K-Pop Korner: Dong Bang Shin Gi

August 1, 2009

Dong Bang Shin Gi have been around for 6 years which, in Korean showbiz terms, makes them elder statesmen of the K-Pop scene. Although they no longer seem to be as “hot” with the kids compared to more recent acts like Big Bang and Son Yeo Shi Dae, the boy band can boast of overseas success in Japan, China and throughout South East Asia. They also happen to have one of the cooler names in Koren pop music. “Dong Bang Shin Gi” translates as “the gods will rise in the east”. They are also known as TVXQ, an acronym for Tong Vfang Xien Qi, a fully Sinicized version of their name by which they are more commonly known throughout Asia.

When I first arrived in Korea in August 2005, these guys were the shit. All the K-Pop teeny-boppers loved them. A year later I would get looks of disgusted befuddlement when I asked my students if they liked DBSG, such is the way with teenagers. However, I have decided to champion Dong Bang Shin Gi, having discovered that these lads might just be the most controversial band in Korea. Last year they released their fourth Korean studio album, Mirotic, which promptly became the fastest-selling album of the year (their fans must be older Koreans outwith the age group I currently teach) and then fell under the watchful gaze of Korea’s Commission of Youth Protection. It turns out Mirotic had lyrics which the Commission believed were overtly sexual and were in danger of corrupting the young. In particular the line “I got you under my skin”, from the title track, was deemed amongst the most inappropriate and led to the album being slapped with a 19-rating as not for sale to anyone under that age. This meant it could only be found in special sections of record stores set aside for pervs, a highly unusual development for a bestselling domestic act. SM Entertainment, the company behind the group, agreed to release a “clean” version of the album with offending lyrics altered or removed, the most notorious line being changed to “I got you under my sky”. At the same time the company took the issue to the courts, filing a suit against the Commission to overrule their decision. Quite correctly, SM Entertainment argued that the lyric “I got you under my skin” was a common English expression implying only obsession and not, as the Commission for Youth Protection seemed to believe, that someone is literally squirming underneath your naked flesh. The Seoul Administrative Court, seemingly comprised of people with a better understanding of English idioms than the censorious Commission, ruled in favour of SM Entertainment and the album’s age restriction was promptly scrapped. However, the Commission for Youth Protection apparently remains convinced that the lyrics are inappropriate and is currently appealing the court’s decision.

Here is the video for the offending song, Mirotic. Parental discretion is advised, this is the most controversial song in Korean pop. You have been warned.



  1. I always recoil a bit at your K-Pop posts. There’s something about K-Pop that just makes me feel lost and alone. Is it the hairstyles? Their overall innocuous nature? Their ANDROGYNOUS nature? I don’t know… probably all of the above.

  2. You recoil at K-Pop? You’re just a tourist with a typewriter, Barton, I LIVE HERE!
    Worry not, this is all just an exercise in catharsis.

  3. Allow me to specify: I’m not recoiling at what I think is your endorsement of K-Pop – I know you’re just analyzing and such – but merely the visuals and sounds of it all. It triggers a slight panic in me I can’t explain.

    I hope that if I ever end up a stranger in a strange land, I’ll approach the local flavor with as much amusement and aplomb as you. As it stands here in the US, I just choose to pretend all the scary lame stuff doesn’t exist (Reality TV, Britney Spears, etc), but it does keep me from being able to joke about it with people.

  4. Actually, I recommend the distance provided by being a stranger in a strange land, an innocent abroad. All the crap around you belongs to another culture and your own cultural waste is 8000 miles away. When I visit back home I now have a blissful ignorance of reality “stars”, shit pop, etc.

  5. And to be truthful, the reason I do these K-Pop posts is 20% to amuse my friends and 80% a cynical ploy to lure traffic to the blog. The first one, on Girl’s Generation achieved an unexpected amount of hits from people just searching for info on them. Just need to update the tags that I always neglect.

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