Popstar Uses ‘Democratisation’ Slang, Causes Controversy


With the anniversary of Gwangju massacre a.k.a. Gwangju Democratisation Movement on the 18th of May, 1980, the gaffe by Jeon Hyosung of girl group Secret on a live radio program caused instant controversy as she used the term ‘democratisation’ in a negative light, for which Ilbe netizens have notoriously been known.

Many online communities reacted strongly. The Facebook page of underwear company ‘Yes’ using her as a model was initially flooded with critical comments. On the other hand, stigmatized online community Ilbe instantly elected her to be one of the conservative goddesses in unanimity and showed their support by mass-purchasing Secret’s singles, albums and other merchandises, temporarily shooting their new release to the top of the music charts in Korea.

Netizens tried to figure out whether she was indeed influenced by Ilbe. However, she denied any relation to Ilbe and apologized on her Twitter account. She was spotted using Internet communities such as DC Inside and MLB Park before. Many netizens speculate that she might have picked it up from DC Inside.


A sea of posts on Ilbe showing proof of purchase of Secret’s songs.

Hyosung-we -dont- democratize

An image of Jeon Hyosung posted on Ilbe.
‘We do not democratise.’

From Sports Kyunghyang:


Jeon Hyosung misuses the term ‘democratisation’ – ‘used without understanding what it means’ – an unconvincing excuse

Secret Jeon Hyosung’s agency TS Entertainment tried to put out the media firestorm after she has set abuzz the Korean Internet with her radio gaffe about the word ‘democratisation’.

Invited on the SBS radio program called ‘Choi Hwajung’s Power Time’, Jeon Hyosung said ‘We respect each other’s individuality so we do not democratise [ourselves]’. The term ‘democratisation’ is a term of much abuse on Ilbe to indicate ‘lowest common denominator’ or ‘uniformity’. Her comment spread rapidly over the internet causing instant firestorm.

Her agency TS Entertainment tried to quell the controversy by explaining that she was unaware of ‘the misuse by a certain website’. Another entertainment media outlet ReviewStar added the agency explained what she really tried to mean was that her team is ‘democratic’ because it respects everyone’s individuality but she ended up using the word incorrectly. Despite the effort to minimize the public relations damage, netziens show no sign of relenting. Her agency’s excuse, it is widely thought, is much to blame for the spread of the news.

A Twitter user ‘elga’ chided ‘it’s not so important whether she uses Ilbe or not – what is shown is that she thinks ‘democratisation’ in a negative light’, pointing out that her agency missed the point as to why the netizens are upset.

One netizen from Ruliweb chimed in with the following comment: ”democratisation’ is a word with positive usage and meaning but Ilbe distorted it in such a way as to carry negative connotations’, adding that ‘she deserves all the thrashing’. A reporter from SBS’s ‘Hyunjang 21’ also criticized her on Twitter, saying ‘Our program did extensive coverage about Ilbe…People really do not seem to study history these days. I’m concerned.’ Other similar opinions have been widely expressed, particularly with regards to the Gwangju massacre anniversary.

Comments from Naver:


One mistake can knock you out…… Did you not learn anything from your neighbor? [referring to T-ara]


Han Sunhwa [another group member] does not use the words she doesn’t understand because she’s dumb. What’s up with you, Hyosung?


Lying through your teeth. We all know you are an Ilbe bug. Pretending to not know the meaning of democratisation when you are 25. WTF ke ke ke ke


A group that respects individuality does not ‘democratise’? How is this NOT used in a negative way? Secret is an undemocratic group then?


Hyosung used the Ilbe speech in that post on DC which was proven to be written by her indeed, ke ke ke ke. ‘It’s been a while and how come there are many people who are fans of multiple groups?’ [with a cheeky ending from Gyeongsang dialect] She really said so, ke ke ke ke.


Hyosung, what was that ‘Seun-sang’ comment on DC? You are an Ilbe regular. You guys are finished, too.


This is why Infinite Challenge does history special -_-


Lying that she did not know ^_^


Looks very much like she knew exactly what she meant just as the bugs use the word.


If she had just attended her middle school properly, she’d have known the meaning.


They will be like T-ara. Well done.


Living in a democratic country and saying democratisation in a negative way, how sad is that? How dumb you must be to not know the meaning of it? Huh?


If you do not know the meaning of a word, don’t use it. Secret is not a one-person group, not your own thing. You are hurting your group as a whole. Be a positive influence on your group, not a liability –… Think over what you’ve done.


Are you learning it well? What you go through now is ‘democratisation’.


That you didn’t know is an excuse?


How dare you bring up Ilbe, ke ke


Such a pity. They were in the middle of enjoying their popularity…


This is why I can’t like celebrities just for their looks. Do you think it is only her? Many idols might be similar.


The birth of our first Ilbe idol?


I didn’t even know ‘democratisation’ could be used in such opposite way before this incident. The agency’s explanation doesn’t really make sense. She said ‘we do NOT democratise’. It doesn’t seem like a simple case of bad word choice. I thought she was a good girl. I’m surprised.

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