Being a kpop idol is no easy feat. There are many things that idols must abide by in order to debut but even abiding by these set of rules doesn’t guarantee a successful debut and career.
Of course, rules differ by the agency but idols and trainees alike must follow rules that would, in some cases, seem inhumane and baffling for the average Joe.
Because companies market idols as ‘innocent’ and ‘well-behaved,’ wrongdoings aren’t tolerated, in fact, even the slightest mistake could ruin a group or an idol. Idols are held to high standards and many view them as ‘the perfect individuals.’
It also means that they’re heavily criticized, pushed away by the industry or even kicked out by their own agency if they make a certain mistake.
In other countries, some of the below mistakes (not all) might seem forgivable or even ok (such as dating for example), many choose to believe singers are humans who can make mistakes and shouldn’t be crucified especially if they improve themselves and try to show progress.
Today, I thought it would be a good idea to go over some of the mistakes/average things/crimes that could literally cost you your career if you’re a Kpop idol, even if you repent and/or pay for your mistakes and/or crime/s.
Note 1: this list and article is about Korean fandoms and netizens reaction to what they deem controversial news. It also doesn’t mean that every one of them reacted negatively to those news but we’re talking about extreme situations.
Note 2: We’re also talking about situations that drew immense backlash. The below list is not comprehensive either.
Let’s start with the lightest and also the most puzzling on this list.
Dating might seem like a natural thing to do that every human has the right to; idols don’t have that luxury, at least no publicly. Dating news is often considered a ‘scandal’ of big caliber. Dispatch managed to make an empire out of reporting on celebrity couple dating news. They have even made a tradition to expose one couple on January 1st of each year. They also expose couples throughout the year as well.
Dating news is taking extremely seriously by fandoms, especially since companies market idols as fans’ property in a sense, they’re always very engaging and show their love for fans and would immediately deny having anyone in their hearts beside fans when asked. Companies help promote that possessive idol-culture that encourages obsessive unhealthy behavior.
Dating news cause stock price for Kpop companies to fall, it could also harm the entire group and cause fans to leave their side since it becomes an issue of money, idol companies they take it seriously, a little too seriously.
JYP, for example, imposes a three-year dating ban on its idols. YG also imposes a dating ban; some say its four years while others say it’s three. We don’t have the official number but we do know that there is a dating ban.
Depending on a set of circumstances, getting ‘caught’ dating could mean anything from a hiatus to getting kicked out of a group and the agency as a whole. It could also mean your fandom would turn their backs on you and demand your departure from your group.
Let’s take a look at people whose fandom turned their backs on them because of their dating news. A good example of that would be Kang Daniel, who recently confirmed to be dating TWICE Jihyo. A good portion of the Korean fandom turned their backs on him following his dating news.
As for getting kicked out/leaving your group, there are many examples. One of the biggest examples has to former Pentagon member Hyojong (currently known as Dawn).
Cube, their agency, initially denied HyunA and Hyojong dating news when they spread in 2018. The couple then proceeded to tell another news outlet they were dating without alerting Cube which triggered a series of events. It started with removing Hyojong from the group and ended with terminating his contract. HyunA also left.
There are also instances where you don’t get obvious repercussions from the agency but fans take care of it for you. A good example of that would be Baekhyun and Taeyeon dating news which triggered a huge, both were scrutinized for dating each other.
Not to forget the awful comments you receive if you’re confirmed to be dating someone.
It doesn’t even have to be true; bullying is taken very seriously by Korean netizens and it’s enough to end or seriously damage your career. It usually leaves a stain and follows you till the end.
One of the most recent cases has to be SuperM Taeyong whose past became known through online community posts. In response to bullying allegations plus alleged homophobia, SM released a very strange response; they didn’t deny it but stated that records have no official mention of what’s being alleged and there is also no record of disciplinary action which as you’d imagine angered netizens even more.
They also stated,
“Taeyong deeply regrets the way he behaved and said hurtful things while in middle school before he began to dream of being a singer, he has said that both while he was a trainee and after his debut that he apologized to everyone who was hurt.”
It wasn’t the first time Taeyong alleged bullying past came to light.
Despite all the rumors that could’ve easily ended his career, SM kept him and pushed through with promotions despite the rumors surrounding him. He’s one of the very few cases of idols who managed to remain in their agency despite the bullying allegations.
The biggest case in relation to bullying has to T-ara’s case. To summarize it as much as possible, it happened in 2012. Back then, rumors erupted that the members of T-ara had bullied Hwayoung, resulting in the eventual departure of Hwayoung from the girl group. T-ara was at the height of their popularity and they took a serious hit following the allegations so much so that they never managed to get back up from it.
They were immensely criticized for the unproven rumors that were ignited by Hwayoung and her twin sister. However, a couple of years ago, testimonies revealed another side of the story.
In 2017, a staff member couldn’t bear watching the sisters play the victim role again when they saw them on TV; the staff member posted a lengthy post challenging their claims from 2012. Fans switched sides and started cursing at the sisters for playing the victim role. The new side of the story was backed by former members and other staff members who worked with T-ara at the time.
Sadly, T-ara was never able to recover from the allegations, they were on their way to becoming one of the biggest girl groups but the rumors that were poorly dealt with by the label ruined their careers.
This is an offense punishable by law and Koreans take it super seriously.
Getting caught drunk driving could literally mean the end of your career or serious damage to it.
A good example of that is former Super Junior member Kangin who got caught not once but twice on different occasions drunk driving before running and crashing into things.
For his first drunk driving incident, fans’ demanded his departure but he instead took hiatus for a while. He then came back only to be caught drunk driving again not too long after his return. This time, Super junior Korean fandom announced their plans to boycott the group comeback if he was to participate in it. SM caved in to their demands and since 2016 he didn’t participate in any broadcasting activities or group activities.
In 2019, a couple of months ago, he announced his departure from Super Junior.
Depending on how serious the incident is, it could mean anything from hiatus for a while to forced retirement from the industry. Korean netizens are not kind to those who injure/kill people for drunk driving. A good example of that would be actor Son Seung Won who had a bright future ahead of him.
He was arrested and is currently serving time in prison after crashing his father’s car into another vehicle while drunk in December of 2018, marking the fourth time he was caught driving under the influence. His career is over and he likely won’t be able to find a job once he’s released from prison.
Koreans take such things extremely seriously, borrowing money from people and not returning it is a big no-no, and depending on how many people you damage by your actions, it could possibly extend to mean the end of your career.
Former MONSTA X member Wonho was exposed for allegedly borrowing money from former TV personality Jang Da Eun and not returning it; he reportedly borrowed well over $25,000 and was heavily criticized for it. He left due to a variety of reasons but netizens weren’t happy to learn of that rumor about him.
But what takes the cake in this section would have to be rapper Microdot because his career crashed because of his parents’ actions, yes, not his, but his parents’ actions.
It was revealed that his parents borrowed a total of 400 million won (approximately $334,000) from around 10 relatives and town residents from 1990 to 1998, then, they ran away to New Zealand without paying back the money.
What made it worse for the rapper was his initial response. When the news broke out in November of 2018, he flat out denied it and even promised to take strict legal action against those who spread the rumors back then.
The poor rapper legitimately thought they were malicious rumors; he ended up apologizing and explained that he was 5 years old when his parents left the country and didn’t know such thing had even happened.
Despite his apology and subsequent departure from all the shows he’s been on, Netizens didn’t accept his apology and continued to heavily criticize him and his family for bring misfortune upon so many families.
His parents were prosecuted and sentenced to prison in 2019. The controversy caused rapper Microdot and his brother Sanchez their careers.
Gambling is legalized in many countries around the world but it’s illegal for South Koreans to gamble whether it be in their own country or overseas. It usually carries a fine and a whole lot of public shame along with it.
Some of the most recent cases have to Seungri and Yang Hyun Suk who were under police investigation for gambling overseas. Their cases were recently forwarded to prosecution on charges of habitual gambling.
It’s not accurate to say that the gambling allegations caused what it did for Seungri and Yang Hyun Suk, it was rather a couple of suspicions of crimes ranging from ‘ah’ to ‘shit, they did what?’ that caused their fall.
Seungri has since left BIGBANG and YG. Yang Hyun Suk stepped down from YG due to his scandals.
Since gambling is also taken seriously, it also meant that your reputation could take a hit if you’re even under that suspicion. Earlier this year, Kim Joon Ho and Cha Tae Hyun were falsely reported to be gambling, it was later proven to have been a joke amongst themselves, but serious damage was done to their schedules. They stepped down from all shows following the controversy and heavily denied having gambled. In this case, netizens were actually extremely sad that they were framed and advocated for both of them to sue the malicious news outlets who spread misinformation.
There are many actors and idols (usually older idols) who were caught gambling and paid fines for that. They usually take a hiatus but some of them return to broadcast after a while.
While marijuana might be legalized in some countries around the world, that’s not the case for South Korea. In fact, it’s very frowned upon and carries fines or a prison sentence depending on the offense and a couple of other factors.
Getting caught smoking marijuana or having smoked marijuana would get you into deep trouble, anything from fandoms turning their backs on you, to getting kicked out of your group and even agency, not to mention the fact that you have to take a hiatus for a while.
Former iKON member B.I left his group and his contract was terminated after an informant was reportedly threatened by Yang Hyun Suk to conceal that B.I smoked marijuana in the past.
B.I is currently undergoing police investigation and has already suffered serious damage to his image, netizens heavily criticized him for smoking marijuana and for allegedly almost getting away with it because of Yang Hyun Suk alleged involvement.
This is a case is currently ongoing, so please be mindful that some things can be either confirmed or denied later on.
Wonho also left MONSTA X due to allegations of his marijuana use in 2013. He is currently being investigated by the police. His agency recently announced they terminated his contract due to recent events.
Evading Military Service Or Attempting To Evade It
Military service is a sensitive topic in South Korea. All males must serve their country and it usually lasts for a little less than 2 years. Military life is certainly not easy and usually a hiatus for two years could mean the death of a celebrity career which is why some idols had attempted to evade it in the past.
Koreans don’t like those who receive preferential treatment especially if it has to do with the military. This also means that your career could literally end if you’re caught trying to evade military service.
There are two great examples of that; we’ll take a look at the case of the famous rapper MC Mong.
He had reportedly attempted to remove his teeth to evade military service in 2010. A statement by his dentist caused a public outcry so much so that he had to halt all his activities, TV appearances and more. He was even investigated by the South Korean Military Manpower Administration.
In 2011, He was cleared of intentionally pulling out healthy teeth to be exempted from military duty but the damage has already been done. He was unable to release music for a while and the public has a negative view of him to this day, he was also unable to appear on TV or promote his music releases since 2010.
He recently made a comeback and it topped charts all over South Korea and even achieved a perfect-all-kill which is very rare these days. It seems that the public is slowly coming around. He still lays low.
Another good example of that would be Yoo Seung Jun, who is still to this day the most infamous case of an idol attempting to evade service. His career was completely and utterly destroyed and to top that, he wasn’t able to set foot in South Korea for a long time. It’s a long story so I suggest you look it up.
Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment allegations or proven
Sexual harassment or sexual assault is not taken lightly by Korean netizens and rightfully so. This means that for idols or actors who are caught in the act or even suspected of it, their careers either end or come to a halt.
There are so many examples of this section. Throughout 2018 #MeToo movement, many actors were suspected of sexual assault or harassment, some of them managed to recover while others had their careers destroyed.
A good example of that would be Jung Joon Young who destroyed not only his career but the careers of at least 5 more idols. It started with his phone messages leaking to the public which later became the biggest controversy in Kpop history.
It’s a very long heartbreaking story about women who were taken advantage of by Jung Joon Young who filmed them in compromising situations without consent and proceeded to share it with his idol friends including Seungri, Eddy Kim, Roy Kim and many others.
Most of those names attached to his controversy halted their activities and left their groups, some of them also left the industry as a whole. It is unknown if any of the idols mentioned in Jung Joon Young chatroom logs will ever return to the industry.
He is currently sitting in jail and had already undergone two trials alongside former FTISLAND member Choi Jong Hoon. He was first charged with violating the Special Act on Punishment of Sexual Crimes (filming and spreading illegally taken footage), which he admitted to.
Jung Joon Young, Choi Jong Hoon, and other members of their chatroom were charged with aggravated rape which they continue to deny.
There is also Choi Jong Hoon who currently faces charges of multiple-perpetrator sexual assault, which he continues to heavily deny through his lawyer. He’s also currently sitting in jail. Both have since left their agencies and the entertainment industry as well.
So there you have it, it’s a long article, I know, but it’s an interesting topic. South Korea has different laws and culture and they respond to controversy differently.
I would like to know your opinion on this article, what do you think of the way netizens handle controversy surrounding idols?