Mini Note #3: Oh, the humanity!

Featuring Lee Hae-in and KISS OF LIFE, and Han So-hee

Yesterday, I wrote a pretty grim newsletter about the dehumanization of female K-pop stars as sexual objects, and was going to include in my What I’m Watching section a video I had just seen that struck me. But I decided I wanted to talk about it a little more in-depth, so now we get my third mini note.

Lee Hae-in, a K-pop trainee turned creative director, shared a video introducing new girl group KISS OF LIFE. The response to that group and their music are both pretty good so far, so I was intrigued enough to watch the video and get Lee’s perspective, as someone who was pursuing the K-pop dream and is now crafting it for others.

I ended up being surprised by a single offhand moment, where she recalls how she sold member Natty on joining the company behind KISS OF LIFE, S2 Entertainment.

A theme throughout many Notes on K-pop since I launched this newsletter earlier this year has, for better or worse, been discussing the ills of the industry and current states of change to ostensibly create a more equitable, humane environment.

Lee emphasizing “And our company likes people! It’s humane” to a potential member shouldn’t have made me pause and take a screenshot, but we live in a Dark Timeline where we all are well aware that most, if not all, companies do not truly care about people, they care about profits. Toxic workplaces are more likely than not, and that’s just the feeling many people have.

One would think this would be different in companies dedicated to the arts, the representation of the human spirit in different mediums, but nah. So it was kind of funny, in a grim way, that Lee especially emphasized that their company is different from the get go. She could have just not said it, but her intent was so intense she had to let Natty, and all of us, know.

Screenshot of Lee Ha-in smiling, recalling telling Natty "And our company likes people! It's humane" with subtitles in Korean and English

Because Lee is a representative of the company, I would hope the casual viewer and/or fan watching this would recognize there’s an aspect of image building going on here. But it is kinda notable to emphasize this as a selling point, even from a PR perspective, let alone with the hopefully earnest intent it’s implied as: "This is a good company to work at; please trust us. You won’t be hurt here like at others in the entertainment world.”

In the video, Lee discusses what each member brings to the table, both as humans and performers, and it’s an engaging introduction to the group to hear both some of their positives and (PR-appropriate) negatives shared. Based on this, it sounds like her relationship at least with the members are a good one, and I’m excited to see where KISS OF LIFE goes from here, and hope their company lives up to the reputation Lee shares here.

Kind of related in general to how we talk about celebrities and humanity, I want to flag this clip of Han So-hee emphasizing that celebrity weight standards are not healthy, and she only is maintaining her current weight due to this being her job.
Click through to watch her

If we lived in a perfect world, this would not be the case, but as we don’t, I think it’s very admirable that she emphasizes this. The same way some people are skilled to be doctors and others aren’t, to Han’s perspective if she wants to be an actor she has to maintain a low weight. I know they’re not the same, and in an ideal world nobody would ever have to watch what they eat or be concerned about what they look like, but as we do not, I appreciate outright acknowledgement of it.