In Brief

K-pop stars ‘look too similar’, government complains

Backlash to 50-page guide encouraging broadcasters to diversify their line-up

The South Korean government has panicked fans of K-pop (Korean pop music) around the world by suggesting that the industry needs to take action against lookalike boybands.

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family agreed to revise guidelines issued to broadcasters last week calling on them to “diversify” the nation’s popular music shows.

In the guidelines, the ministry said that “idol bands” like BTS, EXO and Wanne One shared a “similar appearance”, defined as “skinny body figure, light skin color, similar hairstyle, body conscious clothes and similar make-up”, CNN reports.

“The beauty standard of music shows is a serious problem,” officials wrote in the 50-page guide, suggesting that “overt concerns for how one should look on TV” could be exacerbating body image issues among young people.

In another swipe at the industry, the guide added that the groups’ musical stylings were often “as similar as their appearances”, the New York Times reports.

South Korea has the highest rate of plastic surgery in the world, and the practice is even more commonplace in the country’s highly regimented pop industry, where every band’s image is carefully crafted and strictly controlled.

“All four members of the K-pop group SixBomb underwent extensive plastic surgery - from nose jobs to breast implants - before releasing their first single,” says Channel News Asia.

However, fans of the genre quickly martialled their considerable online force to rally against what they perceived as an attempt to interfere with their idols.

They found an unlikely ally in opposition lawmakers, who likened the intervention to the media censorship practiced by the military dictatorship which ruled the country until 1987.

“How is this any different to the crackdowns on longer hair and short skirts during a military dictatorship?” centre-right opposition representative Ha Tae-keung wrote on Facebook.

The Ministry confirmed that it would rethink the guidelines in light of the “unnecessary confusion” generation by their publication, but insisted that accusations of censorship were “a distortion of the purpose of the guide”.

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