KPOP: 28 Things New Kpop Fans May Not Know About The Industry

20 Jun


Kpop has become a huge phenomenon within the last decade and is still popular now. It is considered the “secret music society” of this generation. It has its own close-knit community and is prized because it seems to reflect pure South Korean culture in a modern way. South Korean officials call it Korea’s “soft power”.

This is all a result of the Hallyu Wave. <—Read More About It Here

Most international Kpop fans get into the genre because of the catchy songs, the perfect dance moves, and the myriads of attractive men and women involved. They may also like the innocence and “purity” of the music and music videos. After all, you will hardly see or hear outright violence and/or explicit sex in their songs or videos. To outsiders, these groups seem like the perfect packaged artists. For those people looking for more substance, Kpop groups may turn you away. For those interested in quality and wholesome music, Kpop is the way to go.

Kpop does for Asian artists what the other nations around the world have a hard time doing: promoting Asian talent.

From the beginning, you already can understand that there is something special about Kpop that makes it stand out from any pop music around the world. Like any pop stars around the world, Kpop artists invest a lot in promotion. But unlike other pop artists, these figures don’t just entertain; they are packaged to fulfill the desires of their audience. Thus, they are worshipped.

For those of you just getting into the genre and into the Kpop community, you may find yourself embraced by a culture all its own: the Kpop culture. It comes with its set of friends, fun, and celebrations. Still, several things may confuse you, anger you, and/or turn you off (even if you like the music). There are many things newcomers don’t really know or understand when they first get involved with this genre.

I’ve been a Kpop fan since the beginning of the Hallyu wave in late 2003 to 2004. My first favorite Kpop artist was BoA. I then went on to liking S.E.S., DBSK (now TVXQ), Lee Hyori, and Se7en. I’m still a Jumping BoA for life though. Even though I was a Kpop fan then, I didn’t see it the way I do know. Much of the fan bases have changed over the years. I feel like a newcomer with this “new wave” of fans even though I’ve loved the genre for more than 10 years! There are still some things I’m learning as times change, especially as everything is being shared on the internet. Many of the things I’ve learned confused me, especially regarding the culture. Some things disappointed me before I really understood the culture. But I don’t want any newcomers to come in confused, with unrealistic expectations, or unprepared. I’ve created a list of 24 things newcomers should understand while jumping into Kpop. This list will help you deal with certain trends, habits, joys, and disappointments in the Kpop universe.

Kpop has a surface side and a hidden side. I want to address both sides: 1) what all Kpop fans know about the genre from a surface level and 2) what you newcomers may not see right off, but some hardcore Kpop fans may know.

This article may not sound too culturally sensitive, but it is meant to be down-to-earth and show international fans (especially western fans) what they may be getting into. After all, it’s important to cover all bases, right?

WARNING: The following sections may be long for some readers, but there were a lot of things I felt needed to be addressed.

The “underlined links” are sources to back up what I’m saying. I tried to avoid websites with viruses, but if you encounter such an issue, please leave me a comment and I will remove the link.

This will not be in any particular order.

What You May See…what you may see

  1. Labels Are Just As Big As Artists
  2. Debuts And Comebacks Are A Big Deal
  3. Labels Want Global Attention
  4. Fans Are Monstrous
  5. Korean Music Shows Decide Success
  6. International Fans Should Buy Hard copies
  7. Variety shows, Talk shows, K-dramas, Fashion ads, And Magazines Promote Kpop artists
  8. Check Time Zone Differences
  9. Be On The Lookout For International Tours
  10. Groups Are Bigger Than Solo Artists
  11. Kpop Labels Follow The Trends

Behind the Scenes…behind the scenes

    1.  Labels Are Blamed For Everything
    2. Many Kpop Idols Aren’t Korean
    3. Kpop Idols Don’t Last Long
    4. Idols Can’t Date
    5. Duty And Hard Work Is prized
    6. Male Idols Must Serve In The Military
    7. Boy Groups Are More Popular Than Girl Groups
    8. Kpop Is Not Extremely Diverse
    9. Looks Are Just As Important As Talent
    10. Standing Out Is Difficult In Kpop
    11. Kpop Idols Are Very Traditional At The Core
    12. Kpop Doesn’t Always Reflect Everything in Korea
    13. Kpop Is Always Changing
    14. What Does It Take To Be a Kpop Idol?
    15. Kpop Idols Don’t Make As Much As They Should
    16. Korean TV stations will ban certain Kpop songs from being aired
    17. Kpop Idols and Feminism Don’t Mix-Girl Crush VS Girly

What You May See…

The “What You May See” section deals with anything that most Kpop fans know from a surface level. There are casual Kpoppers who can even understand what goes under this section if they are curious enough. Most fans may gather information like this from reading the comments sections on Youtube. Still, for those of you who are lost when it comes to the goings-ons of the Kpop universe, I’m here to help.

1) Labels Are Just As Big As Artists


I want to start with this. Believe it or not, labels mean everything in Kpop nowadays. I don’t know what has happened in the last few years that I’ve been into Kpop, but I’ve never seen so many labels pop out with groups the way Korean labels have been doing recently. When I first got into Kpop, I never once heard people talking about supporting LABELS. Maybe it was around, but mostly people talked about their favorite artists like they did in any country around the world. Now, it’s so different…

The labels in Korea decide everything. This is not just from behind the scenes (they do bind their artists in strict contracts), but from the fan perspective, too. Fans of Kpop usually support artists under the same label as their favorite group. This is important to note. You may be surprised to find the most famous groups or solo artists in Kpop are no different from the least famous, but because they are backed by a bigger label, they will get more attention.

BTS is a rare exception. Even now, many Koreans don’t understand BTS’s popularity themselves.

Big Hit contributed to the group’s success, which is putting Big Hit on the map. Still, Big Hit doesn’t have many “hits” under its belt yet, outside of BTS. It will take a few more debuts to decide if this company becomes a staple Korean label. One successful group is not enough to get into the top 3, especially because Kpop is a very fragile industry, as I will explain a little later.

You may have heard fans from the “big three” say, “I stan SM” or “I stan JYP”. This shows that the labels are the ones REALLY running the show.

The three “powerhouse” labels are SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, and JYP Nation at the moment. These labels have contributed to the Hallyu Wave and have helped in putting Kpop on the map. SM Entertainment was the first to market their artists in countries outside of Korea. This brought international attention to Kpop. YG Entertainment has had many of their artists go viral overseas during the height of the Hallyu Wave (particularly in America) due to their artists’ “westernized” style of music. JYP’s CEO is infamous himself. He is a Kpop idol and has a lot of influence in South Korea. He was a direct contributor to the Hallyu Wave. These three labels have all started many Kpop trends known in the genre today. Even when visiting these companies in Seoul, Korea, around the area they reside, you will notice how popular these labels are. YG’s building is particularly spectacular and as amazing as entering an art museum. They are tourist attractions all their own. Of course, in recent years, YG has seen a depletion in power and respect due to a series of scandals and poor decisions.

BigHit Entertainment (home to the mega-super Kpop star group BTS), or now HYBE, has been a rising giant in the industry, but so far they’ve only managed to land one major hit group in comparison to the other more powerful agencies.


These labels have gotten so big because they have developed a “brand” just with their name alone. In SM Entertainment’s case, they even have a “fandom name” for those who support all the artists from the label called “Pink Blood”. On all of their music videos, the agencies’ names are stamped on it somehow.

Why do labels get so much attention? Because in reality, they are the ones paying for everything. They are the ones paying to make the idol….the idol. They hire the producers, songwriters, makeup artists, stylists, choreographers, video production team, and everything else. The idols are living in THEIR dorms, off of their dime. Basically, they are the ones investing in the idol, so they make sure people understand which company that idol belongs to. They put their personal stamp everywhere the idol goes, they control which deals the idols make, and they control how much they get in return. It’s their game, idols are just playing it.

How do they get this attention?

The artists from these labels are often encouraged to promote and support other artists from the same label, which helps the popularity of other groups. They look out for each other, even though they are silent competitors in this industry.

When fans bring so much attention to artists from the same label, they are indirectly bringing fame and longevity (and more money) to the label itself (and making it difficult for other labels to shine). This makes the labels’ brand itself of “idol” status. This helps the bigger labels monopolize the market and influence the Kpop culture.

The real clincher is that there are tons of other amazing artists that are from lesser-known labels, but they won’t be given the same opportunities because their company isn’t well-known. Sometimes, the bigger labels will produce mediocre work in comparison to a lesser known label, but because one piece of work was done by a bigger label, the more infamous song will get more attention, even if it’s not so good. The saddest part is that some fans blindly support a “label” rather than individual artists themselves. This gives more power to the label and less power to the artists.

The real questions you may have: Why do fans only support idols under the same label? How did it get this way?

Well, labels tend to produce the same kind of music among their artists. If fans liked the original sound and they mass produce it by many artists under their umbrella, what’s stopping fans from liking it? Their love just travels to other artists. Labels usually use the same recording studios, choreographers, and songwriters for all of the artists. All of the artists seem to have a “connection” when produced by the same label. This is a good marketing strategy. So, when people like a song by one group or soloist from the label, the label will hire the same team for newer groups so they will get attention for having the same “magnetic” sound. This is how the Kpop craze began. After a while, fans get used to associating the artists together under the same label and no longer care if they all sound the same or not, as long as they’re all under the same label.

The second reason fans support artists under the same label is because the money all goes in the same pot. If you support one group, the money will be used by the label to support other artists under that label, especially new artists who start off with nothing. If your favorite group is struggling, it’s refreshing to know that other fandoms will support the efforts of your favorite group. There’s also a sense of family among the fans who stan the same label.

Still, there is back-biting and hating even within the same label’s fandoms. Nowadays, it’s more common to find trolls on the internet who love to pick on less popular groups.

There are more fan wars between the competing labels, though. Every fandom wants to put their label on the map and have it conquer the music industry. I think fans are hoping that if they make the loudest noise, people will pay attention to their favorites. One thing is for certain: The bigger labels always have enough money to do world tours.

With Kpop going international, fans are even more adamant about supporting their favorite idols because they want the chance to see their idols live. If their idols are barely popular in Korea, it will be a slim chance international fans will get to see their idols live.

My advice is not to fall into the trap of the “label game”. Support the artists you like. Reward artists who truly deserve it.

Part of the reason the labels are just as big as the artist is because they technically have the most control over their artists’ concepts and music.

Unfortunately, the companies have too much power and influence in the industry. If an idol leaves their group, sometimes the labels are able to “blacklist” those idols (set them up as undesirable or get major shows and endorsers not to work with them). Some idols may do this to themselves, but some, like the JYJ boys from DBSK, were just asking to be treated fairly, but are denied any promotions because other companies don’t want to get on the bigger company’s bad side.

We as fans have to understand that labels are more than just music companies. They are entertainment companies and management companies, too. They often house actors, models, and other idols under their umbrellas, so they end up with a lot of influence in South Korea. This makes it harder on idols who plan to venture out.

That’s why I believe it’s important for fans to give some of that power back to the artists if you plan to keep your favorite artists in the spotlight, no matter what roadblocks they face. It’s up to fans.

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2) Debuts And Comebacks Are A BIG Deal


When you first get into a Kpop fandom, you will notice that all Kpop fans are eager for debuts and comebacks. As mentioned before, fans support the artists from their favorite labels mostly, but neutral Kpop fans, especially fans from outside of South Korea, who see Kpop as a separate genre and community from their typical pop industry, get excited when any interesting groups show up. This makes Kpop comebacks and debuts even more of a big deal.

Why are Kpop comebacks and debuts more of a huge deal in South Korea than in other nations, like the USA? Aren’t comebacks and debuts a big deal everywhere? Not quite as much. Allure covered the answer in the article “Why K-pop Stars Always Dye Their Hair”.

For Western pop stars, a carefully crafted tweet or mysterious Instagram post from a recording studio helps tease a new album. “They typically spend some time creating buzz over a single or two, releasing music videos, and then releasing their album,” Jeff BenjaminBillboard‘s K-pop columnist, tells Allure. “But K-pop wants immediate impact upon release.”

For Korean pop stars, all they have to do is take off their beanie at the airport and expose their newly colored hair to rally the troops. “Korea sees the single, album, music video, and the first live performance all typically revealed in 24 hours,” Benjamin explains. “So, unveiling a new look heightens that impact.”

Basically, Kpop companies create a wave of excitement by making the WHOLE DAY of the idols’ debut or comeback feel like a holiday with photo teasers, single teasers, new concepts, new style or image, full albums or EPs, and stage performances on music shows all on the same day or even for two days! International fans will even stay up all night (considering the time difference), sneak away during school or work hours, and even forgo all other plans to get all the latest updates throughout the day!

Some idols may have extra promotion, like f(x)’s art museum exhibit.

At this time, fans are usually in “rush mode”, too. In order to get their idols on the charts, they have to purchase albums and download songs. This helps their favorite idols win on music shows and boosts the egos and reputations of all involved. After all, they aren’t doing all of this to just support their idols and keep them around. They also hope to beat the competition, get their idols on the map so their idols become global icons, help their idols make some cash so they can afford world tours and pay off debts, among other things.

At this time, fans are also desperately trying to find ways to boost views on Youtube, which also helps their idols win on music shows.

They also try to search on South Korea’s biggest search engines, the biggest being Naver. It is a search engine that caters exclusively to Koreans and their country. Google can’t even dominate it.

South Korean fans have more advantages than international fans.  They have access to all the South Korean websites and live closer to idols. International fans have to find clever ways to reach out to Kpop idols. This requires that international fans spend as much time in one day supporting their idols as much as they can, which creates more of a buzz around a comeback or debut.

Also, fans in South Korea and abroad support their favorites in more ways than just buying albums and watching videos. Many fans organize fan meetings, create and supply merchandise, come together on “cafes” to strategize ways to help their favorites win on music shows, chant their fan “name”, wear the fan “color”, and so much more. If a comeback drops unexpectedly, fans really can’t give it the utmost support they would usually. Some companies are aware of this and will announce comebacks months in advance.

Sometimes, fans will do all of these “support” tactics even if the comeback or debut is a bust. They may not like the song or the concept, but will still support it anyway, just because they’ve invested their own identities in these artists and the labels involved. They still will try to promote the artists and just have a “better luck next time” attitude about it. After all, they want to keep these idols around longer.

Still, most Kpop artists and their labels try to be the first to bring out their most interesting, attractive, and polished concepts so that everyone will like it. If a group already has a strong identity, it doesn’t matter what the concept, it will still be eaten up. Those groups will have it easier. They could get away with less effort. Lesser-known groups try to come out with something original, but not too different or unusual. They try to strike that balance so they can attract their usual fan base once again as well as attract new fans to the group.

What may be attractive to international fans may not be attractive to South Korean fans. International fans do matter, but South Korean fans have more power when it comes to influencing Kpop charts like Melon, Hanteo, Gaon, and others. I’ll talk more about this later…

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3) Labels Want Global Attention

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This can go under both what is noticeable and unseen by the casual listener.

Many international fans may notice that Kpop seems to have a lot of western influences. For starters, the genre of pop is familiar to Westerners (as it took off the ground in America). But hip-hop, rap, and other once-exclusive genres seem to permeate Kpop, too. English words are sprinkled throughout the songs, even in the chorus. It may have you wondering, “Is this really Korean pop music?” And many music videos nowadays have English captions so that western fans can follow along.

There are even some variety shows, like After School Club, that cater to English speakers. Labels scout out foreigners from the west to bring to their labels.

People also may notice that world tours seem to be huge in Japan and China. Foreign artists from both nations are present in Kpop groups. Chinese versions of Korean songs (like EXO’s Monster) are also recognizably present. I’m sure they are also wondering, “Is this Kpop?”

Kpop labels are also interested in other eastern countries like India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and many more. But they mostly want the attention of America, China, and Japan.

On the one hand, you could just attribute Kpop’s popularity to the fact that Korea has become more globalized and is interested or just inspired by American, Chinese, and Japanese cultures. You might not think this means labels are really interested in these countries, especially not America.

Let’s talk about the west, particularly America, first. Why would Kpop labels and their idols be so interested in America? One user of Reddit opened an interesting discussion about this topic. I want to borrow these comments because I think they deserve to be read by others (sorry for those I borrowed from, but I will give you credit 😉 )

The poster, Ashyne, starts by listing all of the recognizable differences between the Kpop market and the American market and why it doesn’t seem reasonable for Asian labels to try and break into the Western American market.

1) Language-Most Americans who are not Asian would prefer to listen to music in their language, although music itself can be enjoyed regardless of whether one understands the lyrics or not.

2) Culture-The culture of South Korea is the complete opposite of America’s. The formalities and etiquette inherent in the basic Korean lifestyle cannot be compared to the more informal and individualistic culture of America. Cultural differences create a “me vs you” prejudice that make it hard for those unaccustomed to the foreign culture to accept, appreciate and understand it.

3) Beauty Ideals-This is easily the most visually apparent. Where the American ideal of beauty features and encourages an adult, sensual and seductive look with thick make-up, arched eyebrows and tan skin, South Korea idealizes the pure and innocent appearance with natural-looking and light makeup, pale skin, straight eyebrows and a youthful child-like demeanor.

4) Fashion Styles-For the sake of easily-identifiable differentiation, I will refer to female idols. South Korean popular fashion, driven by K-Pop trends and fads, is mainly about looking girly, delicate and youthful. Soft fabrics with pastel colors for the feminine and child-like look on one end of the spectrum (e.g. Apink/Lovelyz) or vibrant eye-catching styles combining a contrast of elements for the more teenage-chic appearance on the other (e.g. 2NE1/T-ara).

The clothes worn by female American soloists or girl groups are inherently revealing, provocative and deliberately meant to portray an adult look permeated with overt sensuality and sexuality.

5) Choreography-K-Pop choreography for male idol groups features a more artistic, eye-catching performance with very complex and rapid dance routines than American boy groups, who usually value vocal talent over excessively prominent choreographies.

For female K-Pop idols, choreography is light-hearted and dainty on one end of the spectrum for the cutesy groups, or more sexual and provocative on the other end of the spectrum for groups that feature a sexier concept. This is the only kind of choreography that is similar to, but still easily distinguishable from American female singer-dancers, whose choreography are much more sexually-explicit and vulgar.

6) Music-The music between Korean and American idol groups are more similar than the other factors listed above. K-pop idol groups, both male and female, usually sing about innocent romances, first loves, breaking up or love at first sight (teenage topics); while Americans sing about these topics too, they also sing about addictions and more adult topics.

The aforementioned factors are not all, but the main ones that become easily apparent when trying to consider the reasons that K-pop idols will have a difficult time being successful in America.

Let’s now look at simplified statistics:

America has a population of around 320 million. Combining the 6 factors listed above and considering that Asians, to whom Asian music (e.g. K-pop) appeal the most, are the minority of the population, we have a tiny fraction of the American demographic that are a potential source for interest in K-pop music.

Now, on the other hand, K-pop is vastly more popular in East and Southeast Asia also due to the similarities I pointed out above. Besides popularity, K-pop has been a part of popular Asian music scene for decades starting with the earliest K-pop pioneers that received attention outside South Korea.

Also consider that East Asia already contains China, Japan and South Korea who are the 3 largest consumer nations of K-pop. The overall population of East Asia is 1.6 billion people.

K-pop is also highly popular in Southeast Asia, especially in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia with massive fanbases. There are around 600 million people in this region.

So we have a simple statistic comparison of 320 million Americans (of whom only a minority are potential fans) versus 2200 million Asians (of whom a significantly larger majority are potential fans) and from this we can see that in Asia, there is a vastly larger potential fanbase than America could ever hope to achieve.

With these facts, it is reasonable to conclude that “cracking America” would be a waste of time. This is the question many Kpop fans have, even in Korea. Many posters gave very good responses, but one poster has a real clue what’s going on and how the labels really see it, even if it doesn’t sound too culturally “sensitive”.

affabillyty gives this response:

  1. America is the global cultural beacon: For better or worse, what gets produced in Hollywood has the best chance of becoming international culture. Kpop has certainly upended Japan’s regional influence in becoming a top-tier cultural beacon in East Asia and SE Asia, but music and film made in Hollywood has the potential to transcend Continental Europe, East Asia, Latin America and, of course, the rest of the English speaking world (UK, Canada, Australia, Oceania). Though it’s almost a non-starter if the music isn’t in English…
  2. Artistic liberation: as you mentioned in your post, the stereotypical Korean aesthetic is youthful, chaste and pure. American pop culture is sexualized, provocative and mature. I think in the past 1-2 years, the Kpop aesthetic has drastically shifted towards the American norm. Hip-hop is pretty dominant, videos are increasingly sexualized, and both Korean and American artists are being styled in converging “streetwear” clothing. There are even smaller anecdotal signs like BESTie showcasing a gay storyline in “Excuse Me” or Hyorin very blatantly rejecting the “white is right” skin tone every other artist spends so much money on preserving (and enhancing). I think the American market, and by extension American pop-culture, is a counterbalancing force for Kpop artists (and labels) who want to eschew the “Gee” archetype.
  3. Pride: There is an immense sense of pride among Asian countries to overcome colonial history and reemerge as global economic and culture forces, particularly from a corporate perspective. Japan was first to go through this process and produce companies like Sony, which dominate in multiple industries – including music. SMTOWN, if you’ve noticed, has been not-so-quietly pushing its brand. They built that SM culture center in Seoul, and I believe Lee Soo Man has openly said he wants SM to become Korea’s first ‘global’ music label (sorry, I don’t have a source). Every video released this year by SM also has a very conspicuous SM log in the letterbox. In the same way that PSY was celebrated as a national hero for peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, I think the labels feel equally motivated to achieve corporate dominance – especially SM.

I want to further add to these points.

Another reason Kpop idols and their labels might want to break into America is because they might want to make more money. As a “global cultural beacon”, most celebrities in the USA are making millions to billions of dollars. Kpop idols don’t make nearly as much. I’ll talk more about this later…

One more reason Kpop idols and labels might want to break into the American market could be because they also see an opening in the American market they can capitalize off of. Because America is over-saturated with sexy female pop stars, mature concepts, and male vocalists, there is an opening in the market for stars who offer something different or unique. This is why artists like Adele and Sia stand out so much (though their music is pretty mature). And actually, this is why some Americans have become fans of Kpop in the first place. What Kpop is offering might be different for Americans, but there isn’t much competition for Kpop idols and their style either if you really think about it. Few artists are as pure and youthful and polished as Kpop idols. So, different is good for Americans. Few people perform the way Kpop stars do or offer the same level of ability, to add the certain level of etiquette and humility. They just struggle to get Americans to warm up to the difference. But Kpop labels and their idols actually have an open playing field if they can promote themselves in the right way. This is also aside from the fact few American faces are Asian. Kpop labels can monopolize that part of the market if they successfully break into the American industry.

I don’t think these points are just exclusive to America alone. It also applies to why South Korea wants Japan’s attention, too. Though #1 Global Cultural Beacon may sound a little haughty, stats support this. America and Japan are entertainment giants. America’s music industry alone dominates (not even thinking of film, gaming, and technology), with Japan as a super close second (2010 was the year Japan beat America’s music industry market). Before 2011, Americans bought physical albums in millions. When the digital boom began to occur in 2010, Japan slipped in because they were still buying those physical copies while America was starting to download (or pirate) online. Eventually, as the world went digital, America was leading the way, with Japan still a close second (and fighting). As mentioned, the difference between the two is that America is a fresh market for Asian entertainment. Hardly any Asians have made their mark in America YET. Every Asian label wants the honor of cracking one of the biggest barriers to their global success. It would certainly give that label bragging rights.

And as the poster said, if you make it in America, you can also influence the other western nations, unlike if you make it in Japan. If South Korea can dominate both the east and west, they can slowly take over the music market (and slowly take over the minds and hearts of the people with their cultural values and ideas). As well as make a whole lot of money. This will not only add to the labels’ pot, but it can boost the overall South Korean economy. By appealing to these countries, tourism will increase, giving even more to the economy. Labels and Kpop idols could make a lot more money than they are making now if they debuted in other Asian countries along with maintaining their Korean fame, but with America being a “global cultural beacon”, they would make even more if they debuted in America. This could turn Kpop idols into millionaires in their own home country too, which could give them power and influence (which is what Psy is experiencing to a certain degree).

Last, Kpop helps spread ideas, allowing Korea to dominate both politically and socially. If they were to break into the American market, their own values could earn respect from the world or at least open a gateway to understanding their culture.

In 2004, when I first got into Kpop, South Korea was the 28th biggest music industry in the world. But look at it now! It is now among the top 10! This was all due to South Korean labels’ clever strategies. When it comes to reaching out to Americans, they have used the internet as a tool to promote their artists, they’ve included foreigners in their Kpop idol line-ups, they’ve gotten some American songwriters, producers, and choreographers on the team, they have purchased songs from both America and other European countries, they’ve inculcated “Americanized” styles of music, and they’ve sent Kpop idols to America to act as “ambassadors”.

They don’t have to go to such great lengths to appeal to Asian countries as they are more similar in culture, but they still have to try to keep their interest as well. In fact, much of the “Hallyu” wave is owed to Japan. SM’s success as a label skyrocketed as soon as they began working with Japan’s powerhouse label Avex and began releasing their artists through the label. Many Kdramas have also been adaptations of Japanese manga and anime, like Boys Over Flowers and To the Beautiful You (Hana Kimi). Many labels laced Kpop songs in these drama adaptations, which further helped the success of Kpop.

China may not have a huge music industry (mostly because they don’t play the export-import game too often), but they have a LARGE population and they have a lot of influence over the other East Asian countries. There are many Chinese languages being spoken in the countries surrounding China (such as in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia). With the population of China alone, getting rich off of the Chinese is nothing if a label can convince them that it is worth it. SM’s boyband H.O.T was the first kpop group to tour in China. Kpop is now a big thing in China.

Unfortunately, in order to promote artists in China, the country of Korea has to stay in China’s good graces. With the THAAD issue on the rise, it made it clear that in order for idols to continue their success in China, political issues with the nation had to be ironed over. But they still can gain the support of surrounding Chinese-speaking nations.

I want to address #2 next: Artistic Liberation. This is more common in the major industries like the USA and Japan. In Japan, artists like Utada Hikaru (who was actually born in the USA, but debuted in Japan) and Ayumi Hamasaki have been pioneers in the Japanese industry when it came to fighting for the artists’ rights to their music. Ayumi Hamasaki has especially been triumphant in pulling herself from a binding contract and stepping out to make the masterpiece, I AM.

America has always been a diverse industry. We’ve had our share of manufactured artists, but we’ve had equally popular multi-talented artists, like Bob Dylan and Prince, who had creative control over their music.

In these countries, Kpop artists hope that they will be able to get more musical freedom and will get the chance to be seen as true “artists” and not “products”. In these countries, artists don’t have to debut in “manufactured” groups in order to be successful. They can debut individually, with their own sound, or in any group they choose. Contracts aren’t as binding because they don’t monitor the personal lives of artists, just the business side. Pop and hip-hop music are popular in these countries, but many other genres are, too. If someone wants to try country, edm, rock, or any other genre, they could thrive with the right promotion and the perfect sound.

America is more appealing than Japan in this regard because America is perceived as more individualistic (meaning we seem to care about the individual’s right to “be”) and seems to be even less about following one code or system of rules. Though each of us have our own morals, Americans will set aside their beliefs and opinions to objectively enjoy the music. Michael Jackson and Miley Cyrus both had very poor reputations at their prime, but both managed to still pull success from their albums. Why? Because they just made unique and authentic music. Americans especially like artists that are natural or “themselves”. Freedom and independence is prized. Many Kpop idols like the idea that they can take a few risks but still earn respect through their music. It seems appealing from across the globe (just like Kpop seems appealing to the west).

In Korea, kpop idols’ personal lives are monitored closely. Kpop idols who suffer from Korea’s scandals may find the USA to be freer. Those who want to date and start a family while still making music may find America to be freer. Last, those who want their popularity to last more than a few years may be tempted to break into the American market, hoping they achieve huge success. In Korea, kpop idols are lucky to last after reaching 30 years old. In America, artists continue to make successful music well into their 60s, as long as they’re alive!

In Korea, many 20 year olds perform “youthful” concepts. I’m sure there are many of them that prefer to try more “adult” or controversial concepts, like the ones seen in America.

Then there’s Pride. Labels want to give Asians the respect that is long over-do in the west.

All of these things will help Kpop labels get more money in the long run.

The problem with this is that the American industries don’t cater to pop singers with variety shows and dramas. Kpop artists have to promote themselves differently in the US than they do in Korea. The internet is the perfect way for Kpop labels to reach out to America and promote their artists.

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4) Fans Are Monstrous


Kpop fandoms are monstrous in two different ways: They can be an idol’s biggest supporters or their worst enemies.

Being a Kpop fan can make you feel very special. Idols are rarely caught dating, so you always feel like someone is as single as you are. There are also fan projects, light sticks, and so much more involved.

When it comes to supporting idols, fans pour out a lot of money into the genre. For international fans, shipping costs for purchasing albums can be very expensive. Merchandise is expensive, too. Korean fans have up-front access to merch and do a lot to include outside fandoms when it comes to organizing events. They pour a lot of money into their artists even in Korea! It seems like a lot of work for some music, but fans do this so that their favorite idols can keep making music. Idols are also very gracious and show a lot of love and thankfulness to fans.

Fans are said to be one of the key reasons behind BTS’s success, since they put in extra energy and time to translate videos in a timely manner for fans around the world AND put a lot of time and energy into voting for the group.

Having a fandom name and fan color are common traits of Kpop groups. Korean internet cafes (such as Daum) and other fan websites helped in promoting the idea that each idol should have a name to call their followers and a color for all of them to wear. Got7‘s fan name, for example, is IGot7. f(x)’s fan color is periwinkle (which is purplish-lavender).

Fans really do seem to worship idols on the surface. Most fans will do anything for their idols, no matter what happens.

Still, “fans” can also be the worst people in the world. The more extreme of them are often called “sasaengs”, and they might be responsible for extreme behavior from planning a kidnapping to causing a car accident.

Fans may have heard of the “Rain Fight” (the big rumored fight in the rain between fans of boy group H.O.T. and Schskies, played out in the K-drama Reply 1997) and “Black Ocean” or “10 Minute” (when members of an opposing fandom turns off their light sticks when their rival or a hated Kpop group performs). These are the extreme lengths fans will go for their favorite idols.

Nowadays, most people understand the power of the BTS ARMYs.

Other fans may call the worst “fans” “anti-fans” or even trolls. Still, they influence the course of Kpop and the longevity of idols.

Idols can’t function without support. This is why they try hard to appeal to as many people as possible. The companies know this and often even put “no dating” clauses in their contracts. They design idols to appeal to the fans because that’s typically the only way Kpop can even survive.  Still, idols are imperfect humans that have personal lives.

Some fans live in such a Kpop bubble, they often forget that their idols have personal lives and are humans. When idols are struggling, some of the time it can be because of the rigorous schedules or the labels they’re under, but other times it’s because of the demand of the fans. The idols don’t say anything because they rely on the fans’ support for income, but sometimes the fans can be a little extreme. Many “fans” feel that idols should be able to take abuse just because they have chosen a career in the spotlight. It’s also important to note that idols take the opinions of others seriously because it really does affect their reputation and career in Korea. Their goal is to get as many followers and fans as possible.

Fans are very critical and hard on idols because they do expect the best, almost perfection. These idols do often look really polished and perfect on stage. I guess they give the false impression that they are perfect. Some fans have also invested their egos and money in these groups and want their favorites to tromp out competition. When their favorite idols aren’t “reaching” for more or not “attending” events, fans quickly get antsy and critical. Some even expect idols to perform sick! Having a vacation is associated with laziness. This “demanding” streak is when fandoms get monstrous in a negative way. It’s supposed to be entertainment and fun, but some fans can suck the joy out of things.

Fan-idol abusive relationships are common and fans hardly feel like they are wrong in this regard. There is a sense of “ownership” regarding fan-to-idol relationships. I guess because so many fans buy heavily into the industry, they expect their biases to pay exclusive attention to them and fulfill every wish fans desire.

And with so much attention, the bigger you are, the more people you have to criticize you. Kpop has more fans now; that means more haters, too.

You may hear the words “bias”, “stan”, “ults”, and “Knetizens” or “Knetz” floating around.

In Kpop, again, people support their favorite groups HEAVY and they do develop a bias towards these groups (and biases towards individual members of a group). This means they will like this group no matter what that group releases (just because they may be in love with many other releases or attributes). Sometimes, these same fans will refuse to support other groups (or even other members), no matter how talented they are.

Even within the group itself, people select their favorite members or “biases” or “ults” (ultimates). Usually, each member of a group gets their own fandom ( A fandom name may not be present unless an artist goes solo). Sometimes, the “visuals” (the most attractive members) get the most fans. This makes it harder on other members of the group who have a hard time shining. Still, fans will usually support the whole group despite their favorites.

The word “stan” is common everywhere, even for international artists, so I don’t even have to explain. For those who don’t know what it means, it combines “stalker” with “fan”.

Fans of Kpop aren’t always realistic about idols. The fact that they aren’t looked at as celebrities but as “idols” shows that people really do worship these artists. International fans even make fanfictions based on their favorite idols, almost like they aren’t human and like they belong in some Kdrama. In South Korea, they aren’t big on the fanfiction game, but they also fantasize about possibly dating their favorite “oppas” and “unnis” (as they call them often).

Fans have a very “pure” depiction of Kpop idols. Most Kpop idols are presented that way by their labels and management team. They are all marketed as cute and dorky, even the male idols at times. Romantic songs really bring in the ladies. And Kpop idols are almost always extremely attractive. This is the main marketing strategy of most labels. Unfortunately, this also can create fandoms that aren’t realistic in their expectations of idols.

Knetizens, netizens, or Knetz is the slang word used to describe South Korean citizens who use the internet and South Korean internet community websites to build or break idols. South Korean fans obviously have a lot of power over K-idols, more than international fans. First off, they are closer to Kpop in proximity (meaning Knetz actually live in South Korea). Second, their culture and opinions more directly influence idols because idols have the same values as most all South Koreans. If Knetz like an idol, the idol will stay afloat in their groups. If Knetz dislike an idol, expect that idol to be dropped from the group, no matter how many international fans still exist.

Many Knetizens don’t see eye-to-eye with international fans and vice versa. Some get along great; others are very hard on one another. Much of it has to do with culture clash. Though many international fans like Kpop, their tastes may be different from Knetz based on culture. What westerners will support, for example, may not be supported by South Koreans, which affects sales and chart rankings within the country. Many westerners also don’t really understand Korean culture and their codes of “proper conduct”. Some international fans are so dazzled by South Korean pop that they forget that South Korea is a country all its own with its own laws and ways of living. International fans may find Knetizens to be petty in comparison to other fandoms around the world. Mutually, some netizens dislike when international fans criticize their culture and wish they would respect the fact that Kpop is a South Korean art first and foremost.

Knetz Explain Why They Dislike International Fans

Some Knetz are so hard on international fans that they make it difficult for them to get invited on music shows (the shows that usually promote the artists, more on this later). Some can be clique-ish and may exclude anyone who isn’t apart of the main “cafes” (fan websites that make it difficult for international fans to sign up for and get into). Of course, the music shows themselves are selective when it comes to who they choose…

International fans are equally hard on Knetz. Whenever there is a scandal or whenever a song bombs on the charts, international fans are quick to criticize fans who live in South Korea, almost blaming them for the failure. They often don’t recognize their own hand in the problem. International fans don’t always feel that South Korean fans appreciate all the talented people they have and wish for some of the artists to debut internationally instead. But South Korean fans feel that international fans always try to decide what is right for their industries, when their industries have been doing fine without international inclusion for many years.

As a result of the clash, Knetizen is a word hardly used positively by international fans when describing Korean fans.

Soompi has a really interesting article on the differences in the fans’ reactions to certain scandals. Actually, some of these things wouldn’t even be newsworthy in the USA, where I come from. But in Korea, these matters are taken seriously. Check it out –> International Fans Reaction VS Korean Fans Reaction

There is only one way to get these fans to unite and that’s when an outsider attacks their favorite group. Suddenly, Knetz and international fans will unite against that individual. Fans hate when anyone tries to criticize their “bias” groups, I don’t care what country they’re from. Some fans don’t like when anyone criticizes their biases, even when it’s constructive. However, there are those individual “trolls” who are really destructive with what they say. Nowadays, people are not held accountable for their “opinions” and they are not prepared for the consequences.

Let’s shift gears and talk about the age range of the fandoms…

Keep in mind that while many Kpop fans are tweens and teens, especially in Korea, many fans are actually  in their TWENTIES (20s) and THIRTIES (30s). Yes, studies have shown that many Kpop fans are of college age and up. They call them “2030”. This is why many labels are now starting to debut their groups much later and this helps older groups continue their success even after 30! As Kpopstarz pointed out: Adult fans have “high purchasing power”. Though most of the material was originally marketed to tweens and teens, the last generation that fell in love with Kpop have grown up with their favorite idols and have gotten into the newer idols. The difference is now they have more money…Much of Kpop’s newest material caters to adult audiences now.

Most of the fanbase consists of females. The content of Kpop is usually created to appeal to them. Males make up a smaller portion, but they exist. One of my favorite male fans of Kpop is Youtuber JREKML. The girl groups have attracted a large number of males overseas.

The differences in the way Korean fans support their favorite artists and the way international fans support them comes down to how each fandom looks at Kpop. In South Korea, Kpop is looked at as regular pop music, not some exclusive “cult” genre. To most international fandoms, it’s a unique, “exclusive” genre, even a subculture, that brings together like-minded individuals looking for classy but catchy music. These differing views affect the way artists are supported.

Because international fans see ALL of Kpop as one big COMMUNITY, it’s not uncommon to find them in multi-fandoms. International fans don’t have a problem supporting two groups from different labels or even supporting all Kpop idols that come out! As long as it’s from the genre of Kpop, international fans will give it a shot. They appreciate it and marvel at it more, I guess, because it’s not accessible in their countries like it is in South Korea.

It’s different with South Korean fans. They tend to be very selective about who they like and support and cling favorably to artists that they’ve always liked or artists who have a huge popularity. South Korean variety shows can make artists even bigger and South Korean fans watch these shows firsthand. They know that whoever they support in their country will become a major idol and they know competition is fierce to get into the Kpop world. They don’t just hand over that attention to just anybody. Still, who is worthy of that attention may be baffling to international fans at times…More on this subject will come in the following sections.

Despite the differences, fans can come together when it matters most. While both fandoms can be monstrous, they all help in keeping Kpop a global deal.

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5) South Korean Music Shows Decide Success


When an album first drops, expect Kpop idols to start weeks of promotion. Usually, this promotion begins when idols start performing on Korea’s biggest music shows. The biggest music programs are not to be confused with variety shows or other music programs that promote artists. No, these music shows are a much bigger deal. First off, most of them have voting ceremonies. These voting ceremonies contribute to the overall prestige of an idol group or soloist. These music shows mostly show performances, are hosted by other idols, and, at the end, give out trophies and other rewards for winners. The performances on these shows are really just for show. They don’t really influence who wins at the end of the show. The winners are decided by a number of things that show idols’ success: Music chart rankings, physical albums sales, digital album sales, search engine results, Youtube views, overall popularity based on previous albums or promotions, broadcasting views, votes both online and on music shows, among other things. You see why they are a big deal? No matter what fans say, these shows decide the success of debuts and comebacks. They mean a lot to the idols as well as the fans.

The main music shows are M!Countdown, Inkigayo, Music Bank, Show! Music Core, and Show Champion. The Show is also climbing up there. Some of these shows are bigger than major awards shows (though the Melon awards are known to be a big deal)! Having an “all-kill” (which means winning 1st place on every single one of these shows) is every idol and fan’s goal. This is why fans invest so much in the promotion of their favorite idols.

Each of these shows have their own ranking. All rankings have changed over the years, as they’ve had to adjust to the shift in purchase style and culture.

M!Countdown: MNet: At one point, M! Countdown considered album sales to be a top priority. Not so much anymore. Digital (streaming + downloads) (45%), album sales (15%), music video views (20%), Pre-voting (a sum of pre-votes on Mwave, Mnet and Mnet Japan) (10%), broadcast score (10%), live text voting (10%) (weekly 1st place chart nominees only)

Inkigayo: SBS: Being one of the older shows, they have changed their criteria over the years. Just in the past couple of years, they have been changing. Last I heard, Digital (streaming + downloads) (55%), album sales (5%), music video views (35%), SBS broadcast score (SBS (TV) and SBS Power FM and SBS Love FM (radio)) (10%), Melon’s AzTalk pre-voting (5%)

Music Bank: KBS: Digital (streaming + downloads) (65%), album sales (5%), KBS broadcast score (KBS2 (TV) and KBS Cool FM and KBS Happy FM (radio)) (20%), panel survey (10%)

Show!Music Core: MBC: They go back and forth with their ranking system. Sometimes, they have one, sometimes they don’t. Here is what it last looked like: Digital (streaming + downloads) (50%), album sales (10%), music video views (10%), Panel survey (10%), MBC Radio broadcast score (MBC FM4U and MBC Standard FM) (5%), Live text voting (15%) (weekly 1st place chart nominees only)

Show Champion: MBC Music: Digital (streaming + downloads) (30%), album sales (10%), Pre-voting (a sum of Genie (Domestic) and Idol Champ (Global) pre-votes (40%)), broadcast score (10%), Expert reviews (10%)

The Show: SBS MTV: Pre-score: Total 90% (Digital (downloads and streaming) (40%), album sales (10%), music video views (20%), expert reviews (15%), 5% Starpass Pre-Voting); Starpass Live voting (for The Show Choice nominees only): 10%

The highest grossing album sales have sold between 100,000 to 200,000 copies or more. The higher the album count, the higher the ranking on music shows, and the stronger the idol’s or idol group’s prestige, popularity, and promotion.

To watch some of these shows, you can find live streams directly from the Broadcasting stations’ Youtube channels and other places they stream or wait until the websites post some of the older episodes on their channels. It’s best to watch streams so you can contribute to the overall view count.

As you can tell, most of the rankings are predetermined before the shows even begin. On some of these shows, international fans can’t even fully participate in voting, such as on Inkigayo or Music Bank. That might be part of the reason rankings have changed or shows have completely gotten rid of the ranking system…

These music shows have come under fire on several occasions. There is a lot of controversy regarding them. It got so bad, Inkigayo got rid of their ranking system in 2012 (only to bring it back the following year). Show!Music Core has also been back and forth with their ranking system, taking it out and bringing it back in again.

Back when I first got into Kpop, this wasn’t as big of a deal as it is now. Kpop artists made tons more money back then than they do now. In fact, all pop artists made more money around the world because people actually bought hard copy albums. Kpop didn’t have as large of a fandom with so many demands, so labels didn’t barf out new groups and artists as often. They capitalized and promoted the ones they already had. Some of these music shows didn’t even exist yet! Music Bank and Inkigayo were the only two that really existed back in 2003! M!Countdown came in 2004 when I really got into the genre. It was still relatively new and didn’t have the reputation it has now.

Before these shows, there weren’t as many fan wars and there weren’t as many comparisons made between artists. The shows are basically a popularity contest. On the flip side, the shows make kpop more exciting and the joy from all the “wins” make it all worth it. Idols know where they stand at these shows and reap immediate “fruits” from their efforts. There is a certain pride that comes from winning these awards, even if the idols remain humble about it.

These music shows are respected and regarded as the “tell-all” of Kpop talent (though talent is a minor factor in the voting process). This is because these shows have very specific ways they rank artists and also because any fans who wish to attend must be invited by a special “lottery” ticket.

They filter out these tickets the way they do because most of the venues are small broadcasting studios that can’t hold too many people. What it ends up doing is “ranking” fans as well.

The system is political. First off, being a part of a fanclub gives you automatic prestige with these shows. This is the one thing that bothers me about these shows.

Trying to get into these music shows to see your favorite idols is very difficult. You can’t just purchase your way through, like with other venues around the world. To get a ticket faster, you must be a fanclub member. And you can’t just be any fanclub member. Tickets are distributed to fanclub members who have the most merchandise. What does this mean? Those with the most money to buy all the stuff of their favorite idols are on the “priority” list. This is another reason why adult fans have more power and influence in the Kpop world, as well as rich little princes and princesses. Money is power in this case. This also means that the same people who have always gotten tickets will more than likely continue to get tickets (unless they stop supporting the group, meet their match with someone who can hurry and purchase as many items, or lose their income). Everyone else will basically feel rejected from these shows unless they know how to get around this filter. has created a pretty good “How To”  for getting into these music shows. Soompi talks about it, too.

They choose fans with the most merchandise because during broadcasting they want to show the fans with the products on live television.

This is why fans pour so much money into these idols and also why pride has been invested in it as well. These shows basically put a rank on what it means to be a fan and make other fans feel “less than”. On the flip side, they are rewarding those who show the most support. After all, I’m sure the idols are grateful that there are people willing to buy everything their idols dish out. It is good for business because it encourages fans to buy things. This is why hard copies are still relatively sold in Korea (though streaming may also be important for getting in these shows).

International fans will have an even harder time getting into these music shows. First off, many of us can’t download on Korea’s biggest streaming sites because they require a login username and password. Sometimes, they require “Korean-citizen” information to sign up for these websites (sometimes even credit or debit card information). Everything is in Korean, so reading everything could be a challenge. Brush up on your Korean! The one site that used to allow foreigners to download Kpop shut down. However, some things are changing where international streaming services, such as iTunes, are being considered. Some fanclubs require fans to have both the physical copy and proof of downloading in order to get invited to the music shows. After all, these music programs rank idols based on these sales. So, most times, international fans are left out of the loop.

Many fans can purchase hard copies and merchandise, but the expenses are ten times more for international fans than for Korean fans. Shipping and taxes eat international fans alive. Still, some international fans try to buy what they can. They especially look forward to global tours where they can buy merchandise in their own backyards!

But this makes music shows very exclusive to well-paid Koreans. That means there is usually one demographic representing everyone’s favorite idols.

After they get in all the Kpop fans who have purchased merch, they bring in those who are a part of the fanclub (which is verified with a membership card).

After that, everyone else is welcome to stand in line after the main tickets have been distributed. That means “first come, first served”. If the fanclub members take up all the space, you’re out of luck, and they will turn you away. The plus side, though, is that the rest of the tickets are free. Get there extremely early and you might get lucky.

There is always a chance, too, that no matter how much you pour into these music shows, your favorites won’t always win. So, you may have sacrificed a lot only for your favorites to come out empty-handed. What would be worse is if your idol was pulled from the show for any reason or if the wrong “winners” were announced by the music show. has a whole series on why they hate Kpop Music Shows, and I think they make some legitimate points about the policies and “etiquette” that go along with these shows:

Part 1: Meaningless Competition

Part 2: System of Judgment

Part 3: The Format

Part 4: The Ugly Hierarchy of Fandoms

Kpop idols are able to share insight into other details surrounding Kpop music shows.

Kpop line-ups are usually decided based on popularity. The rookies are usually first and the bigger idols are last. Some people might wonder why they let the weaker idols start a major show. Well, I believe they do this because, in anticipation of the bigger idols, more fans will actually stay around to watch the show to the very end, which gives the music shows tons of views. I mean, how many of you guys stopped watching the stream of a music show after you saw your bias? That leaves no room for newer artists to climb up. So, while in anticipation of the bigger artists, fans are exposed to new groups before then and end up viewing the whole show. For example, if BTS was the first performer in MCountdown, would alot of people really stick around to the end of the show to watch a bunch of rookie groups? I don’t think so.

Kpop idol insider soonbeanie_ shares information about lip-syncing and pre-recorded vocals. Kpop idols are often accused of lip-syncing during these shows. The reality is that most music shows do not allow 100% lip-syncing. However, they do have different percentages, or how much vocal track, will cover the singer’s voice. The percentages are usually somewhere between 30%, 50%, and 70% pre-recorded vocals. Usually, the worst singers are given 70%, while the main vocal is given 30%. The issue with this is that sometimes the worst singer comes out sounding better than the best. The best singer might be sick or tired, and may not give what they want to, while the worst singer has the vocal track to help them sound better. Of course, people always end up respecting the singers who actually sing live, but if it doesn’t sound good, people might automatically believe the singer isn’t any good regardless.

Usually, the bigger idols are allowed pre-recordings. Sometimes, the companies pay the shows for them.

Sometimes, complete performances are pre-recorded, so when you’re at a music show, you might not be watching the performance that will air live. In this case, even if the live performance was lacking, the recording people are watching at home might look good.

It appears the bigger groups might take advantage of pre-recorded performances because their schedules are usually tight.

Idols have also shared information about rehearsals. For most shows, there are “dry rehearsals”. This means that the idols are performing with just name tags (no fancy costumes and such), just to see how the show will play out on stage. Then there’s a camera rehearsal. A camera rehearsal is basically filming your rehearsal. It’s often confused and connected with a “dress rehearsal” because all cameras are operating as if the show is live. The difference is a dress rehearsal requires you to be fully dressed in your outfits while also being recorded, almost like the final product.

The bigger your label, the better your stage.

Despite all the effort idols and even some fans put into these music shows,  the ratings for these shows are low nowadays thanks to fans being able to access music and idols from other places besides these shows. And yet, they’re still around. Soompi goes into detail about it on their website.

First off, companies, especially small companies, have to negotiate with producers and others in charge to put their idols on these shows, so they hold some sort of power over Kpop companies. Second, music shows are still the best way for new artists to promote themselves.

Music shows take advantage of this and will negotiate with companies to bring their top level stars to one of their variety shows on the network before introducing a rookie group. The rest is up to managers, and if managers can’t get these idols on these shows, fans will complain (even though they aren’t watching!)

The lower ratings are taking away the music shows’ power, but they can still prevent idols from appearing on any shows associated with the network. Basically, if companies want to put their idols on higher ranking shows with a network, they will have to appear on these music shows, which can be a disadvantage because they don’t bring in viewership, they take time and energy, and they cost a lot. It can cost up to $4,000 for an outfit and that’s not including anything else. Yet, many idols only get paid a little over $200 to appear. Basically, music shows control music agencies currently.

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6) International Fans Should Buy Hard Copies

BtoB Press Play

BtoB Press Play

Now that you know about music shows, you know that international fans have less power in influencing music shows than Korean fans. Of course, that should be obvious, considering this is Kpop, but it just doesn’t happen this way in every country.

So how can international fans make a difference? By buying albums hard copy.

Most of us can’t stream or download songs easily from Korean digital download websites, so the next best thing to support our artists, and get them on the charts, is to buy their physical albums.

And the price will be worth it.

Sure, the albums usually cost an arm and a leg. Shipping and taxes can be horrifying if you pre-order for two-day shipping. Buying in bulk may give you a heart attack. But trust me fellow Kpop friend, you will not regret it.

Kpop albums don’t look like other crappy albums out in the world. Their albums are very creative both from the outside cover and design to the beautiful photos taken of each Kpop member in the booklets the CDs come in. For years, I’ve been buying music online. Kpop brought me back to hard copy albums. When Koreans produce something, it is usually of the highest quality.

The outside covers are usually very artistic. There might be a very artistic design on the front, like 2ne1’s animation style on I Am the Best. Or possibly clever words written across BtoB’s album seducing fans to Press Play. And I really can’t forget f(x)’s album Pink Tape which was literally shaped like a videotape (if you all remember them from back in the ’90s).

2ne1 I Am the Best

2ne1 I Am the Best


f(x) Pink Tape

The CDs are usually carefully placed in a folder inside the booklets rather than in cheap plastic. The CD albums are designed to be carefully placed within a home so that they can be shown off. Flipping through the books alone can give fans a lot of pleasure before they even pop in that CD and give it a listen.

Most albums also come with collectible fan photo cards, signed by the members. You never know which one you’ll get. I guess that’s a good strategy for getting fans to buy in bulk. Some of the albums also come with posters.

For these purchases to count towards the charts and music shows, however, you must have purchased an album the week the artist starts performing on the music shows. The rankings are very specific. If you purchase too late, it won’t count. Usually, they are gathering stats the first week an artist performs. The second week artists are ranked and those shows use the tallies of the last week along with the live broadcasting votes to rank them. By the end of the week, they check the major charts like Hanteo, Gaon, and Melon before the next week rolls around.

International fans have to be clever and keep up to date with idols if they wish to support them at these events.

Not all websites support the major Korean charts. Itunes, Ebay, and Amazon are not good options though you may see Kpop albums for sale. The music shows don’t count them.

Here is a list of some of the best websites I’ve used, in order from my favorite to least favorite:





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7) Variety Shows, Reality Shows, Talk Shows, K-Dramas, Fashion Ads, And Magazines Promote K-pop Artists


Variety Shows, talk Shows, K-Dramas, fashion ads, and magazines all help promote Kpop artists and vice versa. In fact, a fan’s participation in watching the shows or purchasing these magazines could even affect music show rankings! Usually, this would be the case if people are searching for ads and magazines through search engines.

All celebrities get promotion through magazines and fashion ads around the world. Talk Shows are still big the world over. My favorite is After School Club and Global Request: A Song For You. They cater to international audiences.

Variety shows are a little bit more special. In Variety shows, fans get the chance to watch their favorite idols participate in games, conversation, and challenges. The shows are designed to make the idols feel a little more real, individual, and personable, almost like a reality show, only with other additions such as interviews and even performances. The idols are expected to be funny and show their personalities. They are also expected to show that they all have a bond (even if that bond is purely professional or actually competitive rivalries).

Some variety shows could host a number of games and challenges in them, like the popular Running Man. Running Man is one of my favorites. It sets up scenarios and has popular Kpop idols and K-drama idols complete missions within the story. Almost like a live game of Clue.

Other variety shows can pitch idols in long-term circumstances that help them understand an alternate life style. We Got Married puts together two popular idols and arranges a marriage for them. They usually have a “wedding” and “live” in the house together. It’s all staged but interesting fun to see idols pitched together.

YG and JYP, the two major label founders, are known for creating reality shows to scout out new talent. YG came out with Who Is Next: WIN (Which produced Kpop groups Winner and iKon) and JYP launched Sixteen16 (Which produced Kpop group Twice)

Real Men helps idols understand the military life. This has particularly been popular for foreign male idols to try because most aren’t obligated to do military service (more on this later) and don’t usually understand the pressure to perform such duties. Women also have tried it. Most women are not required for service but this helps them understand the men serving their country a little more. Foreign idols have it hard on this show. Most can’t speak the language as fluently as natural-born Koreans and even those who can don’t understand the military dialogue.

These are all just examples.

Now on to KDRAMAS.

Kdramas are just as big as Kpop. In fact, the Hallyu wave began because of Kdramas. People who may not be into Kpop may alternatively say they love Kdramas. In their spare time, Kpop idols usually sign on to do Kdramas. Kdramas help promote their groups and can be a good source of extra income for the individual idol (especially during hiatus). Kdramas also give idols a chance to be someone else besides a singer and performer. Many Kpop idols leave their professions as pop idols for a career in acting!

Kdramas also help idols establish themselves as individuals and they help them develop their own fanbase.

The biggest problem many international fans face with watching the shows and dramas is the language barrier. If you don’t understand Korean, you may not gravitate towards the shows (because shows don’t have catchy tunes like music). Still, there are some kind fans out there who will gladly make subtitles in the languages most in demand. Some broadcasting stations are starting to provide subtitles for languages in demand for online streams so that international fans can watch their favorite dramas.

When I say ‘in demand’, that doesn’t mean fans should go and demand these people to make subs. Making subs is hard work, especially getting them to match up right. Some streams already have subs, but some don’t. And guess what? They aren’t required to. This is KOREAN entertainment.

This may be an unusual concept to foreigners. Everything we have comes in various different languages besides English. In the USA, it’s not uncommon to find both English and Spanish channels. Americans also have access to various versions of and Google. If we wanted to, we could change from language to language. In America, it’s important to cater to many different audiences. In Korea, it’s important to uphold Korean standards and values. We are all just along for the ride. So let’s respect them by being patient with subs and maybe try to learn the language.

How can international fans watch these shows? There are live streams online, just like for music shows. Kdramas come out on DVD and Korea just opened Netflix. You can buy them like you do your favorite CDs. Yesasia is good for that, too.

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8) Check Time Zone Differences


When thinking about what to watch or even when thinking about waiting for any comebacks, it’s important to remember time zone differences. International fans may get confused and frazzled trying to figure out when their favorite group’s comeback will OFFICIALLY happen. I’m here to tell you, just because it said July 1, 2016 doesn’t mean that’s the date it will drop in your country. The East is a day ahead of countries way in the West.

If you really want to support your favorite idols regarding music videos, variety shows, or music shows, you might have to stay up really late at times or even watch the shows in between breaks at school or work. XD This has happened on several occasions for me.

Or you could just wait a day later, but your views won’t count towards anything.

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9) Be on the look-out for international tours


It can be a little sad and disheartening to only be able to see your favorite idols from music videos, variety shows, kdramas, and fancams but never in person. After all, most international fans don’t get to see their idols every comeback, live in concert, or during fan signing events (unless those fans have the money). Most fans are happy to be able to buy the products online. Still, it’s exciting when idols organize a world tour.

Usually, only the most popular groups are able to organize a world tour. This is another reason why international fans want to try and support their favorite idols no matter the cost. Most fans hope their favorites will be able to come to their home countries!

If you follow some of the bigger Kpop groups, the ones that have an international following, you might be in luck! There are times when Kpop groups plan their tours in cities outside of Korea. I saw Got7 when they came to the USA last year. I never thought that would happen! But it did.

Just keep supporting your favorite group and try to increase their popularity in your area. Be on the lookout for tours and purchase your tickets early because they do sell out. They are actually cheaper in your own country than if you were purchasing the tickets in Korea!

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10) Groups are Bigger than Solo Artists


Based on stats dealing with the major charts in Kpop, it’s clear that Kpop groups are bigger than solo artists. Solo artists are lucky to get one song dominating the chart (and usually it’s because of a Kdrama), let alone win an award on one of the major music shows.

When solo artists make a comeback, their own fans love them, sure. But groups have more people involved; that means more fans for each individual member. These groups can have 5 to 13 individual members and all of their fandoms combined! That creates a large fandom. This largely contributed to the successes of major groups like Girls Generation, EXO, and Twice. If any of these members chose to go solo, it would reveal their real individual popularity as well as exposing true talent. The “group” strategy gives labels the opportunity to debut many kpop artists all at once. There are so many people auditioning for these groups. Sometimes, it can be hard for labels to choose the right one. So, why not debut them all?

Solo artists have to debut and be promoted at the right time, which is hard to predict. The success of a solo artist depends on the label’s promotion and the talents of the artist. SM, YG, and JYP have an easier time promoting their solo artists a little bit more than other labels. Still, even their solo artists flop sometimes.

If you still don’t believe that Kpop fans are obsessed with groups, watch those music shows long enough. They are infested with boy and girl groups. You might see one or two solo artists on these shows. But everyone else is riding on the backs of one another in the industry. Chances are, if you’re a new Kpop fan, it’s because of a group you liked.

There are several reasons why groups are more popular than solo artists. For starters, it’s cool to see so many people singing in harmony and dancing in sync. It feels more challenging than a solo artist doing it by themselves. Of course, solo artists can throw in some back up dancers, right? But for some people it’s still more interesting when all of the main members are doing it. People also like group interactions. It makes the artists seem less lonely. They seem more upbeat onstage.

There are fans who just like Kpop for the attractive figures. Why enjoy just one attractive figure when you can enjoy several? That’s the master plan behind the infamous Kpop groups.

Kpopstarz made a few other points as well:

The reason why there are so many idol groups is because there really is no alternative. Idol groups are able to bring in international revenue, which is necessary in the Korean market, where music revenue has decreased. Idol groups are easy to market, and are “weapons” to quickly get a return on investments.

Labels pour thousands of dollars into these groups to house, maintain, create their music, pay off music video producers and choreographers, hair stylists, fashion designers, advertise, promote, and much more. As smooth as it seems, debuts and comebacks take months of preparation. And yet, groups pull these concepts off flawlessly.

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11) Kpop Labels Follow the Trends

This kind of goes along with the last point but there are other things I feel need to be addressed under this heading. As I mentioned before, Kpop is infested with groups. I listed some reasons why, but the broader reason why you may see so many groups is because labels tend to follow the latest trends.

If one label strikes it big with a particular Kpop concept, other labels apparently think imitating the concept will put their idol groups on the map. It actually has worked. When all groups or solo artists do the same thing, it helps the Kpop genre form an identity all its own. When Girls’ Generation’s “Gee” dropped, just about every girl group came out with cute concepts just like it.

The cute, bubblegum trend has continued to take over Kpop ever since. Though other artists have promoted different styles throughout the years, the cute style trend has been stamped on Kpop.

The boy groups just tend to follow BTS, EXO, and Big Bang’s lead.

Again, outfits, music albums, and music videos aren’t too far away from the latest trends in Kpop. To add, idols are mostly all the same race and they are all speaking Korean. If you’ve grown up in the west, where the celebrities are more diverse, this may confuse you. It’s sometimes hard to know which group is what. But eventually, you’ll be able to see the individual styles. Groups always try to add that one flavor of originality. Of course, the more original groups like f(x) and 2ne1 always stood out because they didn’t follow the trends too much.

Why do Kpop labels do this? Well, in Korea, the fans of the genre value conformity, appearances, and charm more than anything. It was what attracted fans in the first place. Certain genres bring out those perfect appearances and charms more than other genres. Korean fans are also a bit slow to warm up to new and experimental sounds. Mostly, pop consists of “public-friendly” songs. Anyone who steps outside of the norm will be bullied or shamed into conformity by “Naver” trolls or other people who just don’t “get it”. Thus, Korea doesn’t adapt easily to new trends.

“Public-friendly” songs are usually of a pseudo rap and hip-hop style (though mostly pop), catchy bubblegum pop with a positive message, and/or ballads which can then be on the OST (soundtracks) of Kdramas. The rap and hip-hop makes the boys seem fierce and handsome. It can also make the girls seem strong. Bubblegum makes the girls more appealing to men and teens.

There are other genres in Korea like indie, jazz, and even rock. My personal favorite indie band would have to be Love x Stereo. But those genres are hardly recognized in Korean music shows or on the charts. While many nations of the world have adapted to garage-house-edm sounds, South Korea is still skeptical about the genre.

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Behind the Scenes…

This next section deals with the shadow side of Kpop, the things that many casual Kpop fans may not know or understand. If you have never followed news articles in Korea (like on Naver) or the Kpop news media outlets for international fans (like Hellokpop, Allkpop, Soompi, and Kpopstarz), you’d probably never know the shadow side of Kpop and would therefore be swept up in the happiness and celebrations involved. Which is cool. But there will be times when your “bias” group meets some rough bumps in the road. Some of these things may seem confusing to international fans, even disappointing or annoying. The culture differences become more realized when our favorite groups come under scrutiny or when Kpop takes a different turn than we expected. Well, I’m here to give you the different, the beautiful, and/or the ugly.

Keep in mind that my goal is not to throw too much shade on Kpop or Korean culture. I love all cultures and all kinds of world music. However, I know that as a foreigner, there were some things that were more foreign than I expected. The glam and glitz of Kpop can create an illusion that makes the genre seem so “perfect”. It can make Korea seem like a perfect place, full of beautiful and well-mannered people. Well, if you’ve been paying attention to some segments above, you could probably see how this isn’t true. Let’s get into this, shall we?

12) Labels Are Blamed For Everything


When everyone’s favorite Kpop group flops on the charts, you might hear them say, “It’s the label’s fault for not promoting them enough”. You might also hear, “The label gave them a mediocre song”. If you remember my first segment about labels, you know they have a lot of power over artists. This can be a good thing and a bad thing.

Because most artists, especially groups in Korea are “pre-packaged” or “manufactured” by these labels, most fans believe that labels create every concept, are in charge of every song that is released, and are responsible for managing the artists in every area of life. When an idol seems to be jeopardizing their careers, some may criticize the artists, but most will blame the label.

International fans more quickly attack the labels, while Korean fans are more supportive. International fans have it in for any one in power who misuses it to bar people from their freedom. Many Korean fans, on the other hand, respect and honor the labels’ attempt at helping the idols make it in a difficult industry.

Where did the “blame game” begin? It began when some of our favorite Kpop idols left their groups and SUED their labels because of strict and binding contracts. This made many Kpop fans question the labels that are controlling everything. Of course, for Koreans, these labels aren’t just labels. They have created tourist attractions for the major cities. They show Korean prosperity. They feel these labels have made Kpop artists as famous as they are and that idols should be grateful that someone even took the time out to mold who they are. To international fans, however, these labels are nothing more than power-hungry monsters trying to get fat rich off of young, naive idols. It’s the same fight that most pop artists around the world have fought (Prince from the USA, Ayumi Hamasaki from Japan).

I say both are right and both are wrong.

It’s true that many labels have binding contracts, like any business. Back in the past, when I first got into Kpop, these contracts lasted for 13 years for most idols! And this is from debut; it doesn’t even include pre-debut and training.

But they do have a good reason for some of these contracts, even if they are stifling. For one, these contracts ensure that the label is able to properly and fully promote their artists with enough time to build their artists. Second, these contracts ensure that the label gets paid in FULL once the groups become big enough (after all, the workers and management team have to eat too, right?). Third, the contracts protect the label in many respects from scandals that could give them a bad name and bring destruction to the label. After all, a label will close down when enough people refuse to support its artists. That would put a lot of people out of work…Last, the labels make sure that they are not used up and dropped for other opportunities. After all, they don’t want someone using them until they get famous and then dropping them. That damages the label and makes them feel like they put money behind someone for nothing. Money is a precious thing.

On the other hand, this puts artists in a bind. What are their rights, you ask? Few rights.

Some contracts allow artists to “own” 1/3 of their music for the first few years of their contract. After that, they have more freedom and ownership of their art, especially if they are famous enough. BoA is one such artist that has so much seniority, she’s been there longer than SM’s current CEO! Her seniority gives her power in her label. She has more freedom than other Kpop idols. Newer idols, especially the really young ones, don’t have as much freedom.

Artists are also not allowed to date (more on this later) until they have given some years to the label.

Part of the reason these contracts are set up so tight is because the Korean idols debut so young (I will also address this later). Without some rules, imagine what a young idol teen could get into! They do need some structure. Labels are basically babysitting these idols before they become adults, ready and able to take care of themselves. Also, the Korean public values purity and a good social status. Idols are looked at as role models. Companies want to maintain a good reputation. If they have to monitor their idols to have that reputation, so be it.

Still, there are some shady things going on with these labels. Many labels distribute funds “unfairly” based on popularity. Even though all the members may have put the same kind of hard work in a group, it doesn’t often matter to some labels. This has been the cause of many issues between artists and labels. Some artists may feel that the labels aren’t promoting them as well as other members and may fight to be removed from the label so they can find better opportunities to shine as an individual. In Korea, though, it creates the opposite of “fame”. Koreans don’t often side with idols who leave their label and even call them “traitors” for “abandoning” their group members. This helps the labels stay powerful. However, there are also some Korean fans who are against the labels’ treatment. Because many Koreans were against SM Entertainment’s treatment of idols, they put pressure on the label to change the contracts.

Read About SM Entertainment’s Lawsuits By Clicking Me

Even though there are many shady things going on with these labels, many times the labels put pressure on artists because of the fandom. The “audience” has a lot of power over Kpop idols, whether they rise or fall from grace. This is where fans, especially teenage fans, fail to recognize their hand in the mistreatment of Kpop idols and fail to take responsibility. One of the main reasons Kpop labels restrict artists from dating is because they know most people get into Kpop because the idols seem like “dating” material. The idols are designed by the labels to appeal to the fans’ “fantasies”, true, but this is also because the labels know this is really the ONLY way to sell Kpop to people.

Honestly, if over half of the Kpop idols were “normal” or “unattractive”, how many fans do you think Kpop would have? It can seem like a shallow industry, from the labels to the fans. This is another subject I will talk about more in-depth later.

The bigger a fandom, the more strict labels are regarding the group. When a group blows up big, fan demands start pouring in:

“Please come to my hometown! When is your concert?”

“Oppa/Unni, you’re so attractive”

“This song is so, so good. Their style is not like others”

They also seem like compliments, right? And they are. But they do put a significant amount of pressure on Kpop idols. How so?

When fans demand idols to “come to my hometown”, this means that the idols have to work extra hard to increase their popularity so that they can get the approval of local venues in other nations and sell them out. Labels will overwork them so that they can meet fan demands. They want the idols to be able to reach as many fans as possible. Sometimes, this means they have to do more.

When fans love an idol for their appearance, the respect that artist gets for his/her talents is often lost (even though people, especially international fans, do appreciate their talents, looks mean a lot to the industry). When that idol gets older or something happens where they are no longer as attractive, the artist will suffer. Thus, labels put pressure on artists to appear a certain way to maintain fan interest.

When people really love a song, labels know that in order to maintain a fan’s interest, they have to keep making good songs. This puts pressure on artists to perform better time after time, which can wear them out. As these idols get older, it gets harder for them to perform the way they did in youth.

Some labels nowadays are allowing artists to explore their own artistry. But labels aren’t pouring out a lot of money or promotion for these solo pursuits. This sometimes angers fans. Labels feel that their priorities are group priorities, which are the projects they’ve invested in and are sure will sell. Any other projects are considered “promotional” for their groups. The reason for this is because labels aren’t getting as much from these solo projects.

Despite what you hear, labels aren’t always the bad guys. Sometimes, they are just doing their jobs. There are people, just like in every profession, that do misuse their position. However, there are perfectly decent labels that are just caught in the crossfire. Sure, some may not make the best promotional judgments. Everyone working in a label is imperfect, but that doesn’t always make them monsters. At times, fans can be more monstrous than labels.

Still, it’s best to keep a close eye on everything going on.

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13) Many Kpop Idols Aren’t Korean

Jackson in marine hoodie

I think this should be an interesting one for you newcomers. You might hear Korean on the music video, you might see Korean on the music video, but the eyes and ears are deceiving you. This is the illusion labels have developed to both give you a taste of Korea and appeal to a larger demographic.

If you came into Kpop because of the group RaNia, you may notice that they are one of the few groups that have an African American member. She is not the first black artist in the Korean music industry, but she is the first to be accepted into a Kpop group. This caused quite a lot of controversy, which I will definitely have to address later.

Many fans have stated that they didn’t like the inclusion of this member because she takes away Kpop’s “purity”. I suppose what made Kpop special to most Kpop fans was the fact that it seemed more “Korean”. To many, Kpop isn’t just a sound but a “visual” (shows how shallow the industry can be). I will admit that, while the other nations around the world hardly respect Asian artists the way they do Caucasian and African American artists, Kpop has been one of the few to promote and produce Asian talent when the other nations refuse to. Having a black girl in the industry takes more from the industry than it does lift it. Even as an African American, I know that she could make it in any industry in the world if she wanted to while an Asian artist would have a more difficult time. If you look at the record of Asian artists that have tried to make it in the west and didn’t, you would be ashamed.

But, despite this, it’s laughable for anyone to think that Kpop is “purely” Korean. I chuckle to myself at all the people who fall for the illusion every year. Myself included. XD

That’s right folks. There are some members of groups who, while Asian by face, are NOT Koreans.

Many casual fans of Kpop don’t even realize or recognize this. I didn’t until I was introduced to f(x).

DramaFever, Allkpop, and Kpop Encyclopedia have all created lists of more than a dozen Kpop stars that actually don’t come from Korea or may have lived abroad! These lists don’t even name them all (Busker Busker’s Brad Moore, Yoon Mi Rae, Eric Nam, Black Pink‘s Lisa and Rosé, and Shannon Williams are to name an extra few). Many of our favorite Kpop idols come from the USA, Canada, the U.K., Australia, China, Taiwan, Thailand, and Japan! Many started off not knowing an ounce of Korean!

Some Kpop artists are of Korean heritage, but they were born in another country! Jessica and Krystal Jung from (f(are examples.

This is part of the reason Kpop has become such a global phenomenon. These artists can speak in their own native languages and are taught to speak in Korean, which brings a sense of diplomacy between the nations. They can act as interpreters and help Kpop spread. While many of them have a face that suits Kpop (except the ones who are African American and Caucasian), they represent various cultures and backgrounds at the same time.

These idols also give their lives over to Koreans. Through these idols, Korean fans learn a little more about the world and how different people live. That’s why these idols are good bait for variety shows.  F(x)’s Amber Liu, Super Junior-M’s Henry Lau, and Got7’s Jackson are examples of foreign idols who really give Koreans laughter. And don’t even think of putting them in a room together!

Kpop idols from different nations always bring a little something unique with them when they join these groups. Their cultural differences help members loosen up and become more open-minded. Their personalities as well as ideas help Korea become a melting pot and pushes Korea into a more progressive nation.

International Kpop idols also introduce new styles of music to their labels. They bring with them their own favorite inspiring artists from their countries, which greatly influences the music that is created and performed.

Of course, these idols give their lives over to Korea in more ways than one. When these idols begin to train in South Korea, they are giving up their homes, their families and friends, their customs, their beliefs, and often times, their identities to become Kpop stars. They are risking not being accepted or flopping right off the charts, only to return home with nothing. They are really sacrificing a lot. Some make it, some break.

Many of these idols train at very young ages. Many of them have yet to finish high school before moving to Korea! But the opportunities they receive are very valuable and equal any education they can get back in their own home towns.

Seeing how these idols have lived in Korea, many other “normal” (just your average fan :P) people have up and moved there, too! These idols are truly an inspiration.

Why are so many international Asian artists so attracted to the Kpop industry? Can’t they simply make music in their own countries?

Well, many international Kpop idols got interested in Kpop much the same way you and I got interested in it. Many of them will probably say they loved Kpop before they became an idol. They loved the whole feel of it and longed to be a part of the action.

As to why these artists just don’t debut in their own nations…Let me ask you all this: How many Beyonces, Britney Spearses, and Michael Jacksons are there among Asian artists AROUND THE WORLD? NONE. Who has had that kind of fame or influence? None. I know many of the Western Kpop idols struggle to be recognized in their own birth countries. In the USA, as much of a melting pot it’s supposed to be,  there hasn’t been ONE Asian American singer that has had significant success to bring them to the level of major “celebrity”. Even foreign Asian artists struggle to break the charts in the USA. Psy has been one of few that has gotten the attention of the west, but to most Americans, he is a one-hit wonder and a joke (though that makes him pretty entertaining to me. 😉 ). His music is hardly played on national radio stations. BTS has paved a road for some international Korean artists , but stateside Asian artists still struggle for attention against the novelty of Korean nationals. Bi-racial idols like Yoon Mi Rae felt she wasn’t “black” enough for Americans. 

Equally in the UK and Canada, Asians are hardly recognized in the music industry as much as Caucasians and those of African descent.

In China, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Japan, Kpop is becoming the new thing. C-pop and J-pop artists, coming from major Far East Asia industries, see more opportunities to reach a wider audience when it comes to Kpop because there are many things that are more appealing about it than C-pop and J-pop to other parts of the world. Kpop is more progressive and advanced in comparison to the more conservative C-pop. China has closed itself off from worldly influence, while Korea strikes the balance between reaching out to foreigners and holding close to their culture. C-pop is heavily infested with ballads, whereas Kpop is full of upbeat, catchy tunes and flashy outfits.

The difference between Kpop and Jpop is that Kpop puts more emphasis on “appearance”, making their idols seem more attractive. Japan focuses on substance and original concepts, which tend to be unusual and too artsy to most people of the world.

And neither Japan nor China uses popular social media sites from the west as much as Korea. Kpop idols are in touch with Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook. They are able to promote music to various different countries around the world this way.

Foreign artists are better able to stay in touch with friends through these websites and better promote their music to their homelands because Korea stays connected with the west.

So, to find better opportunities, these international idols decided to try their hand at Kpop.

So, you might ask me, “Can I become a Kpop star?”

You can audition! I know SM Entertainment hosts Global Auditions all the time. Labels also travel around and scout out talent. It would be even better for you to learn the language, work on your talents, then at least visit Korea so you can experience living there firsthand. Try doing those things to see if being a Kpop star is really what you want. Then, instead of waiting for labels to come to you, make an effort to go to Korea to see them! This will show labels how passionate you are.

Keep in mind that though some of these international idols are a big deal now and seem to be getting along well, there is still prejudice in and outside of Korea. I will have to touch on this separately…

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14) Many Kpop Idols Train Early, But Most Don’t Last Long


I think I’ve mentioned twice that Kpop idols train really young. In this section, I will explain more about this.

Labels are always scouting out young talent. Though they may occasionally sign someone on that is older, they know that Kpop’s primary demographic consists of teenagers and those people in their 20s. So, to ensure that they appeal to a young audience, and to make sure their idols appear “timeless”, they often train idols as early as possible to sing, dance, and present themselves in public. These labels hope that by the time of debut these idols will be attractive but polished performers.

When idols are in the training process, many of them dorm with other trainees. Labels provide dormitories. Their training begins early in the morning and ends late at night. They sometimes work an “adult-like” shift long before most of their peers are graduating from school! Many of them also balance school with training. Sometimes, idols go to regular public schools, despite their fame.

Why so young?

There are several benefits for the labels. For one, young people are naive and easily caught up in the glamor/glamour of Kpop. This allows them to be able to find as many idols as they can to feed the factory. Labels can easily persuade young artists to join the label and can better control them, too.

Second, when these artists start young, even as they get older, they will be able to give more years to the label. If someone debuts at 14, for example, 10 years into a label would put them at 24! They would still be young enough to produce music and keep the label on the map. If they debuted someone at 40, they fear their idols retiring too soon and starting families, which will halt many promotions and distract artists (considering the fact that idols usually work rigid schedules). And then there’s military service…

How young do idols start training? As young as 11. BoA and f(x)’s Sulli started their training around that age. That may seem like a very young age for people around the world. After all, how do these kids really know if this is what they want? Most don’t. This is why many grow up tired of the industry. But the labels use the younger ones because they are the most eager to please at debut.

These things may seem foreign to the west. It’s not foreign to have famous kids (Bow Wow anyone?), but foreign to see so much emphasis on youth. After all, it’s not uncommon in some countries to see artists as old as 65 still performing and releasing new music, with marriages, families, and all! But in Korea, people don’t feel the life of a Kpop star is “suitable” for a “healthy family”. And most Koreans expect those over the age of 29 to start families. Looking at the lives of American music stars, maybe they’re right…Still, at least American pop stars can continue doing what they love and still make millions.

This is why Kpop idols don’t last too long in the industry. Everyone grows up. In Korea, though they are more progressive than they used to be, traditional roles within the home are still honored by the vast majority. Most women are expected to be married by 30 years old! They are expected to be stay-at-home wives who cook and tend house while the man is out working. For many Koreans, adults shouldn’t be jumping around on stage singing pop songs.

Because labels cater their music to teens and young adults, their fanbase is normally really young, so it’s hard for older idols to be recognized because the younger generation is usually already ready for the next new thing. Koreans are also “age conscious”. The age hierarchy is a part of their culture. It is a rule of etiquette to consider the age of people. Since many Kpop idols are popular for their appearances, Kpop teens would get “strange looks” if they were huge fans of “older male or female idols”. I guess it seems perverted to them. Most people in Korea think it’s strange to crush on someone older, especially on someone 10 or more years older! In the west, we don’t care about age at all as long as you’re legal. And a little crush is not shamed as long as it doesn’t become an ultra serious relationship.  No one makes a big deal if a teenage boy has a crush on Cardi B or Ariana Grande or Amara La Negra or Zayn or 5Sos…

Another problem is that labels mass produce group after group, not taking the time to develop the groups they already have. Teens and young adults in Korea are always interested in debut groups and the hottest new trends, so the older groups eventually get forgotten among the wave of newcomers. And if the group wasn’t popular to begin with, they really struggle to stay within the Kpop industry.

The Verge interviewed Ellen Kim, a Kpop dancer and choreographer. She stated “…The pace of the popularity of the music is quick. You got one song that can last for a week, and that’s it… that’s really scary. You put so much work into one song, but yet it’s going to get old quick. Korean people want something new every week, and I think that’s the hardest pressure, probably. To come up with something catchy all the time, a hit all the time, and you’ve got tons of artists and the lifespan of one song is so short. It’s pretty hard.”

Artists are presented on music shows weekly, so once the weeks of promotion are over, purchases die down and the hype is over…until the next comeback of another major group. Very seldom does popularity of one song last a whole year. This is also different from the west, where artists’ songs from over TWO years ago could still be popular on the radio and still may climb the charts suddenly! Popularity dwindles easily in Kpop.

Scandals, military service, and a label folding can end the “life” of a group. Koreans have a strong sense of morality. A scandal can permanently destroy an idol’s career. Military service takes idols out of the spotlight for awhile, causing fans to move on and forget about them. Labels that don’t make enough money to keep their groups afloat or labels that get involved with lawsuits eventually fold  or close down or get bought out.

As I’ve said, I’ve been into Kpop for over 10 years (since around 2003). I’ve seen major groups go from kings and queens of their kingdoms to obscure little nobodies trying to hold on to what little fandom they had. Some of it seemed to happen too quickly. It was always when I was just getting into an artist or just appreciating their music…

This all goes back to the “7-year Curse”. The “7-year curse” is the curse that is said to plague Kpop idols. It’s the curse that only allows a group to last 7 years before something happens that destroys the idols’ careers, fizzles them out of the spotlight, and ruins their Kpop reputation, ultimately resulting in disbandment. This name came out of the industry when it seemed there was a trend of Kpop groups breaking up only after being in the spotlight for 7 years after debut (or with debut year included). The “lucky few” make it past the “7-year curse”. Many contracts nowadays are only set for up to 7 years (in the past it was up to 13 years). A lot can happen in 7 years for an idol group or solo artist. Usually, they are at the height of their popularity those first seven years, but after awhile, everything gets tiresome, the fan pressure gets more intense, and as idols get older. The longer you are an idol, the harder it is to avoid dating, “Korean” scandals, and to resist not wanting to do “something different”. Many fans of new groups will think it’s the weakness of the group’s bond that creates these disasters, but actually all of Kpop is a business. They bond as employees. Think about what that means. I’m very close to my colleagues, but if I want to find a better job throughout my life, no matter how close I am to my co-workers, I will do what’s best. Many idols start really young, but after 7 years, most are adults who have discovered what it is they really love and want (and sometimes it’s not being a pop star).

The ones that last beyond 7 years or more still often meet a decline in sales because they are considered “old”. Newer idols end up taking all of the attention. This could crush the dreams of a lot of Kpop idols.

I advise you fans to learn to appreciate your favorite artists for as long as you can. Support them to the best of your ability.

Another reason many Kpop idols may not last too long is because there are so many groups debuting, not all of them will make it big, especially if they are debuting with a small Kpop company. They don’t really work regular job hours, so it’s difficult for them to make a whole lot of money, and it’s especially hard for them to pay their companies back. If they don’t make it big before they reach their “expiration date”, usually in their 30’s, they may be forced to give up being a Kpop star.

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15) Idols Can’t Date Easily


One of the biggest scandals in Korea are the dating scandals. For all you western fans, you may find “dating” to be an odd “scandal”. What’s so “scandalous” about dating? If you think about it, this may even be laughable to westerners. Famous artists in the west are dating, married, and have children! In fact, artists in the west date for publicity and status! It makes no difference to their art in western countries. This is because westerners’ values are different from Korea’s values.

This was one of the most shocking revelations I had when first getting interested in Kpop. I think most international fans would be shocked. I mean, with so many attractive people, who wouldn’t want to date them? How can such pretty people stay single for the rest of their lives?

It’s quite simple really.

Labels design their artists to appeal to teen “fantasies”. These idols are not meant to be looked at as “real” figures. If they were, they would not get the same revenue they get from swooning their audience. In order to convince fans to buy into these groups, labels have to produce “available” and “pure” artists that seem untouchable, unreachable, and up for grabs. Every fan has to “feel” like they have a boyfriend/girlfriend out of these idols.

Because of the way these groups are marketed, many fans, especially in Korea, do feel they own these idols. When their favorite idols are revealed to be “dating”, some of them even look at this as betrayal! Fans feel that the idols aren’t doing their jobs. That “job” is to appeal to fans’ fantasies. Some fans are just spitting jealous. But these jealousies can end CAREERS.

When one member of EXO (a major boy group in Korea), Baekhyun, was revealed to be dating, fans were so angry jealous it affected Kyuhyun’s musical ticket sales, and he’s just a fellow member!

Labels have learned that their idols can’t date if they expect their idols to become major Kpop stars in Korea. Some labels prevent their idols from dating by making a contractual agreement about it. Most idols are supposed to be thought by fans to be “single” and “virgins” at the time of debut, no matter how attractive they look or how sexy the concept.

Koreans have a strong moral code. Koreans like their entertainment to be “family-friendly”. So, you may see some sexy concepts coming out of Kpop groups (especially as more international fans get into the genre and as the fan base reaches the “2030” crowd), but the groups still have to maintain a certain level of chastity and innocence.

Kpop idols’ business image affects their real life big time. This is one of the reasons so many Kpop members leave the industry and one of the reasons so many fall from grace. As pretty as Kpop looks, the idols live a lonely existence most of the time. Aside from that, at a certain age, there is pressure to be married, especially among women in their 20s. Many Koreans get married in their 20s. Many kpop idols feel the pressure to be like all of their other adult friends, but also feel the pressure to appear “available” to fans.

For some international fans, dating is nowhere near seen the same. To many of us, it’s not as big of a deal as having sex (and dating is in fact super innocent), but for Koreans it’s almost the same thing. Even too much public affection is uncommon. But isn’t that why most of us love the industry? They just don’t tolerate the same impurities other nations tolerate and they make sure they watch how they are seen in public. This can be a blessing or a curse.

Perhaps these sex-negative reactions are linked to Korea’s declining birth rate….but most experts argue that that has more to do with economics and progression.

Dating scandals are harsher on female idols than on male idols. Females are already not as respected as much as men are in the Kpop universe (which I will discuss later), but a dating scandal is just a way to completely destroy a female idol’s career. f(x)’s former member Sulli was run out of her group by fans who didn’t approve of her dating!  One fan is so obsessed with hating this girl, they created a whole twitter account for their hatred and post hate comments daily! The truth is female idols are supposed to appear as “innocent, without strong sexual urges” in Korea. Being too sensual or sexual is considered an area women aren’t allowed to trespass. If a woman is too sexual or confident about her sexuality, they are degraded in Korea. Men can sometimes get away with dirty jokes in media or music and can even get away with provocative names. Women can hardly skate by sexy concepts.

“Skinship” is a term flipped around in Kpop. This means that the two people involved seem really close or “intimate”. For Koreans, a little hug between a man and woman or two of them taking selfies or even wearing matching clothes could be considered skinship! Little signs of skinship will make Koreans question whether the two are dating. Because open displays of affections aren’t common, it’s hard to tell who is dating. Knetz will find some evidence and piece it together.

Kpop journalists are more respectful than western journalists, so they don’t often get into too many details about an idol’s private life. But Korean fans are pretty good, and often better than journalists, at being the paparazzi.

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16) Humility, Duty, And Hard Work Are Prized By Koreans


Ashyne, the poster I mentioned earlier from a Reddit discussion, makes a really interesting point about Kpop idols:

The idol is about being a role model in image, character, etiquette and personality, and that is strictly enforced. In America, people don’t care about these, because these traits about being ‘role-model material’ are not important in their individualistic culture.

Koreans hold themselves to a high moral code, as I’ve mentioned several times. The west honors freedom, liberty, and justice as a principle. We believe that people should be respected as human beings and should be treated equally (regardless of our personal opinions). So when we hear about our favorite Kpop idols suing their labels or leaving their groups, we are very supportive, even still considering those idols a part of the group (just going in a different direction at the moment). After all, in the west, groups break up all the time and come back together for reunions, like the Spice Girls.

But in Korea, when members leave or sue their label, as I mentioned before, that is utter betrayal and abandonment. Koreans have a “duty” culture. When you sign up for something in Korea, they expect you to completely serve out all contracts and do what you signed up to do, regardless of how challenging or abusive the circumstances. For them, why get involved in something you can’t handle? They don’t believe in fickleness and “changing one’s mind.” There is often too much money wasted, too much time spent, and too much involved. When kpop idols take a “break” during promotions, many Koreans feel that idol is being “lazy” and see this as betrayal, regardless of the reason. In fact, in most Korean businesses, “vacation time” isn’t included in the deal.

Many Korean fans expect idols to perform in all situations, as they promised in these binding contracts. This surprised me, a westerner, considering our celebrities take vacations all the time, even halting promotions! Westerners especially don’t mind halted promotions for legitimate reasons like being sick, tired, or stressed by scandals and bad rumors. For Koreans, they may talk bad about Kpop idols, but they’ll talk more trash about an idol who halts promotions because of it. They believe idols should learn to be strong and endure.

There is a strong bully culture worldwide thanks to the internet, but in Korea there are few programs or supporters helping those who don’t fit the “norm”. In fact, the victim of the maliciousness is usually “blamed”. I agree that some people in America should be held as accountable as those in Korea are, but there’s a reason why Korea has a high suicide rate. The pressure to live up to such high standards takes a toll on citizens who don’t fit the “norm”.

This sense of duty extends to military service, too. Though fans love their male idols, they all still expect the males to serve their country. Any idols who avoid military service or take their duty lightly will be scorned by Koreans and will lose the respect of their fans. In the west, we abolished the “draft”. In Korea, it still exists for men in their late 20s to early 30s. Some idols try to skate around it or postpone it but this causes controversy and can result in severe consequences. Korean fans find “draft-dodging” to be a sign of weakness. These people are treated as traitors. Unlike westerners, especially those from the USA, Koreans don’t usually question their laws or leaders (though they seemed to recently have been effective in impeaching their last president) nor do they question the military service draft. It is an insult to all those who have already served their time and can shame a person’s whole family. They believe this is for the good of their country. They are really trying to protect their borders because they are technically still in a 60 year -long war with North Korea.  This is no game for them. Even the children feel this service is important and prepare for the day they must serve. It is a sign of manhood. My next section will talk more about this.

Duty is intertwined with hard work. Again, there are very few businesses that offer “vacation days” like in western countries. Some Japanese and Chinese fans may relate more to this than western fans. Idols work their butts off to give their audience the best they can with hardly any sleep. This is why their performances are so sharp and on point! Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to see tired eyes from these idols. Makeup and skin cream does wonders to hide those bags though.

Idols train early, as I mentioned before, and the training can be rigorous. Kpop consists of so much. There’s vocal, dancing, fashion, performing, and fan meeting involved. Kpop artists work and are expected to work extremely hard. They sometimes work around the clock, only getting four hours of sleep a day during promotions!

Koreans also encourage humility in their idols. This goes along with duty as well. When someone acts out to get attention or makes themselves out to be more than they are, that irritates most Korean fans. This is partially why Korean fans dislike international fans. Some international fans can be really loud, boastful, and know-it-alls (though you can find these types anywhere, it’s more common in the USA). Koreans believe in being submissive and following rules, especially rules that will protect others. Of course, even they have their limits. Still, they are not likely to encourage their idols to speak up and out. This is part of the reason so many idols don’t speak on behalf of themselves and let their labels speak for them.

Korean fans worship their idols, true, but they also expect idols to show a deep level of appreciation and gratefulness. After all, Korean fans put out a lot to support their favorite idols. In every culture where a “deep bow” is involved, respect and humility is valued over pomposity.

Their “bowing”culture shows how strongly they feel about humility. Though idols are famous, they find it highly offensive if Korean idols forget to bow to their fans after winning awards. They even get offended if idols forget to bow towards other idols at award shows. It is a sign of humility and respect. Bowing to Koreans is equivalent to the “handshake” in the west.

In some ways, people in the USA are not too different. We do like humility, but natural humility. However, we tend to like artists who are down-to-earth and honest, even if they aren’t the most honorable or humble. If someone is naturally humble, that’s great to Americans. But our culture looks down on anything that seems “fake”, even fake humility. Americans have a motto: Be Yourself. Being loud and obnoxious is just as irritating to Americans, but, admittedly, it’s also highly entertaining for us as well, especially if you are just “being yourself”. XD

Still, we also like Kpop because the artists are so respectful and humble. Very seldom do Kpop idols show that fame is getting to their heads (even if the reality is different).

Earlier I mentioned that this “humble” culture has a lot of respect for the “age hierarchy”. Age is very important in Korea. It decides the kind of “respect” that is given. The oldest is always respected by the younger ones. It’s common for the older ones to eat first at every meal (unlike in America, where the children and elderly eat first). But the older ones have to pay the bill (no matter if the others have jobs and are adults, different from America where the bill is split or paid by whoever offered or paid by the man or paid by the one who proposed the date). The older ones are expected to “take care” of the younger ones (even if the youngest is in his 50s!) It’s common for Koreans to ask your age (whereas it’s rude in America to ask age). It’s just important because it decides the level of “respect” someone should give. The young Koreans are expected to be humble and respectful around the older Koreans.

Kpop debut years are treated like “age” sometimes. Whoever debuts first is considered a “senior”, even if they are younger than all the “juniors”. You can imagine how awkward this makes things if the “senior” is younger than the “junior”. Kpop singer BoA is younger than many members of Kpop group Super Junior, but she is still their “senior” because she debuted sooner.

In Kpop, you might hear “Oppa” or “Unni” being used by the younger idols towards older idols. “Dongsang” may be used by older idols or used by idols that have been under a label longer (They usually tend to be older).

Despite how harsh or difficult everything above may sound, on the flip side, this is actually one of the reasons people have fallen in love with the genre. These idols work their behinds off producing high-quality work so that they can look like royalty, but they still always try to show respect to their followers and always emphasize how grateful they are for their fans, like a humble servant. That balance is hard to achieve for many celebrities around the world.

The humility shown in Kpop and in Korea is definitely one of the most attractive points of the nation.

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17) Male Idols Must Serve In The Military


Korea has a law that requires all natural-born Korean men between the ages of 18 and 35 to serve in the military or choose compulsory national service. All men can choose when to serve but they must serve. Kpop idols usually choose to serve in their late 20s and early 30s when their popularity has either been established well enough or when their popularity has dwindled due to “age” (XD Let’s face it, the industry’s demographic is Korea’s youth).

There are exemptions:

Certain medical conditions, depending on the severity, either exempts one from service or allows civil service instead. This includes those who have donated organs. Graduates from special high schools may work at selected workplaces for 3 years instead. Those with a master’s degree in engineering may work at research institutes or pass a test and do a PhD for 3 years instead. Those who have been imprisoned for more than 18 months or are in poverty (defined as monthly income lower than 1.5 million won and being the sole provider of income for at least 3 family members, of which at least 2 must be disabled or have an incurable disease) are also exempt.

Current conscription laws stipulate that athletes who win medals in the Olympic Games or gold medals in the Asian Games are granted exemptions but still required to do four weeks of basic training. In 2011, the Military Manpower Administration proposed amendments to the exemptions: to include men who have not completed middle school, and to change to a points-based system on a prescribed scale for athletes who win in prestigious competitions.

Sometimes, anyone who tries to get exempt is watched or monitored closely, even if they have a good reason. People do speculate and try to investigate these situations.

Men of mixed races were only recently drafted into service in 2011.

Anyone who is on a visa, visiting, or not a natural-born citizen may be exempt from military service. Anyone who has dual citizenship can be exempt if they fall under the following:

1)They reside in the country they were born in with parents who are permanent citizens.

2) They have resided in another country with their parents since the age of 17.

3) They have resided in another country for ten consecutive years and their parents do not reside in the Republic of Korea.

The government of the Republic of Korea will recognize a male’s dual citizenship until they reach the age of 22, at which time the law requires them to choose a nationality. If a male claims dual citizenship and he is not registered on his citizen parents’ Family Registry, he will not be subject to military service. If he is included on his parents’ Family Registry, he can avoid military service if he formally renounces his South Korean citizenship before March 31 of the year he turns 18. He must register the loss of his nationality through the nearest Republic of Korea Consulate General in the country he resides in.

Trip Advisor-Can Korean Americans Be Drafted?

All men are usually expected to serve about two to three years.

This mandatory service affects Kpop in many ways. It’s one of the reasons Kpop idols debut so early in their lives, why Kpop boy groups are super popular at debut, why many Kpop idols lose popularity, and why many labels are reaching out for talented foreigners.

How is the military law responsible for Kpop idols debuting so soon? Well, labels know that teenage girls are the target for Kpop and that girls like young boys. But they also know they possibly only have male idols for only a few years until they have to serve. The labels figure they can train the idols while they’re really young, work them hard enough to make a profit, and then possibly be able to move on to the next recruit of boys by the time the old group has to serve.

This is also why so many boy groups are popular. Labels exploit their boy groups as much as they can so they can make a profit off of these boy groups before they have to serve in the military. In the beginning phases of the Kpop phenomenon, labels would promote the boys way more than they did the girls because they knew the girls would be around longer. Over the years, this has created an industry that is mostly dominated by boy groups (the most notable rather than in literal number) and an industry dominated by a female fandom.

As I mentioned before, Kpop idols are usually away from the spotlight 2 to 3 years of their service. This gives other boy groups just enough time to replace the older groups on the charts. Sadly, for many Kpop groups, military service ends their Kpop career. It’s sad, really. The industry moves fast and songs get replaced on the charts week after week. Any time away from the spotlight can seriously bring a powerful group back to the point when they were rookies. You’d think that serving the military would make them MORE popular, because the group served their country honorably and helped protect the people within. Apparently, the youth could care less. Most move on to the latest and youngest eye-candy debuting.

Since many fans are international, I suppose they don’t really understand this military service or honor it as much. Really, these men should be honored more than any of the other groups. They had the courage to sacrifice their careers to protect others.

There are some groups that have done military service and have come out with significant fame, depending on their strategy to get back in the spotlight. Shinhwa and Super Junior manage to stay pretty relevant. But since most supporters of Kpop don’t just like music for music’s sake, and most of the demographic consist of teen girls who want to see “attractive” and “younger teen” boys (sorry gentlemen 😦 ), it’s still even hard for these groups to stay relevant. Perhaps the new 2030 crowd could give them a boost…

Honestly, most labels lose a lot investing in acts that won’t last. And this is why they have been searching for talent from around the globe. Foreigners are exempt from military service. They can speak multiple languages and attract a foreign following. This brings more money to the label with more lasting results.

The military is so important to the Kpop industry there are even contract terms regarding it. While most contracts demands that an idol gives service from 5 to 7 years, many male Kpop idols often have to come to a pause while serving in the military. This makes the boys’ idol life last longer, for better or worse.

Evading military service could lead to life-long consequences. Actor and singer Yoo Seung Jun is BANNED from ever returning to his native country because shortly before he was to serve, he moved to the USA. Even though he said his family convinced him to join them in America, and even though he tried to enlist in 2014 at the age of 39, he was over the age restriction and South Koreans were not ready to forgive him.

South Korea is no joke when it comes to duty to the country. It’s also another sign of South Korea’s emphasis on conformity. If you have a different religious belief, and you don’t believe in war, you will also be outcast from society and even lose your job. They don’t have the same “freedom of religion” standards westerners have.

Kpop idols are thrust into the spotlight, so the consequences are more severe for them.

Of course, many Kpop idols actually want to serve in the military. South Korea is still technically in a decades-long war with North Korea, and serving in the military not only gives them an opportunity to prepare for a threat but it has also become a rite-of-passage for men. It connects them to their fore-fathers and binds history together.

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18) Boy Groups Are More Popular Than Girl Groups


As I mentioned before, because many males have to serve in the military at young ages, Kpop labels exploit the boys much more than the girls. When we look at the overall Youtube view count, the boys are always higher than the girls. When we observe the South Korean charts at the time a boy group debuts in comparison to when a girl group debuts, we can see the stark contrast. Labels obviously promote the boys much more and the majority of Kpop fans are heterosexual GIRLS. This is not just a stereotype. This is fact.

The blog Creatrip even makes the distinction between them by describing boy groups as “record idols” (idols with a large fandom, but low mainstream popularity) and girl groups as “music idols” (idols with a high mainstream popularity, but a small fandom). Basically, the girl groups’ popularity only comes through catchy songs, whereas boy groups don’t have to have great songs to build popularity. They can build a bigger fandom just by standing around and looking pretty.

Since Kpop boys are trained to fit the “fantasies” of their viewers, mostly teen girls, they will obviously be more popular than Kpop girl groups, who could spark both admiration and jealousy.

Even Kpop fanboys, even as the minority, like the male groups better.  Many boys think the female idols are cute and attractive, especially many soldiers the girls perform for, but some find the girls to be too “cutesy” or not as “powerful” onstage as the boys.

Part of it is the labels’ fault for being too lax with the girl groups and part of it has to do with Korean society and their expectations of women.

Boy groups are given more powerful choreography, more powerful songs, and more interesting concepts than females. If we look at groups like EXO, Got7, Infinite, BTS, Super Junior, and many others, we will see this is the truth. In comparison, the female choreographies and concepts are weaker and more repetitive as well as less original. Of course people are going to pay attention more to the boys! Even on live stages, the boys just shine! The girls are settled with girly, fun, cute or sexy concepts, recycled dance moves, and innocent faces most of the time. I’ve found a few groups to be the exception, like 2ne1 and f(x). I even think Brown Eyed Girls steps away from the norm. But very few are like these groups.

I think I already explained that labels want to get the most out of their boy groups before they have to serve in the military. The money from the large female fandom keeps them focusing on male groups, too.

KpopStarz stated,

Girl groups tend to have more scandals and catty behavior that leads to groups breaking up. While some 1990’s idol groups have reunited formally, the most popular girl groups of the day like Fin.K.L and S.E.S have only reunited for short events…

In comparison [to boy groups], girl groups struggle to maintain proper fan bases. Female fans may be loyal, but will generally also have a favorite boy band, leading to split attention, while male fans tend to be less loyal and switch between groups based on their concepts…

There is also more of a saturation of girl groups with similar concepts, making it harder for fans to distinguish between newer groups. Girl groups from smaller companies have to gain attention in unique ways, such as Crayon Pop’s ridiculous “Bar Bar Bar” concept, but then struggle to maintain their identity.

Female idol groups also often lose much of their appeal as they get older, since most idol groups focus on sexy and cute concepts and the majority of fans don’t really want to see mothers dancing in high heels and sexy outfits.

Kpopstarz interestingly mentions that girl groups have more scandals. But I think the difference also has to do with what is considered a “scandal” between boys and girls. The Korean public is harder on women and expect them to live up to higher standards than the boy groups. Men like “Choiza” can get away with a sexual name in Kpop, while any female with a similar name will be looked at poorly. While both male and female idols get scarred for dating, considering most males have a larger fan base, the fans will attack the female for “stealing” the male idol rather than attack them both.

I believe the “catty” behavior among the members is a result of the lack of popularity in comparison to boy groups, the favoritism shown by fans of the group, and arguments with the label to be seen as multi-talented and multifaceted. Female idols probably often feel disadvantaged, especially when one female idol is more popular for being a “visual” while the others struggle to let their individual talents shine.

David Volodzko from PRI shows that female idols’ behavior on stage, in variety shows, during music shows, and the concepts produced are heavily monitored and controlled. There are serious double standards between the idols. He mentions some interesting points:

For instance, when the hugely popular group Girls’ Generation (SNSD) batted their eyes at a boy band during a television variety show in 2008, this prompted fans to publicly humiliate them at that year’s annual Dream Concert, where audience members typically show performers their support by creating oceans of light with glow sticks. When SNSD took to the stage, the audience greeted them with dead silence and pitch darkness for the duration of their set….

Or take the case of former f(x) member Sulli. When Kim Hee-chul, member of the boy band Super Junior, claimed he was the most handsome member of his band, fans found it amusing. Yet when they discovered Sulli had written in her diary, as a 9-year-old child, “I think I’m pretty but I don’t get why other people think so too,” many people virulently attacked her. Then, when Sulli acknowledged she was dating the rapper Choiza in 2014, her career took a nosedive and she later left f(x). Meanwhile Choiza, whose stage name means “big dick,” not only survived the scandal, he cracked jokes about it on SNL Korea.

“Most K-pop videos portray women as sex objects and that includes all the female K-pop singers and groups, too,” says Kevin Cawley, professor of East Asian studies at University College Cork in Ireland. Many have cosmetic surgery and dance provocatively, but are “still expected to adhere to outdated Confucian norms about sexual conduct in their private lives while men can do as they please.”

Nevertheless, slut-shaming remains a societal mainstay, as does the infantilization of female pop idols. Just last year, IU released the song “Twenty-three,” in which she sings about the pressure put upon female stars to appear child-like, despite the fact that she herself is becoming a mature woman. But, because she dresses like a child in the video, rather than spark a national dialogue about the pedophiliac overtones of dressing grown women like schoolgirls, instead she was accused of using pedophiliac imagery to sell records.

Whether or not you agree with these statements, it still makes us think about the issue a little more. Many times we do have to go to the root of issues instead of ignoring them.

You can still like Kpop as a sound, but not every aspect will cater to everyone’s needs.

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 19) K-pop Is Not Extremely Diverse

Above I mentioned that there were some foreigners who have been accepted into Kpop. It’s true that Koreans have accepted newcomers into the industry. But keep in mind that most of the people accepted into the groups have been of Asian descent, currently classified as “heterosexual”, fitting gender “norms”, and fitting typical “beauty” standards (which I’ll have to dedicate a whole different section to). Though most are Asian, some of the Asians that aren’t “Korean” may be treated like second-class citizens. Korea is a modernized nation and slowly opening up to new ideas, but some people in Korea are still rather conservative, especially the older generation.

Though Kpop has welcomed a vast number of Chinese artists into the nation, it’s clear that the Koreans favor the Korean native idols more. If we observe the Chinese and Korean music videos of the major Kpop group EXO, we can see there is a difference in the promotion of the two videos by the “view count”. Because it is Kpop (Korean pop music), some Chinese members may feel treated “second best” because their natural language is Chinese. The Chinese language is not spoken by most Koreans, so it’s understandable. Still, it’s hard for many Chinese to fit in. Most end up doing promotions in China. There are hardly any Chinese idols cast in Korean dramas or on promotional ads for Korean products.

There are still some things Koreans aren’t used to and there are still some things that haven’t been accepted in society yet.

As far as different ethnic groups or races, that’s mostly something Koreans are still not used to. Obviously, the country is homogeneous (meaning the majority of citizens “look” Korean). When foreigners of different backgrounds come into the nation, especially the ones of African descent, they really stand out as “foreign” (even though there are Far east Asians who are also from foreign nations, they just fit in better because they “look” Korean). Western and Middle Eastern Asians and some Southeast Asians also stand out.

With idols like Insooni (a woman who debuted in Korea in the 1970s, a real hard time for African Americans in the country), Tasha, Alexandra, and many others, Koreans are able to better understand black people. But it’s still hard for black people to “fit in”. When Koreans get used to them, most of them will treat these idols like everyone else. But at first, it will feel a bit jarring and different. Koreans may be a little shocked, but most are also curious because they just aren’t used to diverse groups of people.

Not to say there are no black people in Korea. Black people are just among the minority groups living there. Koreans still don’t see black people often and don’t know how to approach them or take them.

Of course, there are those who really are racist and have very narrow perceptions about black people (like in every country). Some Koreans get their knowledge about black people from hip-hop and rap music videos. Koreans, particularly the elders, associate those genres with “bad” or “loose” behavior, particularly when it comes to violence and sex. Though rap and hip-hop has influenced much of Kpop today, most of it is watered down. The actual pure genre is ignored or even shunned. And even though they’ve accepted the genre as a part of “black culture”, many of them don’t really honor black rap and hip-hop artists within the nation. A rapper like CL from 2ne1 will get more attention than a rapper like Tasha Yoon Mi Rae. Part of the reason is because CL is of Korean descent and tried it, which inspires other Koreans to embrace hip-hop culture. They see CL as a representation of themselves. When looking at a black person perform the genre, it feels more “exclusive” to only blacks and many Koreans feel “rejected” from the genre. Not to say they won’t like it, but Knetizens like to feel “inspired to imitate” when they see idols perform. It’s hard for them to gravitate to something they don’t feel “included” in. Again, music is secondary; the way something “looks” or is “presented” usually comes first.

There are a few Koreans that get their idea of black people from American news articles online, which often misrepresent black people. They may not understand that all black people are various and diverse. This is partially because in their own nation everyone conforms. So for them, if they see one black person doing one thing, some will generalize all of them. Of course, there are ignorant people in every nation. Generally, most Koreans are respectful. Overall, again, the culture puts emphasis on respecting others and trying to remain humble. They also respect humility and hard work in others. Black people can prove to Koreans that they are WORTHY of respect by being respectful and humble when meeting other Koreans. The first impression matters, too.

Still, some Koreans may be a little distant or shun foreigners. Some can be angry at foreigners and talk racist trash. Of course, this is most common among the older conservative generation or the younger immature generation.

Many black women in Korea struggle to be seen as “equal” to Korean women. It has a lot to do with Korea’s standards for beauty. Many of their “ideals” greatly conflict with black people’s natural-born features. And I’ll mention later how much emphasis Koreans put on looks…

Still, as hard as it is for the women to fit in, do you see any black men in Kpop? I don’t think so. I think the black men have it harder to be seen as “normal” solid citizens who are respectful and talented as opposed to “thuggish gangsters”.

For many mixed artists, it’s even harder to fit in. They may feel both rejected by the black community for not being “black enough” and may equally be rejected by Koreans for being “black by skin”.

While there are hardly any black entertainers, there are even less entertainers of European descent. Asians can be just as unfriendly towards whites. Though many Asians admire their pale skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes, though many try to adapt these looks, though some may want to have affairs with them, many Koreans don’t really trust white people much for the same reasons they don’t trust black people. They have very little experience with white people, only knowing them from movies and the news (or history books). Many Koreans also find white people to be “too loose”. Their idea of “white” is always associated with being “American”. They don’t often readily think the white people that come into their land are from the U.K., France, Germany, or any other place. They see them all the same. So, if Miley Cyrus twerks in America, that’s a representation of all white people. Some white people have experienced the same kind of racial attacks black people have received in the nation.

Despite the prejudices, blacks and whites are useful to Koreans. They can teach Koreans English.

Most have never come into contact with those from Central and South America, Latinas, and/or Hispanics. The Americans from those ethnic groups are not considered “American”  because most are bilingual. How they are treated depends on their skin color.

Most Koreans don’t even know what “Native American” or “indigenous” means. Some even think native “Americans” are white. Still, true “indigenous” people more closely resemble Koreans in comparison to white and black people. If they were to meet them more often, they would find more similarities than differences.

If you’re from areas in Southeast Asia, like India or Indonesia, some Koreans may not know how to respond to people from these nations. Some Koreans associate Southern Asians with “third-world” countries or see their nations as “developing” and not as advanced as Korea is. Southeast Asians that have moved into Korea sometimes work in factories and other laborious jobs. Some Koreans don’t see these jobs in a favorable light. And there is a strong social hierarchy in Korea. Ignorant Americans can treat different ethnic groups much the same way, such as associating laundromats with the Chinese or affiliating “lawn care” with Mexicans.

Three teachers, one of Indian descent, Scandinavian American, and half Filipino American, have shared their experiences on Youtube.

Skin is actually very important to South Koreans. Oh, yes. Even darker skinned or tanned Koreans, like f(x)’s Luna, get looked down upon, bullied, or overlooked. If ya’ll are wondering why people keep sleeping on that talented woman, THAT’S WHY (along with her starting off with a less-than-preferred body type). Yes, there are a few exceptions to this, but generally, South Koreans prefer lighter-skinned idols. Darker-skinned or tanned idols only look good in “summer concepts” but are often overlooked in favor of the pale face. Some of them are breaking the mold, especially if they have other idealistic traits. Still, if you talk to any idol, I’m certain they would express the barriers they face, the color-ism they face, in comparison to lighter-skinned idols.

While it’s bad with South Koreans, it can be even more isolating for an outsider.

“Foreigners” or people of different backgrounds are never considered Korean. It doesn’t matter if the person was born and raised in Korea, or lived there for twenty years, or married a Korean and had Korean children. The word for “foreigner” in the Korean language isn’t specified by citizenship (unlike many western countries). The word separates “genetics”. So anyone who is not genetically Korean is NOT Korean, even if that person is a “legal” citizen. This makes many foreigners feel misplaced or outcast. On the other hand, this makes some foreigners feel unique or special. It all depends on your attitude and whether your experience with being “foreign” in Korea has been negative or positive.

Again, there is prejudice everywhere in the world. Generally, Koreans are gracious, but you won’t hardly see these races or any other ethnic groups in Kpop.

Why not? Several reasons:

  1. Some Koreans want to keep the “face” of Korea purely Asian. It makes Kpop stand out from all of the genres around the world.
  2. Some Koreans are afraid of other races dominating the media, making Korean children, who are impressionable, “hate their appearances”.
  3. Some Koreans feel that “westerners” don’t respect Asian entertainers in their own countries (because they assume all blacks and whites come from the west) and may want to return the favor by barring other ethnic groups from Kpop.
  4. Korean teenagers, who endorse kpop the most, don’t relate to individuals who don’t look like they do. Most of the teens look Korean and it’s considered “jarring” to see people of other races. They can’t see it as “Korean pop”. Some international fans actually feel the same way.

Labels, of course, are trying to sell a “product” to the Korean public, so they always consider how their idols will appear to the nation. This, unfortunately, bars most other ethnic groups from the genre. Only a few foreign groups would be tried, but most management companies know they are risking backlash. It wouldn’t be a common practice from the “big 3”, I’ll tell you that.

The irony, though, is that though the Korean public and the Kpop industry have all these issues with foreigners, they don’t show any reservations when it comes to taking aspects of their culture. They don’t mind adapting pop, hip-hop, and rap or the styles associated, though they honestly don’t understand these genres or even the appearances associated with the genres in music videos.

Hip-hop is a primary example. The issue is that they only see a lot of aspects of hip-hop and rap as a “concept”, not a way of life, and this is because they only see the styles and music that black people produce as just a concept black people are using. It’s NOT. Yes, there are a lot of things in hip-hop videos that are concepts. In Nicki Minaj’s video “Super Bass”, dealing with all of those wigs and colors are “concepts” for her video. Her type of dance is a concept for her video. However, Beyonce’s braids in “Lemonade” are not just a concept. Her hair is naturally thick. The color of the braids is a part of the concept, but having braids itself is not just a concept. It’s also a style many black people have chosen to wear to TAME THEIR THICK HAIR.

South Koreans don’t understand that “cornrows” or “dreads” are styles black people wear in their EVERYDAY LIFE. This is why black people are often confused for “rappers” when they visit South Korea. At the end of the day, South Koreans only wear these styles for concepts, but wouldn’t wear these styles to work or school, and some even directly look down on these styles, considering them too “rebellious” for a real job. Black people often HAVE to wear their type of hair this way, just to tend to it and make it healthy. Braids and dreads are not just “concepts” for black people. Sure, there are certain “styles” of braids that are trends, but a lot of those trends came out of natural ways black people have tended to their hair for centuries, since their ancestors lived in Africa. Many South Koreans don’t understand this, and yet they fully engage in hip-hop while excluding black entertainers from the genre.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with South Koreans engaging in hip-hop and rap. I wouldn’t really be as interested if there weren’t some great hip-hop influences sprinkled in the music. I also understand that because Asia isn’t known for largely contributing to modern music, it might be tough for them to even build a music industry if they didn’t borrow some genres (or even styles) from the west (like rock, pop, hip-hop, country, among others). However, I do still feel that any Kpop idols who think about partaking in the genre should understand a little about it, the people who originated it, and how that has an impact on people’s lives, especially if they’re going to bar black people from jobs, homes, and upper-class functions in their real neighborhoods because of it.

There are other groups that are barred from the genre. Korea is not very open to the LGBTQ+ community just yet. They do have a Gay Pride festival, which is a step forward. This clearly means there are some openly gay and bi-sexual Koreans. However, celebrities who come out gay often face public shame. Even at the festivals, some people protest against it.

Some idols who have dared to come out have lost their friends, their jobs, and get bullied by society. Many commit suicide, adding to Korea’s high suicide rate.

Much of the older generations look at homosexuality like a disease and blame foreigners for bringing it into the nation. This is also why many Koreans are distrustful of foreigners. They often don’t recognize that there were ever people within the nation who concealed their feelings long before foreign influences.

But this is common in all countries. The elderly just have a hard time adjusting to the changing times.

Still, some younger fans don’t relate to homosexual imagery outside of looking at “girl on girl” kissing as erotic or a sexual fetish for heterosexuals. Some of them might even use LGBTQ scenes as a concept, but may not truly support it in real life.

Homosexuality is still considered too “suggestive” for children in South Korea. Gay men have it even harder than the females because it’s not even looked at as erotic.  Some Knetizens may have a crush on a “boyish” girl based on her appearance (because she seems like their favorite male idols), but may not openly express dating that girl in real life.

This trickles all the way down to “gender norms”. It is very rare to find tomboys in Kpop. Again, most labels design their female idols to appeal to traditional men. Some girls wear baggy pants, sneakers, ponytails, and, occasionally, an androgynous suit and tie if it fits a particular concept. But labels try to promote their female artists as cute and traditionally “feminine”. Social-gender stereotyping is common because Koreans believe in conformity. If one person doesn’t conform in one way, they are considered “odd” or “outside of their gender”.

F(x)’s Amber Liu, has been able to overcome the limitations placed on female idols, despite the pressure from others to conform. But not too many tomboys like her are lucky enough to get a spot in a Kpop group. They really have to work harder to prove themselves.

The men have been able to get away with more feminine looks, like Jo Kwon in “Animal” or Taemin in “Danger”, but it’s clear that the more “masculine” groups are bigger in Korea.

On the other hand, despite the fact that it’s hard to actually come out as gay, blending in as a gay person under the radar would not be too difficult. Many of the things heterosexual Korean men and women do with the same sex are often confused for being “gay” to most westerners. For example, it’s perfectly normal for two men to hold hands, stroke one another, or wear makeup in Korea, no matter their sexuality. In the west, those behaviors are stereotyped with being “gay”. To Koreans, these things don’t really indicate anything intimate.

No one openly shows affection in public, such as hugging and kissing, not even heterosexual couples, so anyone would get weird stares for doing that. But as long as gay people fit into the culture, no would ever assume their sexuality unless it was actually brought out in the open. Being “gay” is never a usual topic in Korea. The younger generation is more tolerant than the older generation. Still, if a gay person were to come out, it would be hard for them to maintain employment.

Being Transgender is still a foreign concept in Korea, which is surprising considering so many people consider plastic surgery there. If there are any Transgender people, most probably try to blend in. Others that don’t pass may get bullied and their gender identity is hardly respected or understood. Western countries are just now getting educated on what it means to be Transgender. South Koreans have barely accepted the gay community or even mixed marriages!

Kpop is also not extremely diverse when it comes to body shapes and sizes.

In a nutshell, Kpop isn’t very diverse because South Korea isn’t very diverse and it doesn’t acknowledge those differences.

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20) Looks Are Just As Important As Talent


Considering that South Korea is a homogeneous place, everyone tries to keep up with the latest fashion and beauty tips that apply mostly to traditional Korean appearances. In the western part of the globe and many other nations in the southern part, people come in all shapes and sizes. There isn’t much pressure to look just “one way” like there is in South Korea.

At one time, Kpop idols didn’t seem to focus so much on their physical appearances. Look at early performances with S.E.S. Though all of the girls were pretty, they were far more natural and casual in comparison to girl idols today.

Now, Kpop idols lead when it comes to makeup, fashion, hair styling, and plastic surgery.

Guess who is number 1 in the world when it comes to plastic surgery? Korea! If that doesn’t show you how much they care about their appearances nowadays, I don’t know what does.

Some of the beauty standards that exist are said to go way back in Korea’s history (even if many early Kpop idols deviated from this standard)! The standards for beauty are

  1. Fair Skin (nothing dark, with blemishes, or freckles)
  2. Petite body
  3. Small features (facial, hands, feet, etc)
  4. Double eyelids and big eyes
  5. Pearly, white, straight teeth

These standards exist for both men and women.

Koreans also put emphasis on what is worn. They put emphasis on name-brands and trends. I think Fashion King (the 2014 film) describes the pressure to be beautiful and trendy in Korea’s fashion culture more than anything (though the movie exaggerates it).

I want to first dive into skin. Most Koreans have a lighter complexion. But there are some who have tans. Unfortunately, the ideal is to have pale-looking skin because that is considered most “naturally Korean”. This is what I meant earlier when I said Korea’s beauty standards clash with black people’s natural features.

This is not to say that all South Koreans think darker skinned people are butt ugly or unattractive, but if they could choose the ideal, for some, that person would be pale. Some do prefer their own “kind”. They also don’t find freckles to be attractive. They even have different ways to remove them.

Freckle Removal Procedure

For them, wanting lighter skin is no different than people wanting a tan in the USA (to have a darker complexion). Having a tan in America is linked to “prestige” because Hollywood resides in a warmer climate and many celebrities live in California, the home of Hollywood. Living off of the beach is also a sign of prestige in America (because of the weather and view, prices are higher). “Tans” are a reflection of living in a warmer climate with all the rich and famous people.

Well, in Korea, having lighter skin is linked to prestige as well. It means the individuals don’t have to spend a lot of time outside “tending the fields” like a poor farmer.

Unfortunately, this makes it hard for those of a darker skin tone to feel or be seen as “beautiful”.

Koreans spend a lot on whitening cream. These creams do several things for their skin besides make it whiter. For starters, because most of them are already pretty pale, it whitens out any uneven skin tones due to blemishes, freckles, aging, or tans. It’s important for Koreans to look “untouched” or “without imperfections”. Second, it makes their skin “glow”, like putting on a lot of oil. To most westerners, it’s disgusting. Americans are starting to promote natural beauty. Some of us don’t even like the “fake tan” culture we support in America. But in Korea, looks are everything. In Korea, it’s not uncommon for people to point out imperfections when they get comfortable with you. Many Koreans take pride in their appearance.

You might see many Kpop idols promoting skin-whitening creams in advertisements and on commercials. For many Koreans, it’s a part of having healthy skin.

This doesn’t mean that every Korean approves of skin-whitening. Some Koreans feel western standards have “white-washed” citizens into wanting to have a more European look (pale skin, blonde hair, blue eyes). Some Koreans prefer people to be natural.

But most associate beauty with glowing, white skin. 

Koreans also spend money on makeup. They mostly try to wear makeup that “whitens” them rather than makeup that gives color (unlike in the west). They let it even out with the whitening cream to give them a “naturally flawless” look. Even the men in Korea spend money on makeup, which is considered unusual in the west. In Korea, it is common for men to be just as interested in their appearances as women. After all, for many in Korea, being attractive is the key to success.

Now focusing on body standards…

A petite body is associated with “good health”. Even having a big butt or big chest could be associated with being “fat”. Some Koreans don’t even like chubby faces or arms, even if the rest of the body is slender. The bottom-line is skinny is pretty and healthy to them. Weight is associated with poor health and is not very attractive to most Koreans. Most of the world is like this, but Koreans are a little more extreme at times. There are hardly any thick people anyway in Korea because of the diet. This is partially why the “ideal” is the way it is.

Music labels use their idols to promote Korea’s “beauty standards”. So, you will hardly see any thicker idols, though there are a few.

Fat-shaming is common in Korea. If Kpop idols even gain a little weight, it will cause an uproar.

Of course, there are Koreans who like thicker women. (Reality vs Idol Life).

Small features are also considered really attractive. Idols that usually end up at the top of most of Korea’s “beauty” lists normally have small lips, small noses, small heads, small hands, and small feet! This also has to do with most Asian women just looking petite. The majority travels down to the standard. But the idols who don’t have the “smallest” features rely on plastic surgery to give them the ideal look.

The double eyelid surgery is the biggest in Korea. Most of the far north-east Asians are born with a monolid. Some Koreans say it makes them look tired all the time. Foreign films and music stars have also influenced some of them. Many Kpop idols want to have wider eyes to have a “neutral” look about them. They also feel wider eyes make them look cuter, like an anime character or something. It gives more of an innocent look in their standard.

Plastic surgery isn’t just a way to get “beautiful” to Koreans. It’s also a sign of prestige. Plastic surgery can be expensive, so mostly those with enough money invest in it. Still, thousands of people try to pour their money into it.

Having straight, white teeth is a sign of prestige, too. Braces are expensive. I think most of the world is on board with this standard!

So you might wonder why labels and idols go to some extremes to look attractive. Isn’t being natural enough? Many idols are naturally attractive without the additional enhancements.

But the truth of the matter, and I won’t mince words, Kpop sells on attractive figures. Beauty is just as important, if not MORE important, than talent. Labels try to find attractive people or those with a unique look that can ALSO sing and/or dance. Often times, the beauty part is more profitable than the talent.

Take Kpop group f(x) for example. Luna is one of the most talented members of that group. But the most popular member is Krystal. Krystal is talented too, but not like Luna. So why is Krystal more popular? Because Krystal is “prettier” (according to Korea’s beauty standards).

Often times groups will have someone in there just to be a “visual” (meaning someone to bop around onstage and look attractive). These individuals may have mediocre talents at best, but they “look the part”. Labels usually train all idols to polish up their dancing and singing. Still, it’s clear that the industry can be a little biased towards the more attractive idols. In boy groups, it’s common for ALL the boys to be a visual. The song could be the trend, nothing unique, but if the group is full of attractive people, they will stand out.

The idol world is competitive. Korea’s society is competitive. Because most of them are super smart and work really hard, everyone has qualities that are deemed worthy for just about any job or career. But it’s just not possible to hire everyone for every job. Some Koreans have to find a certain”edge”. Some Koreans use their “attractive” qualities as that “edge”.

In Kpop, I suppose anyone could be talented or work really hard to develop “talents”. But having the right appearance does something to the hearts of the main demographic: the teenagers and young adults. The truth is that most Kpop songs don’t really require good vocalists. Many are catchy enough to grab attention, but they do require at least ONE idol who fits the “standard” of beauty.

The main demographic consists of young females, so there’s plenty of pressure for males to be attractive. However, males can also get away with singing well and performing killer choreography (the males’ choreographers tend to give them more powerful dances and the males are able to take more risks).

The women are usually given very simple choreo in comparison. For women, their biggest selling point is their appearance. Since Kpop is dominated by a female audience, some Kpop fans may be jealous or hate on female Kpop idols (because these girls not only look attractive but are so close to the male Kpop idols). Yet, kpop fans in Korea may better warm up to female Kpop idols if they are “attractive”.

The idols that don’t fit the “attractive” mold often get bashed for not taking care of their appearance, and the fans don’t feel guilty about bashing others. They simply believe it is the “fault” of the “target”. It’s really common for Koreans to be blunt about another person’s appearance. In America, we find this to be rude and inconsiderate. For many Koreans, this is considered helping someone else improve. They don’t find getting plastic surgery or putting creams on the face a sign of “self-hating”. They simply see these as enhancers, like wearing makeup or styling the hair. Many Americans do like to enhance themselves, but we feel that it shouldn’t be mandatory or pressured. Americans embrace differences more and embrace naturalness. We also honor talent over appearance.

In Korea, everything matters to create the perfect idol.

Those who don’t fit with the standards may find it hard to fit in at first, but there are ways they can convince the public that their image is a positive one. Kpop idols like F(x)’s Amber Liu, Lee Hyori, and all of the members of 2ne1 have all been examples of that. One must be strong to be able to endure the Kpop industry, despite the pressure to fit one mold. Sometimes, people let the opinions of others get in their heads. Some people don’t have the confidence to go against the norm (especially when there are so many pressures outside of physical appearance). It takes a brave soul to take a stand against social pressures. There are four types in a competitive society: 1) The strong ones who just don’t care. 2) Those who feel they live up to social standards and can’t understand how others can’t thrive. 3) The ones who let others psyche them out, the sensitive souls who really care about the opinions of others. 4) The ones who try to be strong in public, but break down from the pressure in private. The pressure is so strong to live up to these high demands, some people commit suicide. And sadly, few have pity on these people. They are simply looked at as “weak”.

In the words of writer Ashley Perez, “In a culture where so many people strive to look the same way, any slight difference in appearance rapidly singles you out.”

While many Kpop idols strive to all live up to the same ideal, in some ways they try to deviate from the norm when appropriate, even when it comes down to hair

Every concept or look is designed to promote an album or comeback. Hair is particularly seen as something used to help idols individualize themselves from the group and gain more attention. Allure did an interview with Kim Taejin who stated that ‘hair stylists work with companies for months to make sure they pick the right hair styles for idols’. For instance, BTS went all brown for Love Yourself: Tear due to the darker nature of the comeback, but they were more colorful for Love Yourself: Her.

Translator and tour manager CJ Kim stated, “One of the allures of K-pop is the anticipation of change. “Fans know that with new releases an artist’s look will be completely different from the last release and the biggest change is usually hair, whether it is color changes or styling. [Hair, more than makeup, is one of the most obvious and visually stimulating ways to show a change in an artist’s image.”

While dyeing the hair is just now becoming acceptable in South Korea, many Kpop idols are encouraged to do this because, as mentioned before, it’s hard to stand out. David Yi, from the same Allure article, stated, “Korea is a very homogeneous country where everyone more or less looks alike with the same aesthetics. Put that together with an idol who has the same stylists and makeup artists, and it’s difficult to stand out from the crowd.”

So Kpop idols have to have that delicate balance of standard beauty and unique style. It’s a good thing they have expert stylists to help them carefully select their looks!

However, despite the harsh pressures that go behind the scenes of the competitive Kpop industry, the appearances of the idols are still the most popular part of it for many fans. So many people support Kpop because of all of the attractive people involved. These Kpop idols work hard to be appealing and they sacrifice a lot of their natural beauty to appeal to their audience. They really can be like the humble servant.

But the rest of us shouldn’t feel bad if we don’t fit their standards of beauty. After all, the country isn’t used to seeing different appearances. Even Kim Kardashian is considered ugly to them! So, in someone else’s eyes, in some other country, you’re beautiful. It’s most important for you, as a person, to feel beautiful, no matter someone else’s beauty standards.

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21) Standing Out Is Difficult In Kpop

cosmic girls

With the lack of diversity, labels constantly following the trends, and the competitive atmosphere, it becomes difficult for Kpop groups and their individual members to stand out. This can be a good thing at times. If all of the members have something special about them, it can bring a certain unity.

But when one member is favored more than the others, this is when there’s a problem.

No matter how much labels try to dress and promote their artists similarly, there will always be one that stands out. Eventually, labels will pay attention to the most popular members. Some Kpop idols have accused labels of “distributing money” unfairly according to “popularity”, as mentioned before.

When this happens, sometimes the “less” popular members may have a hard time standing out and being noticed, even if they are more talented. I think I mentioned this before too…

Kpop groups also tend to have way more members than most groups around the world (I think Japan’s AKB48 and Morning Musume are the only two that have way more members than even some of Korea’s groups). Most groups in the west have only up to five members (seven being the maximum). Kpop groups have had up to 20 members and more! With all of these members, sometimes it’s hard to find the individuality. It’s easier to get to know 5 members as opposed to 13. With so many idols, some members are treated as expendable. To most casual listeners of Kpop, any member can be taken out or replaced in these groups and it really wouldn’t matter.

The other problem with having large groups is that each member only gets a few moments to showcase whatever talents they have within each song. One idol could have amazing vocals but is only given one line to showcase those vocals, just to make room for the other idols. In bigger groups, some idols are left out of the verses entirely!

Some artists try solo projects to showcase their individual talents. Still, the solo projects’ successes depend on the idol’s individual fandom, which they should have gained when they were in their groups. If the person doesn’t have particular “charms” or isn’t attractive, even the solo projects will be ignored. If their groups were super large, like 13 members, all fandoms were split 1/13!

Even Knetizens think the large group numbers are getting out of hand. Some feel that large groups are too difficult to manage. I guess there’s just so many talented people trying to get into the industry, many labels are finding it hard to choose! But this can make it difficult for everyone involved, so I see where the Netizens are going with this…

What are some things labels have tried to combat this? Well, many labels try to give each member in their group a different style and highlight individual quirks and charms even stronger to make sure each member feels different. As mentioned before, even hair plays a role in individualizing Kpop idols.

Hopefully, there will be room in the future for Kpop idols to stand out a little more in their groups.

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22) Kpop Idols Are Traditional At The Core


With the pressure to be “pure” and beautiful, the pressure to conform to a homogeneous and heterosexual society, the pressure to work long hours, and the pressure to serve the country, international fans with a different culture might think that these K-pop idols should be “saved” from what many westerners would call an “oppressive” system. We might feel that these idols need us to support them by removing them from these “threats”.

We would be both wrong and right. The idols do need us. One of the reasons labels are trying to make K-pop appealing to western audiences is because of the “free-minded” views of the west. This means the west will support idols regardless of scandals or hiatuses, as long as the music is good. This means more money for Kpop labels and more creative freedom for idols.

However, let’s not forget that some of these idols are KOREAN. Many of them have the same beliefs that most other Koreans have. KOREA is the country many Kpop idols grew up and live in. They don’t see these some staple cultural patterns as “oppressive” all the time. It’s just living. Many of the idols’ ethics are in line with Korean thinking, even if they don’t live up to their own moral standards.

International fans have to remember that many idols pressure themselves to be beautiful and look good just as much as society pressures them. Some of them equally think it’s important to serve in the military. Some of them do believe long work hours create success, especially because their work ethic is fruitful for Kpop. I mean, look at those synchronized dance moves!

Let’s also not be surprised if they make prejudiced remarks or  rudely ridicule foreigners who are “fat”. They do not have a culture that accepts everything and everyone.

Korean idols are usually proud of the hard work they put in and are USED to working long hours. Besides, it wouldn’t be any different if they had a job outside of entertainment. Some Kpop idols’ values are the same as most Korean citizens’ values. For many Kpop idols, getting to know their international fans can be just as much of a culture shock as when we international fans learn about their culture.

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23) Kpop Doesn’t Always Reflect Everything In Korea


Whoever did this is hilar!!

From the many sections above, you can already guess that there are some things not visible to the casual kpop listener when watching music videos. Yet, some people may think that everything they see or hear regarding Kpop reflects ALL of Korea. Many international fans form distorted views of both the people and the culture from these filters.

In Kpop videos, we see attractive, skinny, and talented young men and women. They all seem sweet, friendly, and happy. They are presented as young, respectful, and humble. They seem fashionable and trendy. They seem pure and chaste.

But fans of Kpop should keep in mind that media around the world has a way of distorting the truth. Korea is no different. Kpop obsession can cause international fans to generalize a whole group of people. It can cause fans of the genre to suffer from disillusionment.

Foreigners should never tell Koreans, “I’m so interested in Korean culture. I love Kpop” and think that will make Koreans find them so “tolerant”. It’s great to love Kpop, but Kpop can produce unrealistic expectations.

Kpop is only one part of Korea’s vast and glorious history and culture. For some Koreans, it doesn’t even represent Korea (as many think it is over-saturated with westernized concepts). Some Koreans don’t like Kpop. There are many genres in Korea, just like there are many genres around the world. You may run into a Korean who likes Indie music or rock. You may run into Koreans who really don’t care about pop culture at all! Just like anywhere around the world.

After seeing so many attractive and happy faces on music videos and variety shows, many foreigners make it their life’s goal to move to Korea and find them a nice girlfriend/boyfriend that’s just as beautiful/handsome as the faces in the video. Some may say, “I think Asian men/women are hot. I love men like [x, y, z, bias].”

You’re not going to find a Kpop idol out of an everyday human being. Being an idol is a profession. Being a human isn’t. Even idols don’t look the way they do in music videos all the time.

The reality is that Koreans actually come in all shapes and sizes. Though most try to aim for slim, everyone isn’t skinny. Though there are many stylish clothing stores, everyone doesn’t have the same income to keep up with the stylish idols and hair dye is certainly still a taboo for the average person. Some Koreans, though I’ve heard few, don’t want to and may have their own unique style. Not all Korean men and women have the same talents that Kpop idols do. Not all Korean men and women are “perfect looking” like Kpop idols (who usually have enhancements, personal stylists, and extra money in their pockets). Not all are sweet and humble, not all are super friendly, not all are dorky and cute, not all of them are ALIKE. There may be pressures for Koreans to conform and be like one another, and there may be a lack of diversity in the media, but when we step outside of media, everyone is average.

It also depends on the city you visit. Of course if you visit the city of Seoul, you will see more “jazzed up” individuals. It’s a city for business, culture, and entertainment. But other surrounding cities, especially Korea’s rural areas, are full of individuals who don’t fit what is on the music video.


Though many Koreans try to keep up with one another, some hate the pressures just as much as other people hate pressures in their own countries. No country is perfect.

Why some Koreans don’t want to live in their own country

Though idols are expected to be pure and chaste, many have affairs. Many involved in prostitution, drugs, and other taboo activities. Many drink, smoke, and party. There are some who are irresponsible. There are some who are not. Though idols seem respectful, all are imperfect and will say or do bad things once in awhile. Some are traditional; some are not.

Idols are different from how they’re presented in music videos. They have to be nice to people in public, some even feel they have to be funny for variety shows. This doesn’t mean they will find every one of their fans to be marriage material and this doesn’t mean they will fit every fan’s desire in a REAL relationship. Sorry to break hearts; it’s the reality.

You might find Kpop idols on variety shows eating some of Korea’s famous foods. It doesn’t mean every Korean will like the same foods. Think you’re going to open up a conversation about Kimchi just because you tried Kimchi once and liked it? News Flash: Not every Korean likes Kimchi. My Korean exchange friend, born and raised in Korea, hates Kimchi. She thinks it stinks. XD You are entitled to choose what you want on Korea’s menus, but just know that there are tons of foods in Korea. There are even some restaurants that are familiar to westerners.

Even the negative things we hear regarding Korean Kpop fans aren’t all true. Not all Knetz are strict and hard-nosed. Not all bash idols for their actions. Some are sympathizers. Many Knetz are reasonable and respectful. Though Koreans do have their own culture and standards, there are some things they are against in their own nation. After all, if that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t find any Kpop idols who have dated or went against the norm in some other way!

The point is everyone is multi-faceted and an individual.

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24) Kpop Is Always Changing

For this segment, I want you newcomers to be aware that Kpop has and always will change.

Western-style music began seeping into the Korean nation as early as 1885 when an American missionary introduced folk music to the nation. But after the Korean War in the 1950s, the war Americans assisted South Korea with, many western clubs and radio stations were set up. Records were introduced to the public. Popular genres from overseas began to influence South Korea ever since then.

But the style of modern-day Kpop, the Kpop we know and love today, began in 1992 when a boy group Seo Taiji & Boys dropped their song “Nan Arayo” (난 알아요, I Know). The song and album incorporated the then-popular and modern genre of New Jack Swing which rose out of the African American and Afro-British community in the 1980s. Michael Jackson also helped popularize the genre overseas, though he didn’t originate the genre. With more technology, like radios and television, these styles from the Black community influenced the world.

The song “Nan Arayo” (난 알아요, I Know) wasn’t just catchy and modern, it was also meaningful. It focused on the problems facing Korean society. The song also stood out because, in the 1980s, mostly everyone was singing ballads.

Seo Taiji & Boys paved the way for modern Kpop, incorporating many western styles into their music.

Shortly after, in 1995, SM Entertainment was born, and the rest was history. They were one of the first agencies to create an “idol” boy band, a band designed to appeal to a teen audience. The teens brought in most of the bacon to the industry, and they wanted to jump on that demographic.

Since then, Kpop has seen several generations. Korean Fashion Trends  and Korean blogger Idology break it down:

1st Generation: The Birth of K-pop Idols

In the first generation, SM Planning (currently SM Entertainment) started with the first K-pop idol HOT, which was inspired by boy bands in the United States and idol production in Japan and released with reference to Seo Taiji and Boys, and then the competition between SM Planning and Daesung Planning (currently DSP Media). It is represented by early idol groups (HOT, Sechs Kies, SES, Fin. K.L.

Shinhwa, ClickB, god, Shakra, Jewelry, and BoA are sometimes classified as 1.5 generation idols with transitional and experimental characteristics before the transition to the 2nd generation. During this period, Korean idols began to gain popularity in some parts of East Asia, such as China and Japan, and the concept of ‘Korean Wave’ [Hallyu] emerged, and the term ‘K-pop’ began to be used in some Japanese media.

Key idols: Seo Taiji & Boys, H.O.T., Sechs Kies, S.E.S., Fin. K.L., Shinhwa, ClickB, g.o.d, Shakra, Jewelry, and BoA

2nd Generation: Establishment of K-pop Industry Structure

The second generation is the period when K-pop is highly commercialized during the economic crisis, the current industrial structure is established, and the domestic market is shrinking, and the strategy of ‘localization’ has been advocated and started to enter overseas markets in earnest. TVXQ, based on BoA’s success model, followed by SS501, Big Bang, Super Junior, Girls’ Generation, Kara, and Wonder Girls fall into this second generation. Since then, the quantitative growth of K-pop has accelerated, and 2.5-generation idols such as SHINee, 2PM, Infinite, BEAST, f(x), 2NE1, 4minute, Miss A, and SISTAR are pouring out explosively.

Idols from the second generation break away from the existing mysticism strategy in Korea, appear in various entertainment shows and dramas with an intimate image, and launch self-produced reality shows. Among them, Super Junior is particularly successful in Greater China, and Girls’ Generation and Kara have great success in Japan. The now generalized ‘world tour’ has also begun to become common, including groups that have built up large domestic and international fandoms from this generation.

Some artists, such as Rain, Se7en, BoA, and Wonder Girls, try to advance into the United States beyond the continent. Although they failed to achieve the expected results, due to the growth of YouTube and overseas digital music markets in the early 2010s, Big Bang and 2NE1 began to attract attention in North America. And Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’, which appeared in 2012, created a global craze centering on YouTube, causing a great shock both inside and outside the industry.

Key idols: TVXQ, BoA, SS501, Big Bang, Super Junior, Girls’ Generation, Kara, Wonder Girls, SHINee, 2PM, Infinite, BEAST, f(x), 2NE1, 4minute, Miss A, SISTAR, Kara, Rain, Se7en, Psy

3rd Generation: The Deterritorialization of K-Pop

The third generation, born in this context, can be summarized as the generation in which ‘K-Pop deterritorialization’ started in earnest. After raising awareness through domestic activities, leading agencies have started to seek simultaneous domestic and international growth through a transnational digital platform represented by YouTube, breaking away from the existing strategy of earning foreign currency through ‘localized’ music in Japan. In earnest, we pursued content that was free from the shackles of borders.

It is also during this period that various survival programs, pre-debut promotions to secure a continuous and strong fandom, and storytelling strategies based on ‘worldview’ became common. Done explosively. Among the most representative 3rd generation idols, EXO, who made their debut in Korea and China as EXO-K and EXO-M, advocating a unique worldview of superpowers, is selected, and Nu’est, VIXX, BTS, GOT7, WINNER, Red Velvet, Mamamoo, Twit Weiss, Lovelyz, Oh My Girl, and GFRIEND also belong to the third generation.

By 2016, K-pop saw the birth of the 3.5 generation with the PRODUCE 101 series, which became a success in Korea and many countries abroad.

Even though it has been shown that there have been aggregate results, it made a significant difference in the world of K-pop, by giving consumers (fandoms) more voice and power.

With this generation, the focus of K-pop changed dramatically by listening to and meeting the needs of fans.

Groups like SEVENTEEN, MONSTA X, NCT, Wanna One, IOI, and Cosmic Girls were born at this stage and promoted through the fast-changing times in K-pop.

Due to the outbreak of the Korean War in 2016, the Greater China market, which was the main stage for second and third generation idols, is blocked, and the K-pop industry is hit hard. Among them, the teams that have pioneered a new path are BTS and Blackpink. Early on, BTS actively used Twitter and Naver V and other social media to try to communicate in daily life, and by incorporating such daily life into their work, they attracted a variety of overseas fans regardless of continent and nationality. [They] achieved record achievements in the North American market. As a group belonging to YG Entertainment, which led the early K-pop popularity in North America, Black Pink also succeeded in attracting a response from the North American public centering on YouTube. In addition, through YouTube and new media such as [Kard] and Dream Catcher, cases that are getting a greater response outside the existing K-pop market are starting to increase.

On the other hand, in Korea, the [Produce 101] series, which gave the fandom the initiative in the production of idol groups in 2016, caused a sensation. Despite the fact that this initiative is ultimately only an illusion, the [“Produce”] series imprints unprecedented fandom power in the K-pop industry, forming a ‘prosumer (producer + consumer)’ discourse. The voice of the fandom, both at home and abroad, has grown like never before.

Seventeen, Monsta X, NCT, Wanna One, Black Pink, Cosmic Girls, I.O.I, Card, etc. are groups that have grown through such a perceptual change in the K-pop industry structure and can be classified as 3.5 generation idols.

Key idols: EXO, Nu’est, VIXX, BTS, GOT7, WINNER, Red Velvet, Mamamoo, Twit Weiss, Lovelyz, Oh My Girl, GFRIEND, SEVENTEEN, MONSTA X, NCT, Wanna One, IOI, Cosmic Girls, Black Pink

4th Generation: Reterritorialization of K-Pop

After going through this upheaval, around 2019, a new generation of tides began to be clearly detected. If the 3rd generation was a period of “deterritorialization of K-pop,” which broke down the borders of K-pop, the 4th generation can be summarized as a period of “reterritorialization of K-pop” that forms a new territory again on a completely flat land. K-pop has achieved complete deterritorialization by overcoming the barriers of the American market, and the leadership of K-pop no longer belongs to Korea. This does not mean, of course, that the domestic market is completely neglected. Reputation in Korea is still one of the main criteria that agencies evaluate the group’s position, and overseas fandoms are also conscious of domestic album sales, music charts, music shows, and year-end awards ceremony. What has changed, however, is that with the 4th generation, K-pop has come to imagine a new horizon that is not restricted by the boundaries of continents and countries. The fact that the 3.5th generation groups such as MONSTA X, VAV, NCT, and KARD have become more popular abroad than in Korea, Tomorrow by Together and Itzy, who are nominated as the most successful rookie groups in 2019, debut in North America at the same time as their debut. The fact that they focused on securing overseas fans while on tour, and that new groups such as Stray Kids, ATEEZ, Loona, and Everglow are targeting the overseas market rather than the domestic are evidence of that. SM’s WayV (China), SuperM (SuperM, USA), JYP’s Boy Story (China), Nizi Project (Japan), Zenith Media Content’s G-Stars (Z-Stars, Pan-Asian) The launch of experimental K-pop groups based abroad under the leadership of a Korean company can also be explained as ‘reterritorialization of K-pop’.

Reterritorialization is achieved through the active participation of the global fandom, and new media including various SNS are the key platforms that made this possible. In the case of YouTube, which was emphasized in the 3rd generation, its function as a broadcasting station that transmits various self-produced contents has been activated beyond the function of a window for exposing K-pop to overseas countries, centering on music videos. New media with strong spread such as Twitter and TikTok have laid the foundation for K-pop contents to be actively shared and reproduced by fans. , Weverse, etc.) allowed fans from all over the world to overcome physical and psychological barriers and build bonds and intimacy with idol stars.

In addition, BTS and the “Produce” series emphasized the importance of messages and narratives that fans can feel a sense of connection beyond simple storytelling. Accordingly, an increasing number of groups are trying to secure the authenticity of the group narrative through methods such as sharing everyday scenes outside the stage, advocating a worldview with a unique message, or self-producing from the beginning of their debut.

Lastly, the characteristics of 4th generation reterritorialization are also antithetical to music.

Key idols: MONSTA X, VAV, NCT, Kard, Tomorrow By together, Itzy, Stray Kids, ATEEZ, Loona, Everglow, WayV, SuperM, Boy Story, Nizi Project, G-stars (Z-stars), BTS, Produce 101

These are the “Kpop generations” as based on what’s been seen as a trend throughout the years, however it is often widely disputed and many people have different ideas of when certain eras began and ended, and even on how to define these eras. Some say an era begins when one major group, particularly a boy group, breaks a world record in sales, topping the last biggest group. Some say an era begins when the style of music shifts from one sound to another. Some believe a new era begins with the decades (1990s, 2000s, and 2010s). Some believe it changes with a new aesthetic. However the eras begin and end, there is clearly one thing we know: Kpop changes.

As said before, I’ve been interested in the genre since 2003 and I’ve seen things change seemingly overnight. Some of my favorite Kpop stars, who were once thought of as “Kings” and “Queens”, have fallen behind a new generation time and time again.

At one time, BoA and Lee Hyori were the reigning queens of Kpop. I remember them dominating the charts and stage. I remember when DBSK (ahem…TVXQ they now call them) were just rookies. I remember when Super Junior was a rookie group! I remember when S.E.S. was the major female idol group next to Fin. K.L.

Now, TVXQ’s members are considered veterans. Lee Hyori has dropped out of the Kpop spotlight (only to come back here and there). S.E.S. and Fin K.L. have disbanded. Se7en and Rain have had to serve in the military. Super Junior is now at that age, too!

I’ve had to readjust my ears to many different Kpop styles over the years. When I first got into the Korean pop industry, hip-hop, R&B, pop urban, and even a bit of pop rock influenced much of the music in Kpop.

Over the years, almost too soon, I saw Kpop change into something different. The release of Girls’ Generation’s “Gee” brought a new energy to Kpop, one that I really didn’t like at first. It was very hard for me to adjust to the changes. I also saw electropop take over after Big Bang’s “Fantastic Baby”. And kpop still keeps evolving and changing…

So don’t get upset if a new sound begins to take over Kpop. Don’t think “This no longer sounds like Kpop”. Just remember my words: Kpop always has and always will evolve and change. They’ve been following the global trends just like all the other countries. Do you really think they want to be left behind?

Kpop has received more attention for its distinct style, so maybe that will make the current trends last much longer. Still, as more and more people from around the world get interested in Kpop, their ideas will also begin to influence the trends in Korea, whether we want to accept this or not. Labels will be interested in appealing to their demographic and that demographic now includes foreigners of many backgrounds.

For you newcomers, learn from Korean culture: Remain humble. Though not all Koreans live by this principle, it’s still a valuable lesson to learn. Don’t think that your favorite groups are such “kings” and “queens” that no one is capable of stealing their thunder. It can happen and it will.

Admittedly, in the “technology” age we live in, it’s much harder for artists to be forgotten (internet helps you search for anything). Newer artists are able to achieve twice the popularity that older artists achieved. This doesn’t mean the next best thing isn’t waiting behind the scenes, waiting to devour your favorite solo artist or group’s popularity. I learned this through all of my global musical experiences (I also listen to French, Turkish, Irish, and Tanzanian pop to name a few), but it seems to be a hard concept to grasp for many fans of Kpop (since so many are so young and consider years like 2003 to be history). I guess with so many being young, they don’t really know any different because this new age of Kpop is all they’ve experienced.

I used to hear people often shout, “This group is good, but GG/2ne1 are the QUEENS. No group will ever top them!” This was when I was still into BoA. I had to hear others call my favorite Kpop star “washed-out” or “losing her edge”. I had to sit by as my favorite idol was no longer everyone else’s favorite anymore. It was the same with fans of S.E.S., The Grace, and many others. As my favorite idols’ popularity decreased, so did the comebacks. It was hard to accept. I just kept supporting the best way I knew how.

Now that the “4th wave” of Kpop is entering the industry, fans of the “2nd wave” and “3rd wave” are feeling it. And the cycle will continue.

Clearly, as 3rd generation groups started losing members, we’ve been seeing a change in the atmosphere among the fandoms. There is a decline in popularity among the “3rd Gen” Kpop stars. The newer stars have risen to take power: Got7, BTS, Twice, EXID, Blackpink, Seventeen, and many other fresh rising stars. As these artists gain popularity, and even newer groups are introduced, older groups and solo artists will become veterans, striving to hold on to their fans.

So what can we do about this? Hardly anything. Change is inevitable. But we can continue to support our favorite groups as best we can. We will still have their great songs and, thanks to internet, we can never lose their music. We still can appreciate the music for what it is. Forget the petty fan wars. Forget who wins what music show. Enjoy what you have and experience every moment. Every Kpop artist has something to contribute to the industry. If we ignore that now, we might be missing out on something amazing.

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25) What Does It Take To Be a Kpop Idol? What is the Kpop Life Like?


Do you absolutely just love Kpop? Ever dreamed of being a Kpop star? Guess what? You and everybody else!

The Kpop industry is so attractive and alluring. Would you get to look like your favorite Kpop star one day, too? Would you be admired by millions of fans around the world? Could you make a statement and do something different for the industry, maybe be the first black or white girl in a major kpop group? Or maybe you’re just interested in meeting some of those cute boys and girls from your favorite Kpop group, huh?

Well, let’s keep in mind that once Kpop became more of a global thing, more people became interested in it. Kpop was always a competitive industry, but imagine, with so many people interested in it in recent years, just how competitive it is now.

Hundreds of people sign up every year (even every few months) to be Kpop stars. So what can YOU do to become one?

First, there are auditions around the world.

You could audition online or you can go to one of their audition locations, which they usually schedule. Over 2,000 people will usually be auditioning with you at one time if you’re going to an open audition. Even online, there are thousands of people signing up every year and posting their videos of their talents.

SM has been known to “street-cast”, which means they pick someone they think fits their company and ask the person to audition (Former Girls’ Generation’s Jessica and f(x)’s Krystal Jung got their auditions this way).

Online, mostly you can follow the steps. I’ve heard that online doesn’t work as well as face-to-face, so it may be better to travel to the audition locations. Some people have stated that there’s usually more auditions online and scouts take their time scrolling through them. Furthermore, scouts are more than likely to choose you based on how you look on camera that way, without really paying attention to anything else. And it’s not like they can ask any further questions about you that way.

Kpop scouts are looking for the following things:

  1. Passion and Dedication
  2. Willingness to learn and accept criticism
  3. Charisma, charm, stage presence, natural talent

Mostly, after auditioning online, if you are selected for “round 2” of the audition process, you may get an email, letter, or phone call. If you live overseas, it’s more likely that you will receive an email. Contact them back right away.

Things you will need for a “round 2” audition:

  1. At least 3 songs prepared (some say at least 10) and one dance choreography. Pick songs in your range, don’t try to hit high notes.
  2. To learn Korean, especially the Korean terms common in the industry
  3. Money-to fly to auditions, to get a passport, etc. You must be prepared to shell out cash and travel
  4. The right attire-Black is often preferred, but as long as you’re not wearing anything too distracting, it’s fine. Wear casual attire, good running shoes and jogging pants. No makeup.

Once contacted, they may host private auditions or have you come to one of their open auditions, depending on the time they call you back. Be EARLY.

If you don’t audition online, you can still go to their open auditions and sign up.

Be at least an hour or two hours early. It not only looks good, but thousands of people will be there, making the lines long. There’s always paperwork to fill out and the place is usually packed full of other people auditioning. If you are a teenager, you will need a responsible adult with you to help you fill out your paperwork.

If you are asked to come to a private audition, you should still be early so you can fill out paper work. But you won’t have to worry about the lines or the competition (though most people didn’t feel they were in a competitive atmosphere).

They tend to ask many basic personal questions about your life, interests, and talents. This is how they build your profile IF you make it through the audition process and become a trainee. They will also ask you which category you are auditioning for. Many people recommend you only choose ONE category to avoid delay. If you choose more than one category, the audition process becomes harder to get through.

If you’re at an open audition, all of these questions will be down on paper. Don’t worry, many people have said they have it in English or they have interpreters. Still, I advise you ask many in-depth questions whenever you release personal information about yourself.

If you are having a private audition, they may ask these questions directly. If you are underage, they may discuss some things with your parents.

At the open auditions, after you fill everything out, you will get a number that you have to put on you. If you are at a private audition, obviously you won’t have to wear a number. Usually at a private audition, you are the only one there. There may only be one other person.

Now, whether you are at a private audition or an open one, most people have said they had to go through a camera test or screening during the initial audition process, just to see how they would come off on camera. Afterwards, they had to introduce themselves clearly and confidently on that camera. Whatever goes on that camera is sent to South Korea. It’s important that you look at the camera at all times.

People have also reported that there’s modeling involved. They might put you in many outfits and have you pose as they take pictures. I suppose this is how all those trainees get professional pictures of themselves early on.

THEN, after all of that, you will be asked to sing on camera. Some people say you have to have your face looking straight at the camera. It doesn’t feel very natural, but you have to do it.

It would be best to prepare three to TEN songs on hand. It appears that English songs are preferred.

I know you’re wondering why. “Why, why should I choose English songs to be a Kpop star, especially after I’ve been practicing my favorite Kpop songs for months now?”

One seasoned Kpop star (H.O from Madtown) came out of the box about the trainee process that occurs AFTER auditions. During one of the stages, there are monthly “evaluations” or “check-ups”. During these evaluations, Kpop idols are forbidden from singing Korean pop songs (it’s unclear whether this applies to traditional Korean folk songs).

There could be two reasons for this:

One, trainers could be trying to see the flexibility of Kpop idols. If you aren’t a native English speaker, companies may be testing to see how versatile you are or how easily you adapt. English is a universal language and most of the world’s most popular genres came from the west. Many companies do expect their idols to speak more than one language and to be able to memorize hard lines quickly. Learning to sing in a different language not only shows how dedicated you are but also how flexible and quick you are at catching on to new material, no matter the challenge. It’s unclear whether native-English speakers are required to sing in their native tongue, but it’s certain that Korean-born and other non-English speakers will be expected to abide by this rule.

The second reason companies might require their trainees to only sing English songs for evaluations could be for the simple fact that most Kpop labels are silent competitors. Imagine a YG trainee singing an SM song during evaluations. Though the competition is generally friendly and civil, it’s fierce. Labels are competing for promotion, finances, and stock value. To make it fair, all Kpop songs are off-limits.

Though this seems to only be a requirement for evaluations, later down the line, once the person makes it pass the audition process, it’s a good look when you know what they are looking for before your first audition. At least, it would be good to keep a mixture of Korean and English songs handy for auditions.

If you pass all of these tests, you could be selected to become a trainee. You will be given a 2-year contract, 5-year contract, and a 7-year contract (which seems to be the most common for Kpop idols, considering the “7-year curse”) to choose from. In the past, most Kpop idols were required to sign a 10-year to 13-year contract. I believe this led to a lawsuit by one Super Junior Member and even led to some issues with DBSK (now TVXQ) in the past. Now, there are more options. For many people who are unsure, the 2-year contract sounds ideal. However, there may not be too many companies that offer 2-year contracts, so read carefully.

It’s important to read everything thoroughly anyway and have someone else with you. From the “high” of being chosen, you might not be able to think the clearest. It’s important to have a friend or relative that isn’t quite as blinded by the idea of being a Kpop idol, someone who can give you a realistic perspective before you sign away.

Everything in the contract defines your life as an idol the moment you sign it. It decides how much you get paid, how much debt you owe, the type of promotions you will do, Income Divisions (which is how your money is split, which I spoke about above), etc. Many Kpop idols and trainees have shed some light on it. These contracts can be very strict, especially for westerners, as mentioned above in many sections. It can be hard to terminate a contract once you sign. Even with personal reasons or illness, it has to be severe.

There’s a lot to consider when becoming a trainee, even before you become the actual idol. If you’re not from Korea, and you’re a teenager, you’d need your parents’ permission, a passport, and you’d need to figure out what school you will be attending or your schooling situation (unless you plan on leaving school). Most labels pay for their idols’ room and board as well as their meals (which are usually VERY healthy), so you wouldn’t have to worry too much about that. Still, you’d more than likely be room-mating, so it’d be best to pack light so you won’t take up ALL of the space. Decipher what you can live without. The first lesson of becoming an idol is learning to make sacrifices.

If you’re over the age of 21, keep in mind that younger idols are preferred, usually idols in their teens because they could spend most of their youth training and still debut at a young age. Having a family of your own isn’t really considered normal for a Kpop idol and it may be considered “unappealing” to the target demographic. If you have children by the time of debut, you probably won’t last too long as an idol, especially if you are debuting with a smaller company.

When you are selected as a trainee, get used to being without your phone (and sometimes other electronic devices) often. They take phones, computers, and tablets. Some idols have stated that companies do this to keep the process of their up and coming trainees a secret. They don’t want anything leaking out. This keeps them ahead of their competition.

But this is where it gets hard for many people. It can be lonely and boring at this time if you’ve gotten accustomed to socializing through your phone. Bigger companies put you in groups, so you will have to make a few new friends! It’d be best to see the bright side of this situation. It’s a good time to bond with your group (if you’re in one). That means you have to break any anti-social tendencies you might have.

If you’re expected to be a solo artist, this might be the hardest time for you. But it’s a good time to prove yourself as an artist. You could be using the spare time for practice.

Next, comes the physical training. If you’re used to working out, this might not be bad. People who are used to a workout routine and are pretty athletic usually find this part to be a breeze. If you aren’t particularly athletic, this might be a grueling process for you. Be prepared. This will be your life from now on. You will be up early, training and practicing and perfecting your skills, and you will not leave until late at night, possibly the next morning. Kpop idols don’t get much sleep, even during their trainee days.

Women might especially have some setbacks while training during menstruation. Most teachers are unforgiving when it comes to women’s health.

The press and “fans” also do not really seek to understand female idols’ circumstances. If an idol struggles to smile, feel good, or look good while on stage during their period, it can often be translated as “laziness”.

You get vocal lessons, dance lessons, acting lessons, and language classes (though it’d be best if you at least learn the basics before auditioning, since you will be hearing a lot of Korean words during the audition process), on top of your physical workout. Some exercises aren’t necessarily put into place so the idol is healthy, but also so the idol maintains a certain figure or curve to their body.

Dieting is important. If you’re already skinny, it won’t be too much of a problem, you just have to maintain it. If you are what Koreans consider on the “thicker” side, you may be required to go on a diet. And remember, this isn’t based on YOUR standard of “thicker”.

Dieting as a Kpop idol isn’t just eating your veggies and exercising regularly or eating small meals a day. Sometimes, trainees just don’t eat very much at all.

Some companies have offered to pay for their trainees’ plastic surgery to get “tummy tucks” and to thin “rounder faces”. The option is usually brought to trainees, and some labels do pressure their idols to get it. For Asian trainees, they are usually asked to get double eyelid surgery (since many tend to have a mono-lid). In the above sections, I talked a lot about Korea’s beauty standards.

Physical appearance is very important. Companies need to find you “marketable”. It’s not really enough to have talent. Some people do make it with their talent alone, but most people make it because they have a certain appeal, both physical beauty and charisma.

If you’re not “Asian”, but White or Black or some other racial or ethnic group, your chances of getting chosen are much slimmer than if you were Asian. If you speak Korean, you might have more of a chance. But Asians are generally chosen, simply because they look like the majority of people in the country.

Even if you are Asian, if you aren’t Korean, you may have a tougher time as well.

When it comes down to actually making music, don’t think you’re going in as a rookie with your handwritten songs and personal recordings. The companies usually decide what their idols debut with. Most idols can’t start making even slight suggestions on their concepts until a MINIMUM of two years. Only the top idols from the top companies with the most experience can get away with writing their own music, choosing their concepts, and even deciding the promotions they should do. Korean companies want their idols to work hard for their respect and power.

South Korean companies can be very strict overall. Remember, they are a business first and foremost, not just a glamorous spot to flesh out your hobby.

Here are some rules you have to follow as a Kpop idol (whether written rules or “social” rules:

  1. You’re not allowed to date
  2. You’re not allowed to talk to the opposite sex (especially within the Kpop industry)
  3. You are not allowed to eat junk food
  4. You have a curfew and are required to check in with your boss
  5. You’re not allowed to have social media as a trainee. When you do get one, all posts have to be pre-approved. (Nowadays, the rules have loosened on this, since it helps with promo)
  6. You’re not allowed to really style your own hair (and you must be open to dyeing your hair colors)
  7. Strict against part-time jobs
  8. You must bow the right way to your elders

You need to have or develop certain traits to make it in this industry:

  1. Patience-Don’t think you will get in the doors that easily. Don’t think you will meet all of your favorite Kpop idols just because you become a trainee. Don’t even expect idols to even acknowledge you. And don’t expect to make a whole lot of money (if you read the sections above this topic, you know exactly what I’m talking about). The training process is long and arduous and MANY trainees drop like flies after a few months of training.
  2. Tolerance- Tolerating Korean culture is very important. It’s fundamental to have knowledge of the culture. If you’re a pre-teen or teenager trying to audition, respecting those older than you is a BIG thing. You can’t really speak out like you can in other cultures. Understand what’s polite and acceptable, do as you’re told, and the transition will be easier. There are a lot of things you may have to put up with culturally.
  3. Humility-Again, humility is not only an attractive trait in Korea (and most parts of the world), but you will not be a rich divo or diva like you may have been thinking. This means you have to learn to live with little and love it. You can’t complain and ask for a raise or payment after two years of training, as that’s not really customary and you’re on the company’s dime anyway. You will have to deal with your lot, and try to work your way up with few resources. You will have to work hard to live the life you want to.  There will be many humbling experiences along the way. Part of being humble is also knowing that you are in a new country and a new setting. Respecting your elders, respecting the culture, and letting it mold you is part of the humbling process. Learning when to say “thank you” and “I’m sorry” in Korean would be the best thing for you. Another part that comes with humility is accepting criticism.
  4. Independence-If you’re moving to Korea, you will be without outside contact while training and even at certain times during a comeback once you become an idol. You can’t be too attached to your family and friends. Also, most idols are on their own. Even if you are 13, YOU have to be responsible for getting yourself up on time for practice in the morning, not your mother or father. Hopefully, you will have kind roommates that will help you wake up so you won’t be late. Dating is also a no-no, if you read all the sections above, so no flirting with other idols (though that may be why you decided to become an idol, right?).

After you become a trainee, you could train for a few months or even years. Every day, you will attend all your lessons. Every month, you will be evaluated, as mentioned before. During this part of the trainee process, companies will decide whether you have the passion and drive to keep moving forward with them or whether you just aren’t good enough for their company. Some trainees will leave after a few months to a year before even debuting. Eventually, though, if a company decides that you aren’t developing your skills or that you don’t seem to put forth the passion and drive they are looking for, whether you want them to or not, they will let you go. The companies like to see their trainees training for long hours, with few breaks in-between.

On the other hand, a company must constantly promote and eventually debut idols if they haven’t terminated that person’s contract. There should never be a moment where you are left wondering when you will be promoted or “released”. If you find you are in that position, refer back to your contract. Most contracts require companies to tend to their idols in some way.

As mentioned in this article, companies spend a lot of money on trainees. Trainees who leave suddenly before their contract ends may have to pay some companies back all the money owed. If you don’t want to end up paying all of that money back (which could range from thousands to millions), my advice is that you stick with a company at least until your contract expires. If you’re not sure whether you want to be an idol or not, choose the lowest-year contract the company offers. Remember: The longer you’re with a company, the more you will owe the company.

Sometimes, you may be a trainee for many years and may not debut for many years. It could take years for a company to get a solid group together, especially a smaller company. In this case, your debts will add up. Many trainees and Kpop idols get part-time jobs to help them out.

Once you debut, you will be doing the same things you may have been doing as a trainee, only this time you will now be in the spotlight and have to deal with all the other lists above.

It’s also important to know the dark side of being a Kpop star, even just as a warning. It’s VERY important to understand the Korean culture. This is very important if you expect to have a long-lasting career in Korea. Learning the language isn’t enough. There are many different ways to express respect and to be rude in Korea, like in any country, and if you don’t learn proper mannerisms, you could end up in big scandals that could quickly end your Kpop career. Such cultural differences could be blowing your nose in public, being too loud on public transportation, or not bowing properly to show respect or to show that you’re grateful. Keep in mind you will be a Korean public figure.

Kpop has a lot of shady things going on behind the scenes, too, like any entertainment business. Most Kpop idols are young, so big companies might think they can take advantage of them. Some companies try to pimp out their idols, especially the female idols, by offering them to companies in exchange for deals or endorsements. It’s important to be very aware of deals being offered and negotiated on your behalf. Management companies have a lot of power, and sometimes it’s hard to speak up when you’re being taken advantage of, so just keep this in mind when signing your name on any dotted lines. Always have a witness, preferably a lawyer, with you before jumping and signing anything.

This applies to scammers, too. You won’t always be discovered by the “Big three”, but beware of small companies and watch out for tricks.

Grazy Grace has been the expert on many Kpop topics, being a Kpop star herself, so I use her experiences as a reference. She has posted a video about such deep topics and other dark sides.

You can’t trust too many people in the entertainment industry, so choose your friends wisely.

So, there’s a lot that goes into becoming a Kpop idol. If you’re really interested, think long and hard about the sacrifices, think about whether becoming an idol will strip you of your actual love of the genre, and think about how passionate and physically agile you really are. If you think you have what it takes, go for it! Don’t let anything stop you.

I know what I said may have scared you all a little bit, especially if you’ve been thinking of becoming a Kpop idol. But I want you to know that there are pros and cons to everything. Unpretty Rapstar idol Grace broke down the pros and cons for us.

The pros? Cute idols are always around you. You would have a flexible schedule. You’re not really working a 9-to-5 job. And you get to wear whatever you want! Many jobs have a dress code. The Kpop industry doesn’t.

But again, you have to deal with the cons. The people’s attitudes, the pay-scale, and competition may be too much as well.

So weigh both things in your mind and if you’re okay with it, follow your heart.

Grazy Grace breaks it down.

Though the Kpop training system has a rep for being manufactured and rigid, according to Got7’s Jackson Wang, it makes it one of the best training systems in the world. Yes, it’s difficult. Yes, it requires making sacrifices. That’s what makes it worth it. If you can overcome the pressure and intensity, you can truly look back with no regrets.

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26. Kpop Idols Don’t Make As Much As They Should

In 2010, the average Kpop star made really only 23 million won (which is $21,000 USD) a year. That’s not even meeting minimum wage in the USA. By 2015, Kpop stars made around 47 million won ($43,000 USD) a year. Though that’s more than what they used to make, it’s still considered in the lower middle class in America. American celebrities live lavishly in comparison. However, this increase tells us one thing: Kpop is getting more popular. Without the global market though, these numbers wouldn’t have been possible. We can see that the global market has a lot to do with it because the numbers began increasing around the biggest Hallyu years: from 2010-2014.

This is why so many Kpop stars have been looking for overseas revenue, especially from America. Doesn’t it make sense for Kpop idols to try to break into a market that will pay them MORE for all of their hard work? Kpop’s industry is growing, but some want and need the kind of money American celebrities are making annually. The easiest way to make millions is to appeal to markets that will pay to support their favorite artists.

Kpop Star earnings

The figures I listed above mostly refers to the average Kpop star.  The top idols may make from around the equivalent of $100,000 and $500,000. The highest-paid salary was around the equivalent of $510,000 (USD). These numbers might sound good to someone who has no money. But in comparison to celebrities around the world, they fall far behind.

Few Kpop idols are making millions individually, no matter how big. The biggest Kpop groups might make up in the millions as a GROUP, but individually, they hardly see that money because the money is distributed in so many different places.

And the few top idols who make money in the millions individually certainly don’t see the billions and trillions that American celebrities are making.

American celebrities are making billions more on average.

A Kmusic article entitled “Korean National Tax Service Reveals Severe Wage Imbalances In The Entertainment Industry”, revealed stats that show not only how little many Kpop stars make, but also the huge wage gap between small stars and major stars.

“According to the statistics of Korean National Tax Service, the upper 1% of Korean singers earned 2.6 million USD averagely in 2015, and the upper 10% of them earned 510,000 USD averagely in the year. However, the sum of the upper 1%’s incomes account for 45% of the total income of all the Korean singers, while the upper 10%’s incomes account for 89% of it.”

To add to the fact that many idols don’t make close to a million USD, some idols might get an allowance after their money is distributed out to everybody else. One idol reported only receiving the equivalent of $500 a month, according to an Aminoapps fan post…

The top well-paid groups are probably groups that are well-known to most Kpop fans. But some of the most well-known and extremely talented groups (Shinee and Got7 to name a few) are not paid as well as you would think they should be paid.

Highest Paid Male Groups

Highest Paid Female Groups

You might ask yourself, “Why aren’t they rich?”

1. Kpop isn’t fully global (yet). It’s getting there, but it hasn’t reached every corner of the world, like American pop. They are depending on mostly Korea’s fans. Most of the world doesn’t speak Korean. Even if people are more willing to overlook that fact nowadays, there are still some people that prefer to listen to music in a tongue they understand.

There are fans overseas, but not enough to make them millions.

This isn’t to say there aren’t any Kpop idols making millions as a group. The really popular Kpop groups like Super Junior, Girls’ Generation, Big Bang, and 2ne1 have been reported to make in the millions as a group.   Still, these artists aren’t making the billions American artists are making, especially not individually. The millions these Kpop idols earned have been partially do to their popularity overseas, thanks to the efforts of their labels to market these idols outside of Korea. But very few Kpop idols are popular around the world, especially if they are from smaller labels. BTS was one of the luckier few.

2. The popularity of one album is so short-lived in Korea, sales tend to drop after two weeks of promotion. Without the support of the globe, they are more dependent on Koreans’ perception of the music. Most Koreans into Kpop are teenagers who get bored quickly. In America, people of all ages, genders, and the like can be interested in pop music and the same album for more than 5 years, which makes the music industry in the USA a very lucrative career. In Korea, Kpop idols are appealing to a very tight demographic and competing with western artists in their own country as well (considering American music is popular around the world).

3. Most all Kpop idols are in groups. Group-idol culture is big in Korea. The money idols get is split between the different people in the group and the label. With some groups having up to 9 or 10 members, you can imagine this stretches the salaries very thin as well.

4. They have to pay their companies (and everyone else involved with their success) back through a process called “break even”. They are paying the CEO, managers, choreographers, designers, back-up dancers, the make-up team, and whoever else is involved with their success. Labels bind Kpop idols in contracts that require the idols pay them the sum owed to them. And it costs about a million to properly pay them back for just one debut or comeback.

There’s a clause in most contracts called the “Income Division” that idols sign before debut. Each company might vary in how they create these divisions, but the fact remains. It’s important to read contracts and understand how these divisions work so that you’re not caught in a debt trap.

Income Divisions from 2016*

Income Divisions from 2016*

Some labels don’t separate their divisions that wide, especially smaller companies. For example, physical sales, renewed, events, and overseas promotions might be one whole package deal and it just might all be split into 60 for the company and 40 for the artist. The bigger labels tend to have many divisions for different parts of the idol’s work, as displayed above.

What could idols possibly owe the labels, especially when it comes to labels who demand more than 50% of an idol’s income? Room and board, for one. Many labels provide room and board for Kpop stars before they make enough money to own their own places. Sometimes, it takes a long time for Kpop idols to make enough to pay their own rent. It could take years. So, when the Kpop idols do manage to make a good number from their record sales, the labels make sure they take it out to pay off those debts. Idols also owe their labels for developing them into idols. Singing, dancing, or even speaking the native language are not major requirements for being a Kpop star. Even being BEAUTIFUL or HANDSOME is not a major requirement! Why? Because labels often offer to pay for these things. They train their artists to sing, dance, and speak the language, and if someone doesn’t look attractive, plastic surgery is readily available and acceptable! They only require that the artists be charming, charismatic, respectful, and youthful. Everything else is built for the idols. But it comes with a large price. The idols end up indebted to the labels, especially because most of them wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without these labels.

Even when they finally do pay off their debts (which they call “break-even”), that’s just it. Afterwards, they still have to work to accumulate money after pouring all of their money out towards their debts. This keeps them in a bind for many years.

American artists also have to pay their record labels some of their money, sometimes a large sum. But American celebrities are better able to pay off their debts because they make money faster (being a “global cultural beacon”), they often debut solo (so they get to keep more of their money), and many American  artists have some talent or abilities BEFORE they are signed (so labels don’t have to shell out as much money to package and market them).

A former Kpop idol, Prince Mak, revealed this:

“These companies have a system called “break-even” in which all the money earned by its idols go towards paying back all the money invested in them, such as training, food, accommodation, staff, and production of MVs. Prince Mak says that an average rookie K-pop idol group earns about USD$4000 per show (more if overseas), which is then broken down to a 90%:10% split between the company and the artist. Of that 10% going to the artist, it is then split between all the members of a group before it is spent on repaying back debts, meaning that it is incredibly difficult to earn money.”

He also mentioned that idols from the big companies will be fine. They have enough money to cover all losses from even their biggest flops. It’s the idols from smaller companies, even some of the biggest idols like BTS and Wanna One, that may have the most difficult time in the long run.

The plus side is that your debt is settled once your contract expires. However, if you would like to leave your company in the middle of your contract, it might be difficult if you still owe debt.

Kpop’s other plus side is that most idols know where their money is going, especially if they’re from a bigger company. It’s a law in Korea for companies to release statements regarding where the money is going.

On the other hand, if you’re from a smaller company, they may have a harder time getting these statements out to idols in a timely manner, and some people said that it’s harder to ask about the statement because companies will get the feeling you don’t trust them.

Another thing to consider is that idols make according to how much they’ve contributed to their work, but only if they haven’t acquired too much debt by the time they start to have more control. Idols like BI, Suga, J-Hope, and Soyeon from G(Idle) have said to have more of a hand in their creative process, so they will get more money back and will be able to pay back their debts much faster, but AOA’s member Jimin only made a single US dollar for writing lyrics to a song. Can’t say the same about their fellow group members though.

If an idol has an extremely successful debut or comeback, that will also help idols pay back debts. That’s probably why many idols seem nearly in tears when they win on music shows. That’s one step towards paying back debt.

4. If we compare Kpop idols to American pop stars, Kpop idols are more limited when it comes to their work, so it’s harder for them to gather income and build up from a “side hustle”. American artists can build their wealth in other areas BESIDES music. They can be multifaceted in their careers in America. Research shows that most American celebrities get their wealth from their “side” projects. Steven Tyler, from the band Aerosmith, said he got most of his wealth from the video game Guitar Hero!

We all saw what happened to Jessica Jung when she tried to balance her passion for fashion with her passion for music

The Kpop industry and its fans expect idols to give 100% to their career as pop idols. Companies also make contractual agreements barring idols from doing outside work, especially outside broadcasts (even Youtube videos), without the company’s permission. Most companies want a piece of anything that their idols produce, so if an idol steps out, companies want to create an “income division” for the other work or include the outside income in their “income division”.

Any outside projects have to be through the label or related to the pop idol’s group. Otherwise, most will see them as “traitors” or people who don’t have the passion and drive to give their all to their work. Considering that, it’s difficult for Kpop idols to acquire the riches people expect them to have.

Looking at how dedicated and passionate a lot of these Kpop idols are, it can be disheartening to find them getting paid so little in comparison to other famous people. However, with Kpop’s popularity increasing overseas, many Kpop idols from even the smallest companies will start to see an increase in funds in the next couple of years.

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27. Kpop Songs Get Banned For Reasons Other Countries Don’t Understand

You may not know this, but the biggest networks in South Korea, like KBS, MBC, and SBS, have the authority to ban certain songs from being aired on their networks, which can affect the success of certain Kpop songs. KBS has such a reputation for banning songs, they got the nickname “Korean Banning System”.

South Korea has a history of censorship. It’s still a rather conservative nation, despite the risks some Kpop idols and their companies take.

Some of the reasons for a ban are logical for some countries. Some songs might be banned because the videos showed too much nudity or a sexually explicit dance or maybe the language was crude and sexual. Though people in the USA would find this restrictive (I mean, there is a reason the USA has the largest music industry), every country is different. Every culture is different, so no one should expect South Korean stations to be like American stations. And even some American stations have banned sensitive and controversial songs and videos in the past. Why do you think people prefer streaming? However, in America, broadcasting stations don’t have the power to make or break pop artists anymore. In South Korea, they still do.

It’s important to know that a lot of broadcasting companies don’t just outright go and ban songs out of nowhere. They try to make negotiations with Kpop idols and their companies to have them change certain controversial elements of their comeback or debut song.

Some broadcasting stations may just require a title change, which might produce awkwardness when the lyrics sound nothing like the title. An example would be EXO’s “Lotto” being changed to “Louder”.

Lyrical changes during broadcasting could be even more awkward, such as the lyrical changes of DBSK’s Mirotic, changing from “under my skin” to “under my sky”…

Sometimes, when the songs are being performed, dance numbers will be different from the music video’s performance, too.

Sometimes, words will be changed or blurped out. F(x) had to change from saying “Caterpillar” in English to the Korean version of the word.

Most of these networks just request changes to the performance or song. When airing music videos, they might just cut out parts of it. It’s seldom they avoid airing complete songs. However, some Kpop idols may refuse to negotiate their artistic integrity, so the whole song might be banned.

You might sometimes find that songs and dances are changed for very confusing reasons. Some confusing reasons might be:

  1. Your fav spoke in Japanese
  2. Your fav used a brand name
  3. Your fav’s hair is dyed an “unnatural color” while he’s sitting in a classroom in the music video (or dyeing the hair period if this was in the late 1990s)
  4. Mature content (too adult which isn’t necessarily about sex or violence, just being an adult)
  5. Your fav promoted unhealthy dating habits
  6. Your fav has exposed too many tattoos
  7. References to homosexuality
  8. Showing destruction of public property

Interestingly enough, the music video can be enough to get a WHOLE song banned, even if the two aren’t related.

For example, Lee Hyori’s music video “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” was banned by KBS because she was driving recklessly without a seat-belt, dancing on top of buses and cars, and doing other reckless things. But that’s not what the song is about. Still, the artist might be banned from performing the song just because people FEAR others will seek out the video and imitate the behavior.

So think about that list of all the reasons an idol might have their song banned. I know you’re wondering, “What’s wrong with speaking Japanese? What’s wrong with using a brand name? What’s wrong with hair dye or tattoos? Why are all these things bad?”

As to the first reason, using Japanese words, South Korea and Japan have a long history where they didn’t get along during WWII. It’s understandable that Japanese is still a sensitive language. However, it’s ironic that many Kpop artists have made their debuts in Japan despite the fact Korea won’t let any of them speak the language in their country…

The brand name issue has to do with the avoidance of lawsuits and paying extra money for the rights. These networks want to avoid using the brands without permission and they may be too cheap to want to pursue getting the rights, especially if the brand name is foreign (which means it might cost more).

Last, South Korea has a thing where they associate hair dyeing and tattoos with “bad behavior”. The US has pretty much moved passed seeing certain styles as “bad”, but South Korea associates these styles with gang culture, rebelliousness, and such. Many of their schools ban students from dyeing their hair or having tattoos and piercings. Because Kpop primarily is supposed to target teenagers, people are more concerned with how pop influences youth.

Basically, that’s why the bans are in place. The broadcasting stations want to “protect families” from harmful content. Yes, homosexuality is still seen as harmful content, especially in a nation that’s trying to increase the birth rate.

In recent years, though, the rules have been getting looser and looser, especially as globalization begins to influence South Koreans as well.

With all of these networks placing bans, especially SBS, it’s no wonder Kpop idols feel like they have to stay children their whole lives. It’s no wonder their content is so boxed in. If they expect to get any airplay at all, they basically have to play it safe and remain super clean.

That’s not bad all the time, but it does stifle idols from expressing themselves totally. That says something about the culture in general.

On the other hand, the whole idol industry is for the entertainment of others, not the expression of the idols. Some idols have found ways to balance these demands, but it’s challenging.

So, if you see any live performances of your favorite Kpop idols, and there are some odd changes, that’s probably why.

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28. Kpop Idols and Feminism Don’t Mix-Girl Crush VS Girly

Apparently, being a feminist isn’t a good thing for Kpop idols.

Obviously, feminism is a threat to many patriarchal societies, so men will be threatened by the mention of the word “feminism”. Since many Kpop girl groups are supported by men, being a feminist will be seen as a threat.

However, this might be very shocking to many people living outside of Korea. Many celebrities, especially in the West, openly talk about women and women’s rights. Sure, it might affect some fans’ opinions of them, but generally celebrities around the world tend to get even more attention when they express their desire for more independence, freedom, or support of women’s rights.

Not so much in South Korea.

Irene’s support of a feminist novel provoked her male fans into burning pictures of her, and APink’s Naeun, posted a photo to Instagram of her Zadig & Voltaire case that read “girls can do anything”, which sparked backlash.

This is also very telling when it comes to concepts and how they are chosen. The girlier concepts are likely to be more accepted than the “girl crush” concept. “Girl Crush” concepts refer to concepts that are specifically designed to appeal to girls, not boys. Obviously, most idols concepts are designed to appeal to the opposite sex. That’s how they get that bag.

YG is particularly known for their “girl crush” concepts, concepts that don’t necessarily appeal to the males in South Korea, but empower women or cause girls to form “crushes” on boyish girls. F(x) is a girl group known for this appeal as well. They aren’t wrong. Kpop idols groups like Black Pink, 2ne1, and f(x) are groups many girls love! In comparison to cute and feminine groups, like Twice, or sexy groups like Sistar, they don’t seem to cater to the male fan service as much, which is what makes these groups so popular with western nations, where feminism is more embraced.

Still, even in South Korea, it’s okay to have a powerful concept. Many, many Kpop girl groups have had these concepts, and they have gone over pretty well. Most people like them….As long as it doesn’t leak into the real world and become too political. It’s especially acceptable if it’s mixed with an element of sex appeal. Utilizing an empowering concept all the time is often considered detrimental to a group in South Korea, so it’s a good thing international fans show so much support for these concepts.

However, no matter how powerful the concept, women are still not expected to exude that sort of energy in the outside world.

With more and more South Korean women jumping into the #MeToo Movement, tensions between the sexes have increased, causing the subject to be even more controversial. With a traditional society and a “fantasy-driven” industry, if Kpop groups want to remain successful, they must keep most of their female-empowering comments to themselves.

Back to top


Well, this about wraps up my article on Kpop. I’m truly sorry about the length, but I hope you fans learned a little bit more about the industry and took some thoughts with you.

For all of you major fans, what do you think? Do you agree with my points?

Everyone is invited to leave me a comment and give their thoughts!


26 Responses to “KPOP: 28 Things New Kpop Fans May Not Know About The Industry”

  1. MiMi 2016/06/23 at 05:51 #

    All the time i was wondering, “What happened to GN? Why no updates?” and then BAM! You make a comeback with another absolutely amazing article of yours!

    I really enjoyed reading this article. It highlights many important things about kpop and clearly explains the differences between the western and Korean point of view about each subject.

    Although your articles are super lengthy, but they are very easy to understand and that’s why I really enjoy reading your articles. The ones you write about kpop, dolls and astrology are my personal favourites, especially the astrology ones because no matter how many times I try to search on google, I never find even a single astrology article that discusses aspects of signs and planets in easier detail, unlike yours.

    I also have to say that YOU are the reason why I became a kpop and f(x) fan (or should I say ‘trash’ haha ). If it was’nt for that awesome article about f(x), i would have ignored Amber very long time ago.

    (Off-topic) Actually, my story about discovering f(x) was super weird and funny. When I was first introduced to kpop by BoA (again the credit goes to you), I liked her tomboy image because it was very unique. I absolutely despised all the cutesy and sexy concepts most girl groups tried because they all ended up looking same and it was really hard to differentiate them. While watching kpop mvs, I stumbled upon f(x)’s Nu Abo (that was around the end of 2013, i guess). I was completely weirded out. Well, I had read somewhere that a girl group called f(x) had a tomboy named Amber, but she didn’t even look like one in the mv. And my first impression about f(x) and Amber was ” OH MY GOD WHY DAFUQ ARE THEY SO GIRLY? IS THAT GIRL EVEN A TOMBOY? WHY IS SHE SO GIRLY? I DONT LIKE THIS GIRLY STUFF!!! SHE’S NOT TOMBOYISH AND UNIQUE!!! I ONLY LIKE UNIQUE PEOPLE!!!” And then after few months, you posted that f(x) article and now I own f(x)’s three holy testaments (you know which ones 🙂 ) and Goddess Amber Joshephine Liu is my ultimate and only kpop bias.

    Thank you for all the good articles and please do reply. 🙂


    • generationnext 2016/06/25 at 23:53 #

      Dear Mimi,

      Thank you so much for reading my articles! I really love to hear from readers, especially readers who enjoy my blog.

      I’m sorry it took me a while to respond. I had many projects in the works on and offline. But when I saw your comment, it really put a smile on my face.

      I’m so sorry about the length. I truly am. My goal for most of my articles is to gather as much information I can about a subject, providing sources. With my kpop article, I wanted to answer many of the questions I saw flying around on Yahoo answers,, and other websites regarding Kpop. I was amazed to learn about Kpop and I thought I would create a one-stop place that would answer all of those questions. I had fun researching. That’s usually what I want for my blog. Unfortunately, to get the whole story, it takes in-depth research and a whole lot of reading. XD

      “no matter how many times I try to search on google, I never find even a single astrology article that discusses aspects of signs and planets in easier detail, unlike yours.”

      Actually, before making my articles, I felt the same way! It took me YEARS to master it because there were no good articles out there. I thought that I would help other confused souls, like myself, better understand this complex study! I’m so glad that you’ve given me feedback regarding it and that it was easy for you to follow. That was the goal. 😉

      When it comes to Kpop, I also despised the cute and cheesy concepts. It was all so “identical” and a little too manufactured. I guess I’m used to more diversity (?). It’s funny how you didn’t think Amber was that unique. I didn’t either at first! When I was creating my article on “androgyny” as a fashion style, I got more interested in her and the difference she was making in Korea. It’s funny how someone like her is so usual in western countries. But in Korea, she’s considered different! There really is a difference between the two nations, and I tried hard to be fair in this article, while also trying to be realistic.

      I’m so glad I introduced you to new things. I love to share with my readers. I also love to hear new ideas from readers. So if you have anything you want to talk about, let me know and we can discuss away!

      Again, thank you for commenting and supporting! 🙂


      • MiMi 2016/06/29 at 12:40 #

        Thanks for replying 🙂

        Actually, I really don’t mind the length of your posts, in fact, that’s exactly what I love about them! As long as it is easy to understand, its all good.

        It really frustuates me when I can’t find even a single decent post about astrology on google. Most posts will simply talk about the qualities of a sign in a planet, not its effects on the personality or other important aspects. I never understood anything until I read your posts. For example, my sun is in scorpio, but really, I’m not even 100 percent scorpio. My ascendent sign is Sagittarius but my Jupiter is in Pisces, so I appear as a shy but happy and optimistic person. People around me get worried if I cry, because I never do. My venus is in scorpio but pluto is in Sagittarius so my venus sign might show qualities of both signs(?). For example I love f(x) to death but at the same time I also try not to obsess too much over them because in the end it can be bad and unhealthy (is this a good example?). I still have to figure out my moon(libra) and mercury(sag) signs though…

        I also find it funny that I thought of Amber as a girly girl at first. It’s really confusing and weird when people say they mistake her for a guy, like seriously? People really seem to fall easily for the hyper-feminine look of female idols. For some reason, I never liked that kind of look and that’s why I’m not a fan of any gg other than f(x). Thank god I’m not alone.

        About this post, you hit perfectly at many important points:

        “There are several benefits for the labels. For one, young people are naive and easily caught up in the glamor/glamour of Kpop. This allows them to be able to find as many idols as they can to feed the factory. Labels can easily persuade young artists to join the label and can better control them, too.”

        And this is exactly why record labels hate internet. If they want to make money, they’ll catch the bait that easily falls in their trap i.e. Young kids. Tell me, why, for the love of God, a person who knows about the crap that happens behind the scenes would even sign up for a record label? He or she would promote themselves on internet instead. They’ll obviously choose the kids that barely know a thing about these agencies. Unfortunately, the victims in the end are always the kids i.e. Justin Beiber, Miley Cyrus etc.

        “Labels design their artists to appeal to teen “fantasies”. These idols are not meant to be looked at as “real” figures. If they were, they would not get the same revenue they get from swooning their audience. In order to convince fans to buy into these groups, labels have to produce “available” and “pure” artists that seem untouchable, unreachable, and up for grabs. Every fan has to “feel” like they have a boyfriend/girlfriend out of these idols.”

        I don’t even need to explain this. Just look how One Direction is promoted. Oh yes, and EXO, BTS and many others…

        “Korea’s society is competitive. Because most of them are super smart and work really hard, everyone has qualities that are deemed worthy for just about any job or career. But it’s just not possible to hire everyone for every job.”

        THIS. I live in South East Asia and I can 100 percent relate to all of this. The educational competition here is out of control. The highest percentage in tests of younger batches of our local high school and college is literally 98 TO 99 PERCENT. EVERYONE IS SMART. Do you know how insane this is?! And also, everyone simply wants to be a ‘doctor or an engineer’ and nothing in between. There’s a trend particularly among females, to choose pre-medical course instead of pre-engineering. Medical is sometimes even harder than engineering. What they don’t realise is the extreme hardwork you have to put in, because if you don’t, you won’t reach the required merit and hell, you’re not even getting admission in any medical university! The engineering universities are also over-saturated and in the end it becomes hard for the graduates to even find decent jobs. You don’t even get a good salary for medical and engineering jobs at times. Another problem: if you go for linguistic or art courses, well then, get prepared for the bad comments in your way! (I hope I explained this properly because I’m bad at explaining sometimes)

        “let’s not forget that these idols are KOREAN. Many of them have the same beliefs that all Koreans have. This is the country they live in. They don’t see these things necessarily as oppressive. It’s just living. Many of the idols’ ethics are in line with Korean thinking.”

        The main difference. A person will always follow the culture he or she lives in. Most korean idols have grown up in Korea with the beliefs and culture of their elders, so they are bound to follow it. It is obvious for an American to have different mindset from a Korean for similar reasons.

        “Though idols are expected to be pure and chaste, many have affairs. Many drink and party. There are some who are irresponsible. There are some who are not. Though idols seem respectful, many are imperfect and will say bad things once in awhile. Some are traditional; some are not.”

        THIS. I live in a Muslim community, but really, most of the Muslims are simply muslims by name. I’ve seen more fashionistas around me than burqa-clad women. Teens have sex, romantic affairs, parties etc. Smoking, drinking and drugs have always been in trend. Most people don’t even care about religion. You wouldn’t expect that to happen in Muslim community but trust me, it happens everywhere. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, we all know this saying….

        Please do reply, I’d like to know your opinions on this discussion 🙂


      • generationnext 2016/07/02 at 17:12 #

        -“For example, my sun is in scorpio, but really, I’m not even 100 percent scorpio. My ascendent sign is Sagittarius but my Jupiter is in Pisces, so I appear as a shy but happy and optimistic person. People around me get worried if I cry, because I never do. My venus is in scorpio but pluto is in Sagittarius so my venus sign might show qualities of both signs(?). For example I love f(x) to death but at the same time I also try not to obsess too much over them because in the end it can be bad and unhealthy (is this a good example?). I still have to figure out my moon(libra) and mercury(sag) signs though…”

        Venus in Scorpio is exactly why, when you love something, you love it “to death.” lol And having Pluto in Sagi shows WHAT influences this deep, passionate love. You are obsessed or deeply involved with broad-minded subjects and have an intense interest in foreign cultures, especially through the arts since your Venus is in Scorpio. You have Sag rising…do you have Pluto in 1st house? If you do, that may be the reason why you seem so strong, too. You will embody your generation. I have Pluto in first too, but I’m the generation before you.

        Your Mercury in Sag (which I’m assuming has an aspect to Pluto) is why you don’t mind reading my long in-depth posts. You’re a thinker, open-minded, and broad-minded. If you have an aspect to Pluto, you really would like deeply researched information. Jupiter is in domicile, it’s more powerful, in Pisces. This makes your interest in broad-minded subjects even more powerful. You are good at learning foreign languages. Which is evident because you are from South East Asia, but speak English well. I’m sure you’re multi-lingual or have it as a goal.

        Moon in Libra means you need balance and harmony. You like to get along with people and keep the peace for your emotional health. But you don’t like when things are unfair. You will debate anyone who is biased. Of course, your Venus is in passionate Scorpio. Your idea of “peace” could be something chaotic or hard to face for most people. You’re the type of person that looks beyond the superficial, which is why you can’t stand the other Cookie-cutter idols.

        -“And this is exactly why record labels hate internet… a person who knows about the crap that happens behind the scenes would even sign up for a record label? He or she would promote themselves on internet instead. They’ll obviously choose the kids that barely know a thing about these agencies. Unfortunately, the victims in the end are always the kids i.e. Justin Beiber, Miley Cyrus etc.”

        Precisely. It happens all around the world. Now that Miley and Justin have more creative freedom, since they broke away from their original images, they just look like jerks. This is really them expressing their freedom, but they got caught by these agencies before they really could develop their real artistry.

        “Just look how One Direction is promoted. Oh yes, and EXO, BTS and many others…”

        The member who left One Direction left because he said he wasn’t even allowed to “dye his hair blue or any random color”. They wanted him to maintain a “lovable” or normal appearance. They surely know how to talk a hole in these kids’ heads. They also know how to get people who are struggling financially, but if they are older, they may even be wiser.

        It’s interesting that you’re from South East Asia. That means you know first-hand what I’m talking about. In America, most of the people working in our hospitals or in engineering are from South East Asia. Americans aren’t as smart as other countries and don’t put as much emphasis on education like they should. Everybody wants to be an entrepreneur. XD But it does make it easier to find jobs if people are smart.

        I think over in the east, the education is superior. Because of that fact, people have to find an edge.

        In America, the person with the most “edge” is the one who speaks a foreign language. It’s so uncommon in America, it could make a person seem much more intelligent.

        -“The main difference. A person will always follow the culture he or she lives in. Most korean idols have grown up in Korea with the beliefs and culture of their elders, so they are bound to follow it. It is obvious for an American to have different mindset from a Korean for similar reasons”.

        Absolutely. Some Americans don’t get that fact. One reason is because we really don’t get enough “world” education. We have our ideas because we live and were raised around these ideas. It is the same with Korean pop stars. As soon as people start to see them realistically, they will understand this fact.

        -“Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, we all know this saying….”

        Everyone has skeletons in the closet, no one is that innocent. It may be hard for kids to wrap their minds around it at first, but it’s a fact. As soon as we start to see Kpop idols realistically, the sooner we can just enjoy the music and not be bothered with the petty scandals.

        Don’t worry, I understand you clearly. Thanks for sharing. 🙂


    • generationnext 2019/01/14 at 17:13 #

      Mimi, this is Generation Next,

      If you are looking for my blog once again, my domain name has been changed to


  2. Stacy 2017/10/05 at 18:56 #

    This article was interesting and enjoyable to read. You brought up great points from what is seen on the surface and what goes on behind the scenes. This helped me to understand the K-Pop industry a bit more. There are two points that stood out to me the most. One was how this industry wants global attention and two how most K-Pop idols are not Korean. It’s understandable why they would want global attention because they want respect from other parts of the world, and bring in more revenue to their country. Most K-Pop idols being non-Korean introduces people to another way of life. They walk into somebody else’s shoes, at the same time, creating more opportunities for themselves. Like what you said in the beginning of this article, the promotion of Asian talent. I had no idea Asian people like to sing and dance in a modernized way. When I realized this existed, I was SHOOK! Wait a minute, I need to check this out! LOL I will always like Western (American) music because it’s what I grew up listening to. When I listen to certain songs, I reminiscence on my childhood and teen age years. I’m in my early twenties now, I was introduced to K-Pop two or three years ago, but didn’t really get into it until last year. Thanks for writing about this industry.
    By the way, JJ Project Verse 2 album was superb! I loved every single track…amazing ❤
    GOT7 is going to comeback soon. It seems like comebacks happen so quickly. 😆

    Liked by 1 person

    • generationnext 2017/10/09 at 11:25 #

      I am so sorry I replied to you so late! I’ve been working on a project recently.

      But I’m so happy to read that you were able to pull so much from this article. I’ve worked the hardest on this article, pulling from my own knowledge that I’ve gained from over 10 years as well as what I’ve gathered from speaking to fans, a few idols, and those in the industry. I’ve also read up on interviews and books. I was finally able to put it all together to make this.

      Yes, Kpop stars are really interested in global attention. Especially America’s attention. After you mentioned this part, I realized I forgot to add one major reason so many Kpop idols want to break into America: SALARY. Did you know that Kpop stars used to make only roughly $21,000 a year? That’s not even minimum wage in the USA. Now, they make roughly $43,000 a year, which is lower middle class in the USA. Take a look at American celebrities, and most are making millions and even billions a year! If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read. It’s always good to hear from a fellow Kpop fan.

      P.S. YES about JJ Project. I’m an IGOT7 as well. I just bought the album. The comeback announcement gave me chills. 🙂


    • generationnext 2019/01/14 at 17:12 #

      This is Generation Next! If you are looking for the same article, the domain name has been changed to! I’m sorry for the confusion!


  3. generationnext 2018/08/11 at 16:34 #

    Reblogged this on Generation Next and commented:

    Want to know all of the crazy tidbits that come with the Kpop Industry? I have here an updated article on 26 things new Kpop fans might not know about the Kpop industry! Check it out!


    • Stacy 2018/08/20 at 01:13 #

      Hello Generation Next! How’s your summer been? Looks like you have added two more sections to this article about Korean pop. I like using it as a reference.


      • generationnext 2018/08/20 at 17:40 #

        My summer has been rather pleasant. Thank you for asking, Stacy! But yes, I added two more sections to the article. I’m glad you could use it as a reference.


  4. Stacy 2018/08/20 at 19:10 #

    Cool. When I have free time, I’ll read this entire article over again. You are a great writer! Keep up the good work. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Stacy 2018/09/13 at 06:29 #

    I know you are ready for Monday. How do you stream? For example, YouTube. How do the views actually count?


  6. Truly Gleam 2018/09/17 at 16:02 #

    I like being a Taurus. I am stubborn, patient, and protective. When I was first introduced to K-Pop, Kris Wu was the one I wanted to pay close attention to.
    Are you also into astrology or is it just me?


    • generationnext 2018/09/18 at 20:45 #

      Am I? You should check my studies page! I study astrology in depth, straight from the natal chart.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Truly Gleam 2018/12/03 at 11:01 #

    The most trendy boy groups in K-Pop currently are EXO, BTS, & SEVENTEEN! MAMA Award show is next Monday December 10. As an AhGaSe, GOT7 has exceeded my expectations from 2014 until now 🏆 Their contract might expire soon… I desire GOT7 to stay together as as group of seven members. Baby birds will follow them until music becomes less passionate for them. It’s interesting because they have three foreign members and four Korean members. I wonder when JB, Jinyoung, Youngjae, and Yugyeom will serve their country. Also what will Mark, Jackson, and Bam Bam do without them? Time heals your emotions I guess…
    (By the way, there is a new K-Pop Store in Texas called “EVE Pink II”) I might my first f(x) album from this store or one of the websites you suggested! 🎄

    Liked by 1 person

    • generationnext 2018/12/04 at 18:40 #

      Ooh! I wish we had a Kpop store locally! I will research and see what I can find.

      Yes, I also fear and dread the day when half of the boys are forced to do their service. I hope all goes well for them during that time. It might get down to the point that the only three doing promotions are the foreign boys. They will have to shoulder keeping the group afloat.

      EXO, BTS, and Seventeen are currently the biggest boy groups. New groups get bigger all the time.



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