For most K-Pop fans, having a member as the “visual” has been around forever. However, how did it come to be that a specific member ends up as the visual of the group?
LOONA 1/3 (Vivi, Hyunjin, Heejin, Haseul).
First, let’s define what a visual is. The visual member is the member who fits Korea’s beauty standards the most and is the member who usually garners attention because of their appearance. Popular visuals nowadays include ASTRO‘s Cha Eunwoo and TWICE‘s Tzuyu.
Visuals don’t necessarily have to be the best-looking member of the group; after all, beauty is subjective. However, they are the ones who meet Korea’s standards and if they have specific features. For example, the most common features of visuals are having a small face, a v-shaped jaw, double eyelids, and a high nose bridge. The visual appeals to the Korean public the most and is considered the most classic beauty within the group.
The visual position may seem useless at first — after all, it just sounds as if they are there to look pretty — but their role in the group could be huge. They can be the ones who draw in attention to the group and are usually the ones who receive love calls for dramas and CFs. Sometimes they’ll get go viral just for being good-looking! An example of this is Suzy.
But how did this start? Many believe that the visual position became common in K-Pop groups after they saw the success of Yoona from Girls’ Generation (SNSD). When Girls’ Generation first debuted in 2007, Yoona was the member who was the most popular thanks to her outstanding appearance.
During Girls’ Generation’s debut days, they were still rising and weren’t the powerhouse they are now, but Yoona was definitely the most well-known member. She was getting many offers for CFs because her looks appealed to the general public. This got people interested not only in Yoona, but in Girls’ Generation.
In 2008, Yoona was cast as the lead in the drama You are My Destiny. It was extremely popular with the Korean public and even reached 40% viewership ratings.
This skyrocketed Yoona’s career. Though her acting skills weren’t refined then, her visuals created buzz and helped her get exposure. This, paired with how fellow Girls’ Generation member Taeyeon was singing OSTs for dramas, helped Girls’ Generation.
In early 2009, Girls’ Generation released “Gee”. Thanks to the popularity Yoona had gathered and how addictive and catchy the song was, the song was an instant success. This solidified Girls’ Generation as the Nation’s Girl Group.
Yoona represents what a visual can do for a group. It can help a group gain traction and become popular. After this, the visual member became more prominent in K-Pop groups. In the end, we have Yoona to thank for the visual position in K-Pop!
But let’s remember, being the visual member does not make them any less talented because they are known for their looks; after all, to be an idol, you must have the talent for it. And just because other members aren’t coined as the visual member does not make them not beautiful! Beauty is subjective and is up to you to decided who you think is the most beautiful for you within the group.