Is This a Democracy?


What constitutes something that should be free? There’s this concept called “the commons.” It’s a concept that describes things that everyone should be able to have access to. In terms of K-pop, perhaps the idea here is that they are doing us a public service by performing for the fans and acting as entertainment for the army while making their companies rich, but we know better. These artists are working just as much as anyone, perhaps even harder. Practices are grueling, no one ever sleeps enough, but then they are paid just enough to feed themselves, just enough to make ends meet. The stars are made to starve themselves, trainees are even weighed and made sure that they are eating as little as possible. And another thing is, these artists’ realities are that their survival is based on their looks, essentially brainwashing them into thinking they need to get plastic surgery to look good. The company may pay for that, or they may not, but that just brings back the BEP I mentioned in my earlier post.

Exid visits the army for a performance

Let’s just get this out of the way: this is not a democracy. According to Norton August, democracy means “rule by the people.”  The concept of a democracy might be ideal, but these artists are not getting paid correctly, and the government even uses them as propaganda. One thing that I feel is a step in the right direction is when ex-trainees step up and talk about their experiences. Here you can get a better understanding of what it’s like.


This boy happened to have trained in a bigger company, so there is less possibility of being paid poorly. However, he agrees that the slave contracts are real and it truly is hard work. The possibility of debuting was slim, so he decided not to renew his contract. On the other hand, he believes that more people should talk about their experiences. More and more people have begun to open up as more foreign kids are being trained.

While it may be true that these kids are going to school in addition to being trained in singing, dancing, acting, and the like, keeping trainees on 6 hours of sleep every day is not healthy. Working artists until they pass out? That’s a no-no. Making kids diet like crazy so that they can maintain a weight below 100 lbs? Just so that they can look “good?”  I think it’s time a change is made. No longer should we simply sit around discussing the unjustness of it all. Let’s make a petition. Let’s start a union. I hope to bring fans together and bring the democracy to K-pop.

Here are some more examples of ex-trainees speaking about their experiences.

  • Meg Smith

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