The KAIST Art and Music Festival (KAMF) signals the arrival of spring every year with arts, music, and food trucks lining the campus. Unfortunately, the planning of this year’s festival was interrupted by a controversy regarding the casting of THORNAPPLE — an indie rock band that has been caught up in a heated controversy regarding comments made by the vocalist Sung Hyun Yoon.
In 2015, a friend of Yoon wrote a post on Facebook, disclosing the misogynistic remarks the vocalist made in the past such as, “I need to leave this country that has a female president,” and “I hate listening to music that smells like uterus.” Yoon admitted that he had made these comments in the past, but asserted that it was not his intention to degrade women with the word “uterus”. Instead, he explained that “[he] grew up in a single-mother family, and her existence was as important as God’s was to [him]. [He] was in constant fear that without her, [he] would be left with nothing … to [him], usage of the term “uterus” entails fear of the maternal instinct.” Yoon mentioned how listening to music sung by women brought back the past trauma and fears of his mother leaving and being left alone. Despite Yoon’s attempts to clarify his past comments, the post caused huge backlash from the public.
This controversy spread to KAIST when the Undergraduate Student Council (USC) released the stage lineup for KAMF, which included THORNAPPLE. The announcement led to open criticisms from numerous organizations — KAIST Feminism Association MAGO, KAIST Graduate School of Culture Technology’s Human Rights Culture Planning Committee Red Bricks, KAIST LGBT Club EQUEL, and the KAIST Student and Minority Human Rights Committee — opposing the decision to invite THORNAPPLE to the festival.
The statement released by MAGO asserted that regardless of Yoon’s intentions, “music that smells like uterus” was a misogynistic comment and considering his other remarks about wanting to leave a country led by a female president, it was hard to believe that these comments did not display his hatred of women. The statement also mentioned how the issue was not limited to Yoon; in 2015, the band’s bassist Jae-hyun Shim uploaded a post on his blog that included remarks such as, “It seems as though young people nowadays easily accept homosexuality, and that is a serious problem … That open mind is going to open the door to hell soon.”
Following the controversy of the casting, the USC posted an apology on the KAMF Facebook page: “In the process of casting artists for KAMF, there was a lack of prior research and proper discussion … The decision to invite THORNAPPLE, regardless of proper apologies for the controversial comments from THORNAPPLE, was not a suitable decision from the USC and the Central Executive Committee. We sincerely apologize to anyone who feels as though their voice has been ignored.” However, despite its regret, the USC also announced that the casting could not be changed due to the difficulty with adjusting concert schedules and the cancellation charge stated in the contract.
However, on March 28, the USC announced that the casting for THORNAPPLE had been retracted; the THORNAPPLE agency had requested to discuss the band’s participation in the festival, as it decided that it was “not right to perform at KAMF if even one participant of the university festival felt uncomfortable with THORNAPPLE’s participation”.