(We Are) Too Beautiful to Say Nothing
Video Playlist
by Yo-E Ryou

This selection of K-Pop music videos between 1999-2021 is her ongoing effort to be heard. Write yourself. Our bodies must be heard. 

She tried to say something. But they told her: You are too beautiful to say anything. What she wanted to say was too uncomfortable, perhaps too critical, or too different for them. Instead, she was told to smile. 

She was born in Seoul. Korea, where she grew up, was still deeply rooted in patriarchal traditions. When she was born, her grandfather named her after a son’s name, so she could remain in the family tree. Her mother felt bittersweet. Her country had a strongly collectivist culture. She was expected to look the same as everyone else. She internalised the social norms. She wore the same clothes. She wore the same make-up. She felt the social pressures. But she quickly learned to adapt to them. She learned to introduce herself by her age before her name. She went to school before sunrise and came home at midnight, just like everyone else. She read the same books. She repeated the same words without understanding their meaning. She memorised numbers, answers, names. She earned the highest scores, and she learned to stay silent. She worked hard without having time to feel. She was asked to act cute. She was expected to look younger than her age. She became a polite woman. She was told it was time for her to get married. She gained the same eyes, the same hair, the same body, and the same dreams. 

She tried to say something again. She didn’t know where to begin. She needed more time. But she was told she was already late. There was always something she had to do. She was pressured to run faster and faster. They never gave her time to find out what she actually wanted to say. 

Meanwhile, her government carefully planned K-pop to wield its soft power through controlling images rather than brute force. It shaped the golden formula which allowed it to produce consistent K-pop cultural products. K-pop rapidly became popular across the globe. They wanted her to follow this formula too and fit in with the ideal ‘idol’ image. It was more important to ensure they maintained the power they had gained than to listen to what she was trying to say. 

She wanted to belong to the world. She followed the formula to fit in with what they wanted her to be. She waited for casting calls. She waited and waited. She finally gained power that lasted for a few minutes. She came back. She followed the next formula. She waited again. But one day, she couldn’t breathe anymore. She couldn’t find the cure. She couldn’t go on. When she finally woke up and opened her eyes, she saw a reflection of herself that she didn’t recognise. She had been drowning inside the patriarchal world. What did it mean to her to ‘be’ and ‘belong’?

She experiences the pain and joy of speaking up for the first time, one word at a time. Her heart is racing, her words are slipping away, yet now she knows. She is too beautiful to say nothing. Her real voice is finally rising to the surface.

She is the same; the same, but different. Above the surface, now she sees herself and the capitalist world. She continues to sing. She continues to dance. She continues to write. She re-learns how to breathe. She needs solidarity, no more competition, no more comparisons. She receives what she needs. We need more women like her. We need different women like you. There is no one like you, no one like me. We are all different. We are all special as we are. We are too beautiful to say nothing.

Pretty (2017)
By Idol School
Crazy (2012)
By Lee Jung Hyun
SAM SAM (2019)
What We Drew (2020)
By Yaeji
Maria (2020)
By HwaSa
Yellow (2019)
Who Dat B (2020)
By Jessi
Wa (1999)
By Lee Jung Hyun
Quince Tree (2021)
By Yozoh
MAGO (2021)
Yo-E Ryou
The final frontier: How can dance music exist in a digital space? - Fact Magazine
by Lewis Gordon