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Why Some Korean Fans Are Upset By WINNER Member Nam Tae Hyun's Informal Language

By Adrienne Stanley | November 24, 2014 01:07 PM EST


Nam Tae Hyun of YG Entertainment’s boy band WINNER has issued an official apology to fans, following his use of informal language during a November 22 concert.

On November 22, Nam Tae Hyun performed along with his WINNER bandmates at the GS & Concert 2014 event, which was held at the Jamsil Arena in Seoul. The GS & Concert 2014 featured other artists in addition to WINNER including their label-mate Psy and girl groups Girl's Day and SISTAR. 

During the stage performance featuring WINNER, audience members reportedly continued to speak loudly as the group’s leader Kang Seung Yoon delivered his introduction. Nam Tae Hyun then shouted to the audience, “He is talking,” which stopped the chatter but was ill received due to his use of informal language. While this may seem insignificant from an international perspective, for Koreans, the use of informal speech (or banmal) in this situation is similar to someone shouting “be quiet” or “shut up” in English.

The audience quieted after being addressed by Nam Tae Hyun but subsequently took to social media after the concert to express their outtrage. One of the top comments on a TV Daily article about the incident (and translated by Netizen Buzz) illustrates the general sentiment of Korean fans. “It's not like all of his fans are younger than him," the commenter stated. "[He] shouldn't have spoken informally. Definitely rash of him.”

Other comments blamed Nam Tae Hyun's record label, YG Entertainment, for not teaching proper etiquette. "Does YG really cast kids without considering their morals and character?" read one post. "YG needs to teach them some manners," said another comment. "It hasn't even been that long since they debuted, tsk tsk tsk."

Some of the other comments were even more critical. "The nerve of him. Does he think his company can cover for anything he does?" said one of the harsher comments. "What a delinquent."  

Whether or not the noisy audience members were deserving of Nam Tae Hyun's words, for the Korean fans in attendance, the break in formal language sparked this controversy. Korean culture and language are tightly interwoven and words often carry much deeper meanings. Breaking from the cultural expectation of the utmost respect, particularly when addressing strangers or those older than yourself, can often times be deeply offensive. (For more information about polite speech in Korean, check out the Talk to Me in Korean podcast episode about banmal HERE.)

YG Entertainment and Nam Tae Hyun were swift in their response to the issue. Enews reported a statement from Nam Tae Hyun originally provided to Korean media outlet Newsen. “I apologize for the incident that happened on November 22 during GS & Concert 2014." He followed the apology with an explanation of his actions by stating, “It was something that I said in order to feel closer to the fans as I played with them on stage.”

Nam Tae Hyun also addressed the concerns of fans who thought it was a careless act by saying that he would be more careful in the future.

WINNER has amassed a large fan following since the formation of the group following their win on the 2013 competition show WIN: Who Is Next?

The group was the recipient of the Best New Artist award at the 2014 MelOn Music Awards and are leading in key categories for the 2014 Mnet Asian Music Awards.

Tagged :  winner, Nam Tae Hyun, GS & Concert 2014


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