How did K-POP originate and what does the South Korean authorities have to do with it?

The whole truth about K-pop...

We tell the full story of the K-POP genre: what does the South Korean authorities and plastic surgery have to do with it?

K-pop is a musical genre that originated in South Korea in the early 1990s. It combines elements of different directions: there is electropop, hip-hop, and even modern R&B ... By the end of the decade, K-pop had become a popular subculture with a multi-million army of fans in all corners of the world! As Rolling Stone notes, the genre "headhunts listeners with repetitive catchphrases and sweet performers." So what is the secret to K-pop's success?

K-pop is all about impeccable choreography, modern visuals, and beautiful young artists. Moreover, today it is no longer just a musical genre: it is a whole subculture driven by an interest in modern South Korean fashion ... However, as it often happens, a pretty picture hides by no means the most attractive reality ... So how was K-pop born? And what about the South Korean authorities? Also, why are all K-pop idols so "perfect"? First things first…

The birth of K-pop


Since its inception, K-pop has come a long way from a little-known genre to the most popular youth subculture. As the BBC notes, K-pop bands are "impeccably produced with infectious dances and catchy melodies". Indeed, dancing is an integral attribute of this genre - K-pop artists often synchronize them with the performance of the song, which makes the performance more spectacular ... K-pop videos are no less contagious, which, as a rule, are sustained in bright saturated colors. The performances themselves, with powerful visual effects, pomp and theatricality, win the hearts of audiences around the world. Well, the “icing on the cake” is, of course, the artist himself, who has a bright, memorable image. No wonder K-pop is the most popular musical subculture today! But… where did it all start?

The recipe for success is quite simple: a tight 20-hour schedule, total control, as well as plastic surgery ... It sounds rather strange. But going a little deeper, it becomes clear what, in fact, we are talking about. One of the most famous pioneers of this genre are Seo Taiji and Boys: in 4 years of their existence, the group released 2 albums (plus a compilation album), and also won more than ten music awards! On its own, K-pop flourished and gained popularity until 1997: when the economic crisis hit South Korea, the government turned its attention to musical genres and decided to invest money in the development of K-pop. This was done for obvious reasons: in this way, the South Korean authorities wanted to improve the country's image in the world market. So, the reformed Ministry of Culture received a huge budget ... From now on, the whole department has been actively involved in the development of K-pop and is still engaged in this day! But the funding didn't end there...

The South Korean authorities invested in the construction of concert venues, and also actively sponsored developments in the field of holographic technologies, which made it possible to achieve the most modern and vivid visual effects during a performance ... So, very soon, K-pop turned from a musical genre into a cultural business card of the country!

The whole truth about K-pop stars


Well, now about something more interesting, namely, about K-pop musicians! Future Korean stars begin to train from childhood. It works like this: labels hold large-scale auditions, past “lucky ones” become trainees and they begin grueling workouts. At the same time, the child (since the age of future stars does not exceed 14 years old) is forced to follow a strict diet. Of course, there can be no talk of any personal time and walks with friends ... And so for 5-10 years. Now you may be thinking, “So why not drop it all and say goodbye to slave conditions?” Alas, not everything is so simple. The fact is that aspiring artists sign contracts, and if the conditions are not met, they can remain in very large debts ... And the most interesting thing is that the debut of a particular star is not guaranteed ...

For established K-Pop idols, the work is much more intense and challenging than for trainees. On average, a working day can stretch up to 20 hours! And during this time, the artist needs to take part in a number of shootings ... And yes: it happens almost every day, because the label cannot lose the wave of hype! But even this is not the most frightening and interesting at the same time ...

BTS group on stage
BTS group on stage

Many believe that K-pop idols are real millionaires, because they have such a huge audience, such large-scale concerts, and so on. But… the reality is much harsher: despite their success and popularity, K-pop artists actually earn very little. Slave contracts are to blame. Based on the conditions, the label takes 80-90% of the income of the artist or group ... At the same time, a K-pop group can have up to 20 people! And sharing the remaining 10-20% of income with everyone is by no means the most exciting thing to do. It is not surprising that in some cases all this leads to nervous breakdowns, and sometimes physical health problems ... In fact, it is the label that controls everything (up to the image of the ward), while the artist simply "sits at the helm": so despite for all the prestige and popularity, this is really slave labor with hellish conditions ...

So, what about plastic surgery? Everything is very simple: this is another condition of the label. Yes Yes! Labels select future stars based on such an important factor as appearance. And if a potential K-pop idol has everything but a perfect face, he should go under the knife... After that, it's really worth thinking a few times, is the game worth the candle?


BTS Group
BTS Group

Well, a few words about K-pop in the end ... Despite its huge popularity, this genre is often criticized. It's all about the already mentioned "slave contracts": many magazines, critics and musicians do not support the fact that labels are trying to make the most of the work of young artists ... K-pop artists live in a really grueling schedule with several hours to sleep ... Also they have obsessive female fans who, at times, break into their homes, steal personal items and install hidden cameras. With all this, with a “defective” artist who did not live up to the expectations of the label, I act very simply: they don’t try to develop him, but simply replace him with someone else ... This is a cruel music business of a conveyor type.

Remarkably, North Korea has banned K-pop. However, this does not stop the inhabitants of the country: smugglers import banned music on flash drives and disks. The popularity of K-pop is growing inexorably: industry sales in 2009 amounted to more than 30 million dollars! In 2020, every member of the popular K-pop group BTS was recognized as a multi-millionaire… Except their label, in doing so, became a billionaire. Actually, that's all.

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