Kpop News
Cultivating the Lolita complex
by | November 18, 2007 | 29 Comments

Wonder Girls: “Tell me!”

The following article brings up an interesting point but is ultimately pretty weak in its assessments. But it IS mainstream press, so I suppose that’s to be expected.

In any case, the topic is worth noting, even if the article makes the Lolita complex sound like a natural part of life or whatnot, rather than something that merits any sort of criticism. Being in touch with sexuality isn’t a bad thing, and I don’t think it’s productive to repress it either, but on the other hand, it’s an entirely different thing to praise a culture of nymphet-worship. Which I concede may be overstating the issue a bit. (Is it really?)

All I say is, the guy may have been charming and intelligent, but a society full of Humbert Humberts is not a place you want to raise your kids. Just sayin’.

Hung up on the Lolita complex: “I like teens!”

In a recently aired episode of MBC sitcom Kimchi Cheese Smile, there was a scene in which the thirtysomething single female character played by Lee Hye Young looked to a TV monitor playing MBC’s drama Legend, smiling as she observed the child actor Yoo Seung Ho, and said:

“Wow, we should protect kids like that on a national level.”

One after another, adults are uttering these kinds of candid admissions in their adoration of pre-teen and teenage stars. It’s nothing new that the debut ages of entertainers have been growing younger and younger, but the unrestrained admiration of these stars by those in their twenties, thirties, and forties is something that’s only arisen in the past few months.


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“Legend”‘s Yoo Seung Ho


One such young star garnering the attention of noonas [older women] everywhere is Yoo Seung Ho from Legend and King and I.

Such noonas write words of praise on various message boards, like: “I hope he grows up just like this,” “He’s a serious hottie,” “Forget Bae Yong Joon, I see Yoo Seung Ho as a man!” These women admit they get glares from colleagues and friends, but that doesn’t stop their frank comments of affection.

Pouring fuel on the flames of this trend is the group behind the recent “Tell Me” Syndrome, Wonder Girls. Shaking their shoulders back and forth cutely while singing, “Tell me, tell me, t-t-t-t-tell me,” these girls have been on the receiving end of plenty of adoration even just from stars themselves; for instance, Sung Shi Kyung, Shin Hye Sung, Jung Joon Ha, Park Joon Hyung, and more. And there are plenty of stars demonstrating the “Tell Me Dance” themselves, dancing along as though they’d forgotten their own celebrity status.


Wonder Girls’ coy “Tell Me” dance


The biggest change in the way this subject is being treated now is that showing affection for girls with this Lolita complex isn’t denounced or called “perverted.” Adults are falling in line as their fans, expressing their love for these young stars without shame or disapproval. What could be the reason?

For one, teen actors are attracting notice with their talents. One drama producer analyzed the situation: “In the past, child actors used their cuteness to win people over, but these days, they can even outshine their adult co-stars.” Another industry source said, “Aside from being child stars, their skill level is already strong enough to appeal to adults.”

For example, take Yoo Seung Ho, who’d drawn notice immediately at the outset of the drama series Legend with a mature appeal that outstripped his actual age, and Park Ji Bin with his tearful acting in Yi San. The same goes for pop singers, such as the talented pop group Big Bang who wrote the music and lyrics to their hit song “Lie.” There are also the two shining girl groups, Wonder Girls and Girls Generation, who have recently debuted as new artists after extensive training.


Girls Generation


Fans are drawn further to teen-girl groups like Wonder Girls and Girls Generation for their sexy, lively music and dance moves that portray a “healthy teen” image.

(I don’t see how hypersexualized adolescence — packaged neatly for adult consumption! — can be an argument for a model of “healthy.” FYI, the Wonder Girls were born between the years 1988 and 1992; Girls Generation members were born between the years 1989 and 1991.)

These girls are drawing in adult fans in a distinctively different way by appealing to their hidden yearnings of their “Lolita complexes,” or playing up their sexuality.

Whether we’re talking about the talented young actors rising to stardom in recent new dramas, or young teen pop groups and singers who continue to perform on the basis of their solid skills or healthy images, the hot trend of these Lolitas is not likely to disappear soon. Rather, adults will continue to come out with their declarations of “I like teen stars!” without developing complexes or being embarrassed by it.

And I say, a little embarrassment doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Oh, I have no problem admiring a young actor or singer’s talent. That’s not really an issue in the Lolita complex argument. The thing that makes me uneasy is the peddling of excessively tarted-up fifteen-year-olds on overtly sexual themes mixed with coy, (pre-meltdown) Britney-esque manufactured innocence. The shame that has been pointed out as being notably absent can be nature’s way of telling you that this kind of marketing is, at the very least, horribly tacky.

Source: Star News


29 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. O.O

    can’t believe the girls in the girl groups are my age! i know girls generally mature faster but still… i agree with u javabeans

  2. La Plume

    I don’t really understand all the fuss around Yoo Seung Ho… Honestly he’s good but I was not really drawn to his performance…

    I prefered the acting of Baek Sung Hyun as Young Jang Bo Go in Emperor of the Sea. It was the only time I really apreciated looking at the childhood of the main characters in a drama. He was awesome, for a 15 years old boy at the time, he certainly had one hell of a charisma.

    Coming back to your comment that’s also something that’s been bothering me. I already can’t bear singers and actresses wearing overly revealing clothes and exposing themselves almost naked, I feel sick seeing they put so much make-up on these girls and make them act like they’re not their age.
    Talent is good yes but living your childhood to the fullest is also important.

    When I was 12/13 years old, girls putting make up like that where seen, excuse me for the word, as “slut”. Now it’s like it’s become the norm and young girls acting simply their age and not disguising themselves as adult are laughed at by the others. And who can blame them? With this kind of images on TV, there’s no way young girls who are at an influential age can’t be badly influence.

    I’m also in awe when I see young children’s excellent acting ( I’ve taken a linking to Shim Eun Kyung, seen her in several dramas she’s just too cute. Must be the dimples, I’m week against them) but they should not rush in turning them into adults. There’s a limit.

    Worst case must be Park Shin Hye. They do so much stuff to make her look older and act old character, please give her a role her age or around it. Can’t believe she’s 4 years younger than me, feels like the opposite.

  3. shannon

    I love the Wonder Girls. However, I sometimes feel a bit uncomfortable watching their performances. They are just so young. I guess you can blame Britney or Christina for starting this whole “lolita” thing. But looking back at their choreography, I think they were 18 by the time their choreography got really sexy. In any case, 16 yr. old Britney wasn’t doing lap dances like SNSD, Wonder Girls, and Kara just did at the festival.

  4. Kristen

    After I saw a Wonder Girls video, I wanted to see how old they were because they looked pretty young. I was actually stunned at their youth. They do have talent, but that’s not what got me. What I was so taken aback by was their extraordinarily sexual dance and dress. I really don’t think that’s healthy for anybody, whether it’s the girls or their adult fans. Heck, even their young fans.

  5. Jessica

    The “Lolita Complex” seems to be a very Western thing though…

    I know in Chinese society (both Taiwan and the Mainland) no one bats an eye when a 26 year old guy is dating a 16 year old girl (now the reverse would be shocking because well, male privilege is universal ^_^

    Of course people will definitely frown upon this if the guy is in his 30s or 40s but it’s not the same type of condemnation you see in the US, i.e. it’s not a “he’s a pedophile”-type of issue, but rather a “what a loser”-type thing.

    • 5.1 james

      Western age restrictions and culture are just retarded! It wasn’t too long back that a 16 year old ‘girl’ was married, had a few kids and raising a family in the west. Now they tell young people growing up they’re too stupid and young to make decisions and lead AQ life like their grandparents did. Politics and religion, dumbing down a nation! Heh.
      …as fior the stars… Marketing is apparently king. They use sex to sell everything, knowing that they wouldn’t have haslf the revenue or following if they didn’t.
      …oh, the Lolita complexc is alive and hyperactive in Japan, lol. Hey, I prefer my Jaopanrese schoolgirls over american ones any day! Hehe. (Though Korean girls rock!!)

  6. merriwether

    I’ve always been rather disturbed by Wonder Girls and their dance routines. One of the things I noticed about Wonder Girls popularity was how willing people were to embrace their sexy images. Being around the same age as these girls and living in a rather liberal nation like Australia, I find it really wrong that they exploit their sexuality like that. Is it just a passing phase or something that will continue on for many generations? Can’t help but wonder if we’re crying wolf over nothing or if it’s something that requires urgent attention. But still, the whole Lolita thing scares me.

  7. Anonymous

    “The “Lolita Complex” seems to be a very Western thing though…”

    I don’t know about that. Maybe it’s not a strange thing in Chinese culture but it’s not considered appropriate or acceptable in Korean. 16 yr olds aren’t adults in Korea and the relationship with an adult would be illegal. So maybe some cultures definitely stress it more or less than others but it’s not just a western thing.

  8. Jessica

    ^ That’s interesting…

    I thought the Lolita Complex dealt with the desire for something that’s taboo. So the “lust” isn’t simply based on youth, but rather something forbidden by society.

    In Chinese culture (and I’m pretty sure other Asian cultures as well) these relationships aren’t looked upon like they are in the US.

    Even a “legal adult” isn’t really considered an adult by society because most people live with their parents until they’re almost 30. No one is really considered an “adult” until they have kids of their own.

    So these relationships are missing the “taboo”-factor.

    (Also, just for the record, Chinese teens are often discouraged from dating, period. So it’s not like this is a common thing. It’s just that if a teen was dating someone older, their parents would be more upset by the fact they’re dating rather than the age of the partner.)

  9. Mai

    Holy smokes! I just got done reading the book ‘Lolita” like a day ago. I’m about to watch that movie also! talk about coincidental. it’s starting to scare me. and here i read a blog about lolita complexes. i’m scared. hahhah

    i guess i really have no problems with the sex appeal thing, but their ages does frighten me. It’ll be really hard to shake off the adult fan base for the young pop idol groups. I think i’m pretty young, i don’t necessarily have a healthy body, but even if i do, i probably won’t be on stage half naked or something, or with very short skirts dancing. Maybe it’s just personal ethics. They are really pretty though, many of the korean pop bands.

    But on the other hand, it almost seems to be expect. These girls or guys should know what they are getting into at such a young age as they are. Because it’s been a taboo factor for sometime. Going into a business where their corporation is going to sell their images to the public is pretty scary i would think.

    I am asian i guess. I know many young girls who marry at the mere age of 12-16, many of them are pre-arranged marriages because of tradition and etc. it’s terrifying.

  10. 10 Coffee Maniac

    I was surprised on how young these girls (Wonder Girls and Girls Generation)! They are still children. When I was at their age, I still play outside with my playmates, living my childhood to the fullest. For me, these girls are being exploited, in exchange for money and fame. How can they make these girls dance sensually and dress very sexy! They were packaged for “adult” consumption. That is really despicable..

  11. 11 Gramps

    #8 Jessica “No one is really considered an “adult” until they have kids of their own.”

    The trouble, and the pity, of it is that over here in an “advanced” society like Britain, which has far the highest rate of teenage pregnancy (and abortion) in the West, people are increasingly having kids of their own at the age of 12. And adults they ain’t, legally or psychologically.

    But the driving force is relentless media images and advertising promotion, cunningly aimed at getting kids to blackmail their parents into letting them sexualize themselves by buying expensive trash (one UK store stocks frilly pink “my first bra”s, with built-in falsies of course, in its 8-10 year old department — or it did until national outrage put a stop to that, or at least got them taken off display). And all this while at school they are exposed to an official educational culture that confuses tolerance and openness with an ethical free-for-all.

    It’s all very well to say that parents should be stricter about what their kids wear and watch and about where they go and what they do. But short of hitching up neddy to the old cart and clip-clopping off to take your entire household to join the Amish, it’s desperately hard to do that in practice. Nothing is more attractive than parentally forbidden fruit.

    Even where these glossy cultural human artefacts crafted by SM media and their zealous imitators (like those behind the WGs) are concerned, there are obvious grounds for anxiety, but it’s less clear what can and should be done in practice.

    But it isn’t just a Western phenomenon. Filipina/o readers here will remember that Spaghetti Dance that was all the rage even in kindergartens a couple of years back. (For those without the blessings of exposure to Pinoy TV: imagine something like the “Wonder Girls” cavorting but with even younger kids and with, shall we say, somewhat lower production values and choreographic skills). Not to mention, from about the same time, the monster billboards for 15-year-old Napoleon Brandy with a lecherous- looking tippler holding his glass and enquiring “Nakatikim ka na ba ng kinse anyos?” — “Have you ever had a fifteen-year old?”

    • 11.1 ihsan

      sex is sex you must . you people take away th right of sex and under the guise of minor limits you wast the time and life and now people like pakistan can not sex even at the ge of 40 or whle life. actully you people are jeolous . you dont want people to be happy . i must say lolita is th only sex and real sex . and western socity is absoluty right. you people help the religious fundamentalist. and the poor people suffer and rich people fuck. lolita should be in the all unverse and loved.

  12. 12 MMMMMMM

    If u think it’s inappropriate for teengae girls to dance in a sexual way, can u imagine them practising to dances like dat when they’re only 10 or 11 years old??….the age most Wonder girls members were recruited…….Eventhough, I’m the same age as sum of the Wondergirls…But I find the scene a ’10 year old girl trying to be sexy’ a bit disturbing…

  13. 13 tooizzy

    I really find this disturbing. They have no business whatsoever dancing half dressed at that age. Tolerance my foot. I’m utterly disgusted by what we are being exposed to. And it’s getting harder for kids NOT to try to fit in with what is the “norm.” You don’t have to got an Amish community just make sure that you are in your kids lives and I don’t believe in children having any rights whatsoever on how to dictate what to buy. I can’t imagine why parents can’t simply say NO to buying a Britney-look-alike clothing. Argh!

  14. 14 javabeans

    Yeah, I think more discomfiting than 16-year-olds dancing sexily is knowing they’d been trained to dance like that since they were 10 or 11. Marketing sexuality is nothing new but some things are plain disturbing — thong underwear for children, anyone?

  15. 15 Di

    It seems like society is going slightly backwards…
    Back in the days of no electricity, girls were getting married off at the age 14 and up all over the world, in Eastern and Western societies.

    Anyway, I would have to say that this over sexualization of young teenage girls is really awkward to say the least. They’re dancing around like prostitutes! But that’s not the most unnerving part, what’s really sad is so many people find it acceptable. X.x
    Plus, they’re selling their looks not their musical talent, which is practically nonexistent.

  16. 16 lazybum

    really, the wonder girls are so obviously sexualised (and love the fact that they deny they have a sexy image). i thought the oldest one was HyunAh when i first started watching their performances because she’s got such a sexy and mature voice, then later i realised that she was like 15 and i felt it was sooo wrong for her to be singing like that. it didn’t even matter that i didn’t understand what she was saying, the way she was making those noises were just not right. she’s just 15!!!

  17. 17 Charlo

    It doesn’t go back to just 15 year olds, it’s also little kids in their pre-puberty days. I remember going to Lotte World and there was this kinda concert thingg where 2 guys and 1 girl (non-Korean, surprise!) sang a few popular Korean hits. There was this one part where a bunch of girls got to get up on stage and one girl did a bit of a hip-shake (think belly dancer) and everyone was like “OOO” while I was just like “…HUH?!” but I pretended to be in awe (when in Rome…). There’s a show where they hosted a bunch of preschool/kindergartens and this one tiny girl started to do body “waves” and I was just staring at my screen and thinking “what is with this world?” girls in my school dress in small skirts and shorts (but I notice the upper-classmen wear in a more fashionable and elegent way then just sporting a mini-skirt and shirt 2 sizes small) and try to expose cleavage that isn’t there (snorts).
    that child thong thing is scary and freaky. are you sure you just didn’t confuse it with dental floss?

  18. 18 stercus accidit

    What I can’t stand is when they switch back and forth between the “cute and innocent” & “sexy and promiscuous” acts. I remember watching the WGs do their Tell Me Dance then later seeing their rendition of the PCD’s Don’t Cha performance with people (guys) in crowd cheering them on. I was like, “whoa, that’s not right.” They’re my age. I have nothing against them; even Big Bang does it too and they’re boys. I just find it to be really irresponsible especially towards their prepubescent fans. Sometimes they come off as very artificial. To me the scariest people are dirty creepy old men.

  19. 19 somaie

    . Experts have talked about this before. How many times have you read about the importance of ‘adding value’ for your audience? How many times have you read about ‘building trust’ with your readers/prospects?
    Many, many times. You know it well. Every marketing guru has spoken about this topic. I’m sick of hearing it. But it STILL bears repeating.

  20. 20 danica123

    I strongly believe in this!!! I think that the bands nowadays just use their bodies and charms to attract fans, but the truth is that they really do not have musical talent.

    For example:
    -SoHee, maybe is cute but, seriously, she does not know how to sing. Try to hear her voice in live scenes and especially on concerts, I could not hear anything. But, because of her cuteness, the wonder girls became famous. After a while, So Hot came and then all of the pictures that are out in the net are showing too much of her legs. Talking about cuteness!! My God!
    -I like SunMi for a reason that I also do not know. But she also does not know how to sing. It’s so sad. And she sells her body as well because that is required of her since she is part of the wonder girls.
    -Sorry for the fans of Yoona, but I also think that she cannot sing. She can act, but sing, NO. And the whole group uses her fame just to get to the top. They use her fame just to be one of the most in-demand groups of the Kpop industry. She always stays in the middle and all when dancing, WHEN ALL I SEE IS A STICK. Almost all of them do not have talent. Sooyoung is good at modeling but not that good in singing. Sunny has a shaky voice. Sometimes, she can control her voice, sometimes she cannot. Hyoyeon is good at dancing but not in singing. Jessica and Tiffany use their English speaking skills to be noticed.


    Changing to a cute prostitute-like (come-to-me-oppa) image.

    I appeciated them before (even a little) at least, but now, I am tired of them.

    Especially thinking that perverted ajusshis are everywhere and fantasizing about 15 yr-old girls.

  21. 21 MeeisLee

    Me again, this time 4 years late.

    But when I read the headline for this, I was thinking for like contrived innocence layered over revealing attire and subtly promiscuous dance moves than youngings being sexed-up. For a more up to date example on what I mean, I’m thinking new rookie girl group A-Pink, their dresses or soooooo short. I’m sure they’ve been training for years so picture that. They seem innocent, all in white. But really, who are you kidding? Never been kissed? Very hard to believe. Also reminds of when in dramas, the female lead is “unexperienced” and in many cases they have their “first” kiss stolen. Sometimes, just sometimes, is it really hard to believe. Another thing that disappoints me is that kpop seems to be going to back aegyo days. Girl’s Day is a perfect example. Are we trying to get men to fall in love with women who act like 12yr olds? And in some cases, it’s WOMEN (20s-30s) , not always teens, acting in that manner. Seriously, the cuteness is killing me. It can be a bit demeaning as well.

    [I’m not sure if I was clear enough on the point I was making, forced youth rather than forced (older age). Pretending to be innocent and cute at an age to old (leave that for the 12yr olds) than wearing revealing clothings and doing pelvic thrusts and body rolls at the age of 12.]

  22. 22 MeeisLee

    Coincidence for me too, I read the book 2 days ago.

  23. 23 ihsan

    sex is sex you must . you people take away th right of sex and under the guise of minor limits you wast the time and life and now people like pakistan can not sex even at the ge of 40 or whle life. actully you people are jeolous . you dont want people to be happy . i must say lolita is th only sex and real sex . and western socity is absoluty right. you people help the religious fundamentalist. and the poor people suffer and rich people fuck. lolita should be in the all unverse and loved.

  24. 24 ihsan

    i tell you that the only cruelity is the ecnomic cruelity . if you are poor you will become illminded and disease_minded people and you will perceive sex as taboo and horror. here in pakistan woman at the age of 80s wear heavy veils. because of there narrow minded culture and the poverty is the disease. and i tell you that if you are rich than you will enjoy sex in any form. there is nothing wrong with sex . it is your ecnomy and psycology

  25. 25 ihsan

    please be realistic . these girls are not child . they are youthful girls . let them enjoy there life . dont make people child at the advance age by your forced and cruel and backward culture . today a child is very smart . even child knows everything . sex is every thing . and this is cruelity that in our culture like backward countries pakistan even a adult dont know about sex and afraid of girls and girls are afraid of boys , is this fair , is this fair that adults at the age of 20 dont know about sex life and the result is that it affect the mind and psycology and the person does become adult at the resonabe age , is this fair, no not fair . even adults are afrid of their puberty and think masterbation as crime and divine punishment . i question what you want ? plz dont place any ban on sex or lolita . i love lolita. and lolita is the only right thing. and any commment againt is crime and have no standing . and those people are jelous people.

  26. 26 ihsan

    do you ever think about life time period . how short is our life . i think our every second is of unlimited value. and we must sex every time and make our short life full of happiness . those who place restrictions on sex are criminals.

  27. 27 Rosie

    Dude do you have any idea what you’re saying? That’s just gross…I’m a teen and even I know it’s twisted. Maybe it’s my romanticized POV but sex can’t bring you true happiness-that’s only when you’re doing it with the one you love. Also, you’re basically suggesting a free-for-all since you did not mention commitment anywhere, only just doing it. Sure there shouldn’t be restrictions but that doesn’t mean we should just do it for the heck of it.
    How would you like it if your daughter had the same beliefs and was active when she was a tween?
    Besides that last comment of yours basically marked you as a pedophile, unless you’re not a legal adult in which case you’d just be an immature (and still somewhat creepy) boy.

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