4 Reasons Why K-Pop Is Harder Than You Think

We are aware of some of the intense pressures that musicians face on a large scale from the music industry, the media and the general public, but many of us remain oblivious to the hardships they go through.

By Hannah, London · March 20, 2019

Pic: Flickr Creative Commons / Republic of Korea

The South Korean music industry can be more toxic for young people and musicians. Here are just a few reasons why you should stop taking certain acts for granted.

1. Intense pressure and stressful schedules just to enter the industry

Unlike the western industry, there is a long period of time where young teenagers have to balance chaotic school life and hours of training. Once they have completed auditions, trainees often train at young ages for years until their debut. For example, G-Dragon, who was named the ‘King of K-Pop’ for multiple chart-topping singles and being a part of the worldwide famous group Big Bang since 2006, trained for six years from the age of 12 until 18 when he became a part of a five-member group under YG Entertainment. K-idols often enter the spotlight young, so as to give them as much time as possible to be promoted: young idols include SHINee’s Taemin, who debuted at the age of 14.



2. Pressure from the public

The majority of us can relate to being pressured or forced to do well in aspects of life, but many K-idols receive intensive hate and backlash from fans due to something even as simple as a dating rumour. The pressure can often have a toxic effect on young people and can, in extreme cases, result in self-harm or suicide.

In 2009, Korean actor Park Jin-Hee wrote a paper that stated at least 40% of celebrities had considered suicide at least once due to the invasive media, violation of privacy and general oppressive management from controlling companies.

On the 18th of December 2017, SHINee member Jonghyun was found dead at his apartment after his sister had asked the police to check after he sent her texts which had implications of suicide.

3. Injurious ideals forced on idols in an effort to make them more accepted

Sadly, all societies, no matter where on the globe, has some form of beauty ideals or ‘model images’ that citizens are encouraged to fulfil. In South Korea, this often includes pale and skinny bodies (which often makes many idols underweight and dangerously malnourished as they attempt to stick to supposed weights). Unfortunately, both genders are told to lose weight in time for comebacks or live shows or otherwise, they are viewed as ‘ugly’ or ‘not worthy’ of being in a group.

BTS’ Jimin stated on a TV interview that before a comeback he ‘only ate one meal for 10 days’ in an effort to look ‘handsome’ in time for their new comeback. During this period of time, he lost 15lbs and was seen in concerts and rehearsals collapsing which consequently made his bandmates encourage him to eat. He stated that he ignored their worry and continued to severely restrict his meals.

Other idols such as IU (who suffered from bulimia) and B.A.P’s Himchan (who was rushed to hospital after fracturing his ribs due to stress from his intensive dance practices and sudden weight loss) are only a small few of the idols who go the extremes to gain approval from fans and the public.



4. They are ‘consistently hardworking’ individuals that are also trying to make a living

Many ‘anti-fans’ claim that K-Pop acts only receive such passionate and large fan bases due to the popularity that comes from social media. South Korea’s ‘largest export’ is considered to be its music industry.

According to Korea’s Creative Content Agency, it made $4.7 billion (£3.5 billion) globally in 2016 and this number is probably rising as new artists enter the market and old/current artists make constant comebacks. It is easy to forget that they are humans too, but these are professionals that put blood, sweat and tears into their work despite the ‘perfect’ view that is presented to fans.



In the eyes of many, they deserve far more recognition.

Do these issues affect you? Consider seeking help from The Samaritans, or from Mind. The Samaritans can be called on 116 123. They are here to help, no matter how small or large your problems.