Can It Really Be This Easy?
For those of you that don’t know, Lady Gaga is coming to Korea, to start her Born This Way worldwide tour. Popular? You could say that. According to Wikipedia, “she has sold an estimated 23 million albums and 64 million singles worldwide, which makes her one of the best-selling music artists of all time. As of 8 April 2012, she has sold 7,246,566 singles in the United Kingdom.” Somehow, the headlines around Lady Gaga’s arrival in Korea is being shared with…protests by Korean Christian groups. The very nature of these protests displays why Korea remains an enigma to many. “Enigma” is a carefully, tactfully chose word; other words that can be used are “incomprehensible” or “pathetic.” In any case, this type of behavior, and the publicity being shown upon it, is definitely an Annoying Thing About Korea.
Told you this was going to be easy. Turn on Korean TV for about a nanosecond. Flip through about 5 channels. There, you will find a line of dancing girls between the ages of 18 and 25, wearing threads disguised as miniskirts. Go to any car/motorcyle/camera exhibit and you get the same thing. Wanna see some examples? Ever hear of YouTube?
Need more? Soju, the national drink of Korea, has this type of advertisement. Everywhere. The photo is from this excellent article in the blog The Grand Narrative.
You could, in your wildest imagination, say that this is represents the smallest slice of Korean society. You would be dead wrong. It is pervasive. These videos and advertisements are everywhere. Do the groups protesting against Lady Gaga as “inappropriate for minors,” suggest a 24-hour curfew for the youth of Korea? Wait, no TV inside the apartment, either.
Don’t like Lady Gaga? Fine. You don’t get it, but whatever. Use the church and Christianity as the vessel through which you protest? Disgusting blasphemy. Let’s leave aside, for the moment, the obvious question of why the The Korean Association of Church Communication and the Alliance for Sound Culture In Sexuality are not parked in front of every TV and advertisement in the nation. Instead, let’s ask the simplest of Sunday school questions. Ever hear of the phrase, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Evidently, that lesson went untaught in Korea, or perhaps more to the point, the listeners weren’t listening at all.
Wait, there is more, and it is specific to Lady Gaga. Let me first say that I am a newly-converted fan. At first, I had doubts about her as a Madonna-wannabe. However, there are certain incontrovertible facts. Among them are that she has written her own lyrics. I am quite certain that we can rest at night with the notion that JYP’s groups have nothing to do with the composition of classics such as “Nobody,” or “Gee.” In addition, if you actually took time to listen to the lyrics, you get a message that isn’t against Christian (or other religious) ideals, either.
Example, here are lyrics from “Born This Way.”
“I’m beautiful in my way, God makes no mistakes, I’m on the right track baby, I was born this way.”
Hardly against religious ideals. Those ideals were largely learned from her upbringing at one of the most expensive private Catholic schools in Manhattan. For church groups to be those leading the protests is peculiar, at best. That is as tactfully as it can be stated.
What Other Conclusion Is There?
So advanced, and yet so primitive. That is Korea. Advanced technology, advanced education, advanced infrastructure. Bias, social inequality and blatant prejudice, however, coexist in Korea with the advanced nature of Korea’s economy. Perhaps that is the aim of Korea: to keep outsiders out, and to make non-Koreans uncomfortable in Korea. This little episode? Another example of how and why foreigners may not fully accept Korea. Episodes like this make Korea difficult to defend.
That isn’t to say that Lady Gaga will be poorly received in Korea. I guarantee you that by the time that the concert occurs, those attending will not have the pointless protests in mind. So while it is virtually assured that the concert will be an enormous success (it follows her, and she is a master at creating it), it is unfortunate that the primitive aspects of Korea must also be on display for the world to observe.