November 7, 2013

Are the Rumors True? The Life of a Trainee and an Idol

Thanks to Khanh Truong who had this excellent question!

So are the rumors true?  Do you have to sleep with the CEO to get a part in an idol group, song, or movie?  Do they beat trainees?  Are idols overworked?  Are you forced to get surgery?

Like high school bullying, it does happen, but a majority of people don't experience it firsthand and of the people who do experience it, few experience it with such intensity.  Have there been cases where trainees been sexually assaulted or slept with a lowlife CEO to get into the business?  Yes.  Just look at the CEO of Open World Entertainment who was recently arrested for sexual assault on a trainee.  Have trainees been beat?  Yes, especially in the 90s and early 00s when corporal punishment was a common and accepted form of punishment in Korea (much like it was in the 50s in America).  Are idols overworked?  Yes.  Many idols like f(x)'s Krystal and KARA's Hara have both fainted onstage and T-ARA is very obviously overworked.  Are you forced to get surgery?  Yes, in the past it was "have surgery or don't debut".
These things do happen, but some things, such as beating trainees or getting forced to get surgery, are very uncommon nowadays because of the visibility of idols.  It's so easy to dig up pre-debut pictures so it's glaringly obvious when you get work done and corporal punishment is no longer an accepted form of punishment.

While it's impossible to predict whether it will happen to you, just like it's impossible to predict if you'll get hit by a car, there are ways to safeguard yourself to help you avoid these horrible things.

1.)  Don't be desperate.
While drive is integral to becoming a K-Pop idol, desperation is not.  I know how badly you want to be an idol, but there are terrible people out there.  There are ample reports of hopefuls getting scammed or sexually assaulted by people claiming to be able to make them stars.  Do your research.  If you've never heard of the company before, it probably doesn't exist.  Your body is not worth being a star.

2.)  Set your limits.
What are you willing to do?  Make a list of things you absolutely would not do to become a K-pop star.  Then stick to your guns.  Do not be willing to make any compromises on your list.
For example, here's my list:

  • No sex.  I will not perform as sort of sexual acts in exchange for fame.  I'm worth so much more than that.
  • No major plastic surgery.  Would I consider double-eyelid surgery or Botox?  Actually, I might.  But would I consider rhinoplasty (a nose job)?  No.
  • No physical abuse.  You lay a hand on me, I am out of there!  I don't care if I'm a day away from debut.  I refuse to be hit.
So if I ever became a trainee, but SM told me I couldn't debut until I had a nose job, I'd quit.

3.)  Stick with people you know.
A majority of you don't live in Korea, nor do you know anyone living in Korea.  So if you were to become a trainee, you'd be flying over to a completely strange place.
Kids, keep your parents close!  Scum bags prey on the naive and innocent who have no familiar moral compass asking them: "Did you honestly think this through???"

4.)  Know your limits.
Some people just don't know when to say no!  They take on project after project until they drop.  One of my friends in going to school full-time, playing in a marching band, involved in his church and works two jobs.  I keep telling him he's going keel over and die of overwork one day.  And honestly, some people, like him, can do all this and not feel tired.  But me, not so much.