Mental Health Issues In K-pop Industry

K-pop is becoming a global phenomenon attracting more people to Korean music and culture, but the truth is that it is not that good when people look closely. K-pop groups have talent and enthusiasm that is not being promoted the right way. Companies inside this world are capable of using their artists just for sales without caring about their artists’ mental or physical health. But behind the glamour, the lucrative industry is run by talent agencies with an iron fist. Two recent apologies by Japan's popular band SMAP and Taiwanese star Chou Tzuyu have highlighted just how much power they have. Also, Idols are pressed every day by their companies and “fans” that want them to be perfect; this leads to body image issues and mental issues that can be fatal for the artists. When the K-pop industry overworks their talent, the performers suffer from mental and physical health issues. Including all of the hardships of being a K-pop idol, we can also include the pressure that Korean fans put in their artists based on unrealistic expectations.

Metal health of Kpop artists is being affected by the pressure from their companies or their fans; this causes a lot of problems for the Idols that can end in a tragedy. Living as a Kpop artist is not easy. They get a lot of pressure from their families, friends, companies, and fans to be almost “perfect”. They need to be the bests at singing, dancing and also they must have good looks. This causes a lot of anxiety for the performers. One example can be found in an article from ABC News called: Superstar Sulli’s sparks conversation about South Korea’s high-pressure K-pop industry, “Every aspect of their lives is controlled by the contract, even their relationship”. Performers sign a contract with their company for seven years that in most cases control their entire lives. A lot of companies have in their contracts a section where they say that relationships are prohibited. These rules create an environment full of stress and depression for some people inside the industry. Having a relationship is a right that every person has, prohibiting something so natural like having a romantic partner is extremely alarming considering that most Kpop artist stays in their company for 7 years or more. This constant stress can cause most of the idols to have secret relationships and being discovered by the company can end with them being kicked out of their group, but mental health is not the only problem that affects Korean Idols.

There is a great presence of physical pressure that artists have being in a Kpop group. Artists work during an unlimited amount of hours per day and added to that they do extreme diets to have a “good body” for the Korean beauty standards. Physical exploitation has always been a problem in Kpop groups. The constant pressure for being better leaves the artist with an inhuman amount of hours practicing. We also see fancams -behind-the-scenes stuff of them recording for shows- and sometimes we just see them passing out, fainting on stage. All those extreme diet regimes and grueling training schedules strictly monitored by management companies cause idols to faint on stage and in general having bad physical health. The problem of physical health if affected by the pressure that companies put on artists expecting them to be perfect. Sometimes the problem is not only from the companies, but it is also from the idol. Performers want to do their best for their fans so they put themselves into practices that might be seen as extreme.

Mental and physical health are real problems that affect performers in Korea, but the worst thing that affects idols are the Korean fans that have high expectations on the way the should look, act or dress. Korean fans are extremely harsh with what they expect from their artists. This way of thinking affects Idols since all their lives are exposed to the public. Superstar Sulli’s sparks conversation about South Korea’s high-pressure K-pop industry is an article from ABC News that insists that “A superstar K-pop idol who was famous for posting Instagram selfies without a bra under her shirt, and advocating for abortion reform and mental health in a country where going public about such things are still taboo”. Sulli suffered a lot of hate when she was alive. The example of Sulli is one of the many cases where an idol is criticized based on the expectations of fans of how they should act or dress. This causes a lot of anxiety for artists because they feel unable to be themselves. K-pop fans’ expectations are over the top. Korean fans expect the performer to be perfect putting a lot of pressure when they are not what they want. A lot of cases of suicide have been reported this year, leaving the Korean community with questions about what actions they need to take and how to change this perspective about artists.

People often argue about this theme saying that not always artists suffer from these punishments. People agree that it depends on the company and the fans of the idol. Each company in Kpop has different rules and methods that can affect their idols, so this can be a reason for some people to be against the popular thinking about the punishment that Korean artists receive from their companies. There have been a lot of scandals because of the poor treatment that idols receive from different companies. It is not a problem that involves one or two companies; it is a problem that affects a dozen of them. There have been a lot of artists speaking up about their situation after they leave their companies, more and more stories are coming out from Korean idols talking about the things that they needed to do to be successful. It is true that each company is different, but all of them have very similar rules that physically or mentally end up affecting their artists. All of these Korean companies use these methods because of their way of thinking that success equals perfection. Korean companies are not good in any way. They have slave contracts of seven years or more where most of the time they prohibit their artists from having any kind of relationship. Also, they push the artist to do diets while at the same time they need to practice for hours on just one dance. Any of these problems have been present in any of those companies.

K-pop industry is getting bigger each year with the massive evolution that Kpop is having around the world, but in the end, these companies do not care about the well being of their artists and the constant pressure by them and by the K-pop fans that can cause serious mental or physical problems for the Korean artists. In general, life for K-pop artists is not easy. They experience most of their youth without any kind of romantic relationship, which this negatively affects their mental health. Also, they are forced to practice during long periods of time risking their physical health. Not only the pressure comes from companies, but also from some of their fans creating a toxic environment where idols prefer to be liked by their fans than being themselves. The worst thing is that this is not only a problem that affects some artists, but this also affects each one of them because all the companies are very strict with their performers with the purpose of being approved by their fans. These problems are affecting a lot of young Korean men and women. 2019 was a tragic year for K-pop artists an example of this is Sulli a young idol that committed suicide at the end of this year. K-pop needs to change for the good of their idols’ mental and physical well-being.  

16 December 2021
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