Kim Hyun Joong

Kim Hyun Joong, Promo (StarHallyu)

Kim Hyun Joong, Promo

Kim Hyun Joong, leader of the male K-pop group SS501, debuted as a solo artist in 2011, and has since produced an impressive array of concepts for his Korean and Japanese releases.

Because Kim rose to fame portraying “flower boy” characters in K-dramas such as Boys Over Flowers and Mischievous Kiss, many suggest his image reflects a desire to escape from modes of masculinity based on a “pretty boy” appearance.  Adrienne Stanley observes, “Newly released images of Kim Hyun Joong show how far the idol has come from his former flower boy image to become Shin Jung Tae for Inspiring Generation. Kim Hyun Joong displays heart stopping masculinity with hard cut muscles that attest to a grueling workout regimen.”  This terminology echoes Sun Jung’s suggestion that masculinities reflected by K-pop idols range from “flower boy” to “beastly:”  “Unlike their pre-existing Korean idol boy bands—e.g. SS501, TVXQ, SHINee, Super Junior—who practically emphasize their pretty boy (kkonminam) features, [other male groups like] 2PM, from the beginning, claims to be a tough, manly, and beast-like idol group” (164).

However, an examination of Kim’s concepts reveals a range of images that go beyond the extremes of “flower boy” and “beastly” masculinities. Sometimes, he exhibits a more sartorial mode of masculinity that reflects a consciousness of style.   He most often returns to the suit, which suggests a more refined mode of masculinity.  Cally Blackman calls the suit, which began as “an exclusively male garment,” “a key item in every fashionable man’s wardrobe. . . and has recently enjoyed a dramatic renaissance, thus continuing to keep alive the ancient art of tailoring, the equivalent of haute couture for men, an art that dates back to the fourteenth century.”  Kim’s concepts for Lucky (Korean, 2011; Japanese, 2012) and Tonight (2013) feature him in various suits.  Conversely, Kim will also opt for more rebellions images, as can be seen in the concepts for Round 3 (2013), where he takes on hip-hop styling (including tattoos) and HEAT (2012), where he uses a guitar as a prop for his rocker persona.  

Click on the thumnails in the exhibit to view larger images.