The Korea Herald


What international hit ‘Baby Shark’ endured at home so far

The popular children’s song faced disputes over alleged sexism, politicization and copyright infringement

By Yim Hyun-su

Published : Sept. 4, 2018 - 14:07

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An upbeat version of “Baby Shark,” under the South Korean education brand Pinkfong, has attracted some 1.6 billion views on YouTube as of Tuesday, but the seemingly innocent children’s song faced its share of controversy.

Though the variations of the song have enjoyed success on the video platform, its dance version is by far the most watched.

The children’s song with a K-pop makeover became so popular it charted in the top 40 singles chart in the UK last week, joining the likes of Psy and BTS.

(Pinkfong's YouTube channel) (Pinkfong's YouTube channel)
But the song has faced criticism in South Korea where the Korean version of the song first gained popularity.

The Korean version of “Baby Shark” has a whole set of different lyrics. While the English version takes on a simpler form and merely goes through the shark family members, the Korean version adds adjectives after each member.

Mommy Shark is described as “pretty” while Daddy Shark is described as “strong.” Grandma Shark and Grandpa Shark are branded “kind” and “cool.”

Kyunghyang Shinmun, a local newspaper, published a cover story in January about the lyrics, questioning the song’s social implications and suggesting they reinforce sexist ideas.

The song was in the headlines in May after the conservative Liberty Korea Party used it for their campaign during the local elections in June.

The controversy prompted SmartStudy, the media start-up behind the children’s song and related franchise business, to threaten to take legal action against the Liberty Korea Party for copyright infringement.

(Pinkfong's YouTube channel) (Pinkfong's YouTube channel)
The conservative party argued “Baby Shark” is an old folk song for children and revealed an email showing approval from Johnny Only, who owns the copyright of the 2012 version of the song.

According to local media outlet enews24, SmartStudy, which runs Pinkfong channel on YouTube, is now locked in a copyright suit with Johnny Only, who filed a claim at the Seoul Central District Court in June, saying the company’s version was too similar to his version.

By Yim Hyun-su (