With all of the dating tea being spilled recently, one must wonder if 2018 is the year dating stops being a scandal in K-pop. It’s doubtful, but we can dream can’t we? Since K-pop has risen to the height of global popularity, international fans have become more and more vocal about ending the stigma around idols dating. I-fans seem to be more open-minded than their Korean counterparts when it comes to their faves dating, but why do Koreans even have a problem with it in the first place? Recently, I watched a video from Kpop Box with guest Inseouluble about fans feeling betrayed when idols date. That’s possibly one reason, but then Shanice of Kpop Box asked a very important question: “Why is dating a scandal?”
As international fans, we have an obligation to respect Korean culture. A part of that is making an effort to understand the reasoning behind some of the things they do, such as considering dating a scandal. Now, I do not in any way proclaim to be an expert on Korean culture or psyche. However, I have tried my best to understand things from their perspective. These thoughts are opinions formed from my own observations and from speaking with native Koreans. So let’s answer the question. The truth is dating itself is actually not a scandal. It’s really dating among celebrities that is considered scandalous. The reason is surprisingly simple and does make sense when you think about it.
Korean society is very image-driven and not just physically. It is an important piece of social success to maintain a “clean, positive” image in front of others. Moreover, they take the upbringing of youth very seriously because kids are the future leaders of the country. So there’s this unspoken expectation of those in influential positions to work even harder at presenting a perfect image so as to inspire the country’s youth to make good decisions. Idols are typically very young themselves. If they were to openly date different people often (think Hollywood), their wholesome image could suffer. Worse yet, the kids that follow their every move may feel that the behavior is socially acceptable. For western and European countries, this isn’t a big deal. Dating is as natural as breathing. So this may come off as hypocritical to I-fans considering that non-celebrity Koreans obviously date and have intimacy outside of marriage just like most of the world, but that is not the point. The point is that extramarital intimacy, especially casual intimacy, is not and has never been considered decent behavior in Korean society. People in a major spotlight like celebrities and public officials are expected to exhibit upright behavior because they have an influence on the nation.
Idols, in particular, hold a position of influence over the country’s youth that even their parents don’t have. Their actions, both public and private, can impact on the kids that idolize them. A good example of this is how idols impact fashion trends and speech used by kids (slang), but of course, it can be much deeper than that too (sasaeng fans). So essentially, the answer to our question is that Korea loves the kids.
While we may not agree, knowing this can help us be more tolerant of this aspect of Korean culture because after all, all we truly want is to understand and know our idols better.
Does this perspective change your opinion on why dating is a scandal for K-celebs? Share your opinion in the comments.