Reason Stories Of Idols Overcoming Hardships To Succeed Are Disappearing From K-pop

It has become so difficult to find the narratives of success after hardships in the debut process of K-pop idols nowadays

Global idol group BTS is now a symbol of K-pop. However, the group had gone through ups and downs from being a hip-hop group in a small company to reaching their current position. BTS’s fandom ARMY cannot watch old variety shows of the group without shedding tears on their efforts during rookie days, and the story of how BTS overcame hardships to succeed also contributed greatly to the growth of the members. In fact, BTS and HYBE (formerly Big Hit Entertainment) had been suffering financial problems until they released the 3rd mini album “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt.1”.


However, it is hard to find such narratives in the debut process of idol groups in the K-pop mainstream after the third generation, which includes BTS and the 13-member group SEVENTEEN

Of course, it still exists in idol groups from small and medium-sized agencies, but there is a noticeable tendency to reduce hardship stories among idols from big agencies who probably receive keen attention even before their debut and achieve good results right after they are introduced to the public. RIIZE from SM and TWS from Pledis (HYBE) are good examples of this situation. Moreover, there’s even anticipation for the emergence of chaebols in K-pop as Shinsegae’s granddaughter is rumored to be part of The Black Label’s new girl group.

In this way, the trend of “the rich becoming richer” will gradually arise among rookie K-pop groups, making the possibility of an idol with a poor background becoming famous become extremely rare. Regarding this issue, cultural critic Im Hee-yoon said, “There was a time when even idols from small companies could achieve great success after climbing backward on charts with good songs and performances. However, this phenomenon has decreased significantly in recent years”, adding “Groups like ZB1 and RIIZE sold hundreds of thousands and million albums as soon as they debuted. It is because big agencies had begun doing viral marketing ever since the groups’ predebut days.”

Along with the K-pop craze, the status of K-pop artists has changed a lot and the government also started promoting K-pop in cultural events and diplomatic stages. As such, many are now considering the Korean Wave, centering on K-pop, as a core industry in Korea. Along with the rising status of K-pop idols domestically and globally, even chaebols are entering the K-pop scene and many idols have been well-known stars since they were trainees. 

This popularity is quantified by followers and likes on social media. Looking at BTS, BLACKPINK and NewJeans, it is easy to realize that these figures directly affect the popularity of idols. That’s also the reason luxury brands now appoint K-pop stars as ambassadors very quickly.

Critic Im emphasized, “Stories of overcoming hardships don’t suit those who boast great SNS numbers and huge popularity from the early days of their debut”.

In fact, trainees with diverse backgrounds have already been sorted out during the audition, training process, and the selection of debut members on public audition programs. As this process is now shared with fans, there’s no need to show hardship narratives or competition among debuting groups.

The Black Label

This trend of K-pop actually reflects the social phenomenon. Similar to children from wealthy families having higher chances of succeeding in society as they have studied in good environments and prestigious schools since their young ages, idol prodigies now receive comprehensive support, such as dance, vocal and language lessons, to become talented K-pop idols.

In addition, critic Im also mentioned content and short-form media as one of the reasons why stories of overcoming hardships have disappeared in K-pop. He said, “In this era, there’s no time for viewers to follow the process of idols overcoming hardships and growing up. Many just want to see the talents of idols immediately”. Now with more money invested in content quality, better content naturally emerges.

Source: Naver

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