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?
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.
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.