"I became pretty"

K-pop artist’s debut single describes how entertainment company made her “perfect”

Park Bo-Ram performs onstage (Photo by ilgan Sports/Multi-Bits via Getty Images)

Korean pop-music, or K-pop, is a multibillion dollar industry dominated by girl groups, but critics say that the entertainment companies that manage them have too much control over the shape of their bodies, and their identities. Park Boram, a budding K-pop star, shed some light on the work that companies require of their stars in her debut single, the title of which literally translates to “I became pretty.” In the song, Boram is shown working out, weighing her food on a scale, and singing about eating only a banana and an egg each day. As a teenager, Boram says she went through a four-year training process that included learning to dance, sing, act, and modification of her appearance — the singer changed her hair, her face, and dropped 66 pounds off her frame.

Heather Willoughby, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul who specializes in Korean music and culture, says that “there is a much more deep-rooted sense of still viewing women as objects,” a tendency she says is exacerbated by Eastern culture, which she describes as more collective than “more individual” societies in the U.S. and parts of Europe, and by the popularity of photo sharing and mobile phones. Similar arguments have also been used to explain the popularity of cosmetic surgery in Korea — as many as one-third of the women in Seoul have undergone cosmetic procedures.

Boram herself, however, is no critic. The singer has explained that her song was meant only as motivation, not as a critique of the industry. “I wanted to show people a more perfect me, which is why I tried to change,” she explained.

Read the full story at NPR.

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