It’s not easy being a K-pop star

Oh the life of a star! The glitz, the glamour and the adulation. Not to mention all the freebies you could ever ask for. Must be such a great life.

Actually, you could call it a golden prison.

As we all know the mainstay of K-pop is perfection, perfect looks, perfect personality, perfect voice (can be questionable sometimes). This perfection requires a lot of hard work. Sure, we can say that most of the entertainment industry requires hard work and dedication to get to the top.

But for me looking in on the K-pop world as an outsider, the hard work doesn’t seem to provide that much reward.

You are taken from a very young age with no time to develop fully and pushed into a machine where any wrong moves on your part could see your dream curtailed. You know that there is already somebody waiting to replace you if you don’t fit into the agency’s plan.

Even if you make it through this tough period, you are then ‘assigned’ a personality or role in your new group. You are told what to wear, what to eat, when to eat, what to say, how to behave and given endless daily tasks that need to be completed in order to get your pay. Of course on the more extreme end if you do not have the ‘look’ this will be given to you via cosmetic surgery.

What I’m getting at here is that, these poor boys and girls are locked into a cage. One with makeup and accessories. Could you say that they are actually ‘living their lives’? I would say no. They are living their ‘idol’ life.

We all know that in order to grow and learn you have to make mistakes and experience life. But how can you experience life if you’re every move is controlled by a dozen people. Furthermore, as most K-pop stars start out as teenagers there can be added pressure.

I remember my teen years, I was insecure and desperate to fit in. Imagine playing that out in front of millions of people.

You can’t just be Minzi the girl next door, you have to Minzi the super bad chick that knows how to dance and give swag whenever the time calls for it. (Although I used Minzi from YG as an example I think YG are probably a lot more relaxed than the other companies).

As a female in this world, it’s hard trying to figure out who you are without being bombarded with images of perfection. Perfect body, perfect smile, perfect hair, perfect outfit etc. I still struggle with my own insecurities even now as a young woman.

I can’t imagine the amount of pressure you would be under if you are billed as the depiction of all things perfect. I always wonder if Yoona from SNSD ever feels like just sitting in joggers and eating a whole pizza whilst watching tv. Does she ever just want to put on a pair of baggy jeans and a t-shirt and some flat shoes and just hang out with friends? My guess is no. I don’t think her schedule would allow her that freedom.

From the outside they all look so lovely and smiley. But on the inside they must be dying to be free. They must be loveable, cute, funny, accessible and the kind of girls that your mother would be happy to meet and would make your friends jealous. Wow. Tough act to keep and follow.

Even for the guys, the pressure to be the most relatable and attractive to the female fans must kill them. Siwon from Super Junior, hot guy. But I wonder if he ever wants to just stop for a day and go back to being the Siwon before Super Junior. He is seen as one of the top hot guys in South Korea and every girl wants to be his girlfriend. There’s a negotiation between being manly and being sweet and sensitive. The perfect boyfriend right? Of course, this is K-pop he is perfect.

This also leads nicely into the argument that the k-boys and girls belong to their fans. How manty times have you heard fangirls exclaim that a certain star belongs to them. Essentially he is their boyfriend and every time he performs it is just for them. God forbid any of their biases got into a real relationship.

The mere mention of an actual life partner is bound to see them lose fans. Anyone remember Seven?

He lost 100,000 fans because he announced that he had a long term girlfriend, actres Park Hyun-Bal. How his relationship has lasted for 10 years is a testament to how strong love can be even in tough times. The amount of hate mail his girlfriend received was ridiculous. All because she happened to fall in love with a celebrity.

You could say the same for k-girls. They are every mans fantasy and they have to remain that way until they reach a certain age when they are seen as being too old for K-pop and are swiftly replaced by a younger model. God forbid if Yonna announced she had a boyfriend.

Fans fail to realise that these are people with lives. If a star wants to settle down, then great for them. It’s a lonely existence. You may have 5 or more people with you all the time but fundamentally when the camera stops rolling you’re not always going to be with them. No wonder idols have taken to replacing this emptiness with pets, hobbies and twitter.

We all want to be loved for who we are, not just for who we appear to be. It’s hard enough trying to find someone without having to wonder if they like you for you or your fame. It’s no real suprise that many marry within the industry as they can share their experiences and support each other.

Furthermore, these stars are living up to an image and a personality. I would love to be a fly on the wall in the SNSD camp to see what they are actually like. They can’t always be so cheerful and polite all the time. They must have had some mega girl fights. .

Essentially, it is not you. You’re an actress/actor playing on a large stage. Unlike actors/actresses who can take a break when the director calls cut, you are always on. You’re never too far away from a camera or from a crazy fan that could blow your image.

So you’re going to be always perky and ready to answer for the hundredth time what type of boy/girl you want to be with.

I couldn’t cope with this, I’d probably want to scream out an expletive @#@#’#! But no, that could see the end of my hard-earned career. Better stay smiling and tell that story again for the hundreth time. Smile for the camera!

Even on the variety shows (which are scripted, sorry to burst the bubble girls and guys) their company tells them to what to say and how to behave.

Control.

That is a K-pop star’s life, control.

Then there’s the crazy fans, those loveable fan boys and girls who love you a bit too much.

They stalk you and not just for a photo but they want to be your boyfriend/girlfriend. They want to do everything for you. In other words psycho’s! They know what you had for dinner, what your favourite colour is, where you were yesterday at 5pm.

Psychos.

So what else does this life entail: endless travel, your car becomes your best friend, endless appearances, endless workouts, endless diets, new concepts that you have to go with even if you hate it, no sleep. Sleep is a luxury. If you manage to get more than 2 hours this is amazing!

Basically your life is one ball of endless changes that you can’t control.

You are the mouse and the agency is the lab professor moving you around. sleep.

No longer are you just Yoona but Yoona of SNSD.

What happens when that fades away? Well nothing.

Fame doesn’t last forever, we all know that. There will come a day when you are no longer the hottest thing. We all know K-pop is all about the latest debuts.

So K-pop stars have to prepare for their non K-pop futures. Either turn into presenters or tv personalities a la Lee Hyori, run their own management companies a la Yang Hyun Suk G of YG entertainment or try to have some other business interests.

Yes it may sound like doom and gloom but I’m sure that the sheer fact of becoming a somebody and getting to do what you’ve worked so hard for is worth it?

Looking into Korean culture, it seems that the push for success and perfection is very strong. From a young age, Koreans are taught to aim for the best. If you’re not at your best then it is a shame to yourself and your family. That is a lot of pressure to take. I think it also explains why the country has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. There have been countless celebrities who have had struggles or faced shame and couldn’t bear to live and be criticised.

In the West you can be shamed but rather than it being a terrible situation it can garner you more publicity and strangely more sales. Celebrities still have pressure in the West but they are responsible for themselves and their actions. They can go on a one hour bender, be a drug addict and still manage to get on TV. As a K-pop star your behaviour represents your agency, your fellow group mates and your family.

So what is my fundamental point? When you look at a celebrity and you want to be like them, don’t. Count yourself lucky that you can leave your house without being chased or scrutinised. Count yourself lucky that you can actually sleep. Count yourself lucky that you can actually live your life.

I love my boring London existence. It may not be glamorous but it makes me happy

Don’t feel sorry for K-pop stars. Cheer them on and as fans let’s make them feel that their daily ‘existence’ is worth it.

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