December 10, 2015
So, this is a video we’ve been wanting to do for a while now. A couple of times we talked about the dark sides of the Kpop Industry, including being overworked, as well as being screwed into slave contracts. We’ve kind of stepped away from kpop since then, but now we’d like to draw our attention to the Korean Drama industry, and just how evil and insane it is as well.
Now, while we didn’t act in any Korean Dramas, we did have a few experience with Korean film crews, on just a small scale, and it soured us quite a bit, to the point that we pretty much turn down almost all offers to do Korean TV now unless we’re protected so that we don’t film in the same conditions that most Korean TV shows film. We’re not asking for limos and jars full of only blue jellybeans, but we do ask for three meals a day and to not film more than 12 hours at a time. Before we had these demands, though, and our few tiny experiences were enough for us to know that Korean TV production is a bit too poisonous and didn’t give a shit about the wellbeing of anyone involved, so long as the video is finished.
Story time: a few years ago we did a video shoot for some kimchi refrigerators. We were supposed to do five different shoots in five different locations. On the day of the fourth shoot, they decided that they wanted to shoot two episodes in one day. To do so, we’d have to start earlier and film longer. We agreed beforehand to be paid a daily rate, and so now they wanted to get as much bang for their buck as possible. That day they picked us up at around 5AM. We got in the car and drove for roughly three hours to the location, somewhere between Seoul and Busan. They said we had to film quickly, so we didn’t have time to stop for breakfast.
Us: But, hey, we’re hungry, it’s first thing in the morning. Do you have any snacks or anything in the car?
Them: Nope. Gotta keep driving.
Us: Well, we’ve been driving for a while now, can we stop to use the bathroom, and while we’re at it pick up some snacks.
Them: Sorry, we don’t have time for that.
Us: Ok then, will we eat when we get to the location?
Them: Yeah yeah, sure sure.
But that was a lie. We drove up to the location, the cameraman jumped out and started setting up while we went to the washroom. When we came back they said it’s time to film.
Us: What? We just got here. We didn’t even eat yet. We’re starving and exhausted. I’ll need at least a coffee to wake up.
Them: No time. Start filming. We’ll eat after.
Us: But we’re going to film here for a couple of hours. I can’t start the day on an empty stomach and go five freaking hours without eating.
Them: I’m sorry, but that’s what we have to do. Let’s go.
Fuck that. No, we didn’t go. I told the guy in charge we’ll film once we’re taken care of. I didn’t want a full course meal in Downton Abbey, but I needed something! A sandwich at the convenience store, anything, dammit! The guy in charge didn’t agree, and reminded us that he’s not hired to be our father to take care of us; he’s there to get the video done. So I told him to do the video without us.
We waited in the car for 45 minutes while the other car went out and got food for us. Fortunately the driver brought food for the other people on set, and everyone got a chance to eat. Oddly, though, nobody else protested beforehand, but nobody turned down the food when it came. Sure, we were seen as assholes thinking only about ourselves. Everyone is making sacrifices! Everyone has it tough! Why would we want to be treated better than everyone else? But that wasn’t the case. I wanted everyone to be treated well, but just because everyone accepts shitty working conditions doesn’t mean I’m going to do the same.
Afterwards, the guy in charge was terrible to us, threatened to not pay us, was difficult on set and scowling, and wouldn’t talk to us directly. Fine by me. Maybe in the future he’ll learn to schedule in time for people to be taken care of. Or maybe he’ll just refuse to work with foreigners ever again. Hell if I know.
I definitely sympathize for the Han Ye-seul for leaving mid-shooting of her drama, and I’m appalled that so many people complained that what she did hurt the drama. Why are people talking about the drama as if it’s more sacred than people’s health and wellbeing? Why are people treating dramas as if they’re above treating people decently? I’m appalled whenever I hear about actors fainting, but I’m more appalled when people praise them for toughing it out instead of standing up for themselves. Stop telling actors “fighting!” when you hear about how terribly they’re getting treated. Stop telling them to keep on being abused and worked almost to death, literally almost to death, so you could be entertained. What you should start doing is start telling them to get the fuck out of there and start taking care of themselves. We should care more about their health as people than we care about their portrayal of characters.
Since we’ve just about stopped working with Korean production companies, we have done some work with film crews from other countries, and we’ve also spoken with friends that work in the industry in countries that we haven’t worked with. All of them are appalled by Korea’s work conditions. And though that doesn’t make their country’s tv industry shining beacons of integrity and ethics, I think we can all acknowledge that the Korean Drama industry is sick and ethically bankrupt. I don’t want to support it anymore.