It’s no secret that the road to K-pop stardom is tough and brutal.
Some idols have spoken out, and earlier this year, a former K-pop star even went on Twitch to reveal some details about her dark past though the videos have been removed.
So what exactly does it take to make a K-pop idol? Let’s lift the veil of mystery and take a look.
Male and female trainees are segregated
According to SCMP Magazine, to prevent any sort of romantic distractions from springing up among their young recruits, K-pop agencies keep their male and female trainees segregated. On a talkshow in 2017, Blackpink’s Rose revealed that male and female trainees weren’t allowed to have any form of interaction or be left alone in the same space.
Therefore, dinner times are scheduled strictly and the managers of female trainees are looking out to make sure none of the male trainees linger around. They will even intentionally block the view of any male trainees who happened to pass by.
These rules are said to be relaxed after their debut, and idols are encouraged to have musical collaborations.
The no-dating policy is pretty much public knowledge by now.
JYP Entertainment, which manages Twice and Got7, is famous for stopping their artistes from dating until three years after their public debut. Founder Park Jin-young tweeted: “After the debut, I advise them to not meet friends and only stay focused on practising for three years.”
In a 2015 interview, he further clarified: “It’s only for three years. After that they are free to bring boyfriends over, and I would buy them dinner.”
This rule is widely referenced and many JYP idols have been asked when their three-year countdown will end. In 2016, Korean girl group Wonder Girls once joked: “Now we are free to date anybody. So if you guys have any interest, call us, text us, whatever, thank you.”
As mobile phones are viewed as a distraction, K-pop idol wannabes are said to be denied access to their phones until after they have won first place in a music show.
In 2016, girl group GFriend said on a South Korean music competition show that they now have personal phones after they won a music show.
SNSD’s Tiffany Young also went on the Zach Sang Show in 2018 and confessed that when the group was first formed, the members didn’t have mobile phones so she had to use a public phone and make international calls to her parents in the US.
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Strict diets and weekly weight checks
In February, BTS went on The Tonight Show and shared about the “black bean incident” where member RM sneaked out during their training years to eat jajangmyeon for four minutes only because he told everyone he was going to the washroom.
And in the YouTube original series BTS: Burn the Stage, RM said that he and fellow group member V once shoved ice-cream into their pockets after they noticed a black van following them. He said: “I got scared thinking it might be someone from the agency. So we shoved the ice cream into our pockets to pretend like we weren’t having ice cream.”
K-pop idol wannabes were also subjected to weekly weight checks which turned into a Hunger Games of sorts as their records would be publicly displayed.
Actress Kim Jae-kyung, who was part of the girl group Rainbow, shared in 2015 that their agency would conduct weekly weight checks and publicly display the numbers. These caused much stress to band members who would “cut their nails short, go to the bathroom repeatedly, and spit out saliva” to try and shave off as much weight as possible.
On V Live in 2018, Twice’s Momo also admitted that she was given one week to shed 7kg which led to an extreme and unhealthy weight loss plan. The Japanese star would eat only one cube of ice and hit the gym.
This traumatised her to the point where she cried herself to sleep because she was “scared that I might not wake up again”.