• http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1179715473 Ilham Bint Ahmed

    I get what you’re saying. I do not agree with children under 14 to really actively pursue this career. Entering competitions whether it be on television or local its okay since they can still withdraw. But if they’re 14 and do become an idol than in my opinion that is okay. Why? Because when I look at my younger brothers, who are 14 and 16 I don’t see their age but their behaviour. What’s the difference between a 14 year old pursuing to play football because they enjoy the it and I know its alot of hard work conpared to a 14 year old pursuing to become an idol as long they enjoy it and know they’re

    • http://www.facebook.com/dim.tso Dim Tso

      First of all, you can’t compare sports with becoming an idol. It’s apples and oranges.

      Second, maturity comes from knowledge accumulated through age and experience. A kid can be smart and be able to be less straightforward in thinking than other kids, but it’s still as immature -as well as ignorant- as it gets, because it is a kid.

      Third, eastern countries where parents arrange fixed marriages for their pre-teen girls to rich old men are frowned upon even locally…so this is a terrible thing to say. Of course, judging from your username, I wouldn’t expect any better, and yes, I am stereotyping here.

      All these kids entering kpop as active artists (not trainees) at such a young age are subjected to it because of greedy, financially desperate parents, or simply idiotic parents who decided that taking away their kid’s childhood is no big deal..

      • WackySacky

        Did you really have to take a jibe at Indian/Central Asians?

        • http://www.facebook.com/dim.tso Dim Tso

          First of all, calm down.
          Second, I was replying to someone else. Duh.
          Third…dunno, who cares about what you do?

          • WackySacky

            You still haven’t answered my question.
            I have every right to be angry when you take a jibe at a culture of people.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1179715473 Ilham Bint Ahmed

        You seriously must be ignorant. You must have been a very immature child. Clearly by the way you write. Not everyone is forced into marriage. And maturity is from experience not exactly from age. You can have experienced many things, not necessarily good things, before reaching adulthood. And a lot of adults still acts like kids even though their adults. All in all, you must be really sad or have sad parents to be so pessimistic and think like that.

        • http://www.facebook.com/dim.tso Dim Tso

          Not everyone is forced into marriage? This statement alone proves how sad and horrible things are where you live, if it’s true, that is…

          All in all, I’m not surprised you accept these horrible things, and I actually agree with Streby. You are told that it’s alright, whereas it’s not. Truly, truly sad. Truth to be told, I wouldn’t expect someone like you to have an idea of what bad parenting is to begin with.

          Calling me a pessimist? You obviously have no idea what people -and parents- are capable of.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1179715473 Ilham Bint Ahmed

            First of all I actually live in England. And second of all I do know what bad things people are capable of doing. Thridly, its my own opinion. I respect others and yours so respect mine. I am just trying to give a different perspective.

          • http://www.facebook.com/dim.tso Dim Tso

            So since you know all this, how come you justify it in any case? Especially when it’s blatantly obvious that putting the child through all this is a big mistake.
            Putting the extreme cases aside, who isn’t happy and proud to have a real and innocent childhood?
            There’s no excuse for denying such a precious thing to your child, no matter how bad it says it wants it.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1179715473 Ilham Bint Ahmed

            I agree with what you’re saying. When I first found out that kpop idols started at 15, I was in shock. I don’t fully agree with it but you have to look at both sides. I’m just giving you something to think about. That is all.

    • Streby

      When you say 14 year olds are ready for marriage, its largely because that’s what they are told they should be ready for.

      My grandmother got married at the age of 15 and had 3 children by the age of 20, and all four of my great grandmothers were married by the age of 12 and had an average of 10 children each. When I talk to them, the idea I get is that they got married because it was done, its not that they hated it or loved it, it was like going to school in that time, it was just done.

      • http://www.facebook.com/dim.tso Dim Tso

        Exactly. Just because it’s part of some people’s culture or whatever, doesn’t make it right. Some people like Ilham Bint Ahmed ought to understand that in 2013.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1179715473 Ilham Bint Ahmed

          For us its actually 1434 :)
          Every culture is different. Accept it.

          • http://www.facebook.com/dim.tso Dim Tso

            Well yeah mate but you see, you can’t really use it as an excuse for such things. You said it yourself that you disagree with it.

          • Guest

            People should be open to other cultures. That does not mean we should accept all aspects of the culture.

            A 14 year old is NOT ready for marriage, no matter how mature they are. In Europe in 1434 is was also considered “normal” for a 14 year old to be married, but we’ve modernized past that and hopefully your country/culture will also someday modernize (and being modern doesn’t just mean having plumbing and electricity).

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nate-Broadus/100003245734823 Nate Broadus

      “What’s the difference between a 14 year old pursuing to play football because they enjoy it compared to a 14 year old pursuing to become an idol as long they enjoy it and know they’re consequences[?]”

      Contractual obligation — nobody is going to pay a 14 year old to play football or expect to have control over his weight lifting, vitamin and dietary regimens.

      • Lavlavs

        Nobody pays 14 year olds to play football but they are paid in other things such as gymnastics. I think there’s many parallels between the girls (and guys) who train in gymnastics at such young ages and the young ages in k-pop. Most of them start training at young ages and start competing at 11, sometimes younger. The stars from the US Olympics teams were around 16- teenagers- yet they ‘debuted’ for their country. And like in k-pop, the majority of them will fade into the background in just a few years. For ever one child that made it, there’s tons that didn’t.

        Going back to k-pop, companies do it because they can. They want to exploit talent as fast as possible even if the child may not be mature enough to handle it. And I don’t think it will change until there’s public backlash that will force them to change. However, most cultures celebrate youth and until the truth about what the trainees go through is revealed, I don’t think anything will change.

        • http://twitter.com/silverukiss Silver

          The sad thing is it is being revealed, but no one is listening. Hang Geng said some pretty horrifying things about what happened to him. Other idols, like JYJ, have also revealed some stuff they were put through. The Open World Entertainment’s CEO was jailed for 7 years for raping and sexually abusing his trainees, along with some of the idol bands. But no one is really saying anything about it. The news pops up in articles and disappears just as quickly.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nate-Broadus/100003245734823 Nate Broadus

          In principle, that would seem similar (the gymnastics comparison) — however, it is again an instance of a non-contractually obligated sport versus an industry built entirely around hard contracts.

          For example: there are plenty of gymnasts — and athletes of all types — that wash out. This is because some just do not have the discipline to follow through. Maybe they found the work to be too torturous on their bodies? It could be they decide they just don’t want it badly enough and want to do other things. Either way, there is always an option to forfeit, quit or no-show as an amateur athlete. It would probably cause some scandal and bring about a certain amount of stigma, but it could be done without ever having to drag it into court — up to the moment where you DO start signing contracts, anyway. When you develop a certain amount of name recognition, only then does contractual obligation come into play — usually from shoe manufacturers, various apparel manufacturers and those looking for a face to push their product.

          With idols, it BEGINS with the contract. Instead of allowing talent to show their determination and then awarding contracts based on that work ethic and displayed talent, the entire process begins with a binding contract that stipulates exactly how an entertainment company can control aspects of the talent’s life with regards to housing, training, enforcing morality regulations and promoting the fruits of the harvested product (i.e. How best can we effectively market and push our idol?).

          While on the surface it does appear the same, the situations are quite a bit different on closer inspection. While this does not apply to all countries, the US is actually notorious for NOT paying their athletes. The only time expenses are paid by the USOC is when athletes are invited to tryouts — and even then, the stipulations only apply to the time you spend in their facility. It does not carry over to your entire life or give the USOC years of your youth with which to do as they see fit. Also, any USOC-sanctioned monetary rewards given for performance come AFTER the Olympics — and ONLY if you medal. See the difference?

          One (amateur competition-to-professional competition) adds in contractual obligation as a result of performance and dedication, while the other (Kpop) adds in contractual obligation before the talent ever steps foot on an actual stage; that just does not sit well with me. It’s a shady business, no matter how you slice it.

  • Badaboum

    I’m so used to Johnny’s young age that Samuel’s age doesn’t even shock me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001430085442 Nilly I’ly

    I knew Samuel gonna be in this the minute I read the title!!

  • maldita

    It’s such a conundrum when one sees really young kids making their debuts in the K-pop world. Yes, there have been famous success stories like BoA, Changmin, Seungri, Taemin, Krystal, Minzy, etc., all of whom debuted at 15 or younger. However, just because things worked out for them doesn’t mean it’ll work out for everyone else. And even though things do work out success-wise, it’s up in the air if they even enjoy the fame they get, if they were even emotionally-ready to take on the life of a celebrity. Changmin, for example, has famously talked about his inability to cope with his fame. He debuted just before his 16th birthday and DBSK shot straight up the K-pop hierarchy in less than a year. For the next 2 or 3 years, he said he had a major identity crisis, saying he’s living a life he never really wanted. Dealing with grueling schedules in 2 countries AND sasaengs 24/7 AND finishing high school on time must’ve been hell for him.

    But you know, kids debuting in their early or mid-teens is such a norm (since the time of H.O.T even) that right now, all I hope is that their companies give them age-appropriate material. Leave the revealing clothes and suggestive choreography until they grow up a little bit more. BoA debuted at 13 and I think SM handled her well enough to let her promote songs that girls her age would relate to, without the cliched “I <3 oppa" messages. Same with how they handled debut-era DBSK and SHINee's songs.

  • Streby

    I highly doubt these kids know what they really want to be yet, its unfair to put them in a legally binding contract at that age.
    I sure as hell still don’t know what I want to do at the age of 19, and though I have an idea, I’d like an exit route. These kids are so much younger and its unfair that their exit route is a very difficult one with corporate lawyers and messy media.

  • http://kpopranter.blogspot.com/ KPop Ranter

    Oh God…
    The G-Story picture. I feel wrong just looking at it.

  • taequila777

    Pretty soon we’ll see fetuses debuting…and then the world will end.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nate-Broadus/100003245734823 Nate Broadus

    Oh God. You know, this really doesn’t need a lengthy post. One word pretty much sums it up — one I haven’t used in decades.

    Heinous.

    All you can do is hope these kids fully understand what they are getting into at that age (statistically speaking, not a chance in Hell), and that the companies will have their well-being in mind as growing people that may end up wanting something different from life than schedules (statistically speaking (see above)).

    The good part (or is that the heinous part?) is, we’ll NEVER see if they are truly unhappy or not. They will still play the perfect teammates and idols on camera.

    Ignorance is bliss, I guess…Heinous.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dim.tso Dim Tso

      Best post around here. You absolutely nailed it. Kids shouldn’t have to go through things even adults aren’t capable of handling.
      Adults who have made a conscious and determined choice about these things, even.

  • Layla

    Off topic, but Volume Up is NOT about relationships or sex.

  • http://twitter.com/JohnDeSims JDSono

    Oppa didn’t mean it by looking at 14 year old girls sexually when they’re grinding the floor

  • http://www.facebook.com/chibijoshie Josh Chinnery

    I feel like I need to go repent after looking at that G-Story picture… It’s so wrong to see little girls that aren’t even 10 yet dressed liked that (reminds me of Hone Boo Boo *shudder*). Anyway, I can definitely say that I wouldn’t ever want my child to be an idol, even if they were an adult.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Xenia-Petrova/100000801489224 Xenia Petrova

    This topic is circulating all over this site for years (just as plastic surgery topic, lack of feminism in SK and civil rights of idols).
    Still: we all know that’s for most children that are heavily involved in dancing, music, sports, acting and other such careers the chance of getting successful and/or mentally okay is very low. Yet, the chance for them to reach stardom without starting very young is even less. I mean, everybody’s favourite Kim Yuna – she probably was not enjoying her life when she was 12 with ice-cream in her hand. And I remember the interview of now well-know pianist, who told that during his childhood he hated his life, his parents and his piano, because he wanted to be like all other boys but instead of playing football he was spending his days with music teacher. Yet now he’s thankful of course, what, with concerts all over the globe.
    We here don’t know what is good for this kid. So just leave it to his parents to take the decisions, instead of internet-worrying about this poor kid, omg =/

    • yuki kokoro

      I’m sorry but it’s not because he’s thankful now that what his parents did to him is right!

      I also think that it’s a pretty strechy comparison because, as far as I know, Samuel is not hating his life right now. I also don’t think that his parent forced him to do that.

  • http://www.m-rated.tumblr.com/ Michelle Chin

    Actually, the concept of a child idol existed in my home country quite some time ago. Although it’s not heavily sexualized, there’s certainly a lolita appeal to it, if you get what I mean. And I do agree with the author on how there is surely some negative impact on the child idol. I have schoolmates who used to be in the show business and I can assure you, it takes a toll on your school work.

    But we won’t probably be seeing six year old idols soon. It will generate a lot of backlash. I mean, the reason why some young idols get away with it because they look older than they supposed to be. I mean, who would know that some of the idols are so much younger behind all the makeup right? With six years old, it’s hard to hide the fact that a kid is just six.

    What I find problematic is not whether kids have the maturity to deal with real world issues posed by the entertainment business. More like, their childhood would be mercifully robbed away. But if you think about it, it’s so much better than going out and face exams, and the risk of zero employment. Note, in South Korea, employment prospects are not looking so good. Almost every graduate friend I know in Korea are looking for some sort of job or have remained unemployed in the past year or so. :( Actually, almost every friend I know hasn’t gotten themselves employed yet because of the shitty economy.

    Note, unlike the average graduate, these idols to be (assuming that they’ve successfully gotten into the entertainment industry) need not worry about the horrible economy. Entertainment is the opium of the masses. Good times, bad times, people are still going to consume music and colourful MVs. Demand is constant, unless the market is saturated, which it is. But still, each idol group would find their niche.

    While we think that these kids joining entertainment companies at a young age is really horrifying — almost like child labour — they might think that they are going to dance/ singing/ modelling classes every single day. If the child actually has passion for these things and dislikes going to school, then it makes it even better for them, at least from their perspective. Plus, job in the future is secure. If you love dance and music, chances are, if you aren’t in the showbiz, it’s tough luck to do what you love and earning a lot of money. So, seeing this pros of this, kids may not feel so bad joining the entertainment industry. Also, they may choose to ignore the cons of doing so because obviously, the pros outweigh them if they choose to see it that way.

    Having said that, I do not condone the idea of six year idols. For me, any idol below the age of 16 is just too young. They should be living the average life before going out to making it big.

  • shannie4888

    These kids have no idea what they’re getting into because they’re too young to comprehend what they’re really doing. We’ll probably be seeing a lot more lawsuits in Kpop once these young’ins get older and realized that they basically signed their life away.

    Honestly though, I can’t deal with anymore young idols in Kpop. The whole genre is already full of barely legal signing and dancing clones. Now they’ve taken it even farther and added children into the mix. How far are they going to go? Are they going to go to hospitals and recruit newborns to give them a headstart? It’s getting ridiculous.

    Kids need to be kids. They should be able to chase their dreams, but they can do it when they’re a tad bit older to decide if that’s the dream they still want to chase. People grow up and change. It’ just a fact of life. As you stated, half us never become doctors, lawyers, or astronauts because when you’re a kid you dream big, but then reality sets in and you realize that you hate chemistry, political science, or physics, so those careers are not for you. You realize you love art, teaching, or engineering and that’s what you want to do.

    I wish these young kids the best, but I hope the genre gets to a point where it says enough is enough.

  • http://twitter.com/alicestargazer Alice

    I think it depends on their maturity levels. The only maknae that I really understand well because I am a BAP stan is Zelo. I think in Zelo’s case (he’s sixteen actually by the way), he is mature enough to debut with BAP even though he might not understand well some of the content in his song, as he said so himself. He seems mature for his age, despite his freaking adorableness and he has someone extremely morally upright, yongguk, that he looks up to. His hyungs have said in interviews that Zelo really wants to be mature and is mature for his age. Zelo had to ride the subway all the time away from his parents, suffer a divorce in his family, and experience difficulties in his child that make me see him as more than just a child. Anyway this whole rant was just to give a really detailed example of someone who I think is ok to debut because they know what they’re getting into and have mature people to rely and learn on.

    • ajj

      Before I became a fan I thought Zelo was too young, but now I realized Zelo fits right in with the other members and he’s very talented. I think it helps that Yong Guk and the othersdote on him a lot.

  • ajj

    An eleven year old is too freaking young. Changmin was 15 and way mature for his age when they debuted and he had a hard time, what is an 11 y/o gonna do? Andy from Shinhwa was slated to be in H.O.T. but his parents pulled him out because he was too young at 15, I wonder about what Samuel’s parents were thinking when they signed the cotract.

    • Guest

      $$$$$$

  • http://twitter.com/silverukiss Silver

    Thank you for writing this story. *applauds*

    Plus, I don’t think it’s right to force someone at 18 to be held to a contract for the next 7 or so years because back when he was a kid his parents signed him into a contract. Kids aren’t mature enough to make decisions that will impact their life until they’re well into their 30′s, and they shouldn’t be held accountable for their parents mistake of signing their kid off, either.

    The idol life is really hard, and I think it really impacts kids, who at that age are at a stage where they’re just learning about life, and how to make it work. Dongho joined U-Kiss when he was 13 or 14, and I think it was really hard on him. The members have said that during promotional periods they only get 3 or 4 hours of sleep a night. This isn’t nearly enough sleep to be healthy for a growing boy. And in a lot of their behind the scenes footage of things, Dongho was always crawling off into a corner to try and get some more sleep. Also, since U-Kiss was more popular internationally they spent a lot of time outside of Korea. When they started promoted in Japan, they pretty much just moved there, only coming back to Korea for a month at a time. Dongho spent more time being raised by busy managers and the other members than he spent with his parents.

    I think kpop idols are getting way too young.

  • jaefuma

    I personally think they should have those kids just…train.

    Like you said, at 11, most kids don’t know what they want to be. I was going to be an astronaut…then a vet…and I’m not where close to either. I also don’t think it’s good for them. I mean, idols that are in their early twenties are routinely passing out and getting IV’s because of their work schedules. An 11 year old body can’t handle that stress. They’re still growing!

    If a kid is really interested in that, and a company thinks they’ve got the stuff, by all means, train those kids. Let them dance, take vocal lessons, study music. But I would not put them in a group at all. I think it just seems “gimmick-y,” and not in a good way. I mean, that kid won’t even get to go on any shows, so how will he be “popular.” They should invest more and let that kid train and also let that kid be a kid.

    You don’t get to be one forever, he really shouldn’t waste it.

  • sad

    actually 17 play a lot in their practice room you can watch it trough livestream :3 he is really happy …

  • TurnUptheAC

    Although entertainment companies’ contracts robs many children/pre-teens of their childhood…I feel even more of the blame should fall on the parents. As a young child I wanted to be an actress…my mother even told me she thought about taking me to auditions as a child but decided for my emotional health she did not want to expose me to such an industry despite my desires. She watched over the years the trainwrecks of so many child stars; she in no way wanted me to be another statistic.

    Parents are the ones fully aware of the contractual agreements made with these entertainment companies and I assume are signing these contacts because in most countries a child is unfit to sign a contract, but the parents may make the decision on their behalf. A parent should make a choice whats best for their child’s well being, even if their choices disappoint a child such as not training to be an idol..or for me going to acting auditions as a child. I thank my mother everyday for not allowing me to pursue my acting passion as a child in the real entertainment world; she told me to be satisfied with school plays at the time being and when I was older I could make the choice to become an actress….which I never want to be an actress.

    Even though I blame the entertainment industry for creating an unhealthy environment and standards for children…I find the decisions of parents who allow their kids to pursue such an industry at a young age even more egregious. These parents are exhibiting greed, lack of foresight for their child’s health and ability to actually succeed in such an industry, and even perhaps a mild form of child abuse. Discussing child abuse might seem a little extreme, but allowing one’s child to sign a contract, which controls their everyday life and does not allow an easy exit (because the penalties they will incur on their family) is damaging on their overall health.

  • http://twitter.com/satumbaco Sharon

    Can I get an amen up in here?

  • nard

    Zelo isnt 15 god get your facts straight before writing this ‘article’

  • Smile

    I remember when Taemin was THE maknae of Kpop (ok he still is it kinda) and he was just 15

    …and nowadays even younger children/pre-teens can make a debut

  • Serendpity

    I’m not surprised at least one bit. I mean, you already had Paris Jackson. Who’s next in the line?

  • Chriiss

    I hope that all of you know that everybody under the age of 18 cannot sign a contract by her-/himself. The parents with dreams that did not come true.. what do you think for them?? I think that the most important role here is given to the mommy and daddy.. I bet that most of the youth don’t even know why are they doing this. And cincerely said… well.. they will not understand it soon, just because they are too young.. :((