BH Discuss: Are sexy girl group concepts really getting ‘worse’?

K-pop news media seems to have been taken over lately with articles detailing the concerns of the Korean public and K-pop fans that girl group concepts are becoming too provocative. But are sexy girl group concepts really getting ‘worse’?

SNSD's strong fanbase is what puts them so far above other groups success-wise

SNSD’s strong fanbase is what made them so successful

One of the big disadvantages girl groups have in comparison to their male counterparts is that (with a couple of notable exceptions) they find it more difficult to build up large and supportive fanbases. Female fans of boy groups tend to be more loyal than fans of girl groups. As a result they usually try to work harder to get mainstream popularity by getting high rankings in the digital singles charts.

The problem with this is that while being high in the charts might mean more people are listening to your music, it doesn’t necessarily mean more cash (especially given how unprofitable Korean digital music sales are). It also doesn’t give groups guarantees for future sales as there aren’t as many loyal fans that they can rely on to buy albums and merchandise.

This creates an atmosphere of fierce competition between girl groups who are all seeking the same (fleeting) attention from the general public and leads companies and groups to do anything they can to catch their eyes.


AOA’s latest music video ‘Miniskirt’ showing off their new concept

And it works.

On an episode of Chungdamdong 111, FNC Entertainment’s ‘reality show’, members of AOA explicitly stated that ditching their idol rock band image in favour of a sexy girl group image had meant they could take part in many more events and made them more popular with the army.

Having said that, is it really all that new? Girl’s Day’s current hit ‘Something’ has been coming under fire for its provocative choreography but it has also been a big hit in Korea. While at first the choreography was fine for broadcast, all of a sudden it’s has been deemed too racy and edited (with accompanying news articles). This, of course, has nothing to do it being exactly around the time when the song might start to lose steam.

mirror mirror

4Minute’s infamous ‘spread leg dance’

If you remember back to 2011, this exact same sequence of events occurred with 4Minute’s ‘Mirror Mirror’ and the ‘spread leg dance’ which then became one of the biggest songs of the summer.

This is not all that new.

What might be new is the numbers of groups competing for the same kind of attention as other kinds of concepts fall out of favour. Perhaps as a result, music videos seem to be becoming more clinical, almost, in their relentless and detailed close inspection of the performers’ bodies.

The outrage over the way women are being treated in K-pop may be justified but often that is not how the argument is framed. The idea that is sexy concepts are somehow cheapening K-pop or something similar is just kind of silly and more than a little sexist. And anyhow, ridiculously over the top aegyo concepts still use (and perhaps exploit) sexuality in very similar ways.

Honestly, the search for the raunchiest, most headline-grabbing dance move is just… kind of dull at this point. It has become just another hackneyed gimmick.

Perhaps there are positives about the shift in the industry. At least its more exploitative elements are no longer being hidden behind a wink and the pretence of childish unknowingness. That’s a good thing, right?

Arguments about girl group concepts on the internet seem to go round and round in circles never reaching a satisfying conclusion but let us know what you think. Are girl group concepts getting worse? Do you prefer the way they are now are miss the aegyo concepts of the past? What does the future look like for K-pop girl groups? Maybe it’s just not a big deal at all and everyone is overreacting. Leave us a comment with your thoughts!

Related Reading


Sad but Sexy: The Problem With Girl Group Concepts

Hold Up, What Do We Even Mean By “Feminism” in K-pop?

An Open Letter to the K-pop Industry

Dear Mr. PD, Give Me a Break! Female bodies on K-pop TV shows


Music show PDs explain how they will deal with sexy concepts – Netizen Buzz

Girl’s Day changes their choreography due to controversy – Netizen Buzz

On idol concepts, why they’re all equal, and why people still feel the need to moralize – Asian Junkie

Sexy Is The New Black: Girl Groups In The Year Ahead – Seoulbeats

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  • kpopalypse

    Men have always been more sexualised than women in k-pop (a pop industry anomaly – in most other countries the reverse is true), and still are. I won’t take any whining about female sexy concepts seriously until I see hordes of fans asking Jay Park to put his shirt back on.

    • GeraYvonAnde

      This attitude only highlights one of the many ignorant issues at hand. This article is not denying the over sexualisation of male idols but pointing out the discriminatory hardships faced by many female idols the fact that in order to gain popularity they are expected to show more flesh and can’t go by talent alone or at least their pretty faces. It’s sad that when sexism towards women is brought up there’s always one guy who whines about the men, well why don’t you revise some history and try understand why women are always whinning about the way things are now. Men are also sexualised but not in an equal manner to their female counter parts.

      • kpopalypse

        I’m not “whining about the men”. I’m completely fine with the sexualisation of both genders.

        • GeraYvonAnde

          Then I think you’re missing the point of the article, they should also be as free to keep their clothes on and gain just as much popularity.

          • kpopalypse

            Once you sign the deal with the devil that is a k-pop record company contract, freedom to choose their wardrode and dance routines (or not) is honestly the least of the idols’ concerns.

    • Lizzie (beyondhallyu)

      There is no whining here. Bringing up a topic that has been coming up *constantly* lately for discussion is a legitimate thing to do, it’s not whining.

      And no one said men aren’t sexualised in K-pop either (although I don’t know how you’ve come to the conclusion that they’re ‘more sexualised’). (I have an issue with the way young boys are often sexualised in K-pop and that’s something I plan on writing about but that is NOT THE POINT of this discussion.)

      The Korean media and netizens (and the western K-pop fandom as well) do not treat the sexualisation of male and female idols in the same way. When a male idol takes off his shirt he’s not called a stripper or a whore.

      • kpopalypse

        I wasn’t implying that YOU were whining, I was rather referring to the netizens who call the female idols strippers and whores as soon as they show an inch of upper thigh.

  • Shai_love

    Nothing has gotten worse, it’s just that more and more girl groups are resorting to the sexy concepts to become popular. There’s nothing wrong with these concepts. obviously it’s done well for SISTAR & 4minute, but these two groups approach it very differently. Girl groups now all look alike with their concepts. AOA, Girl’s Day, Dal Shabet all look like they looked at one too many SISTAR videos.
    The problem with girl groups going all sexy is that it’s not stable fame, it’s temporary until they find their footing & find something that actually works. Not every group can go sexy nor does every group need to however, with the amount of attention sexiness and showing more skin gets then I can see why companies decide to go this way.

  • burt reynolds

    i’m all about the sexy concepts. and cute concepts. as well as funky concepts. i think people will continue to push the envelope and i don’t think there’s anything wrong with that: it’s just a matter of execution.

  • Dierdre Bateson
  • deedee

    dayum can one imagine if 2ne1 did a video like miniskirt???? lol

  • deedee

    well maybe they should of done like crayon pop and come out as little girls but actually they r in their 20’s….

  • Le Meow

    i dont mind sexy concepts at now that everyone is doing it, its getting very very boring! n some cute girl groups doign sexy, just doesnt suit them! groups like 4minute , brown eyed girls pull it off better