Violence in Kpop: Revenge of the Girl Group

Ladies Code gets revenge in Bad Girl.

Girl groups and revenge fantasies go together like IU and uncle fans. Of course, we couldn’t compile this list without Brown Eyed Girls’ "Abracadabra" in mind. But since we’ve already written about that in our Top Ten list here, we thought we’d look at a few videos you might not have heard about. So, here we go: Revenge of the Girl Group.

Dal Shabet - "HitU"

Sometimes a title is worth a thousand words. In Dal Shabet’s “HitU,” member Jiyul is left by her abusive boyfriend. To get revenge, she loads two revolvers and goes on a murderous rampage that will take up the bulk of the music video. Pink blood splatters the walls as Jiyul spins and shoots sideways in a heroic pose. It is violent. It is bloody. This is revenge!

Perhaps the most interesting question posed in this video is one of collateral damage. Though the murder of Jiyul’s lover is fueled by revenge, why has she killed his four friends? Were they deserving? Having not appeared in the music video until the scene of their death, it would be impossible for the viewer to know. Their complicity or innocence is not established, making it difficult to sympathize with Jiyul. Instead, it feels like Dal Shabet has declared a war against all men. If this is their version of female empowerment, it is a violent breed.

Dal Shabet’s choice to dye blood a fluorescent pink color was likely in an effort to keep their music video from being banned to audiences in South Korea. But fictionalizing blood has other, more subtle effects. Pink blood makes murder appear cartoonish and unreal, and can make us more accepting of violence (again, likely their goal, to avoid a ban). But we may begin to think that it is okay to shoot five people. We may lose sight of the moral issues because this is just acting. At a certain point we have to consider whether we are desensitizing ourselves to the real thing. This is an argument that would not seem out of place in a discussion of most video games. And “HitU” is reminiscent of video games in more ways than one. The murder of the four friends feels like a level that must be beat before reaching the final boss. The friends line up in a hallway, reduced to cronies without identity, their murder an accomplishment that must be attained.

With so much violence in “Hit U,” it is probably a good move for Dal Shabet to distance themselves from some of the more gruesome scenes. As a group, they maintain separation by mostly appearing in the geometric “cube” that defines nearly all Kpop videos. They do dance very briefly in the hallway where four of the murders take place, but they do so before the viewer has been made aware of why pink blood is splattered on the wall. Dal Shabet seems willing to promote senseless violence for women, but unwilling to be associated with any backlash that might follow.

Ladie's Code - "Bad Girl"

The “Bad Girl” music video by Ladie’s Code is an odd duck. Forget about the submarine for a moment (and forever, it plays no role in the proceedings). I’d be wrong if I didn’t mention the strangely diverse cast - white men, black men, and Korean men all suffer the might of Ladie’s Code and their bizarre vengeance. The reason for this revenge is never really clear, nor is the reason why these men are gathered together in the barber shop, nor what connection they have to Ladie’s Code, if any - Ladie’s Code could very well be revenging against these men for all the women they’ve wronged.

The revenge seems silly enough at first. The men are drugged and pass out, and the women put embarrassing wigs and lipstick on the men’s lips and faces. But then Ladie’s Code takes it to another level. I’ve watched this video so many times, too many times, trying to make sense of it. There’s a campiness to the video and to the violence that doesn’t quite fit together. Is it a surrealist touch when they construct their guns out of paper, a deadly arts and crafts project? Is there a metaphor here that I can’t quite understand when they shoot these new weapons at the walls, seemingly at the adjoining room, perhaps (or perhaps not) killing these men? Or, is it as I now fear, just a shoddy, if well-meaning music video debut, that could have used a stronger editor, or a competent storyboard artist, or just one person in the room brave enough to ask: What are we really doing here?

Exid - "Every Night"

With “Every Night,” Exid takes revenge against an ex-lover in a less conventional manner. Haphazard in execution, Exid strangely makes light of the very real threat of chemical weapons, especially with a dangerous and armed North Korea next door. Or maybe it’s because of the real threat that they make light of it. Whatever the reason, the culmination of Exid’s elaborate plan begins at about two and a half minutes in, where they meet the playboy with his harem (the playboy, who, I assume, has broken their collective hearts). Little does he know, Exid has mixed a powerful concoction into the vials they’ve brought with them. When they smash the vials to the ground, the women around the playboy vomit the champagne they’ve just ingested, in gruesome slow-motion, all over him and his unamused face. It turns out Exid mixed some type of powerful pepper to cause the desired effect, instead of committing an unspeakable atrocity to enact their revenge. But you don’t find that out until the very end. Throughout the video, the girls dance in gas masks in-between shots of mixing their vengeful biological weapon. Taken in a more serious context than this video provides you, that image is chilling. It’s bio-terrorism chic.

Song Jieun - "Going Crazy"

In Song Jieun’s “Going Crazy,” a woman drives her lover out into the dessert, then burns him alive, yet another tale of a woman’s revenge! But for three entire minutes, the viewer is completely unaware of any violence in the music video. The song begins as a melancholy piano arrangement, but gains an anxious insistence when B.A.P.’s Bang Yong-Gook begins his rap, especially around the one-minute mark when we hear a phantom phone ringing. But the viewer does not understand yet what tension Song Jieun is trying to build. The delay of violence is not unlike After School’s “Flashback,” which shows brief scenes of a man tied up in a chair before firing a gun at the screen in the last five seconds of the video.

Once the violence in “Going Crazy” gets started, though, it is swift and terrible. The actress in the video, Min Hyorin, opens the trunk of her car to reveal her lover (B.A.P.’s Kim Himchan), tied up and blindfolded. After spreading gasoline over his still moving body, she lights a flame and walks away. The use of a blindfold is important, as the male lover in this video is denied any identity. There is no backstory, no visual history of his misdeeds, and even the lyrics lack a clear source for the woman’s revenge. The covering of her lover’s eyes is representative of this lack of information and his service as a symbol, rather than a cause for revenge. Even Song Jieun seems uncommitted. She distances herself from the video by having an actress take revenge in her stead. All Song Jieun does is ride along in the car. Indeed, the most affected she seems is in terms of her hair color, a light blue that mimics the lasting color of the music video, the color of flame against the night sky.

And now, your Tank of the Week comes from f(x)'s 2011 hit, "Hot Summer." Why aren't all tanks this color?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Share This Page

Listen to the Podcast