Korea – K-pop is a $5 billion-dollar (S$6.7 billion) industry in Korea that boosts local tourism and sales of consumer goods. Fans of Big Bang, BTS, and Psy, some of K-pop’s biggest names, even consider it a sign of loyalty and affection to buy shares from the publicly traded companies that house their favourite stars, according to an article by CBS News.
Succeeding in becoming a K-pop idol is extremely difficult and the few that do get to enjoy many financial and cultural privileges.
The cutthroat industry
According to a book entitled, “The birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation is Conquering the World Through Pop,” Korean record labels will spend five to seven years training and grooming a future K-pop idol. There is a 13-year contract involved where Korean artists are bound to “indentured servitude” to the company and spend the first half as an “incubation period” of training and grooming.
The text notes that the entertainment industry works much like any business wherein the company bears the risk of losing any returns on investment should the artist not finish the latter half of the contract.
Entertainment companies put as much as $100,000 (S$135,000) on one aspiring artist who then spends years repaying the investment.
Euny Hong, the author of the book, mentioned that those who dream of becoming a K-pop star often leave their homes as young as 11 years old to start training and even make their public debut as minors.
Those under the contracts often have their eating habits and mobile phone usage monitored while engaging in a romantic relationship is deemed as a breach in the agreement.
Entertainment companies’ main concern is to ensure profit by promoting their best-selling products with a big market share; often overlooking ethical implications and human rights.
K-pop is currently under the spotlight for the numerous sex and drug scandals involving the exploitation of women.
In February, Lee Seung-hyun, famously known as Seungri from Big Bang, was exposed in a scandal that allegedly involved prostitutes for business investors in the Burning Sun nightclub.
Yonhap reported that Korean singer-songwriter and TV personality Jung Joon-young was arrested on March 21 on charges for secretly recording sex videos with about 10 women he slept with and sharing them via a mobile chat with his friends, Seungri being one of them.
During the same week, South Korean President Moon Jae-in ordered a thorough investigation on the sex and drug scandals involving K-pop artists, including Seungri.
Korean studies professor at UCLA, Suk-young Kim said that the recent events are “snowballing to reveal all the ailments of Korean society.”
Other members in the group chat include Choi Jong-hoon from the group FT Island and Lee Jong-hyun from CNBlue. Seungri, Jung Joon-young and the other men involved in the scandal have taken turns giving their public apologies and announced their withdrawal from their management companies as well as their cooperation with the investigations, reported Yonhap. /TISG