K-pop teens NewJeans under fire for suggestive lyrics, but agency insists they are 'wholesome'
K-pop girl group NewJeans, which burst onto the scene in July, have been under fire for the lyrics of their song Cookie.
An English-to-Korean translator, Mr Kim Tae-hoon, called out the group's management agency, Ador, a subsidiary of entertainment giant Hybe Corporation, for the inappropriate sexual connotations in the song performed by a group with minors.
The ages of the five members - Hyein, Haerin, Danielle, Hanni and Minji - range from 14 to 18.
Mr Kim said in a YouTube video, which was translated from Korean by entertainment portal Soompi: "Many people have been debating furiously over the meaning of the word 'cookie' in this song. But I am going to say it straight out. Here, 'cookie' represents the female genitals. This is just fact. Those of you who argue that this is not true, you are blinding only yourself."
He added that while lyrics with sexual connotations were not uncommon, pointing to fellow K-pop girl group Blackpink's song Ice Cream, the difference was that Blackpink's members are all adults.
Among the Korean lyrics of Cookie, which has been rising on the music charts since its release this month, are English lines such as "Keep looking at my cookie", "If you want it, you can get it, if you want it" and "I wanna see you taste it. Sugar, got sugar, bet you want some".
In a lengthy statement released by Ador on Saturday (Aug 27), the agency refuted the claim, stressing that its vision for the group was to make "original and wholesome music".
It stated that it had consulted English professors, professional interpreters, translators and native speakers after the issue arose, writing: "They added that the word 'cookie' is also not a commonly used slang term for anything sexual and therefore not a problematic word itself, but that any listener could take the word to mean something different depending on their personal experience and exposure to certain slang meanings."
The statement also addressed speculation that the allegedly misogynistic lyrics were written by a man.
The agency said the lyrics were written by a South Korean woman and a Swedish woman, both native English speakers. The song was translated by a bilingual South Korean woman.
"It's possible that this long explanation would have no sway over people who have already made up their minds about the issue," it said. "We believe the most important factor when it comes to interpretation is context. As always, context is key."