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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  • j.kimchi

    Come on Koreabang, this is like 2 weeks old. Netizenbuzz has posted like 5 articles on this and has beat you to it

    • Not really in our interest to cover K-pop stories, so if that’s what you’re looking for then don’t rely on us! This only eventually trickled out because it had broader appeal than who’s dating who or which boring song got knocked off the top spot by which other boring song.

      • bonkerman

        It is kinda old news. I’m surprised koreabang did not do an article about the president’s visit sexual harassment scandal. It was everywhere for a while.

        • I know, that was a shame – we did actually have something drafted up that weekend, but then the story was developing so quickly we just didn’t have the resources to keep up with it and publish something more up to date. I was also in Washington D.C. at the time, but I promise I had nothing to do with it (I did at one point grab my own arse though, does that count?).

          We’re not a very big team and we all have day jobs – we do our best to keep up with what’s trending, but some weeks will inevitably be quieter than others depending on how busy we are ‘offline’.

          Patience people! We’re doing our best ^-^

          • bonkerman

            I know you guys are doing your best and I’m still coming to this site. Koreabang fighting!

          • This website is a great service you provide, so rather than criticise, let me say: Thank you! :)
            Even if I were inclined to criticise, I prefer this article over anything about the sexual harassment scandal, as my favourite articles are those that don’t get much/any press in the English-language media (like this one).

          • Sillian

            These topics involving a good amount of knowledge about netizen mechanics tend to completely escape the expat blogsphere while Korean netizens are all over it. You can notice the lack of comments here. xD

      • Joey

        Personally I am disappointed you did not grab this chance like Yoon Chang-jung and posted some more pictures, like the good ol’ Lee Hyori topics of old.

  • Your Sexy Cousin Rex

    Biggest news in Kpop history since the T-ara nipple incident.

  • January0000

    I love the URL for the main picture.


    • Sillian

      Lol how did you even see that?

  • daedae
  • Billbobaggens


  • commander

    Boys or girls groups is admittedlt notorious for their ignorance, and their attention is fixated to spruce up their appearances.

    The controversial remark druing a radio appearance by the member of girls group Secret is another example of their blissful ignorance, so much so that the stir surronding her words is unnecessary.

    Picking up the term democratization somewhere online and using it unware of the context and significance of that word prove yet again that she is not intelligent as circumspect use of words is one condition for a persistent popularity.

    Some might point to spreading online sites with malicious rumors and disparaging allegations as the source of some entertatining celebrities’ blunder.

    But more fundamental is that many entertatiners have given up education for what they think is more important: Money and fame.

    The result: people who are big fans are deeply disappointed at the words from their favorite stars, often saying, “That girl is the most beautiful whem she don’t say a word.

    The bottom line is that though mushrooming websites which constantly produce public-misleading rumors is one problem, the greater trouble is that some celebtrities have no judgement power to distinguish what is right and wrong, a side effect from neglected basic education for many would be stars.

    In South Korea, a cillege degree as well as a high school diploma is easily obtained for many rising teenage celebrities. Colleges give admission to them in a bid to promote universities’ awareness. High school, to which South Koreans are levally obliged to go, tend to award diplomas to celebrity students as long as they meet the basic requirement of minumum class attendence.

  • Shiny

    Good on her. Time to shut socialists, democrats and communists down.
    Democracy has been a terrible failure in the West and it must be eliminated.

    • mimo


  • Sean

    Funny enough, I agree with her, though probably not in a way she would understand. Democracy by its very nature does not tolerate individuality. In a pure democracy, since people have dissenting opinions, the majority gets to set the rules for everyone, thus all those who disagree are imprisoned or outcast.

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