What's the Big Deal?: They're Just Minors…

As Hallyu fans, we have all seen and heard our idols complain about how little sleep they have received during a promotional period, even more so as trainees prior to debut when attempting to attend school, training, and practice all at once. We have cheered on our favorite dreamy actors and powerful actresses after a difficult action scene, late night shoot or even collapsing on set but staying to finish a scene after he/she ‘recovered’ in a movie or drama. Most times we assume they have a choice to go through such drastic lengths or had some kind of say in something that had to do with their body, actions and views. Have you ever questioned what preparations or safety features were put into effect to protect them in the first place?

The Facts:

A bill was passed in January 2014 by the Korean National Assembly that impacted the Korean entertainment industry. This bill passed two years ago, according to Billboard’s article; “will forbid underage singers and actors from taking part in overnight performances and productions or from being coerced into sexualized portrayals.” Korean entertainment, production, and broadcasting companies were all notified of this bill and then a six-month notification period was allowed before the bill went in to legal effect on July 29th, 2014. Minors have the right to sleep, learn, and refuse concepts/clothing that they feel is subjecting them to being sexualized. Weekly working hours for children younger than 15 are not to exceed 35 hours, while minors aged 15-18 are limited to 40 hours. Minors cannot work between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless their guardian give consent. Breaking this law will result in a recommendation of correction from the culture ministry, and failure to comply will result in a fine of roughly $10,000(USD). In addition, one can face up to five years in prison for forcing underage talent to act out rape or sexual harassment scenes. This law was passed to improve the working conditions for minors in an industry known for its lack of structure and regulations.

Our favs once were/still are BABIES!!

When a music artist/ group or actor/actress “debuts” the ages vary but most of the time, the ages will range from 13-20(international age) depending on concepts and training period.  Do we stop to think that the years of training that come before that long-awaited debut are done during a sensitive time in a pre-teens life. Think of how you were at that age, the new freedom you felt when parents gave you a chance to make your own decisions and learn from mistakes made. And don’t forget the ‘I’m feel fat today’ and the ‘I hate everything and everyone phase’ that comes with being in your teens ok, remember all that stress? Now add weekly weight checks, diet restrictions, late night practices, extensive lessons and constant control over almost everything to that… AND YOUR NOT EVEN THIRTEEN!! You sacrifice your body, experiences, time with family and friends, pretty much your youth is exchanged for chance to have your dreams become reality. Many of our idols are or were “teenage idols” to start. Take BoA for example, who debuted at the age of 13, Girl’s Generation ranged in age from 16-18 and more recent, newly debuted SM boy group NCT DREAM who’s ages range from 14-17. Just keep in mind that the lives they live prior to debut and after debut most times(depending on success) don’t change all that much in the sense that their own opinions for their career are rarely shown to the public.

Is it really their choice? (Devil’s Advocate)

At first glance this law is a chance for entertainers to have their rights be acknowledged by the agencies they work for but if you look a bit closer and put in context the work-ethic and honor system Koreans have it seems like a law that was put in place to make it look like ‘something’ was being done, even though the outcome is most-likely still the same. I would call this a loop-hole and that loop-hole is: “unless their guardian give consent.” Just like we have pageant moms, sport dads and over-bearing parents here in America or where ever you live so do Korean entertainers. It may not be the will of the entertainer to continue to work but the parents who do not want to see their child weak, fail or look bad in front of managers, PD’s or any other entertainment employee that could make or break their child’s career. Also there’s a certain sense of responsibility the young entertainer feels to be strong and a sacrifice they’re willing to accept on behalf of their fans, family and staff that have worked so hard to support them. It’s kind of an unspoken rule in the industry that being over-worked and sometimes treated unfairly is all part of the job, idols or actors feel like ‘If everyone had to go through it so should I. How am I different from them? I’m not, so I should work harder to make them proud.’ The peer pressure of their sunbaes and agency weigh heavy on their decision to continue with these sometimes unfair conditions.

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If the individuals that this law was put into place to protect say it’s ‘ok’ themselves, do we have the authority to say it’s wrong to receive such treatment?

As fans, we have grown somewhat numb or use to the treatment of Hallyu entertainers even though at first it can be alarming. We all understand that the entertainment industry in any country not just in Korea, the lack of commitment to the craft can be the death of a career. However the lack of basic human rights is not the answer.

Source: (1)(2)

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  1. I can’t remember the number of times a saw a kpop artist exhausted or even about to faint but go through it for us . It just makes me feel so bad . I would rather have them relaxed even if it means that it’s going to take just a little bit longer for them to comeback . They’re still human beings . They’re still young . I just hate the kpop industry for being more materialistic than compationate . I hope they become healthy , relaxed, and happy . Hwaiting ?

  2. This is a serious issue. I cannot believe how little sleep these poor souls get just to perfect their craft and bring amazing performances to their fans. I think that it is incredibly important for them to be protected. These are just children in some cases, especially when you look at how young many of them are when they begin training. It is a lot to ask of a child or teenager, and it is important that their health and needs are looked after.

  3. I hope despite billboard, the general korean music industry apply laws to protect specially he youngers, and regulate the working hours of all entertaiment industry I mean not sleeping is the most dangerous thing to do, they just taking as a normal thing when really is not or shouldn’t be.

  4. I like this article the best cause idols life and pressure from the hallyu industry it has always shocked and interested me! I love how the article is structured because you divide the different facts amd opinions (for example: devil’s advocate) which really help to understand which parts are facts and which are theories!
    Good job !
    (I’m here from the bts’ album giveaway)

  5. This is such a serious topic, not many people realize how many time they dedicate to their carrear. They are so sleep-deprived… Sometimes I’m seriously conflicted, because if they debute younger, they should be happier to acomplish things at such a young age right? Because that’s what they chose as their carrear path… but even tho, they are still kids so….

  6. Whenever I hear of idols losing sleep just for their careers, I’m always very conflicted. One side of me is proud because they are clearly passionate about performing and being an artist. However, they are compromising their health which defeats the purpose of being a performer. An unhealthy person cannot possibly have the energy to perform as an artist. I’m glad that there are laws that forbid minors from being exploited since they are too young to be overworked and sexualized. I hope that young idols won’t compromise their health for their fans. We as fans appreciate them and want them to be happy and healthy.

  7. Knowing some of the ordeals idols have to go through before they can debut and after makes me wonder how these people can be so upbeat and maintain the bright idol image. It makes the tears when they win awards have a deeper impact on fans and the small “vacations” and breaks they get more valuable to them and make their already bright faces shine even more. I hope these artists can get more time to do normal/average things in their childhood and be able to take breaks without feeling guilt that they aren’t working hard enough. If companies are going to invest this much into these artists, I can only hope they let them enjoy the small things that these people can only experience in their childhood.

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