The rise of Korean-pop has taken over the world, but there is a dark side to this global industry.
These groups have huge followings all around the world and it may seem like sunshine and rainbows, but there is a dark side to this popular South Korean music industry. According to the Korea Foundation, as of 2015, there are over 35 million fans of Korean Pop Culture worldwide. These teenage stars did not always have a huge fan base and in order to become famous, they had to sign “slave” contracts, giving away their life.
Former K-Pop star Henry Prince Mak shared his experience in the industry in his video the Dark Side of K-pop. Over one hundred groups debut each year, but only a handful make it. He breaks down the industry into three groups: famous, half-famous and not famous. Since the famous groups bring in the money they have freedom, and the not famous groups have freedom because no one cares for them. The half-famous groups, however, suffer under extreme conditions.
Not only are there are strict conditions regarding diets and dating, but there are also long working days every day (over 18 hours a day). These idols have no life and have to do what the company tells them to do. “Imagine doing that for 10 years, for $0 a day. $2 if you're lucky,” he states.
Many groups have been so overworked that they have passed out on stage that there are whole compilations on YouTube. This happens because these idols are malnourished, overworked, tired and dehydrated. During concerts, if their group members passes out, the rest of the group continues on, not even aiding their groupmate, because of the strict guidelines they must follow.
Rumors of slave contracts have been heard in some groups in the United States, mainly Fifth Harmony. This group debuted in 2012 on the X-factor and in 2016 a tape leaked hinting at slave contracts. In the video, one of the members can be heard talking about how they, the producers, are making decisions that are ruining their lives. “...to make us literal slaves, like literally slaves...”
Prince also made comments on music “slavery” during his career. “Record contracts are just like — I’m gonna say the word – slavery,” Prince said. “I would tell any young artist… don’t sign.” In 1992, Prince appeared on stage with slave across his cheek when warring over his contract with Warner Brothers. This is why Prince signed with Tidal because he believed that once they had their own service, they could provide for themselves.
Many young teens are shown an amazing life and fame and then they get stuck in these type of “slavery” situations. We only see one side of the music industry, which is all glitter and rainbows, but think about it. How many of the music groups we love live like this?