Editorial by: Hannah Waitt
moonROK Founder and Editor-in-chief
The rules of being a K-Pop star are pretty simple: train hard for a few years, use that training to develop a diverse set of entertaining skills, debut with your group, perform when you’re asked to, smile when you’re meant to, stay humble, and most importantly, keep your head down and your opinions to yourself. Seattle-born member and leader of boy-group phenomenon 2PM Jay Park broke the most important rule.
In September of 2009, Park was allegedly expelled from the JYP Entertainment group after a netizen leaked Myspace posts that Park wrote back in 2005. In the posts, he vented his frustrations about his struggle as a Korean-American to adapt to Korean culture and daily life, calling Korea “gay” and expressing his wish to go back home to Seattle.
For most idols, this would be career ending. Most idols would probably give up and go home. Jay Park is not most idols. In fact, he is not an idol at all anymore. Let’s think about the term “idol” for a minute. In the dictionary, the word “idol” is defined thusly:
1) an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship
Synonyms: icon, representation of a god, image, effigy,
statue, figure, figurine, fetish, totem
2) a person or thing that is greatly admired, loved, or revered
Synonyms: hero, heroine, star, superstar, icon, celebrity
People began using the term “idol” for Korean pop stars because they were so much more than just pop stars. In fact, “idol” is the perfect term for them. Idols are worshipped like gods by their fans, they are people that are greatly admired, loved and revered by the public, and like figurines, they are delicate, beautiful, and valuable.
The problem with figurines, is that they are extremely fragile – even the slightest knock or fall will cause them to crack or shatter. This is why Jay Park is not an idol. Unlike a figurine, he has been tossed out, knocked down and beaten around (metaphorically, of course), and has remained intact. In fact, Jay Park is more like an action figure. “He can do everything! He can bend, but he won’t break!” his packaging box would say! “Look! It’s a singer! No, it’s a CEO! No, it’s….it’s… Jay Park!!!” the people would shout from below as he soars over the city of Seoul!
All metaphors aside, what Jay Park has managed to do within the Korean music industry is really quite extraordinary. He went from being an exiled idol, to having his self-written and self-produced comeback EP shoot to number one on Korea’s album charts, to becoming the founder and CEO of his own hip-hop and R&B record label (AOMG) in Korea. Jay Park is no longer just an idol – he is an artist and an entrepreneur.
Whether or not you like him and his music, there is something to be said for the fact that Jay Park is well on his way to building an empire. The legitimacy of AOMG was recently further verified when Park signed on Simon D. – an artist who is considered to be one of the most brilliant, capable, and talented rappers in Korea – as his co-CEO. With these two at the head of a record company that has an increasingly impressive and ever-growing artist roster, AOMG has nowhere to go but up.
Not only has Jay Park become a businessman, but he is also making the music that he wants to, collaborating with the people he admires and wants to work with, and in general, doing something that he loves and is passionate about. He does not follow the “rules” of K-Pop – he says what he thinks, does as he pleases, and perhaps most importantly, knows what he wants and goes after it. He is no longer a figurine to be carefully crafted at the hands of some brand manager, wound-up, and delicately set upon the stage for the world to “ooh” and “ahh” at. Jay Park is a real and tangible artist now, not a part of a meticulously groomed group of boys chosen for a higher marketing purpose. He is genuine and authentic in that he makes “mistakes” – he curses, he parties at clubs, he drinks, and he puts this behavior on display via social media – and all of those things make him more relatable. He is not an idol, he is human.
Jay Park broke the rules of K-Pop before, and now, he and AOMG are changing the whole game. His new way of creating art and conducting business could have a significant impact on the future of the Korean music industry. Think about all of the second generation idol groups like Girls’ Generation, Super Junior, KARA, Wondergirls, Big Bang, etc. – most of their contracts already have or are about to come to an end sooner rather than later. My guess is that after about seven years of constant promotion and five years of training even before debut, there are probably more than a few idols who are burnt out on the industry, and we’ve already seen quite a few pass up on renewing their contracts.
There will undoubtedly be more idols that leave their groups, either by choice or by force. What Jay Park has proven though, is that no matter what idols choose, they can be more than okay. Just because your group is ending or because you’ve been caught up in an unlucky (or even fabricated) scandal does not mean that you have to end too. In this new world, or new “movement” as Park calls it, fame and success might no longer be determined by how pretty your face is, how catchy the song that you have been given to sing is, or what members you are forced to sing and dance to it with. Hard work, perseverance, talent, and artistry – these might be the new rules in the new game of K-Pop.
Tags: AOMG Jay Park Simon D.