The world of Kpop is unlike anything you’ve ever seen, the colors, the fashion and the unique music concepts. Once you enter the world of Kpop, there is no going back because let face it, it is quite great to be part of the Kpop craze. However, there is much more to Kpop than fun and games! We tend to see Kpop stars always smiling and looking glamorous, but this wasn’t always the case for them. In fact, the journey to becoming a Kpop star is incredibly long and emotionally draining. So today, I wanted to take the time to sit down and write about the Kpop industry. I have learned all of this information from YouTube, from interviews with Kpop stars and online articles. If you were ever interested to see how someone can become a star in South Korea, this is the blog post for you.
In South Korea, there are three major entertainment agencies: SM Entertainment, JYP and YG.
There are other entertainment agencies of course, such as Pledis, CUBE, DSP, Starship and many more. However, the first agencies I listed rank the highest among the others. If someone wants to become a Kpop star, they have to go through an audition process. When auditions are held, the participants are graded on their vocal and dancing abilities, having charisma is considered an asset as well. When participants pass their auditions, this does not mean they are on their way to stardom. The next step is training, also known as the trainee life. Some trainees are as young as ten years old, and transitioning out of that trainee life is extremely challenging. Below you can watch audition from YouTube of famous Kpop stars i.e. SNSD, Park Bom from 2ne1 and Taemin from SHINEE.
The trainee life time span varies from a few months, to a few years. This all depends on the abilities of the artist, the more you lack, the longer you train. There are some trainees who train for years and eventually they don’t debut at all. This is the sad reality for some people who aspire to become a Kpop star. Trainees also have a very strict schedule, they have to train vocally and improve their dancing skills. They also take language classes, because being multilingual or bilingual in the Kpop industry is considered an asset. For example, the Queen of Kpop, BoA, knows Korean, English, Japanese and Chinese. Knowing more than one language is important because it helps the artist make break through into the foreign music market. That is usually the goal of the entertainment companies. There are a lot of stories about the life of a trainee, and some stories are not positive. Plastic surgery is very popular among some Kpop stars, some trainees are told they need to undergo plastic surgery before debuting. The purpose of this is for trainees to look more “appealing” to the public. There is an obsession with looking perfect and acting perfect. Kpop idol, Suhyun from the duo group, AKMU shared a story on a KBS2 variety program Happy Together. According to her, CEO of YG Entertainment asked her, “For you Suhyun, how about getting a little touch up on your nose?” Following this question, Suhyun responded respectfully and firmly, “Not going to do it. President, I am already very thankful that I have two nostrils that I can breathe out of.”
Way to go, she certainly knows how to handle herself in the industry and she is not letting the pressure influence her decisions!
Another problem in the Kpop industry is overworking the artists with an intense work schedule. Former, SM and EXO member, Tao, expressed his frustrations about his former company in an exclusive interview. In his interview, Tao talked about his trainee life, the busy schedule they had to abide by, whether they were sick or injured. Tao shared that SM staff used to encourage them to push through, even if they were ill or injured. To watch more of what Tao had to say, watch the video below.
Former SM trainee, Stella Kim, talked about her experiences of being told she needs to lose weight and go on crazy diets. Based on many examples that are covered in this post, it looks like the Kpop industry is highly focused on looks, therefore coming across as very superficial. This kind of treatment may tend to lead to many disorders, including emotional issues. To hear more of what Stella Kim had to say, take a look at her video below.
Most agencies control everything from whether the artists can date, to the type of music the Kpop stars can release. These agencies typically come up with the concepts, lyrics and composition of the artist’s work, giving them little power over production process. However, there are instances where there is an exception. Aside from this, it is said that Kpop Stars have the so-called slave contract. The Stars sign a contract for a number of years, however if you try to leave earlier, the agency will file a lawsuit. That has happened quite a bit of times recently, especially when Tao, Luhan and Kris from EXO left SM Entertainment before their contract expired. SM Entertainment filed a lawsuit against the three members, with Tao losing the battle. The lawsuit results against Luhan and Kris have not been released yet because nothing has been finalized. However, SM Entertainment were successful with their lawsuit against Tao. Another example of Kpop idols engaging in a legal battle with their agencies are Dong Bang Shin Ki. They took their management to court over their 13 year contract, claiming their didn’t get enough of the profit. The group won the lawsuit, resulting in the Fair Trade Commission to bring into play a “model contract” to attempt to improve the deals that idols got from their management companies (information about this particular matter was gathered from http://beyondhallyu.com/k-pop/k-pop-slave-contracts-a-closer-look/). The reality of the Kpop industry is rather than focusing more on fair treatment of their artists, most of the time Kpop idols are used as a way for the companies to make profit. Behind the scenes, the Kpop industry is big hot mess, where idols are exploited. There are always exceptions, but there is no denying that the Kpop world can be rough and if you want to audition, do a throughout research of the industry.
I would love to hear your thoughts about this matter, so feel free to leave me a brief comment.
See you soon!