With its catchy beats, timed dances, and positive lyrics, mainstream K-pop has exploded beyond South Korean radio stations and reached an international audience. From PSY’s 2012 song “Gangnam Style,” which won the title of the first video with 1 billion views on YouTube, to BTS’s rise in breaking music records, Korean pop (K-Pop) music is growing in popularity and is recognized throughout. the world. Yet beneath the glitz and glamor of these “idols” lies a downside of unsavory truths that we often overlook.
Pressure on public image
Scandals and arguments have flooded the headlines of major news sources ranging from drug addiction to suicide, but the root of the problem lies in South Korea’s incredibly competitive society. In the cosmetic surgery capital of the world, the pressure to adhere to South Korean beauty standards weighs heavily on the well-being of idols.
In 2017, four-girl group Six Bomb spent $ 90,000 on “almost any type of surgery that can be performed on one face” in a single clip. “I wanted to see my photo on the screen and not get confused,” said Soa, the little leader of the 101-pound group.
Drastic weight loss is also not uncommon. Jimin, the 134-pound singer and lead dancer for BTS, struggled to meet K-pop’s beauty standards. They called him chubby and he started starving from extreme diets. On the TV show “Take Care of My Refrigerator”, he revealed, “I was on a diet that left me with one meal for 10 days.” IU, a successful solo singer who has topped the Korean pop charts more than any other artist since 2010, also revealed that she “was on a diet of an apple for breakfast, a sweet potato. for lunch and a protein shake for dinner “- while stretching and exercising vigorously. Jimin and IU maintained weight and shape due to the pressures that most faces of the K-pop idols face.
This pressure is not just coming only from the Korean public but also Management companies establish weight loss rules for each intern. Kathy Benjamin, the author of Grunge, says: “Being slim is so important that none other than the CEOs of the record companies are overseeing the compensation. If the number is too high, it will urge the stars to lose weight immediately. And they do. “The idols of excess diets have yet to act in their tired, sick, and weakened state. You exercise at least six hours a day. Some, like BTS, exercise for up to three hours.
Corporations have the right to assign weight goals and organize monthly evaluations where performance is based on “slave contracts.” Aspiring K-pop idols first sign up with an agency as “interns” at the age of twelve or thirteen under a slavery contract that allows the company to have almost complete control over them. They are often banned from dating, using social media, and driving a car. If the trainers feel that there has not been enough “improvement”, they will expell intern from the agency.
As agencies make millions from high-performing interns who become idols, their investment pays off. However, interns’ investments in K-Pop don’t always pay off. Most interns are still in school juggling their academic life and their internship life; Their daily schedules can start at 5 a.m. and finish at 1 a.m. Foreign students spend more time mastering the Korean language and immersing themselves in Korean culture. Not only is it physically demanding, but it is also mentally demanding for interns to face all the overwhelming responsibilities on their way to stardom.
Despite, or perhaps because of, restrictive contracts, the K-Pop world is rife with scandals ranging from drug addiction to sex scandals to suicide.
Sexual exploitation is still rampant in the K-pop industry. YG Entertainment, one of the largest entertainment brands in the country, has involved many star idols in several major scandals. Police arrested Big Bang’s Seungri, a group of five or the “Kings of K-Pop”, at his famous nightclub “The Burning in March 2019” on charges of sexual corruption and offering sex workers to your Sun customers. This scandal made headlines and opened the public’s eyes to another side of K-pop. This “news” was new to the public, but not so new to the industry. Actress Jang Jayeon left a seven-page suicide note in 2009 stating that current sexual slavery is rampant in Korean entertainment. However, sexual exploitation is not the only cause of suicide among artists.
While Jonghyun’s death by suicide is conceivable the most notable in the K-pop world, the scourge of suicide permeates all levels of K-pop artists. Constrained by pressures to create their perfect public image and obey “slave contracts,”. Even some lesser-known K-pop artists believed there was no other way out than suicide.
The real side of K-Pop is way too dark!
The dark side of K-Pop has so much more to offer. For example sasaengs, fans who are too obsessed with an idol or a group. Jonghyun Lee from group CNBLUE was practicing guitar in his bedroom when he heard laughter behind his drawers where a sasaeng was hiding. The privacy, and even the life, of these idols, are often at risk. Death threats and requests to expel a member of his gang are common in the K-pop world. Broader sources of information expose the genre’s youthful, bright, false image. It is only just beginning to attract public attention. Idols risk their lives to make their dreams come true. It is our job to shine and put a light on the dark side of this K-pop. Also, remind ourselves that idols are people too.
Also read: The influence of the Kpop industry on the western industry