With Hwayoung‘s controversy with T-ara coming to public light, the K-Pop industry is now attempting to take a closer look as to where these issues could be stemming from. Unsurprisingly, Hwayoung isn’t the only one suffering, as other groups came forward with their own concerns.
Reporters were able to find that the issue of bullying already has strong roots within idol groups, especially with the growth K-Pop has been seeing lately. There’s a correlation between the level of an individual member’s star power and the level of discontentment within the group, as the bigger the difference there is in income, the more prone the group is to bullying.
A B list group anonymously named ‘A‘ has been battling bullying issues since their debut because of member ‘B‘, who is considered the face of the group due to her various activities in dramas and variety programs. Although she helped bring the group’s name to the spotlight, she eventually became the target of bullying due to the vast difference in their earnings.
A former manager of the group stated, “Idol groups are young in age so it’s easy for them to get swept up in emotions. The members know that the company favors to get at least one member to popularity in order to have the group follow, but they still bully that member once it happens. These days, companies have to rotate the group’s center member while eyeing the members.”
The trainee system also plays a part in the issue since stars are picked at a young age and put through five to six years of training at the least, before having to endure hard competition to be chosen as a final member. Naturally, new members that join in the middle get faced with criticism and hate for essentially “getting a free ride.”
Girl group ‘C’ is representative of this case, as they were recently found to have been bullying their new member.
Another manager in the industry revealed, “Whenever I saw member D of group C, she was always standing alone in the hallway outside of her waiting room at music programs. The members would be so immature in the way they treated her, such as forcing her to wear the outfit concept they hated the most or giving her the most outrageous hair concepts. In the case of bigger groups, they’ll try to use the senior card to train the new member into submission by forcing them to use separate hair salons and forcing them into smaller vans.”
The only solution at the time seems to be ample communication between both the members and the company. Pop critic Kang Tae Gyu commented, “The issue of bullying within idol groups is severe, as it’s a sensitive issue that’s difficult for the company to get themselves involved in. Managers will usually only know that it’s happening but not the inner details, and won’t try to resolve the problem since it’s not something they can make a sound judgement on.”
The critic compared the problem to homeroom teachers being oblivious to the problems of bullying within the classroom. Unlike members who are together 24 hours on top of dorming, managers are only with them for certain times of the day.
The solution he offered was that companies setup a system that gives members an opportunity to anonymously submit issues going on within the group, and to open up communication in general. “Lack of communication can ultimately lead to bigger consequences. Just the mere notion of bullying needs to be reported immediately, and members need to be assured that their privacy will be protected.”
Another solution is for companies to make training in character and ethics mandatory.
Shinhwa‘s secret to maintaining a good relationship for 14 years also lies in their communication skills. Leader Eric had stated, “While promoting, there are times when we get sensitive, which later erupts into fights. There are a lot of instances where we even physically fought each other. There were issues, but we ended it there. We all worked hard to resolve them through communication.”
SISTAR overcame similar problems, as previously revealed by Dasom, “I used to believe that I wasn’t of any help to the team and felt envious of Hyorin and Bora unni. I wanted to be acknowledged and win over the unnis too and felt upset when I couldn’t. Every time I felt that way, though, the unnis consoled me, which helped a lot in bringing up my self confidence again.”