Even for those who do not follow J-Pop groups, the name AKB48 is likely familiar to you.
The massive Japanese group and its sister units operate on the concept of “idols you can meet”—singers and dancers who perform shows at their own theaters every week and hold regular events where fans can meet the members.
In 2021, NMB48, one of AKB48’s sister groups, announced its first-ever Korean member, a woman named Lee Siyeon.
She gained a lot of attention then, racking up more than 12,000 followers on her Twitter account within three days of her addition to the group.
Two years later, she has attracted attention again but garnered mixed reactions from Korean netizens after the images from her gravure photoshoot were shared online.
In the Japanese idol industry, female celebrities like Lee often work as female models, or gravure models, in photoshoots that are often believed to be focused towards male audiences. The shoots are usually done to help female idols launch their careers and gain popularity.
Lee Siyeon first shared photos from her shoot on her Twitter account, linking to the edition of Weekly Playboy she would appear in.
— 李 始燕 (イ シヨン)【NMB48】🍩 (@siyo_min) May 8, 2023
Siyeon also talked about the photo shoot during a live stream directed toward her Korean supporters, saying she didn’t “want to worry all of you” and promising she was working hard to get more popular.
I have something to say. Sorry for speaking only in Korean. Korean culture is different so it’s rare for Koreans to shoot this type of magazine. I’m very thankful to everyone that was worried for me. Whenever you worry about me I think, ‘charity begins at home’. I don’t want to worry all of you and I know a lot of female and younger fans are worried. There are oppa fans to but they really like it haha. but I am working hard to get become more popular and reach you all.
— Lee Jiyeon
An online post on a Korean forum shared images from the magazine, showing Lee Siyeon in the same swimsuits and lingerie outfits but in poses more suggestive than the behind-the-scenes shots she shared.
Netizens had mixed feelings about the shoot, wondering why these gravure shoots still occur.
- “There are a lot of gravure shoots that aren’t lingerie these days..but I guess this doesn’t apply to female idols…”
- “I don’t see the difference between this and idols shooting for MAXIM magazine…”
- “When I saw Japanese people shoot these types of photos, I just thought why do people like these things…but lingerie shoots actually have a purpose for marketing..but gravure isn’t for marketing…I’m not trying to bash the idol…just feel strange about it.
- “What kind of sexualization is this?”
- “Are there any male idols that have done this type of photoshoot to become more popular? I’m curious to see if this only applies to female idols.”
- “Does that look like just a swimsuit photoshoot to you? All the poses and angles have a purpose…Although its her choice to shoot it…fans have the right to be disappointed or sad about this type of photoshoot…why are you trying to shut their mouths?”
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