The K-pop market’s dark side


K-pop has grown in popularity over the past few years among individuals of all ages. Korean pop acts have been setting records, topping charts, breaking into the Western entertainment scene, and capturing the attention of audiences all around the world. These Korean idols are adored by their fans for their abundance of talent, charisma, and beauty. However, K-pop has grown in popularity over the past few years among individuals of all ages.

Korean pop acts have been setting records, topping charts, breaking into the Western entertainment scene, and capturing the attention of audiences all around the world. These Korean idols are adored by their fans for their abundance of talent, charisma, and beauty.

Most people, however, are unaware of the challenging lives many Korean pop idols have led in the past and even today.

Kids and early teens participate in competitive auditions with average competitive rates of 700:1 before ever having the option to train with entertainment businesses.

Those that succeed in the audition are given a contract with the appropriate company. These agreements may last for two years or for ten years. The schedule for trainees in the company’s training program begins as early as 4 a.m. and ends as late as midnight.

A typical day for a K-pop trainee includes singing and dancing sessions, with additional Korean language instruction for overseas trainees. Companies wanted women between the heights of 5’2 and 5’9 to weigh no more than 104 pounds, which was an extremely unhealthy recommendation.

Former K-pop trainee Elaine Chong claimed in a BBC piece titled “I could have been a K-pop idol – but I’m happy I resigned” that it was usual for trainees to pass out from tiredness and that it was acceptable for trainees to starve themselves.

The trainees’ reaction when she collapsed from exertion, according to Chong, was “Good for her! She really wants it! Now that I look back on it, I believe it was very horrible.

Additionally to reaching and maintaining minimal weight measures, trainees would undergo regular assessments.

One of the top three most successful Korean entertainment organizations at the moment, YG Entertainment, would demand trainees to give one group performance and one solo performance.

Staff members would evaluate trainees, giving them cruel feedback, and those who didn’t put up a satisfactory performance were sent home.


BLACKPINK’s Jennie Kim recalled having to send a close friend of hers away each month because they failed the test in the Netflix documentary “BLACKPINK: Light Up the Sky,” adding, “Being told that I’m not good at stuff face-to-face and trying to keep everything together, when I hear those things, it was very harsh.”

It might be easy to observe how terrible the treatment of K-pop trainees can be from the outside looking in on the Korean entertainment industry. We frequently question the industry’s strategies and why these strange rules haven’t been eliminated.

The reason why is that it works is the response to this. Sadly, the inhumane treatment of trainees and idols is what makes them into the flawless celebrities we see on television. The fear of failure and stress encourages trainees to work harder.

Twice, a popular female group has shared personal details about their experiences leading up to their debut. According to the International Business Times, Japanese Twice member Momo said that their management had told her to shed 7 kg in a week so she would be ready for the group’s debut presentation.

The previous student trained nonstop while taking only one ice cube out of fear that even that would make her gain weight. Even if the setting is terrible, it is stressful enough to “help” trainees achieve their objectives, as seen by the trainee’s fear of falling asleep out of concern that she wouldn’t wake up again.

These anxious feelings persist throughout idols’ careers after putting trainees under exorbitant amounts of stress.

Companies set a bar for every idol in the industry because of the flawless image they have worked so hard to mold their trainees into. Everybody is perfect, and anyone who isn’t is judged “unworthy” of being worshipped as an idol. Companies’ rigid mentality shapes netizens’ expectations of flawless idols and encourages them to denigrate anyone who falls short of those standards.

Simply said, the treatment of young children and teenagers in training programs is unethical and inhumane.

Many idols have spoken out in the past few years about the extreme stress they experience both as trainees and as idols. Some idols have gone as far as taking their own lives after deciding that this supposedly “perfect and glamorous” life wasn’t worth the countless hours of work and practice, harsh expectations and criticism from online users, and enormous amounts of pressure from their companies, according to People.


It upsets me as a fan to watch people I look up to being treated so horribly while also being pushed to put on a pleasant face for commercial interests, even though training methods employed by entertainment firms have proven to be more than successful.

In addition, many fans find the business practices abhorrent to the point that they boycott upcoming events and releases and refuse to buy items, harming sales and pushing businesses to accede to their demands.

An excellent illustration of this occurred in 2019, when BlackPink supporters, popularly known as “Blinks,” sent a truck to YG Entertainment with a list of requests in response to the group’s lack of activity and the releases it was participating in, according to Billboard.

BlackPink, the most popular Korean girl group at the time, only received one musical release every year despite the fact that it was clear that the members were eager for more. Following this demonstration, YG Entertainment swiftly issued a statement announcing that the girl group would be releasing an album early in 2020.

However, despite all the bad press the Korean entertainment industry receives, there are some shining examples that put their celebrities’ well-being first.

According to the L.A. Times, BigHit Entertainment, now the most successful Korean entertainment firm managing the well-known international boy group BTS, is one group that appears to care about the welfare and health of their idols. The lads’ physical appearance and scheduled breaks both demonstrate this.

According to BBC, the infamous boy band received a reward for their hard work over the previous few years by being offered a break in 2019 for a few months, allowing them to take a breather from their typically busy schedules.

In contrast to other idols that subject themselves to dangerously low weight standards, fans have also remarked that the BTS members have gained healthy amounts of weight. It is obvious how different businesses treat their artists differently and how this might impact the group’s general well-being and mental health.

This demonstrates that businesses don’t always have to impose strict guidelines on their artists in order to form a successful ensemble.

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About the Author: Evelyn

Evelyn is a content writer who has written hundreds of articles about business strategy and operations, with a focus on finance. She also published articles on payroll, small business funding, and content marketing. Evelyn also writes about improving company culture, optimizing business social media pages, and choosing appropriate organizational structures for small businesses.

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