Bullying scandals hit K-pop groups
By Rachel Lee
Hwayoung’s recent departure from T-ara, allegedly due to bullying by the group’s other members, shows a dark side to the booming K-pop industry.
The group’s agency, Core Contents Media announced Tuesday that the contract with the 19-year-old member has been cancelled. And agency CEO Kim Kwang-soo has denied the widespread rumors of bullying within T-ara, saying in a statement that the company has made the decision for better teamwork.
This is not the only bullying claim to surface. Other popular idol girl groups such as Girls’ Generation, Kara, Wonder Girls and Afterschool were all once embroiled in similar scandals.
After Tuesday’s announcement, both Korean and overseas fans have expressed their anger and disappointment in the misbehavior of some singers.
“I cannot believe such thing really happened to my favorite Korean girl group,” said a 25-year-old Chinese woman, who wished to remain anonymous, Wednesday. “I am not sure if I will remain a K-pop admirer like I used to be because this whole childish behavior has kind of disillusioned me and other big fans of K-pop.”
Music experts and industry insiders see this problem as inherent and structural. Unlike most bands that are formed spontaneously by members with similar musical tastes, idol groups are created by agencies regardless of musical interests and ambition. A lack of common interest or communication between members can lead to conflict and discord.
“It was caused by the limitations that stem from the time an idol group is formed and the cutthroat competition between its members,” popular culture critic Jung Duk-hyun told The Korea Times on Wednesday.
“They have to overcome all the stress and difficulties that face them. If they do not know each other well, it ends up fuelling conflict within the group.
“Most singers begin tough training together even before they start to get to know each other. This sort of thing happens because every one of them is different and also teenage girls are often jealous of each other. It all comes from jealousy and immaturity,” an industry insider told The Korea Time on Wednesday.
The downside of harsh training at Korean entertainment agencies has finally been revealed to the public.
“It’s true that other countries have credited K-pop stars’ success on their rigorous practice and training periods but at the same time they think the tough training program is unusual and abnormal.”
To prevent this from happening, there needs to be long-term solutions so that each member of a group can understand and communicate better with each other.
“Personality and character training are important. Agencies need to think about adopting a special scheme that offers time and space for their singers to get to know each other,” the critic said.
“If we can sort out these communication problems, it will brighten the future of K-pop and it will receive more love from around the world.”