South Korea backtracks on K-Pop guidelines

Guidelines criticized stars' 'similar appearance'

JTBC Drama/YouTube via Wikimedia

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South Korea's government has withdrawn guidelines that criticized the "similar appearance" of K-pop stars and aimed to diversify the industry, following an outcry from fans of the wildly popular music genre.

The guidelines, issued to Korean broadcasters last week by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, warned that the interchangeable appearance of K-Pop groups could lead viewers to develop unhealthy standards of beauty.

But critics said the guidelines were an attempt at "censoring" the profitable industry and could deprive its many fans of the chance to watch its stars. The department will now revise parts of the guidelines, a spokeswoman told CNN.

The "beauty standard of music shows is a serious problem. Most of them are idol band members but they don't represent various appearances (of society)," the original guideline document said.

"Most members of idol bands have similar appearance, such as skinny body figure, light skin color, similar hairstyle, body conscious clothes and similar make-up," it added.

K-Pop groups are hugely popular both in Korea and internationally.

It is generally acknowledged that budding stars are subjected to intense selection and training processes by their labels and often undergo plastic surgery before they release music.

But the ministry's suggestions, first released on February 12, were attacked by many fans of the genre and criticized by an opposition politician as an overreach.

"The government says light-colored skin and pretty idols cannot be on TV at the same time. How is it different from the military dictatorship controlling men's hairstyle and women's skirt length? The government should let the public decide what they like or not," opposition lawmaker Ha Tae-keung wrote on Facebook.

"Music shows are not supposed to show general people but to show idols," another commentator wrote online.

"It's true that many people look similar but that's not a subject to be solved by regulations," said another.

Despite confirming it will revise the recommendations, the ministry defended itself from accusations of censorship on Tuesday.

"Interpreting these proposals as censorship... is a distortion of the purpose of the guide," the department wrote on Twitter. "The Ministry (of Gender Equality and Family) has no intention of regulating broadcast production."

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