A peculiar order of slavery: The Korean entertainment industry

The consumption culture and culture industry, one of the most important elements of this culture, is literally constituting an “order of oppression”. We should better emphasize this again. Just like the other industries, the aim of the culture industry is also to maximize profits and make a lot of money.

Maybe you will remember, I wrote about the Korean pop industry in my last column. Today, I want to detail this issue exactly through this order of oppression.

South Korea, which for long was unknown and overlooked in the pop music world, made an incredible breakthrough starting in the 1990s. Today, K-Pop is a huge industry with millions of followers, approaching a100-billion-dollar profit threshold annually. Just to give you an idea about the size of the industry, “That Gangnam song was watched 2,8 billion times.”

Well, how did this rapid development take place? Thanks to a similar method used in the Korean education system, based on oppression. In South Korea where children are treated like “robots to be educated” and taught 6 days a week, 14 hours a day, when one of their classmates commits suicide after this order becomes unbearable, the other kids are overjoyed thinking “one less student to compete against”! There are books written about the psychology of the “tiger mothers” of Korea, referring the parents of these students. The suicide statistics in schools are horrible. Yes, at the end of the day, South Korea is very successful in education. But behind that success, there is a grim reality of kids committing suicide, students who can’t even stand on their feet without taking their medications, and parents who treat their children like machines. The question here is: Is this really a success?

In South Korea, the system works almost similarly in the pop industry: In order to become a pop star, you participate in “idol” contests and try to go through the qualification phase. This already means that you have to take tones of classes even before participating in those contests. If you pass the qualifications then companies make you sign an internship contract. Well, when I say, “internship contract”, I actually mean what most people refer as “slavery contract”.

The children who pass the qualifications are put into an incredibly difficult training which no one knows the duration of. There is no money paid to them by the way. You may ask, “No money at all?” Yes, not even a penny. Under the signed deals, they also hypothecate all the revenue they are going to earn after making their album to pay for the training.

The training lasts 4 or sometimes even 5 years. These companies don’t care if you get sick, you miss your mother etc. For them, you are a machine and if you fail you are only a “something to be discarded”, nothing more.

If you get lucky enough to finish your training then these companies match you with other young stars and form a group. They help you to make a breakthrough. If you are not successful, again you are just good for nothing.

Besides the youth who were disposed of even before making it to the phase where they expect you to make a breakthrough, those who couldn’t make a breakthrough at that phase are also disposed of. That side of the story is full of suicide tales and psychological traumas.

If you make a breakthrough your slavery takes deeper root. You have to live the life the company thinks best suits you. So, whatever they think is necessary to be a “perfect pop icon,” that is the life you’re going to live.

The strange thing is: This order of oppression works so perfectly that these young people who work for about eight to ten years without earning any money and earn billions of dollars profit for their companies are promoted to the world with notions such as “freedom, success, happiness”.

The industry won’t leave anything to chance: They are making billions of dollars through the official fan products over which they have full control, the money collected in the so-called fund drives which no one knows their destinations, and the stadium concerts they organize.

What remains is a huge economy with the singers going off the rails, whose hearts are hurt, who are beaten up by their managers, who cannot even share a post on social media without permission, who are not allowed to fall in love, whose family relations are determined by their companies, who are subjected to violence and racist practices and commit suicide since they can’t take the strange slavery they were subjected to and their fans who idealize the lives idols live and their happiness, thinking that they found the key to self-love.

Of course, I know that young fans who listen to K-Pop are going to get mad at me because of this column. Moreover, although the truth is out in the open, they are also going to claim that the company order is nothing like I described here. Because the biggest success of this huge economy is its ability to create a virtual perception masterfully. So, they create the slaves who are committed to the slaves we see on screen every day.

To tell the truth, the American Entertainment industry which is known with its villainy is very innocent and amateur when compared to its Korean counterpart.

Let me say this much. This order which masterfully organizes its economics is of course also organizing the message it wants to give masterfully too. You can reach this scheme by quickly researching the organization of the K-pop groups. This is a very diverse gallery from “Mr. nice guys” to the ones who offer gender neutrality, from the ones who pomp homosexuality to the ones who say “just be happy”, from the romantic ones to the rebels. What I feel sorry about is that: We have no idea about how we get these young people out of this artificial jail! The industry is just running over our children so that they can make a little more money. And there’s nothing we can do to counter it other than sadly watching it unfold.

P.S.: K-pop youth, I am expecting a new record from you. I will feel sorry if the angry face emoji you leave under my column will be less than 2.000. Don’t forget, I really love you and I care about you. The fact that I write this column even though I know I am going to be assaulted shows this much.

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