The song Adult Ceremony is currently known as a rite of passage for K-Pop idols. Most female idols perform the song when they turn 20, the legal age in Korea. The song is popular as a special stage, usually at end-of-year ceremonies or solo concerts.
The 96-line, consisting of Red Velvet‘s Joy, Apink‘s Hayoung, and AOA‘s Chanmi, once performed the song as a special collaboration.
TWICE‘s Momo, Nayeon, Mina, and Sana also performed it as a treat for fans.
But contrary to its popular state now, the song once ruined the original singer’s career. Park Jiyoon sang the song in 2000 when she was only 18 years old internationally. This may be a bit confusing due to the age system in South Korea. Park Jiyoon was born on January 3, 1982. Following South Korea’s age system, she would’ve been 19 years old in 2000, but as her birthday is considered a “ppareun” (born before the Lunar New Year), another year was tacked on. So, she was considered 20 years old when the song was released, which is the legal age in Korea.
In an interview in 2012, she revealed that she had not expected the song to be so racy. The song helped her gain the title of a “sexy singer.” The lyrics appear innocuous, but the innuendo hints at a woman who just turned 20, singing to her lover and giving him permission for consummation.
I’m not a young girl anymore. Don’t hesitate anymore. You and I have both waited for this day. Give me 20 roses so I can feel your love. I’ll close my eyes as I wait for you. I want to give you permission.
— “Adult Ceremony” lyrics
While the song gave her immense popularity, it also came with many rumors about her and her personal life. In an interview with Interview365 the same year, she claimed that the rumors made her “not want to live.” In an interview on Radio Star in 2013, she admitted that she had not been forced to sing it. However, she did not fully understand what the song implied.
Back then, I didn’t have any understanding about the song. I didn’t think it would be sexual, and I didn’t comprehend even the wind sounds that many interpret as moaning at the song’s beginning.
— Park Jiyoon
She also revealed in 2012 that she was too embarrassed to face her parents after the song was used as a “bad example” at their church. As teens receive influence from the media, the church wanted to educate their youth on proper behavior.
The church was educating the youth on the bad influences that can come from pop culture and media. ‘Adult Ceremony’ was used as a bad example. My parents were there so I felt very embarrassed that the video came out.
— Park Jiyoon
As Park Jiyoon was raised in a highly religious family, she wanted to keep a pure image rather than a sexy one. The rumors about her after the song and her image change tortured her rather badly. In Strong Heart, she shared how she hated the sexy image that the company created for her and how it caused her relationship with her family to be strained.
Although I gained much popularity, personally, it was also a time when I was very hurt. Due to the sexy image, many weird rumors came out and I also received a lot of malicious comments. Such as one where I had a secret relationship with a high-ranking executive.
— Park Jiyoon
Eventually, she left her company, JYP Entertainment, in 2003 and took an extended break of 6 years from the music industry. She claimed that she left as she felt restricted by the company regarding the creative direction she wanted to take. The years after “Adult Ceremony” were painful to her, but she healed over the years.
In a more recent triumph, she featured on BTS RM‘s “No.2” from his solo album, INDIGO. Her unique vocal color impressed many fans.