Halloween is coming up and the theme of the week, as one might predict, is fear. Whether we’ve come to realize it or not, there are a lot of things in the Korean entertainment industry that scare us. Just this year alone, we’ve witnessed the horrifying news of Infinite getting submerged into the SM umbrella, L being taken off the dating market, and the terrifying song and MV known as “Inconvenient Truth,” all of which can be downright frightening for some (it’s been a roller coaster year for Inspirits, hasn’t it?). What were your biggest K-entertainment fears that you’ve had to cope with? What potential scares are you afraid of most in the foreseeable future?
Pat: Yes. Being an Inspirit is bringing a lot of hurt this year. Good thing Block B came back to calm me down.
My biggest K-entertainment fear would have to be one of my favorite groups – Infinite, Block B, Vixx and SHINee disbanding. I’ve already survived having my second favorite group disbanding (TVXQ) and I don’t even know how I survived that break up. Then for the most of this year, I had to cope with the thought that Block B might never get back up after the whole Stardom Entertainment contract debacle. While I’m confident Block B will never leave because those seven derps are as persistent as cavities, I would honestly have an emotional breakdown if Infinite, Vixx or SHINee broke up. Let them all have their girlfriends and whatnot but I’m continually hoping they’ll pull a Shinhwa.
That being said, I don’t fear them dispanding in the near future. Vixx is a persistent hyper bunch and seem to have their act together. Infinite are seemingly taking everything in stride. Well, only if you discount them crying in a One Great Step stop in Korea to explain to the fans the merger situation and Sunggyu deleting all of his tweets following his scandal earlier on. Block B have already proven that they’re survivors (even ex-predebut Block B member Mino, now under YG so congrats to him!) and are even in a Shinhwa situation right now with a company built solely around them.
Lindsay: I feel like if I think about it long enough, I’ll be completely destroyed by the innumerable K-pop fears I can conjure up.
Any little scandal can destroy a group, so I think seeing that happen to one of my favorite groups is a big fear. I don’t worry about SHINee anymore, they handle scandals as they go, but younger groups like VIXX and B.A.P might not fare as well if they get into hot water. I’m always terrified that I’ll turn into a pressed fan that can’t see how wrong her idols really are in those kind of situations. Please, someone just slap me if I start defending a member of B.A.P for doing something sexist or racist (god forbid that ever happens).
As for being scared of the K-pop industry, I’m terrified of what it is doing to these young people’s lives and psyches. If the rumors are true about Onew‘s depression and suicide attempts, I can’t say I’d blame him. It scares me that I support an industry that strips rights, privacy, and sleep away from these young men and women. The dark side-effects of this kind of constant public spotlight, forever working, never resting lifestyle, freak me the hell out.
But like I said, I try not to think about that stuff lest I want to hide in a corner and cry or, even worse, give up K-pop.
Laverne: Like Pat and Lindsay, one of my biggest K-pop fears is if VIXX were to disband. They’ve just worked so hard and are putting out good music and are so cute and…my Vixx feels.
I am also scared that idols I like will do something so horrifically racist/sexist to the point that I would feel wrong morally for being their fan. Already Ken‘s comments about N‘s skintone rubs me the wrong way because I myself am darker skinned. If he (or another idol) were to start saying/doing worse things, there’s no way I could still be his fan.
But overall, the K-pop industry already scares me enough. The conditions idols and trainees go through are extremely tough and I’m sure I don’t even know the half of it. And that’s a terrifying thought.
Kelsey: The prospect of SM consolidating more agencies under its umbrella actually freaks me out. Although I occasionally grumble at how many groups and companies there are in K-pop, larger companies swallowing them up isn’t exactly a great alternative to me. The industry benefits from a little competition, so I hope SM stops with the merging.
Like the others have mentioned, group disbandments are frightening. SHINee splitting would just about break my heart, but what is more frightening is just the general future of K-pop. Groups like DBSK and Super Junior eventually fading out and yielding to the new generation is spooky. I’m not too old myself, but the idea of seeing idols born in the 2000s is absolutely frightening.
I just hope the current large cohort of idols ultimately adjust to their inevitable non-idol lives. It’s not an easy job by any means, but I don’t want to hear any bad news or sad stories about any idols, either current or former.
Mark: Whereas most people fear change, I fear more the status quo. 2014 will mark a year of impending change as the expiring contracts of the vanguard girl groups should lead to some inevitable roster shakeups. We’re already feeling the effects of Kara‘s contract situation and Wonder Girls will certainly not be the same without Sun. Will Girls Generation be hit next?
Either way, I’ll be disappointed if nothing truly changes. These groups have had good long runs at the top, and their transition and eventual disbandment should signify a passing of the torch to a newer generation of performers who deserve their turn in the limelight. Anything less, I fear, will be disappointing, and not to mention, grossly unfair to the growing number of deserving talent in the industry.
Like Kelsey mentioned, if large companies like SM have their way and become industry conglomerates through purchasing up all of its competitors, then I truly fear that K-pop as we know it will never be the same. The reason K-pop is so hard hitting and quick-paced is because of the industry’s intense level of competition due to having so many companies that are trying to scrape the bottom of the cash barrel just to stay alive. If competition became monopolized by one or two really large agencies (think SM and YG times ten), then humbler companies will no longer be able to compete, releases will be less frequent, and what will be worse is that everything will start becoming more moderated. K-pop is what it is because of its diversity, its ingenuity in attempting to appeal to different audiences all over the globe. If everything became a part of the SM umbrella, I’m sure it would be great to some. But for the rest of us, this standardization of content and production is outright horrifying!
Nicholas: While I like my groups to have an air of stability around them, with members in for the long haul, changing group members has really ceased to affect me. With time, I just learned to move on and sort of live without seeing a particular member within the group. Sure, I miss them, but if the group is doing fine (and none the worse for wear), I guess that’s a sign that at the end of the day, talent is rather, for want of a better word, expendable.
On the other hand, what I fear more would be the fragmentation of fandom. As much as we all want to think we are different people united by a love of idols, the fact is that we all enter with different motives. Some are in it for the music, some in it to become famous and idolised by fellow fans, some to fulfill their weirdest fantasies, and some to just stir controversy. While I used to accept that as part of the experience, a part of me acknowledges that it is a minority of fans that do make our love of idols that much harder to let the world know.
Another fear is some people’s air of elitism, that some groups just should not make it. It was pretty obvious a while ago when Crayon Pop triumphed against the odds, and some people I knew on Twitter called the whole thing a killer of K-pop, and undeserving to be mentioned in the same breath as the top girl groups. While I acknowledge that the music might not be everybody’s taste, can we all agree that it is such anomalies, as well as how the nature of K-pop fragments over time with groups not exactly sticking to archetypes, that sometimes makes it fun to be into K-pop. Just when you thought you seen it all, it throws you a curve ball.
Miyoko: Well, I guess my biggest, consistent fear is about my favorite groups’ health (physical and mental), but that extends to my fears about the industry as a whole. Like many have mentioned, I fear what will happen to these young people and what is happening to them right now. I don’t like how the K-pop industry has built a work culture where it’s okay to basically abuse everyone involved. The extreme commodification of idols also freaks me out. Like Lindsay mentioned, it makes me question my support of such an industry (whereas in other parts of my life, I try to avoid those industries like the plague).
Erika: As Laverne mentioned, I too am steeling myself for the next uber racist/sexist display, and what the eye roll-inducing people will do to defend it. On a side note, Wassup is moving on from twerking to double dutch, bamboo earrings, and dookie braids, everyone. I’m tired of having to be the bigger person and viewing offensive situations and responses as teachable moments!
Sasaeng fans give me an ominous feeling too. Don’t be afraid to use your Wushu when things get hairy, Tao. Ten years down the line, if they’re not in jail, I wonder what will become of them. Perhaps they’ll use all the energy they put into terrorizing their biases to do something to benefit society, like develop a teleportation device so that we never have to ride those horrible, 40 year-old United Airlines 747s across the Pacific to get from San Francisco to Seoul again.
Finally, I am afraid of just how awesome VIXX is going to be! I fear that the awesomeness will be so profound that our puny human brains will struggle mightily to comprehend it all, eventually failing as we’re driven to insanity: a very Lovecraftian turn of events. This is the enormous power that space vampires wield!
Gabrielle: I’m with the group that’s worried about racism. Idols are making English songs, traveling all over the world, have non-korean members and all, but K-pop really isn’t afraid of telling you what they think is pretty and what’s ugly and different. And it always gets such a pass from fans. “Oh, they’re in Korea, it’s different there,” or “Oppa didn’t mean it! It’s just a joke!” But I don’t understand how K-Pop can want global domination, yet blatantly disrespect a large population of people. It makes me so uncomfortable. And while I don’t think I’m anyone’s ideal, it’s kind of hard to listen to and, in a way, promote a group or idol that openly thinks your race is a joke, ugly, or stupid.
Gaya: I’m scared of seeing idols being racist/sexist/shadeist as well, but what scares me more is if I ever meet one and they act that way towards me. I’m also scared that I’d be too shocked or weak to rebuke them — on the one hand, this could be my chance to get through to the idol, and perhaps by extension the whole K-pop community, about how wrong and hurtful this kind of discrimination is, but then there’s the backlash, and much worse, the message not fully sinking in and just being brushed off before moving on.
That people would not take the time to analyse their own thoughts and actions is what truly scares me.
Amy: My fear is really a whammy: that anybody in the idol sphere will commit suicide. And honestly, given the high proliferation of celebrity deaths and the rate at which idols are overworked and extremely depressed, I’m very surprised it hasn’t happened. Any time anybody trends on Naver, for a split second, I’m always worried someone has decided they didn’t want to do it anymore and ended it for good.
(Images via KBS, Woollim Entertainment, TS Entertainment, Jellyfish Entertainment, DSP Media, Mafia Records, Paramount Music)