The Kpop industry has disgusted me.
Companies pick up children, make promises to turn them into stars, and train them for years with no guarantee they will ever debut. All while this is happening, the company racks up such a debt on these children that it’s impossible for most of them to ever pay back.
If these children are lucky enough to debut, they sign their slave contracts and are thrown into a group with people they don’t even know. They move into their slave quarters, the dorms. They are pressured into plastic surgery and skin bleaching to be accepted. They go on inhuman diets. They are thrown into even more rigorous and insane schedules than they had before, while many of them are still in school.
They become adults in a world of turmoil, they throw away their best days for a dream. They keep improving on their remarkable talents, they begin to find their image and style, and maybe they even start to write lyrics and compose songs that truly come from their heart. They start to believe that all of their training and suffering has culminated to this moment: becoming a true artist. Then they present their ideas to the managers and producers…and are brushed aside. Again and again. Comeback after comeback they are chained to the flashing boxes, glittery clothes, makeup, synchronized dances, and same old love/breakup/sex songs. They had no hand in the production of any song or music video, maybe they even hate the music. But they are under contract to sing it and look happy while doing it. Over and over again.
If they get sick or injured–and being human, they will–there is no recovery time, medication, treatment, or even comfort. They are back in the practice room and stage the same day. There is no time to be sick. There are no days off.
Sometimes, the idol gives up and sells out. They resign to being their company’s puppet. Company knows best. Company tells me what to do and say. Company gives me music. Company makes me. Company is God.
After all, it’s just money.
And sometimes, the idol fights against the system. They fight and work harder than anyone. They do this because they think it will lead to the company recognizing them. They can go solo, leave the band mates they despise behind, and sing about something that actually matters to them. But of course, it almost never happens. They aren’t good enough alone. They aren’t worth the money.
In the end, all a slave can really do is run away–and fight with everything in them when their masters come to reclaim them.
Though the slave system isn’t unique to Kpop alone or even a new idea, it’s the foundation of the industry. This system is so dangerous it’s destroying human beings.
And only one thing can match the evil of a company: the fans.
Fans fall for a group, and it consumes them. The company wants this because it means money. Pretty soon, the fans want everything, they want to know everything. This is the end of “doing your best” and privacy. Idols have to be better than countless groups that are manufactured just like them. They have to lip sync more believably, dance harder, and look more fabulous doing it. Kpop becomes a cycle of mindless entertainment. It becomes a freak show. Fans want more outlandish concepts, more scandals, more sex appeal, more aegyo, more of their idols’ face on merchandise and every program that TV and the internet has to offer.
This is of course just as dangerous to the fans as it is the idols. The fans give up everything for their obsession, their minds becoming just as robotic as their beloved oppas and unnies. The company has succeeded in turning the fans into money machines. The idols, however, get no share of this fortune–the most identifiable trait of slavery.
Throughout this circus, human beings continue to be exploited and abused.
The boys are objectified. They are measured by how well their plastic surgery turned out. They flash their often underweight bodies. For all of this, they gain legions of sasaeng parasites and are stripped of their privacy, because after all, why should they hide anything from us? They live for the fans alone.
The girls are objectified. They are measured by how well their plastic surgery turned out. They flash their often underweight bodies. For all of this, they gain misogynistic hate and are trashed like the filthy females they are, because after all, what are women worth? Oh right, apparently nothing.
God forbid these boys and girls date each other, or anyone at all. Because in Kpop, you must also give up your natural instincts of attraction, sex, and love. Idols must remain chaste for their lustful fans and be sexually harassed and exploited by them all the same. Sing love and sex songs for every performance, but lose everything you’ve worked for when you decide to actually experience it.
God forbid these boys and girls do or say anything natural at all. One wrong word, one wrong move, one stupid human slip up and it’s all over.Your perfect mask is shattered and your scripted persona is drowned. God forbid you be yourself.
There is no end to the fatal flaws of the Kpop industry.
There is also no end to the potential of this music.
Kpop has transcended language and culture in less than two decades. Especially in the Western world, we are presented with something unique and new to us. Here we have individuals who work harder than most other pop stars we knew before. We get to hear music in a beautiful language that may not be our own, yet we connect to it anyway. We are dazzled by gorgeous music videos and dances that make our hearts stop. We fall for entire groups of beautiful, wonderful people who make our days brighter with a simple smile. Through our fandoms we find friendship from people all over the world. This is the true beauty and power of Kpop, the ability to bring people from all cultures, languages, and walks of life together and unite them with a common love.
Idols are not gods, they are humans. They are artists in chains.
Music, dance, fashion, cinematography, modeling–all of this is supposed to be art, not manufactured methods of moneymaking.
Art is our gift as human beings. It is our ability to speak out, celebrate our individuality, and turn the horror of life into something beautiful. It is this gift that can free us from slavery and all boundaries. Kpop is a small but powerful force that unites us and makes our lives a little more enjoyable. Kpop should be art again. It should be a reflection of the culture, language, loves, suffering, beliefs, and individuality of its artists–as all art should be. Kpop should not be so competitive. Music is not about being better than everyone else. It’s about entertaining others, making them think, and bringing them together.
Kpop is also nothing without fans, but we should not overstep our boundaries. These beloved Kpop stars give their all to entertain us and even more to let us see them as people. At the end of the day, they are entitled to privacy and time set aside just for them. Instead of criticizing and hating, we should encourage them and smile proudly as we watch them grow in skill and as people. When they make a mistake, date someone they care for, or do something for themselves, we have no right to judge and demand they do otherwise. Even if they decide they want to leave the industry altogether, that is their choice and right. We should support their decisions and correct them only when they have done something truly offensive. Anything else from fans is hypocrisy and enslavement all over again. They are people, we are people. We’re all humans. Free humans.
Don’t let Kpop consume you. Like the artists you admire, you have dreams too. Let their hard work inspire you to do the same, not hinder you. As they have made us proud, have something to make them proud of you if you ever have the honor of meeting them.
Most importantly in this time of turmoil and transition, as fans we need to help our idols break free from their company’s slavery. We are enslaving them to our selfish wills just as much as their companies are. If they knew their dedicated fandoms would support any move they made to break such a wicked system, the chains would have broken already. Instead they are frozen in fear of disappointing and losing their fans, and thus everything they worked and suffered for. They have the power to unite us. Let us now use this union for good. Idols and fans should work together to break the hold that companies have over us both. We are the ones with the power, and it’s time to take it back. The system can change, the suffering on both sides can stop.
So let’s do it.