It was a big weekend for Blackpink. The K-pop group’s first full-length album The Album has been ruling music charts since it dropped on Friday. But the reception hasn’t been all positive, with its song “Lovesick Girls” gaining critics from an unexpected group. In South Korea, some healthcare workers are now slamming the song’s music video for “sexualizing” nurses.
“YG Entertainment [the company that manages Blackpink] introduced nurses as sexual objects,” the Korean Health and Medical Workers’ Union (KHMU) said in a statement posted on their official webpage on Monday. “Nurses are still subjected to unfair treatment and sexual assault. The more this image of nurses is repeated, the worse the situation becomes.”
The scene in question has Blackpink member Jennie wearing a nurse outfit and red high heels. The KHMU said that this sexualizes the nurse uniform and is far from how nurses dress in reality, urging for more respect for healthcare workers.
Some agreed with the healthcare workers union, while others said that there was nothing wrong with the scene. Some netizens argue that the scene is only “sexualized” if a viewer chooses to see it that way.
One tweet said that there is “literally no revealing parts” and that they “used this outfit as a symbolism.”
Another said that “Sexualised outfits of female professions are not welcomed at all.”
YG Entertainment initially defended the music video.
“The scene of a nurse and a patient in the music video for ‘Lovesick Girls’ reflected the song lyrics ‘No doctor could help when I'm lovesick',” YG said in a statement sent to the media on Tuesday. “Each scene had no intention of anything more than expressing music.”
"We would like to ask you all to see music videos as independent art genres," YG added.
However, YG later announced in another statement on Wednesday that they would “delete all the scenes of nurse uniforms in the ‘Lovesick Girls’ music video and upload the edited video in the earliest time possible.”
“Since we didn't intend to deliver a particular message [through the scenes], we didn't expect to have this controversy. We will take this opportunity to deepen our awareness while feeling heavy responsibility,” the statement reads.
“We deeply apologize to the nurses who felt uncomfortable. And once again, we sincerely express our respect for all medical staff who are striving for the health of the people.”
A 2017 study by the Korean Journal of Women Health Nursing reported that 50.8 percent of nursing students they surveyed were survivors of sexual harassment. According to the study, the most common form is physical harassment, followed by verbal, visual, and gender-role related sexual harassment.
“‘Blocking the way’ and ‘Brushing one's body on purpose’ were the most common behaviours,” the study reported.
The discussion surrounding Blackpink’s “Lovesick Girls” is similar to an issue from 2008, when South Korean singer Lee Hyo-ri was criticized for wearing a nurse outfit with a low neckline in a teaser video for the song “U-Go-Girl.” One netizen even went as far as starting an online petition for Hyori to refilm the music video. The scenes of the artist in a nurse outfit were eventually edited out of the official video.