Slaves to the music


The Mirror reporter

Korean Pop, or Kpop, is a multi-billion dollar industry that most people in the US don’t know exists. If they do, they think of the shiny, glitz, and glam of BTS performing at the Billboards or the YouTube hit Gangnam Style. But there is a dark side.

Every year over 100 groups and soloists debut, but only a handful become famous. The ones who don’t make it are often treated unfairly. They may be trapped in their contracts, even if they don’t release a second album.

These contracts can last up to seven long years with strict dieting, no dating clauses, plastic surgery, and few days off.

Seven years seems like a long time but there used to not be a limit on years. The group TVXQ had a contract for 13 years. When three of the five members wanted to leave they had to sue the company they were under, SM Entertainment. They won their lawsuit and in the aftermath, the Fair Trade Commission put a seven-year cap on contract length.

Dieting is one of the biggest issues in Kpop. Idols have to be within a certain weight and that weight isn’t always healthy. Some diets are a normal healthy diet, but others push the limit on low food intake.

IU debuted when she was 15 with Kakao M Entertainment. Her diet has become famous with fans of Kpop. For breakfast she would eat one apple, 95 calories, for lunch she would eat one or two sweet potatoes, 114 or 228 calories, and for dinner, she would drink a protein shake, about 262 calories.

An adult woman should eat 2,000 calories per day. IU was eating less than 600. Her Body Mass Index (BMI) is around 17; underweight is anything lower than 18.5.

Other idols take dieting even farther, like Jimin of BTS. He would only eat one meal a day for 10 days. It was also said that he would pass out during practice.

Some companies won’t even allow their idols to date. They say it would take away from a fan’s experience. In America, if a celebrity is dating, it’s called the hot gossip. People in America like when celebrities date, but Korea sees it differently.

Recently two idols under Cube Entertainment contracts were terminated. Hyuna, a soloist, and E’Dawn, a member of the boy group Pentagon, announced in August they had been dating for two years. The statement given by Cube was that they could no longer trust the idols and that is why they had to leave the company.

I feel idols have to speak up for themselves against their companies. They also need to read their contract carefully and think if they really want to sign it.

I really like Kpop, the music is good, the vocals are amazing, and the videos are awesome visuals. But I also recognize there is a problem with how the industry is run.

If you are a fan, don’t get upset if an idol is looking tired or couldn’t hit that note during a live performance. They are under enormous pressure from fans, their companies, but also from themselves.