‘Nature of Man’ or N.O.M as they are more commonly known are a 4 member, all male K-Pop group that debuted with their first single ‘A Guys’ back in August of this year. When considering the plethora of K-Pop rookies coming out seemingly every month, it might not surprise you if you missed their promotional period. It might surprise you when you learn more about them though, because their concept is very unusual – often dubbed ‘3rd sexuality’, but perhaps better known to you and I as homosexuality.
Even in the 21st century, homosexuality is not accepted within many societies and, much like the issue of racism, homophobia is and probably always will be present in some form or another within this world. South Korea’s overall attitude towards homosexuality is not very open and accepting, with only one actor – Hong Suk Chun – coming out openly as gay. Now, I am not trying to draw binary opposites by saying: “All of South Korea is homophobic and the UK is not!”, that would be ridiculous! However, speaking on a very general level of course, South Korea has quite a long way to go in terms on acceptance of both male and female homosexuality and Suk Chun’s apparent struggles since coming out is testament of this.
The very fact that I completely missed N.O.M’s debut and promotions, that I only find out about them through a fellow UKP staff and that it seems quite hard to locate substantial coverage of the group also speaks volumes.
There are also some problems that arise for me when I also consider the group themselves. Their concept is highly homo-erotic in nature and features that stereotypical sexualisation of male homosexuality with all the leather, caps and mini-jackets. Many people have come to the conclusion that the members themselves are homosexual, but that is irrelevant to me. What I can see in their image however, is the gross commodification of male homosexuality. I have a few gay friends and I can empathise with their frustration at the pressure they feel to live up to the media’s portrayal of homosexuality and I cannot help but feel that N.O.M are perpetuating this, and considering how hard it must be to get noticed on the K-Pop scene, the cynical side of me sees the producers of N.O.M rubbing their hands together in glee.
Then again, this concept has clearly not been all that successful when confronted with obstacle of using the South Korean media to promote it. This group has basically faced a shutdown in terms of media platforms made available to them precisely because of their controversial image. It makes me feel that my prior cynicism is misplaced, surely they would have known the adverse reaction they were opening themselves up to by taking on this position? Perhaps they are using this concept for more genuine reasons than to simply shock and gain attention?
The fellow staff member that brought this group to my attention suggested the idea that their concept partly existed to parody the homosexual undertones and homo-eroticism that is already present in the world of K-Pop. The area of ‘fanservice’ instantly comes to mind here, where idols of the same-sex will often engage in intimate ‘skinship’ to the delight of many fans and often entertain the ‘shippers’ of many same-sex idol couples created through fans’ slash-fiction writing. There are also many occasions where games in variety shows will encourage idol members to connect their bodies and lips (through paper), the results are often passed off as comedic accidents, but the very fact that these groups are participating in such games has a latent homo-erotic vibe to it.
Whether the intentions of N.O.M and their producers and pure or not, this is a representation of homosexuality in South Korea and, whether or not I agree with the nature of these representations, I think it is much-needed in a country where only one celebrity has come forward to express his homosexuality. Even though N.O.M’s concept may perpetuate hyper-sexualised stereotypes of homosexuality, I hope it gives the homosexual men and women of South Korea the strength to be happy in themselves and the knowledge that they are not alone. I sense that, much like in Britain, the younger generations are often more accepting of homosexuality than the older generations. Perhaps the passing of time and the presence of public figures such as Suk Chun and N.O.M will increase the acceptance of sexualities other than the heterosexual in South Korea.
Source: UnitedKPop, NOMEntLive on YouTube