“Korean girls are darn good at dancing!” I couldn’t agree more to what Jessi said in the 6th episode of Street Woman Fighter aired on Mnet. Koreans are often said to be the people of drinking, singing and dancing. Even Chinese old books describe Koreans as music-loving good singers and dancers. But I have thought there are fewer people who love to come out onto dance stage than those who enjoy songs and drinks when having a party. And I’ve recently realized it was my prejudice. More video clips on dance challenges are coming up on YouTube these days; I am seeing more comments are posted to support the dancers rather than the singers in the clips of performances; more people are signing up for dance schools. I would say Korea is currently on the dance wave.
At the center of the K-dance craze stands Honey J. As the leader of Holy Bang, the champion team at the Street Woman Fighter, Honey J is wildly gaining attention as a legend of Korean girls’ hip-hop music. Her fans are now having ‘Honey J fever’ on social media, posting comments like ‘I’m searching and watching Honey J’s videos all day,’ ‘She is a person of shiny character, not to mention her dance,’ or ‘Please let me know how to marry Honey J.’ People copy the way she speaks and even wonder what she carries in her purse. Those who call themselves overly immersed in Street Woman Fighter point out two charms of Honey J. Charisma and cuteness. I think the two seemingly incompatible attractive qualities are the secrets for Honey J’s soaring popularity.
Honey J is charismatic because she is a superb dancer. She has made a significant contribution to bringing girls’ hip-hop, which has been outside of mainstream, to the center of street dance in Korea. People in the music and dance business agree that Honey J’s style is currently hot in the street dance of girls’ hip-hop. She was already an outstanding dancer in the field before, and appearing in Street Woman Fighter has helped her be known to the general public. Hwang Sang-hoon, choreographer and one of the judges in Street Woman Fighter describes 59her dance as “feminine melting and wild.” With her feminine and robust moves topped with controlled charisma, Honey J shows through her body how splendid women’s dance can be. She has also brought about the changes in thoughts about female dancers, who have been considered no more than a delight to the eye. Audiences are totally captivated by Honey J’s groove, not so much pretty or sexy as charismatic.
Then what is her cuteness? Her fans say she is cute in terms of her personalities. Unlike the charismatic dances on the stage, Honey J appears to pursue a natural and folksy style in daily lives. In her live broadcast on Instagram, she had friendly communication with the viewers while eating Ttokbokki, a common and popular Korean snack among general people. She was not different from ordinary Koreans who liked common snacks cooked in common ways. Some could have even doubted that it was the same person as the one on the stage because her image with plain snacks made a sharp contrast with her powerful and energetic dance on the stage. And it must be these contrasting images of her that attract the audiences. There is another video clip that reveals her unaffected personality. It is the so-called ‘a purse for going-home’ clip. Honey J was once seen carrying a purse on her shoulder in an interview with Street Woman Fighter. With the purse on her shoulder even during the interview, she looked like she had been on her way back home after work. Viewers posted humorous comments after watching this, like ‘Was Honey J caught for the interview when leaving her work?’ or ‘Her purse that shows her desperate desire to go home.’ In the interview, she was only talking about dances with the purse on her shoulder, not concerned of how she looked on the camera. Such an artless personality clicked the laugher button on the viewers.1
Her cool personality was also seen while preparing for the competition in Street Woman Fighter. Participants in such a competition are often expected to be full of swag and confidence. Honey J, however, was not trying to pretend to be confident but accepted the situation as it was. She was cool enough to accept even unreasonable evaluations of the judge. When her team Holy Bang was not lucky to get high scores in earlier episodes of the show, she was disappointed but accepted the result saying “I am not the judge but the one to be judged.” She is a humble person who knows that one’s efforts are not always rewarded by expected results. Unless one never fails to be lucky, s/he would have experienced disappointing situations where his or her hard work was not rewarded. If that happens again and again, one gets to lose faith in oneself and tries to meet the standards of others. Honey J was different. She did not give up being herself. For the Mega Crew Mission of Street Woman Fighter, Honey J’s team Holy Bang put on a characteristic performance. It chose to keep its original characteristics rather than to meet the public’s taste in order to win the competition. And the team made a dramatic reversal and won 1st position. Their choreography that seemed to be less popular was on the contrary found to be totally popular. The viewers were also moved by her victory, which resulted from her self-trust and head-on attempt even in uncertainties.
Heart-warming stories on Honey J are being talked about here and there. “I am not a good person all the time, but people appear to be seeing me one and I am a little concerned about it,“ said Honey J. General people know Honey J is not perfect. They know that she wobbles and is undecided sometimes but that she would make efforts to choose a better way whenever she has to. We are just her crew supporting her growth. I would like to wrap up with Lip J’s compliment for Honey J, “Splendid, splendid, splendid, you sis!”
1 It was later found out that Honey J carried her asthma inhaler in that purse.
Kim Seyeon is a media critic. She has B.A in Literature and Creative Writing at Dongguk University, and completed the Ph. D course in Korean Language and Literature. She published a novel collection Holiday Collection, and is currently teaching at Dharma College of Dongguk University
Translated by Ok Eurom
* 《Cultura》 2021 December (Vol. 90) *