first but by chosing to leave and filling an injuction against SM, JYJ knew there would be repercussions and that they would loose money too. It’s not as if they were stupid enough to believe that SM would just stay without doing and saying anything.
    For those who said that JYJ broke TVXQ up I don’t think leaving SM meant leaving TVXQ for them. There are ways to stay as a group even when the members are signed under differents companies. Just look at Shinhwa or SS501. They are in different agencies and are still together as a band.

  13. fighting ! All my friends and I…are hoping that the lawsuit will be successful and quick ending to the group. JYJ not mind at ease (they look leaner) and this is good news to bring to everyone. Everyone to strive together for this group of idol ! this is my hope ..(people from Vietnam.)

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