How Events of 2014 Affected the Korean Genre
By Dennise DeJesus
2014 created a buzz within the Korean music industry. Some aspects were positive as new K-Pop groups dominated the top of music charts once owned by veteran groups. But other aspects were revolved around negative events and scandals that plagued the year among K-Pop fans as “the worst year of K-Pop”.
K-Pop is one of the most popular music genres in the world. Known for its bright visual music videos, catchy songs and synchronized choreography, it is no wonder why it captivates an international audience. In the beginning of the year, the direction of K-Pop differed from the past previous years. During 2007-2011, the years of the Hallyu wave, many groups debuted with a cutesy concept portraying innocence.
But as K-Pop grew over the years, groups started to focus on sexier concepts which boosted sales and video views. By February, girl groups promoted with a sexy concept. Though broadcast networks place restrictions with choreographies, groups such as Girls’ Day and AOA rose with popularity. But all of this is due to the trending concepts in the industry.
In the industry, an average K-Pop idol trains an average minimum of two years with a company before debuting in a group. Though in most cases, idols from successful groups have trained from five to seven years.
Along with the training schedule, the new idols are expected to not date until the ban from their contract is lifted and they are indebted to the company with a fee called the Breaking Even Point (BEP). The BEP includes the fees for training for vocals and dancing, dorms, transportation and anything invested into them.
As the group debuts, they are expected to pay the company the BEP with the sales of their singles and albums. But this fee can also lead to the poor treatment of idols. Along with the fees, the idols go through jam packed schedules that keep them busy throughout the promotion period.
These include live performances on television, interviews on shows and traveling to concerts to promote their music. During these busy schedules, idols only have time to sleep during break periods, drives to events and time given to sleep before the next day’s schedule.
Many idols throughout the years have either performed during sickness or collapsed on stage during performances. Some idols also have not been paid for their hard work. As a result of mistreatment, a number of K-Pop idols have filed lawsuits on their companies in 2014.
Wu Yi Fan (Kris) and Luhan, Chinese members of the boyband EXO, both filed lawsuits against their company S.M. Entertainment due to the company giving more preferential treatment to the Korean members of EXO. B.A.P., another popular group, filed a lawsuit with their company T.S. Entertainment.
The entire group’s claim was with unfair treatment with the “slave contract”. The conditions with the claim include a violation of civil rights, contracts being used for only the company’s benefit instead of all six members and the profits of sales being undistributed fairly.
Sadly, a tragedy shook up the K-Pop world by storm. Rise Kwon and Eunbi Go, members of the rookie girl group Ladies Code were involved in a car accident. On September 2, the van which carried the girls lost control, hitting a guardrail.
The band and other staff members were traveling back to Seoul after a concert in Daegu, which is about a five-hour drive from Seoul. Go died at the scene of the accident while Kwon eventually died of severe head injuries.
The driver of the van was driving at dawn in rainy conditions. Around 1:30 A.M. was the confirmed time of the crash. Currently, the driver of the van was arrested for the accident.
Along with the mistreatments, Korean media has created havoc for idols. Bom Park of 2NE1 was accused of smuggling amphetamine drugs into Korea. Park was sent amphetamines in 2010 from her parents in the US due to medicines in Korea were not combating her depression.
Though the case and investigation of were closed in 2011, the news resurfaced in 2014. Korean citizens and the media accused Park as a drug user and criticized Park’s agency YG Entertainment for not putting an official statement for the company. Park had to leave a show she appeared in and has not appeared with 2NE1’s performances in Korea since then.
In the end, 2014 was a rocky year plagued by lawsuits, mistreatment, scandals, rumors and a bunch of concepts that created new top groups. Though 2015 started, a clean slate is given to start over with new songs and better events throughout the year.