So, this is something we’ve been saying for quite a while now. I’m not sure if we explicitly said it out loud in a video before, but now we’re going to be totally out in the open with it right here, right now. We would never, ever want to be Kpop idols. If we had kids, we wouldn’t want them to be Kpop idols, either. Kpop idols as people are fine. We met lots of them, and they’re cool people, but the industry that they’re in is so unhealthy and almost poisonous that I have no idea how anyone would wilfully pursue a career in it. What may initially seem like the pursuit of a dream, to perform and to sing, comes with loads of unwanted caveats. The artistic spirit is secondary to the industrial one, in which maximizing profit is a company’s greater concern than caring for their artists.

Is that too scathing? Do I sound like an old man with a scraggly beard and furrowed eyebrows wagging his finger at you? Well then tell me this: tell me all the dating bans, dietary regulations, insane schedules, and negligence for an artist’s health are good for the artist. I don’t see it. All I can see is a company trying to work the artists to the bone.

I will admit though, that a lot of our discussion on this subject is far from objective. We’re looking at this through our own perspective as people who kinda sorta live in the entertainment industry with their own tiny entertainment company. We’re not in the Kpop industry itself, or the TV industry, or anything like that, but our careers are here on our blog. We are creative for a living, and have a studio and staff that help us in being creative. And we know really, really well that if we push ourselves too hard we start to struggle to get through it all. We have a rule now to actually force ourselves to take weekends off, because we know that downtime is essential to recharge. You can’t be GOGOGOGOGO all the time. Finding a balance between work and life is tough, as we’re always on Twitter or Facebook or Final Cut or YouTube or WordPress or this site. On the other side, it’s hard for us to even call this “work,” because it’s really just a hobby that we’re pursuing, but we pursue it for many hours a day and many days a week.

With that small background spiel laid down in front of you, we can easily say that if we were told that we had to do this all in a van, that we couldn’t sleep in comfortable beds, that we couldn’t sleep in, couldn’t date each other, couldn’t eat this or that, couldn’t see our friends because we had to go somewhere else, couldn’t make a video we wanted to make, we’d quit. Quit! FREAKING QUIT SO FAST. Kpop artists don’t even own their own songs, their own image rights. If they have projects they want to pursue they have to go through their bosses for approval. A lot of the time the songs are written for them. Their dances are choreographed for them. Their outfits are chosen for them. Their schedules are set for them. Their lines on shows are written for them. There are so many hands involved in moving them around, this way and that, and they lose a lot of their own autonomy.

That’s too much responsibility for us. Too many demands. Too overwhelming a life.

At the same time, I can easily re-read these paragraphs in the Airhead voice we sometimes do on our show, like “OMG LIFE IS SOOOO TOUGH.” I don’t want this blog post to be dismissed that easily. Kpop idol problems are first world problems, we know, so we don’t extend the same amount of sympathy to them as we do to people in worse situations. And, yes, we’re advocating autonomy, individuality, creativity, freedom, self-expression, healthiness, and all that hippy stuff, but that’s not a BAD thing to argue for, is it?

I don’t want this to be also read as a “BOYCOTT KPOP!” article as well, because that’s not fair, either. As people in the creative industry we just want to see artists treated better. To be paid fairly. To be fed properly. To be offered standard liberties. I’m sure you’d like to see that as well.

One thought we didn’t pursue in our video, though, is that this unhealthy work environment isn’t isolated to Kpop alone. The entertainment industry, drama sets in particular, can also be pretty crappy to the actors. We did a couple of commercials and TV shoots for Korean TV. Never again. Whoa. Unless decent work conditions are met and we are promised to be FED – yes, fed food – then never again. And at the same time, if you’re Korean and not in the entertainment industry, working as a salaryman is also soul-sucking work. The hours are insane there, too. I had a co-teacher whose husband worked for one of the big name companies here (who I won’t name) and she saw him once every three weeks. ONCE EVERY THREE WEEKS. See your husband, who you love and want to spend the rest of your life with, once every freaking three weeks. And high-school teachers, if they’re single, get stuck teaching the sucky classes, from 7AM to midnight.

The situation that arises then, is that potential Kpop artists pick their poison. They can work insane hours as idols or insane hours elsewhere. Either way, there’s a culture of excessive work here in South Korea. But that’s an entirely different TL;DR. But, at least, if you’re not an idol, you can eat and drink as you please, date who you want, live where you want, and not have bat-shit crazy fans ruin one of your friend’s weddings just to see you.

Side note: back to working at the Eatyourkimchi Nasty Studio: Soo Zee works for us full-time. She’s on salary. And she’s free to come and go as she pleases. If she’s tired, we tell her to go home. She can work from home if she wants. She can come to work in pyjamas if she feels like it. She was feeling a bit sick today, we told her to GTFO and not come back until she feels better. There are no sick days that we count here. She can date whoever she pleases. She can bring friends to work, or leave in the middle of the day to meet her friends for dinner and a drink. She’s got creative output: she’s designed almost everything you see in our store (and she’s good at designing, too!). We don’t put any crazy restrictions on her. And, from what she tells us, she’s really happy here. That’s what we want to do as a company. Not work people to exhaustion till they go crazy or quit. Not have a tight grip on everything they say or do. We want people to be able to pursue what they’re passionate about, and to pursue it in ways that they see fit. We might not be a multi-million dollar company as a result, but we’re a lot more ethical, in my opinion.

What would make you happier in your career? Is Kpop fame worth it? I clearly say no. I’m not going to dislike you if you say otherwise, but I’d like to hear your reasons.

Lastly, Dongho: come work for us. The Eatyourkimchi Studio could definitely use more men around here :D

  1. Wow. Thanks for the insight; you’re right, we do get a sense of something not being quite right, but guessing something’s wrong and knowing that there is something wrong are very different.

    Which leads to my question: Is this why Korean tabloid journalists and Korean fans don’t make comment when idols behave oddly or just plain badly in public from time to time?

    For example, I came across this ambiguous and odd video (http://youtu.be/36uusrAqej0) of Lee Donghae 동해 from Super Junior.

    In the UK the press would have had a field day with headlines like – “Sorry Sorry Thought You Were Someone Else”, “Saesangs Cause Donghaek Idol Vengence” or “Sea Bad Boy Sex Pest”…

    It seems that this is just not news worthy from a Korean perspective. Whether it’s to comment on the idols behaviour or on the fans behaviour that led to this idol behaving (what I’d consider) oddly.

    So just how does Korean tabloid journalism/entertainment news determine what is news worthy and the angle to report on?

  2. For the whole dating ban and such, there is one company that does allow their artists to date. It’s not a well known company, but they are Aeria Creations and I really like their way of auditioning and their idea of “Global Kpop.”

  3. Knowing about all these cons I think that I would still go for it. I sound crazy but most of these idols work so hard for a shot at fame. Although there are hard times it’s good to know (if you’re in a group) you have a bunch of people going through the same struggles, sacrificing the same things as you just to be able to reach their dreams to sing or dance for others despite their differences or disagreements. Sure there are Saesangs, but there are just as many good hearted people who are there to support you. As for the food I agree that some idols do not receive the meals they should be eating and honestly it really sucks. As a person who has been trying to enter the industry for 3 years it’s incredibly hard to live up to so many expectations but I feel that when one does make it, you can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment. Even though a lot of stuff is scripted I don’t think that the idols fake their emotions when they first receive an award especially when they worked so hard for it. There are things I wish didn’t happen to Kpop stars but it makes me admire them a little more for being able to put up with all the dumb things that happen in the entertainment industry. Wooo, that was a long answer… and really late.

  4. the stalker/saesang thing isn’t just limited to kpop though…i was beat up by crazy fans waaay back because i had a friendly argument with a member of a boy band (5ive if anyone remembers them) that i knew personally and I ended up having to call the police…i have had stalker fans show up in a friends funeral because their favourite boy band of the moment were there… i actually quit the entertainment industry for a while because of this… but even though i know that western boy bands (having worked with them and their management’s) have a hectic schedule it is nothing compared to what asian boy bands/ girl bands go through…

    • To be honest I always knew there were crazy stalkers and overly obsessed fans but to go to such an extent as to actually appear at a funeral and attack their partners seems as though…well that they went too far. Given that the reason many fans of kpop started liking these groups was, well lets face it people, there looks. It seems a little shallow but its true, but we also like their music. I mean as fans we suppose to appreciate these groups not attack them and express ourselves as though we own them. All in all this is really upsetting to see that fans are going coo coo for coco-puffs.

  5. (separate from my earlier comment)Sasaengs need to gtfo. Really? REALLY? It pisses me off how some people can just really let themselves go like that. They just go about doing their stalking without thinking about how it will affect the lives of the people the supposedly “love”. I don’t understand why the feel the need to claim ownership over someone else’s life EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE NO BUSINESS THERE. Sure you can love a group passionately or be a hardcore knowledgeable fan, but it goes TO DAMN FAR when you start to harass a person or there loved ones (family, friends, lovers etc.), especially to the point where the idol FEELS THE NEED TO APOLOGIZE FOR LIVING THEIR LIFE. No one should have to do that. EVER.

  6. To be honest if it were me as I am now, no I would not want to be a Kpop idol. But if I were like them, talented musically and given a platform to show my talent, not to mention the possibility of being filthy stinking rich, I just might take it. It would help most if I had a group who was just crazy enough to become idols with me. Then I would want to become an idol for sure. I have never been all that interested in dating, and I can work for a very long time before giving out, but if I didn’t have a group to support me there would be no way in hell I could do that. So there is my long answer ^_^

  7. Hi, I’m from Belgium and I like watching korean shows, but was actually shocked when I realized something. On the show ” Cheongdamdong 11″ a member from AOA got scolded for one bite of fried chicken. Well, if you check the member their profile, their BMI are too low, which means they are unhealthy underweight. Idols talk about their ( UNHEALTHY) diet like skipping meals as if it is the most normal thing to do! Most of those idols and actors are rolmodels for kids and teenagers. Now my question is: Are Korean people aware of eating disorders? Aren’t the actors, singers and idols (unwillingly) leading people ( especially kids and teenagers) to anorexia and such? What does Korea do to prevent people from having it? In Belgium, such things would have made the front news with A LOT of criticism from the media AND sometimes plaintifss from NGO’s. We also have sort of clinics where they help people with eating disorder. Not only them, but also their family and friends. So they can all understand the disorder better and how to deal with it.

  8. My favorite kpop group is Cnblue, and from what I saw on interviews and tv, they always looked so cheerful and happy and FUN. I never realized they could be going through this; :( this is practically prison! Like slavery! You can’t do this, you can’t do that, you belong to me for the amount of years the contract says, and you do what I say. Heck, they even control your opinions?!?!?!!! What the hell! I would totally never do it! Screw them! I won’t put my life and happiness on the line to be your puppet for who knows how long.

    If cnblue is going through this, all i can say is… TT_TT

  9. i would never want to be a K-pop idol because its just to much stress, you have NO privacy , and you don’t get to see your friends and family. I’m not up for the crazy schedules and the screaming STALKER fans its just not worth it to me.

  10. I was blinded by the hotness and amazing voices of my fave guy groups but you guys have opened my eyes to the world of k-pop. And now i have the chance to show my classmates how idols are treated by writing my research paper about them.

  11. I know this is a older video, but I have to say I was honestly blown away reading that interview/documentary on Busker Busker. I’ve known about them though I haven’t made a point to really listen to their music, so I can’t even say that I’m a “fan”, but I was left seething mad after reading it.

  12. I so love you guys. Thanks for the update on my bias Dongho. I am so glad that he is pursuing health and happiness. Even tho I miss him, I wish him ALL the best and

  13. …. So, I can come work for you, right?

    Just stand at the door… and pet people as they go by? Yeah? :)

  14. The thing is though its that its not alwayse even about the fame. I live in America and am planning to send out a bunch of auditions for a bunch of different companies. Even though I know I dont have a very high chance of getting in, and if I do get in work conditions will be sucky but I’d be doing what I love, and making people happy doing it. Like, Im soo happy when I listen to my favorite bands every day, if I could make people happy too by doing what I love, then Sure I will stand the crappy conditions.

  15. I never wanted to become a K-pop star and I know I’m never going to. Sometimes, I’m also confused on why the companies would feed the idols junk food if they have to lose weight all over again later. I didn’t understand why people wished to become idols until I came across an article. It’s been a while so I don’t remember who said it, but she is a m ember from T-ara who was supposed to debut with SNSD.
    “If I were to say only one thing, it’s that I want people who ‘really’ and ‘truly’ want to become singers to pursue this path. You can’t just do it, and you can’t just work hard. You have to want it. By relying on talent alone, you won’t be able to overcome the long, long years it takes. As a trainee, you might think that all you need are your dreams and passions, but once you debut, that dream and passion becomes your career and your society. You can’t eat, you can’t sleep, and you’re left with no friends. You can’t do anything except stand on stage. Really, only those who are crazy for the career should pursue it.”

    This is what she said and it honestly really moved me. I love singing and dancing, but I never want to change myself into someone I’m not.

    (sorry for the long comment)

  16. Being a kpop star would be awesome if you love making people say “Wow!” and making them happy through performance. I personally love performing for others – it’s truly exciting. But it’s also especially to make a living as a musician/performer, and these entertainment companies are widely advertised, so I understand how a lot of people want to become idols – badly enough that they try to forget the fact that these companies treat their “stars” poorly.

    Even if you lie on shows a lot just for entertainment’s sake, it’s not all bad. Wouldn’t you think that it’s kind of fun to think of possibilities that would entertain the crowd? Acting is part of the job – which kind of makes it more fun. It’s funny how this entertainment business is all a big game.

  17. why dongho, why D: U-KISS was my favorite

  18. This is a B.A.P fan reppin’. I’ve always known about the dark realities of the Kpop world, but I shoved it into my subconcious over time as I became sucked in the pretty facade of kpop. Considering how often B.A.P makes come backs, and how many concerts they’ve held in 2013 back to back to back, I’ve constantly called TS Entertainment INSANE for putting them through that. B.A.P doesn’t complain, none of the idols do. It’s really sad. But I’m glad I clicked on this video and read this article. It was a much needed wake up call. It has re-ignited my cynical fire towards the industry, and it continues to tear my heart apart. I’m considering auditioning just for the heck of it, but to actually make it as an idol is another story. Entertainments seriously need to take better care of their idols.

  19. Promoting the EYK Studio for all people who are seeking employment :)) Makes me want to work there nows :P

  20. Hmm… my people labeled as “un-educated prostitutes”? (*~*) ???

  21. I am REALLY into B.A.P and have noticed how incredibly thin they are and how in the shows making of mv and other cool stuff about them I like to watch how they always look so tired I’ve actually been really worried and scared for them & praying they get some serious down time soon so they can rest! Especially poor Young Jae poor thing always looks more tired then the others even though I adore Yong Rum I like them all & do genuanly worry about them all as a whole. Side note I LOVE u guys & ur vids I’ve learned so much about Korea from y’all & am so dying to go there as soon as I can afford to I am soooo there. Ty for the hard work u guys put in for us fans of yours we love u and appreciate the hard work u all put into each video.

  22. I wanna work with you guise! I’ll do whatever you need! Cooking? Cleaning? Check your health? (I’m studying medicine xD) all I ask, is a place to sleep, and a little time to go to college LOL

  23. I hope Dongho gets your message and considers the job offer.

  24. Maybe Im just a sensitive person but all of this mess just makes me want to cry…i love Korea but seriously though. This makes sense as to why they have the highest suicide rate in the world. THIS IS JUST TERRIBLE! Kpop companies wouldnt even have a freakiing business if it was not for idols and other people interested in the music and wanting to join the companies and fullfill their dreams. They freaking OWE THEIR IDOL WORKERS a ton more than they are receiving. A smart businessman/women knows that if you want to have a successful company you do three things 1)have longterm and short term goals 2)have to have people who are interested in what you are doing and 3)hire those people who are essentially better than you at what you do. This has been the trick of the trade for years. you hire people to your company who can do things that you cant. many of whom that are smarter and more creative than you becuase they will truly make what your company is. without idols doing what they do best they would not.have.a.freaking.business! because theyre would be nobody interested in joining the company which then leads to know one listening to music…BECUZ THERE WOULD BE NO MUSIC. or dramas and whatever. its just stupid. treat your people better korea! and maybe we can solve some problems.

    these are first world problems though and im glad that S&M brought that up. But i think these things just really make me angry because a lot of these people are so talented in what they do. and give their precious time in their lives to this industry to make something of themselves and promote their companies. but yet theyre mistreated. THATS BULL! for a long time i did not know all the CHIZZZ that kpop idol groups went through. and i will never fully understand because …well i dont wanna be a kpop idol if people are gonna try and treat me like that. plus im african american, my family is a whole bunch of black panthers….THEYLL GET CRAZY ON THEIR BUTTS IF THEY TRY TO MESS WITH ME….and my family would probably pull a race card on the korean companies. im not saying thats right. but its the truths HAHAHA! smh….but anyways for a long time i didnt know about the difficulties of work that they went thru and i just blindly supported the groups and the companies becuz they made such great music and dances and everything and i was so passionate about asian culture (like i still am today).
    but that was my fault for not knowing for so long and this wasnt good. and it really hurts, a lot…to know the truth now, these past couple years. It was so much easier to just be happy and enjoy all the great things korea produced from so many aspects but its better to know now the behind the scenes mess that you dont see becuz when you dont know, its almost like living a lie. its like watching “Memoirs of a Geisha” thinking “wow that was a great movie” and finding out later that everyone in the movie was Chinese….no japanese people at all……still smh at that.
    we should write something in the comments of kpop videos to bring people’s attention to things like this that are happening so companies know, that we know and we dont like how they are treating our idols. i feel like we should make a petition where even if it doesnt change much, we can know that at least apart from only being aware of the problem, that we are also trying to be a part of the change.

  25. What are the benefits of being a kpop idol other than being a puppet for a company’s profit? At the end of the day, it is a money making business. A lot of other places received far greater benefits from the hard work of these kpop idols. Example, gossip sites like allkpop and even Simon and Martina’s site has grown popularity and benefited greatly as a result of the recent hallyu revolution. Kpop generates a lot of traffic on websites and the idols should be given credit.

  26. I thought anti fans were the problem and now there are sasaeng fans… how unfortunate for these kpop idols. The entertainment industry will always be corrupt.

  27. This just makes me want to cry… it’s so horrible ='(

  28. no wonder so many bands don’t make it past five years.

  29. Well as an EXO fan I’ve seen food projects for the guys and their staff and I’m also pretty sure other idols get those too. I don’t know if the fans do it all the time they go somewhere but I’ve seen there is always a fansite or several giving them food for major projects in magazines and appearances. But the guys themselves had said that between schedules, and because they are too tired to make something decent, they often just order delivery to their dorms.

    Here is a picture of a food project: http://cfile1.uf.tistory.com/image/254D6C50523ECE060F7289


  30. Hi Simon and Martina! My sister and I are new fans and we love your shows, they’re great and extremely funny! As for the question you asked Martina, about why would I still become a kpop idol, here’s my reason. I am going through a tough time and for a while, I wasn’t doing so well. I then started to really get into kpop and learn the dances and laugh until tears came out of my eyes when I watched kpop idols acting like dorks (even if they were faking it). It really brighten up my day and I felt happier. I’ve actually tried out for SM but didn’t make it since I didn’t have a lot of confidence but I’m trying out again next year and that’s because now I want to work hard and make someone happy or at least smile. That’s the main reason beside making it a career and helping out my family. I want to be an idol for someone and not gain the fame and fortune. Thank you for reading and keep on making awesome videos! :)

  31. My opinion is that if you have a dream, you need to work for it as much as it requires. I think K-pop stars’ dream is to be where they are right now, or to do something whose condition is being in South Korea’s music industry. If you don’t share this dream, you cannot get through the difficult schedule and lifestyle, but if you do share it, I believe it is worth and you will still feel satisfied with all those sacrifices.

  32. I remember seeing a interview with Crayon Pop, maybe it was yours. I forget at this point. Them being so excited they got an upgrade to their apartment. They now had a two bedroom or something crazy, and one of the girls mentioned that her legs are toned from jumping so much. Yes the video was cute but do they need to perform the same thing 24/7 no.

    They make these companies ga-gallions of dollars, how is a bed not a given? Time to re-coup not a given? Those crazy green-smoothy drinks written into their riders for performances are meant as a safety measure. I still remember seeing an interview with Metallica when there was a VH-1 and them explaining if they didn’t see the right color M&Ms that the show was off. They knew their technical requirements weren’t met and it was dangerous to perform. K-pop idols nah its just a little lightning go on stage in your cast. Good luck.

  33. I just wanted to tell you that my boyfriend (who is already signed to a huge music company) would appreciate it if this company would work like the asian ones. I already told you that they are doing nothing for him and his band and I think this would get him closer to his goal in getting his music more popular, I think.

    They went to Belgium last weekend for only 250€… and they had to drive nearly 2000km from Germany to Belgium and back on their own. I think he’s fed up with this arduous way.

  34. omg totally agree with the intense diet girl groups go through. it’s already impacting korean girls. im a korean middle school student, and one of my classmates said today that she wasn’t eating anything for THREE WHOLE DAYS to lose weight. she’s always saying that she wants to look like someone in a k-pop girl group. it’s not just her. all of my friends talk about how ‘thick’ their leg are and how they’re eating too much n they should stop eating blah blah blah…. IU said in an interview that she drank only water for several days so that she can look thin on her debut day. WTH?! she’s already skinny if u ask me.

  35. lol that would be epic to see dongho in eyk as a regular.

  36. this is basically like the justin beiber fans x 10

  37. I’m with y’all. I want to do what makes me happy. I’m becoming a missionary. My brother doesn’t agree with it because I won’t make enough money. I’ve never had a desire to have money. I mean, having money is nice, but really would it make me more happier in life? I’m more concerned with pursuing what makes me happy and what makes me happy is following Jesus and helping people. As a missionary I get to do both. BAM! Life made. I’m very concerned with the lifestyles the Kpop stars are stuck in. I would never be able to be a Kpopper. The outfits those companies make those girls wear I’d be like, you trippin’. And some of the sexual marketing the companies use the girls for. Uh-uh. I’d be kicked out because I wouldn’t stand for it. Nobody would sign me because I’d be labeled as someone who was never compliant with the companies wishes. Uh excuse me it’s my body and I’ll dress it according to my beliefs and standards, I’ll work it in my modest way and still knock ‘em out with my on-point vocals.

  38. Hi Simon and Martina,
    I totally agree with you guys on this topic! They are humans, they live and breathe, they need to eat, they can do what they please its work! Work shouldn’t be mixed into their personal life at all! I don’t want to be in a job that will make me see my family once a year and work like a donkey all year long! No SIR NO! Let me evil :3 I want to study a career that will be able to bring something in for EYK! I want to work with you in the future *cough* I need to *cough* begin and finish college *cough cough* I would be so happy to do so! Thank you for this TL;DR Needed a break form college app’s and all Thank you! MWUAH!

  39. Pick me! Pick me! I want to work with SM too!
    Uh…I mean Simon&Martina :P

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