K-pop or Korean pop is now the most popular music genre and most of the people listen to K-pop because of its fun and it’s unique. People are happy to see their idols singing and dancing on stage. This is the bright side. But there is also a dark side to this culture. The deeper you go into this, the darker it will get.
Suicide: It is 2020 but some fans still cannot forget a name. And the name is Kim Jonghyun. Kim Jonghyun is SHINee’s former lead singer and a songwriter. He committed suicide in 2017. He also left a suicide note that reveals what he was struggling with. Jonghyun’s suicide note was posted on social media by his close friend, Jang Hee-Yeon, who is also known as Nine9, of the South Korean group Dear Cloud.
The Gangnam police said, “The result of our investigation decisively concludes that he died by suicide, and therefore we will not be performing an autopsy. His family wished for an autopsy to not be conducted.” The last text that Jonghyun sent to his sister is, “It's been hard." He added. "Let me go. Tell me I've worked hard. This is my farewell."
The year 2019 wasn’t really good for some k-pop fans. On 14 October 2019, the former f(x) member Choi Jinri known as Sulli, died. She also committed suicide. Sulli was found dead by her manager after hanging herself at home. Sulli's death was linked to cyber-bullying. Later it was revealed that Sulli had continually asked her agency to take strong action against the hate comments and cyber-bullying. A total of seven petitions were posted on the South Korean presidential office website demanding tougher punishment for cyber-bullying and strengthening use of the real-name system when posting comments and creating accounts.
In K-pop, every girl group needs to be perfect. If a trainee’s natural beauty is not matching Korea’s high beauty standards then they even get suggestions for plastic surgery
In the same year on 24 November, the former ‘KARA’ member Goo Hara (who was also a close friend of Sulli), took her own life. She has been found dead at her house in Seoul. Police only found a suicide note written by Goo Hara. Goo's funeral was held at Gangnam Severance Hospital by family members and friends.
There are many K-pop idols who committed suicide, including more than 7 who died because of depression.
Weight loss:Most people are insecure about their weight. But in the K-pop industry the insecurity is much bigger. Almost every idol has to follow an extreme diet. Girl groups are meant to be perfect. So most of them are given a specific weight to lose, by their agency.
The Korean girl group ‘Nine Muses’ once revealed their paper cup diet where their meals had to fit in a small paper cup.
The girl group Twice’s member Momo, once during a live broadcast said that she was told to lose 7 kg in one week. She said that she didn’t eat anything for the whole week and went to the gym all the time. There was no water in her body. And when she laid down on the bed and tried to sleep, she was scared that she wouldn’t wake up again, so she suddenly started crying.
High beauty standards: A slim figure, small face, v-shaped jaw, small lips, pale skin, clear skin, and large eyes - if someone has all of this then they are ‘beautiful’ in Korea. South Korea is known for its beauty standards.
In K-pop, every girl group needs to be perfect. If a trainee’s natural beauty is not matching Korea’s high beauty standards then they even get suggestions for plastic surgery. And it’s common for companies to advise their trainees to get plastic surgery before their debut. In South Korea, K-pop idols are expected to be more beautiful that average people.
Rapper Kim Eunmi, who is also known as Grazy Grace said, plastic surgery is not entirely forced and anyone can choose not to do it, but most people agree to go under the knife anyway.
According to Grace, during her training period, the staff members would often make comments to trainees about their looks and give better treatment to those who were more “beautiful.” With this pressure, a lot of trainees will not hesitate to fix their appearance for a better career.
Bullying Scandal: Being a victim of bullying is a nightmare that everyone wants to avoid. Even in K-pop, many idols were victims of bullying.
AOA (Ace of Angels) is a Korean girl group with the members Jimin, Seolhyun, Chanmi, Hyejeong, and Yuna. Also Cho A, Mina, and Youkyung were the former member of AOA. Kwon Mina left the group in May 2019 after her contract expired.
In 3 July 2020 Mina suddenly posted something that was really unexpected for her fans. She said that she was bullied by Jimin (the leader of the group) for 10 years, from when they were trainees to being a member of AOA. She accused Jimin of being harsh towards her which led to several attempts of taking her own life. Jimin and other AOA members also visited Mina at her home to talk about the issues.
On social media, Jimin issued a written apology to Mina. But people thought her apology was not sincere. On the same day, her agency FNC Entertainment announced that Jimin will be leaving AOA.
Even after knowing about all these dark sides, there are still many people following their dreams and waiting to debut as a K-pop idol. It’s the most popular music genre now, still it needs to change a bit.
Nufaiysa M Rahman is a 7th grader at Viqarunnisa Noon School and College, Dhaka