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The Dark Side of Fame
Written by Rin Choi | Published. 2020.05.03 12:43 | Count : 664

South Korea is known for its global phenomenon Korean Pop. Also referred to as K-pop, it has grabbed the attention of teenage and adult music lovers worldwide. 

During stage performances, you see the K-pop idols singing and dancing in beautiful costumes under intense and colorful spotlights, and it is impossible to imagine the realities behind their smiling faces. Behind all the glitz, these idols are often hiding serious depression, anxiety and fear. Korea’s entertainment industry’s management system keeps the artists in a highly regulated environment. And yet, no management company is able to fully shield their artists from negative articles, photographs and malicious comments posted by ‘anti-fans’ which is actually another major source of stress for these artists. 

The sad unfortunate cases of Sulli, Goo Hara and Jonghyun, all of whom took their own lives after struggling with negative media publications and hateful comments posted online, highlight the extent of the tragedy that can result. 

I interviewed Kim Jaeyong, who began his career as a member of the K-pop boy band “Halo” and is currently pursuing a career as an actor (he appeared in dramas such as “Love with Flaws (MBC)” and “The Miracle We Met (KBS)”. 

[Photo of actor ‘Jaeyong Kim’ during interview by Rin Choi. 
Photo Courtesy of Kevin Kim]

Mr. Kim recalled a former colleague who also took his own life, after struggling with serious stress and depression that is common in the Korean entertainment industry. “Before the incident, I actually had no idea. He was bright, he smiled very often, but he was suddenly gone. Honestly, I had no clue about the internal pain that he had. I couldn't have guessed it. It was so sudden, so I questioned myself, if he had just shared his worries, his pain, wouldn’t that have made it easier for him? Would it possibly have gone that far if he had decided to tell a friend, a family member, go on vacation, or go out and have a drink?”. 

[Poster image for “Love with Flaws” (MBC), Jaeyong Kim (far right) / Approved by ASTORY Production]
[“The Miracle We Met” (KBS2), Jaeyong Kim (right) / Approved by ASTORY Production]

The deaths of the artists mentioned above demonstrate the harsh realities of the industry. Not only do artists have to deal with a huge amount of pressure to succeed in a very competitive market, but they also become victims of malevolent online abuse from the anti-fans who do not think about the possible consequences of their venomous words. 

People have lodged petitions to the South Korean President Moon Jae-In’s website calling for a legislation to punish such behavior of the anti-fans. Some have suggested that the media should only allow access using one’s legal name rather than a username as it would make people less likely to post hate comments. Recently, Kakao and Naver have removed the comments sections for articles related to the entertainment industry. Mr. Kim commented that “if there are 10 comments, 9 positive and 1 harsh comment, it is that one harsh comment that can drive an artist to suicide. I think Kakao and Naver have made a smart move”.

[Photo of actor ‘Jaeyong Kim’ during interview by Rin Choi. 
Photo Courtesy of Kevin Kim]

I was able to hear from Mr. Kim about the pain and suffering that is hidden by the flashy images of celebrities that we see on television. He added, “I mean, many people think that having a job as an actor/singer is very flamboyant, cool, and full of only positive things. A lot of people actually believe that it’s a really easy occupation to hold. They think that all we need to do is to go out in public and show our ‘great character’. However, when you really become a part of the entertainment industry, you’ll realize that it has its downsides and hardships that are hardly imaginable to ousiders”.

[Photo of actor ‘Jaeyong Kim’ during interview by Rin Choi. Photo Courtesy of Kevin Kim]

I asked Mr. Kim how he was coping with his high stress job. “If I were not an actor and had a more common occupation, I would be able to go wherever I want, holding my girlfriend’s hand and eat street tteokbooki. I’ve always wanted to do these things, like most people. But this isn’t easy as an artist. A bit of anonymity like that would be a breath of fresh air for us. But, in the end, I really wish that management companies would check up on their artists’ mental health. If such a system existed, there would be far less incidents of celebrities falling victim to stress,” said Kim Jaeyong.

It is important to realize that K-pop idols and other artists in the entertainment industry are normal human beings, just like the rest of us. They have sacrificed a ‘normal’ life that we all take for granted and instead are always in the public eye, waiting for an opportunity that might never come. Having to read negative, hateful, and in many cases, untrue articles and comments about themselves is inhumane and unfair. I agree that we are all entitled to have an opinion, but before we publish these opinions online, we should think about the effect this can have on other peoples’ lives.  

 








Rin Choi
Freshman (Grade 9)
Asia Pacific International School

Rin Choi  student_reporter@dherald.com

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