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Should lyrics be alcohol-free for youth?

2011/08/23 | 182 views |  | Permalink | Source

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By Kim Tae-jong

Fresh public debates have been ignited over songs labeled by censors as "harmful to youth" due to the mention of alcohol-related phrases in the lyrics.

Some popular K-pop songs like "Day When It Rains" by boy band Beast and "You Can Eat Well" by the male duo Homme have been banned for those under 19 by the Youth Protection Committee (YPC) under the Ministry of Gender Equality & Family for containing lyrics about alcohol.

Among the lyrics of "Day When It Rains" is the line, "I should stop drinking as I'm drunk". The song "You Can Eat Well" contains the lines",I'll drink heavily with my friends to forget everything" and "Blub, blub, blub after I drank heavily yesterday".

The YPC monitors all newly released albums and rates songs according to their use of profane language, references to drugs or sexual references.

Last year, 490 songs were labeled as detrimental to youth. In the first half of this year, 310 songs have already received the rating.

In its latest rating decision, the YPC slapped the "harmful to youth" ruling on popular boy band 2PM's song "Hands Up" on Sunday.

In protest of the YPC's adoption of tougher rules on song ratings, some netizens have launched an online campaign to collect signatures to abolish the "19-year-old ban" rating system.

Albums with the rating have a cover sticker prohibiting its sale to those under 19, and labeled songs are not allowed to be broadcast on television or radio between 1 p.m. and 10 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. on weekends.

Such decisions are made by a nine-member committee consisting of journalists, civic group members, professionals in the music industry and album critics. The YPC refuses to make public the list of committee members.

Court ruling on Thursday

In response music fans and experts in the music industry claim the labeling is conducted in an arbitrary manner and argue that it is almost impossible to fairly review 30,000 songs annually.

SM Entertainment, the agency representing Beast, has filed a suit in an administrative court to nullify the "harmful to youth" rating, with the ruling scheduled for Thursday.

Under mounting criticism, the ministry held a discussion session last week that included professors, songwriters and youth consultants.

Professor Park Byung-sik from Dongguk University said the labeling is necessary because lyrics can have a great influence on the young, who listen to music repeatedly.

"One of the reasons young people are now more violent than in the past is because of the music they listen to, and that's why other countries also have a reviewing committee", he said.

But given the claims that the labeling is too arbitrary here, he suggested more detailed guidelines are necessary to properly monitor songs and regulate harmful music.

Songwriter Yoo Yoo-jin said the current monitoring and labeling system is outdated and often makes false accusations.

"Sometimes the YPC's decision discourages people from the music industry as they are labeled creators of harmful content and isolates them from possible fans", Yoo said. "It's not right to label music as harmful just because lyrics have such key words as ' or 'drinking'."

He admitted the necessity of monitoring songs by the YPC but said that additional measures are required.

"I think the current committee should maintain its job, but a second round of reviews is necessary by ordinary people such as parents and teachers. I think their opinions should also be reflected", Yoo said.

Kim Se-joong, from the National Institute of the Korean Language, suggested that a volunteer monitoring body comprising industry professionals could be a good alternative.

In her defense, Lee Young-hee, a member of the YPC, said strict monitoring is necessary as some lyrics can encourage young people to drink or give the impression that drinking can be a solution to any problem.

"I think young people can be easily influenced by what they listen to. They may justify the drinking or violence described in lyrics in their favorite songs", she said.

After the discussion session, the ministry said it plans to hold more discussion sessions and come up with supplementary measures to current labeling by the end of this year.

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