Understanding the lure of ‘Flower Boys’

Successful Korean dramas like "Boys Over Flowers," "You're Beautiful," and more recently "Flower Boy Ramyun Shop" and "Me Too, Flower!" invest heavily on the lure of "flower boys," What exactly is a flower boy and why is this a key feature in the K-Pop formula?

The term "flower boys" have several meanings depending on the context of its use. The term is used to refer to a man who (1) looks like a woman, (2) acts like a woman, or (3) both. The charm of "flower boys" may be incomprehensible for men to understand but their appeal cannot be denied. Why do girls find "flower boys" attractive? I mean, "flower boys" do not exude the traditional machismo/testosterone-laden image of men. What is it about them that appeals to women? Let me try to shed some light as to why "flower boys" are so popular these days.

Flower Boy Looks

In this day and age, metrosexuals abound. The entertaining book "Dirty Korean" by Haewon Baek defined metrosexuals ("Kkonminam i da") in the Korean context as"flowerly handsome." Metrosexuals are men who take care of their physical appearance including habits that may be deemed as "feminine." These habits include having a daily beauty regimen, regular manicures, massages and the like. This idea of men keeping themselves physically attractive is no longer unheard of. In fact, some men are even more "high maintenance" than their female counterparts.

Popular "Flower Boys" including Jang Geun Suk and Kim Hyun Joong are known for their polished and clean looks. In fact, they are paid millions to endorse beauty products and hailed for their "soft feminine-like skin". These men are not ashamed to say that they use face masks, BB creams, essences and the like. No wonder their skin is smoother than many of us! Most women like their men clean shaven and smelling good. This is why "flower boys" are appealing to them. Who can resist the fresh look of a pretty "flower boy"?

Still, there are moments when "flower boys" go too far in the "looking like a woman" department. Whether it is deliberate or not, there are times when stars go overboard with their looks. One example is Jang Geun Suk who has, in many instances, stepped out wearing fashions that many believe are more appropriate for women. The actor has, in fact, gained the ire of many Korean men with his looks and career choices. His recent movie, "You're My Pet," was criticized by the Korean Men's Association as being degrading to men.

Flower Boy Acts

The term "flower boy" also refers to men who "act like women" specially in the context of doing an "aegyo" or a "cute act." In the land of K-Pop, the "aegyo" is a basic fan service where idol stars perform actions they may not necessarily be comfortable with. The master of "flower boy aegyo" is Super Junior's Kim Heechul. From the time he dressed up as a girl for Super Junior-T's "Rokuko," Kim Heechul has made a science of the "flower boy aegyo" act. He even has his own set of fans called the "Petals" who love his "Cinderella Heechul" act. Do not let his "guiles" fool you, however. Many fans know that the real Kim Heechul is as manly as they come.

Jo Kwon from idol group 2AM is also known for his "feminine antics." Even during his stint on the popular reality show "We Got Married," Jo Kwon's "softness" won him a lot of fans not just in Korea but outside Korea. Still, similar to Heechul, Jo Kwon is able to balance his "soft" act and still keep his "manly image". Jo Kwon can move from "soft and cute" to "idol-like and manly" in a heartbeat. It is a paradox but somehow in K-Pop land, it works.

So why do "flower boys" act like women? There is only one answer to this. Because their fans love it. I guess there is something about a handsome man trying to act like a woman which makes them even more endearing. Somehow, there is an inexplicable and irresistible urge that makes women want to pinch flower boys' cheeks every time they do their "cute acts". What is important here is to realize that these are acts meant to entertain.

Flower Boy Charms

Ok...ok..."flower boys" are pretty to look at and they are cute and entertaining. But, why are they so popular? The ultimate reason, I believe, is that "flower boys" represent certain qualities of a man women look for--a man unafraid to explore his soft side...his emotional side and admit that he is vain after all.

Other popular Korean flower boys include JYJ's Kim Jae Joong, Big Bang's G-Dragon, CNBLUE's Jung Yong Hwa, Super Junior, SHINee, B2ST, and the list goes on and on... Who are your favorite flower boys? Share your thoughts with us through our comment box.

Catherine Deen blogs for Yahoo! Philippines OMG! She lives, eats and breathes Korean music, cuisine, telenovelas, and pop culture. Follow her on Twitter @cathsdeen.