With the surprising rise of K-Pop band BTS (a/k/a Bangtan Boys or Beyond the Scene), Korean pop music has taken the limelight. BTS recently became the first K-Pop act to hit Billboard‘s Top 40. The last time Korean pop made this big a splash in America was with Psy’s novelty single “Gangnam Style” from five years ago. But there’s a dark side to fame, too.
Grunge.com recently posted a video peeling back the glossy layers of K-Pop to reach the darkness at its core. And what they found is rather disturbing. While all music scenes have creepy secrets (and not-so-secrets, like how Jimmy Page kidnapped a 14-year-old girl), the K-Pop machine engages in illegal activity en masse.
K-Pop hopefuls are forced into prostitution
According to the video, many K-Pop stars are prostituted. While consensual sex work is often unfairly stigmatized, forcing people into sex work is never okay. Seoul Beats reported that a CEO from the Kang agency was sentenced to 20 months in prison on prostitution charges. K-Pop gossip site Korea Boo also reported of an anonymous “glamorous and sexy artist that debuted in 2010” involved in prostitution.
The video also points out that becoming a pop idol can be a entryway into appearing in films; JoongAng Daily reported 60.2% of surveyed actresses said they were pressured into providing sex to high-profile figures.
K-Pop’s “Slave Contracts”
K-Pop contracts are also known as “slave contracts,” as K-Pop hopefuls sign up with their labels for seven to 15 years at a time. While that doesn’t sound so bad at first — after all, multi-album contracts are common — the “slave contract” doesn’t actually kick in until after a K-Pop idol debuts.
Unfortunately, that can take as long as ten years while hopefuls are trained. And until that debut, potential pop stars aren’t making any money. The band Stellar told No Cut News they had to split one meal between the four of them because that was all they could afford.
The video goes into even more indignities potential stars have to face. And considering that stardom isn’t guaranteed, we have to wonder if it’s worth it. As these claims come to light, we can only hope that the K-Pop system is overhauled to treat its potential artists better.
Watch the dark side of K-Pop video below:
Featured image by Denise Truscello/Getty Images