Imagine your favorite K-pop group is preparing for a comeback, and they’ve released tantalizing photo and video teasers that have you super excited, but right before their comeback stage the news is released that your favorite member of the group has been injured and won’t be able to take part, or even worse, the whole release has been pushed back. This is the scenario that has plagued the K-pop community recently and has caused heartache for eager fans longing to see groups perform new songs.
These situations are not only disappointing for fans but also disappointing for the idols themselves. Although there have been a lot of injuries lately, enough in succession to gain people’s attention, there is nothing new about people who do strenuous physical activity for a living occasionally experiencing an injury. Most idols will experience minor aches and pains in their line of work, but it is the more serious injuries that get in the way of their job. Of course, not all K-pop injuries are dancing induced, there are also the “life happens” instances which could happen to any of us.
There are many consequences that occur when an idol gets injured but most commonly it has a negative effect on their promotional activities, which can be harmful to a group or member’s popularity in such a fast paced industry. It is unfortunate that something like an injury, an occurrence that isn’t the idol’s fault, can have such a big effect on their personal popularity, or the group’s popularity, but K-pop fans can be fickle and if a group isn’t appearing regularly or isn’t giving their best performance some people will look elsewhere. Although all idols are given the best and most immediate care, which their companies assure us of in press releases, some injuries are more serious than others and the longer the recovery time the more of an effect on the group it has.
During the summer of 2012 one such injury occurred when Jun-Young, leader of the group ZE:A, slipped while filming a TV show and injured his ankle. While a simple sprained ankle isn’t always a big deal, this particular injury not only kept Jun-Young off his feet but also pushed back the date of the group’s comeback, from June to July. For the MV “Aftereffect” and for the stage performances he was forced to sit in a chair or, at the very least, stand to the side and skip the dance sections.
Not only is this kind of injury hard on the fans waiting for the group’s comeback, it is emotionally trying for the idol themselves. The K-pop industry emphasizes hard work, perhaps to the point of unhealthiness sometimes, and during a comeback promotion the emphasis is even greater as groups try to show their best face to their loyal fans and hopefully gain some new ones. For a lower profile group like ZE:A any interruption to their promotion plans can be damaging to their already shaky status.
Normally, however, the consequences of idol injuries are shorter lived and do not require the member to perform in a compromised position, but rather they sit out from performances until deemed “well” again. This was the case with Zinger of SECRET last winter, and with Himchan of B.A.P. Both of their situations were related to work, but weren’t directly related to performing, as they both suffered injuries in the vicinity of a car. Zinger’s injury was slightly more shocking, because the car accident SECRET was in last December was serious and she suffered broken ribs and a bruised lung. It was understandable that she needed to sit out from performances until recovered, and luckily the MV for the “Talk That” comeback had already been filmed.
Himchan’s injury was less shocking because he simply fell on his way to get into a car, which is not surprising considering the cold weather and ice. It was hardly news worthy, but unfortunately is still keeping him out of live promotions. It wouldn’t have been as big a deal if it weren’t for the specific dance moves used in B.A.P’s “One Shot” promotions which involve putting all the body’s weight on the hands and arms and doing a push-up motion. The other members of B.A.P have reassured fans on their Inkigayo broadcast that Himchan is, in fact, doing just fine and is recovering well, but in the meantime Youngjae is covering his parts.
Unfortunately, the fact that a fellow member can cover his parts is making K-pop followers question Himchan’s usefulness in the group . While it is rude to insult an injured person who has no control over the situation in this way, it is true that Himchan isn’t a lead vocalist, nor lead dancer, making his role more easily covered than, say, Jun-Young’s. Jun-Young is not only the leader of ZE:A but also has significant vocal parts in their releases which means it wouldn’t make sense long-term for another member to cover for him. Does this make every idol that gets their parts covered useless? Not at all, and the added stress to the rest of the group members is no small matter either. Someone has to learn those parts, no matter how small they may be, on top of their own which means no group member should ever be taken for granted. Not to mention that Youngjae’s voice simply doesn’t have the deep, gravely quality Himchan’s does.
All of these situations are what can best be called terrible timing. If any of these injuries had occurred during a rest period instead of a promotion period (almost impossible with B.A.P, of course) the idols would have been able to recover in peace, and although SECRET’s car accident still would have made the news all the members would have been able to fully recover without worry. Similarly, Aron of NU’EST injured his thigh muscle right before their “Hello” comeback this month, but fortunately he got immediate treatment and it wasn’t serious enough to keep him out of promotion performances. This is a stroke of luck for NU’EST as they are also a rookie group and can’t afford to lose one of their members for a promotion, especially the one that raps in English.
A good example of injuries coming at a convenient time is Sandeul of B1A4’s recent knee injury. Knee injuries are a serious medical issue and almost always need surgery, as Sandeul’s did, which puts an idol completely out of commission when it comes to dancing. Luckily, B1A4 is in between music promotions, which gives Sandeul the time to recover he needs (which could be quite a long time). Why more injuries don’t happen at convenient times like this we will never know, perhaps it is simply the law of the universe that “whatever can go wrong, will.” If Sandeul had been injured during a promotion time it is unlikely any of the other members could have covered his vocals (let’s not forget how talented he is), meaning the group would have had to go on hiatus or he would have been relegated to a chair like Jun-Young.
Because K-pop fans often feel a deep connection to their favorite group, or idol, when unfortunate accidents happen it is only natural that fans feel concerned for their idol’s well-being. This came up recently when SISTAR’s Bora and DMTN’s Daniel were injured during the Idol Star Athletic Championship because people immediately began questioning the safety of the program. Although the concern is valid, it seemed to come from an emotional place for fans and not a logical place as most idols live a very active lifestyle and, in theory, are in the right shape to be participating in athletic challenges.
Idols also have to do crazy stunts on reality and variety programs, so unless every entertainment company forbids such activities there will always be a risk of injury. Since the idols are just as much at risk every day from strenuous dance practices and unplanned incidents, such as car accidents, there is no point in blaming any one program for injuries, especially one their companies have approved on the participating in. What idols and managers do need to be conscious of is how hard idols push themselves, especially when they have a promotion coming up.
Regardless of how the injury occurs, having a serious enough injury to effect promotions is a stressful experience for any idol group. Either the group has to take a break, or another member has to pick up extra parts, or sometimes both. As much as it upsets fans to see this happen, it undoubtedly upsets the injured idols even more as they are kept from participating in what they have worked so hard towards. Injuries remind us of how important each member is to a group; there is no whole without all the parts and even if a member’s parts can be covered for a while it simply isn’t the same. Instead of questioning an injured idol’s usefulness, or getting absorbed in your own disappointment, remember how hard that idol has worked only to have it taken away and what that must feel like.
I, personally, am sending my best regards to all injured idols in the hope that they recover well and quickly. How about you, Seoulmates? How do you feel when an idol you like gets injured?
(Star Empire Entertainment, TS Entertainment, WM Entertainment, MBC Music)