Korean pop culture - Pressure on Artists

Newspapers all over the world write up stories when celebrities commit suicide. Though it is not uncommon for celebrities to take their own lives, we can’t help wondering the startling reason behind.
Why those we idolize most, with outstanding qualities and remarkable achievements, would take their own lives.

In South Korea more than anywhere else it has become a trend, blogs are buzzing at the recent death of a Korean runway model. The reason may lies between the country’s demanding entertainment industry, the voracious appetite of its fans, or just the distinct reality that Korea’s stars face the pressure of also being their country’s ambassadors — as the small country has had
so many entertainers reach the international spotlight?

On November 19, model Daul Kim was found hanged in her Paris apartment. The 5′10″ statuesque beauty, who had modeled for Chanel and Topshop and traveled the world, found herself gradually becoming an icon for her country, the ambassador for the beauty of Korean women.
According to the AP:
In an Oct. 30 entry on her blog, Kim wrote she was
“mad depressed and overworked,” and in another entry said “the more I gain the more lonely it is …I know I’m like a ghost.” … Bloggers in
South Korea mourned her death, speculating she felt the pressure of
high-fashion modeling and a loss of identity.

Kim is also the ninth Korean celebrity to commit suicide over the past two years —
joining a list that includes actors, actresses, and even the past president. But though many reasons can lead one to feel desperate
enough to take one’s own life, in suicide notes, many of these
celebrities cited the pressure of the spotlight.

Last September, TV star Ahn Jae-hwan killed himself, supposedly after rising debts, and soon afterward Korea’s “national sweetheart” Choi Jin-sil committed suicide.

According to Korean entertainment columnist Park Soo
Na, one of the reasons could be Jin-sil’s status as a single mother, a
woman forging her own path. “Korean society does not like strong women, and thinks single moms have a personality disorder,” she said.

On March 7th this year, soap star Jang Ja-yeon left a seven-page suicide letter behind at her death, accusing 10 TV producers, newspaper CEOs, her talent agent and other entertainment execs of sexual exploitation.

The Guardian mused about whether the source of her struggle wasn’t the “slave contracts” Korea’s celebrities are subjected to.

Whereas some garage bands can have a year of sloppy practice sessions and get signed to Virgin records, Korea’s pop and film stars are intensely trained, supervised, and toured around to celeb functions by a coordinated network of agents, managers, publicists and execs.

In his special behind-the-scenes feature on the world of K-Pop, Edward
Chun explained how Korea’s music stars go through intense training.
“Ten to 12-hour work days, seven days a week – that is the life of a
K-pop star-in-training,” he wrote..........

Kevin from the group UKISS, describes a typical day as two hours of
exercise in the morning, four hours of dance and choreography classes,
two hours of vocal training, and two additional hours for review and
language studies. This was their 24-7 schedule – and is in addition to
busy days on the road touring, appearing on television programs, or
recording music…. When they are being asked if they felt that their company controlled their private lives, Alexander replied, “Being an entertainer, to be honest, especially teenagers who think it’s a glamorous thing – it’s only on-stage or on television. “Behind the scenes, we put in lot of effort. We are also worried and get stressed about how we can keep being popular, and how to keep our fame and be a successful star.”

Star Isak told Chun every detail of her training regimen, including how
the management kept tabs on the talent’s love life:

“[T]hey were afraid that we would sneak out. They would put in a house phone for us, and we couldn’t call from our cell phones. We had to call from our house phone to our manager as soon as we walk[ed] in the door [to inform them] that we came in.” Isak also recalled the strict no-dating policy at the time: “No dating,” she said. “You get caught, you pay consequences.” When being asked about the consequences, she replied, “I was threatened that if I didn’t break up with my boyfriend then I would be either cut from SM or not [be] able to debut.”

This restricted and controlled lifestyle, together with pressure from other aspects may have lead to deaths of many artists, especially in times of the rapid rise of Korean pop culture where great emphasis is placed on the artists and the quality of their work.

No comments: