5:46 pm - 10/13/2012

The grim reality behind the rise of the entertainment market

I found an interesting series of articles by E-Daily where they delve into the issues surrounding the over-saturation of the idol market. It gives some good insight so check it out below!

We have reached a generation where there are now over one million teens dreaming of becoming idols.

One TV advertisement lays out the reality with just a simple phrase: "You and I can be an idol; there are no more children dreaming of becoming scientists." In certain parts of Seoul like Nonhyundong and Chungdamdong alone, there are an estimated 5,000 trainees hoping for a chance to debut. If you include the number of elementary school students who listed becoming an idol as their career goal, the number far exceeds a million.

Jumping with the trend is also the growth of businesses specializing in idol trainees. From vocal academies to acting academies, and even plastic surgery hospitals - they're all spreading by the day. Every sector of the market is wanting a piece of the pie, and Gangnam is evidence of that as there simply aren't enough buildings or space anymore to house new businesses like villa-style dormitories for idol groups and dance rehearsal studios.

There has been an incredible rise in academies over the past two to three years. Vocal academies have risen by 10 times through the success of audition shows like Mnet's 'Superstar K'. A director of the Voice Fact Academy commented, "There are over 3,000 registered vocal academies nationwide. There are hundreds alone in Seoul. Just until two to three years ago, there were only a handful of major academies, but now there are probably close to 40~50."

Hospitals specializing in plastic surgery and dermatology, beauty salons, and fitness centers are all popular business items as well. A company spends close to $1,000~2,000 USD a month on beauty expenses alone to prepare for their debut.

CEO Lee Dae Hee of Star Fox Entertainment had to say, "Since it is a profession that focuses on what you have to show, our artists and trainees spend more on managing their outer appearance than their actual skills. These days, competition is tough so these business will partner up with entertainment companies for special perks and promotional offers."

The rise in such businesses can be accredited to the profit value of the Korea entertainment market. There are rising numbers across the board, as seen with the 16% rise in the content development market, an 11.9% rise in the music market, a 4.5% rise in the movie market, and a 6.1% rise in the broadcast market.

Unfortunately, there's also a shadow looming over these numbers. In hand with the rise of success also brings 'dark hands' like unqualified instructors setting up academies to bait trainees and rob them of their money and time. The secretary general of the Entertainment Management Association said, "There isn't a clear answer that leads to becoming a celebrity so trainees will do whatever they can to get the skills they need to succeed. The only way we can continue the growth of the entertainment market is if we block people from using the dreams of these kids for money."


Let's take a look at the monthly expenses for 'A', an actress who had a small role in a recent drama. She spends over $1,000 USD a month on beauty expenses alone. $500 goes into acting lessons (8 to 10 times a month), $500 goes into getting facial treatments (10 times a month), $100 goes into getting hair treatments (once a month), $500 goes into Pilates, and $400 goes into Japanese lessons.

The numbers aren't too different from other trainees or rookie stars.

Audition programs are now even after the pockets of these people, as they've started demanding application fees per audition. One such operation was caught and brought to court. Lee Ji Hoon of JellyFish Entertainment had to say, "It is possible that auditions will ask for a minimum fee, but you should always be suspicious if you're asked more than what you feel you should be comfortable with."

Some academies have even taken to demanding money from their students for training upkeep. One CEO revealed that companies will usually pay for everything for the artist up front and then request a payback after the artist has debuted and made enough money to do well. Such is the case with plastic surgery. Companies will pick a hospital of their choice for the procedure and the trainee can pay back the costs after their debut.


We hear back from 'C', who's just visited a sex salon in Hakdong, Seoul. There's a special menu in this salon. A waiter gave him a menu with the title 'Service Menu'. On it is a list of the names of celebrity trainees. There are even some names that have debuted and are promoting today. "I was really surprised to see so many names I recognized."

An insider who's worked for over 10 years in the industry revealed, "Celebrities who go on hiatus will work at these sex salons or as DJs and other types of 'service' workers at karaokes to make a living."

It's naive to think that just because you become a celebrity that everything else will fall into place. Being in the entertainment industry is like working freelance in that you have to give up on being paid regularly. According to the Korea Broadcasting Actors Union, 72% of the 5,000 actors they have registered with them make less than $10,000 USD a year.

The situation isn't any different for idols. Although it's just as hard without a company, the difficulties they face are the same even with a company. At their request, artists can ask that the company pay for their living expenses, but this will all be taken out of their next pay check, so they continually sit on debt.

And just because you've landed a drama role doesn't mean much either. The minimum amount an actor was paid for a drama was $36.65 USD. For a 16 episode mini-series, the actor was basically paid 70 cents an episode once you take out the division with the company and other expenses like stylists, transportation, food, etc.

That's why most will take on two jobs to make ends meet. One actress 'C' works at a bar in Gangnam. "When people ask me why I'm working here, I don't know what to tell them."

Others can't escape the seduction of the fast cash the sex service industry can bring. Those that do end up going this route, however, live every day in fear and anxiety of whether they can pick their careers back up again.

'D', who's currently preparing for his own debut, said, "I knew this one trainee who didn't have a lot of things going for him after some disagreements with his company. He began working at a bar while going through some tough times and eventually fell to depression and developed a panic disorder, which is making it even harder for him to find a job."

sources: netizenbuzz + E-Daily 1 2 3
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hopeandmemory 13th-Oct-2012 04:57 pm (UTC)
:(((((((((((

god this shit is so fucked up, i feel so sorry for these people. blablablah they signed a contract or whatever but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have compassion for them. sure, they get everything taken care of, but when you pay someone 70 cents an episode, it makes it that much harder to get out from under the thumb of their agency. how miserable. :/ you couldn't pay me to be an idol, i wish these kids would realize what a crapshoot it is. you don't just become big bang or SNSD overnight. :|
muzegrey 13th-Oct-2012 04:58 pm (UTC)
I would never want to be a celeb in Korea.
Money well, more like fame, isn't worth it to me.

Everything is manufactured and mediocre.

Not to mention that most top stars had to sleep with someone to begin with. Sickening.

The fact that these people are willing to sell themselves or parents are willing to sell their children just to have 5 minutes of fame at most or even to be successful is really telling.

Edited at 2012-10-13 04:59 pm (UTC)
asnindie 13th-Oct-2012 06:03 pm (UTC)
Actors have it really bad (in general, not just Korea), to get roles it's quite well known that agencies will pimp out actors to agents and producers. It's a shitty world.
soramai 13th-Oct-2012 04:59 pm (UTC)
I read that just few minutes ago on netizenbuzz.

5,000 trainees hoping for a chance to debut

errr, there are already too much idols, this is sad.

Damn, I want to know who work in the sex salon.

soramai 13th-Oct-2012 05:53 pm (UTC)
our artists and trainees spend more on managing their outer appearance than their actual skills

that's why some of them are so bad.

muzegrey 13th-Oct-2012 05:00 pm (UTC)
This is basically what happened to JiYoung.
supplanter 13th-Oct-2012 05:33 pm (UTC)
Who?

EDIT: Baek Jiyoung? Only other Jiyoung (I think) I know is Kara's....

Edited at 2012-10-13 05:34 pm (UTC)
crisketch 13th-Oct-2012 05:00 pm (UTC)
Jesus, 5,000 trainees for Gangnam alone is staggering. The figures and debts all sound very bleak, considering some of these stars hardly make it to celebrity status :|

Also, wowza I want to know who's plying the sex salon trade.
yingmoon26 13th-Oct-2012 08:12 pm (UTC)
i think a lot don't even debut. becoming a trainee doesn't guarantee that they will debut...then even after debut they don't necessarily get big
pepper 13th-Oct-2012 05:01 pm (UTC)
This is really sad. I mean, I knew korean celebrities were paid shit in comparison to american celebrities... but to think that 70%+ are, in fact, broke is... wow.
yunhalove 14th-Oct-2012 01:35 am (UTC)
well, to be fair, most aren't really "celebrities" yet. more scraping by as extras or minor roles like "restaurant ahjumma" "main character's friend" "crony #2" "sageuk soldier", etc, etc. i'm willing to bet the 25% or so that are actually making money number only about a couple hundred, and they're generally the ones that get the jobs again and again. which is one of the reasons why the same five or so actors are always playing the moms or dads or evil villains in the dramas we see.

i live near hollywood and it's clear that the vast majority of actors are struggling in the same way, barely making any money and just trying to get their names out there.
in_noctem 13th-Oct-2012 05:05 pm (UTC)
I wonder how much actors and idols are paid to be on variety shows. They always talk about how xx member of a group makes the most money because of variety show appearances so I'm really curious.

And nugus who never make it anywhere must be swimming in debt :\
ideservestars 13th-Oct-2012 06:27 pm (UTC)
probably not very much, I'd assume.
muramatsu_aoi 13th-Oct-2012 05:11 pm (UTC)
it's sad to know..

the actor was basically paid 70 cents an episode---> with all the debts from their management company and the other expenses, these people won't have the peace of mind to sleep each night.. and it doesnt help to know that their fame lasts only 10 years max..
lovelyxbeauty 13th-Oct-2012 05:15 pm (UTC)
this is just to sad :(

more laws should be introduced to help, or maybe make entertainment companies meet certain criteria and give them licences saying that they are trustworthy company (idk if they already do that though).
asnindie 13th-Oct-2012 06:01 pm (UTC)
Licenses can be bought but yeah they need to have some sort of committee to atleast stop people with records (esp of sexual abuse) being stopped from forming these companies. and Korea needs Child Labour Laws, alot of it is exploitation.
supplanter 13th-Oct-2012 05:40 pm (UTC)
Not terribly surprised, though interesting to see some specifics. I also figure that female trainees are routinely sexually exploited... male trainees, who knows? Overall, it has the effect of making me go "... so?" whenever an idol scandal comes up.
asnindie 13th-Oct-2012 05:59 pm (UTC)
People really need to read this kind of stuff, esp those who have delusions about what the Industry is like. Being an idol sucks, you see the good side, the bad side is something worse than most of us could bear.

"We hear back from 'C', who's just visited a sex salon in Hakdong, Seoul. There's a special menu in this salon. A waiter gave him a menu with the title 'Service Menu'. On it is a list of the names of celebrity trainees. There are even some names that have debuted and are promoting today. "I was really surprised to see so many names I recognized." "

Not surprised, CEO's have said it before that debuting a Girl group means letting go of your morals, the shit you have to do is sickening.

These are kids, naive and sign contracts which pretty much make them slaves, why some people to this day still call Idols ungrateful and such makes me sick. Noone should have the right to "own" you, smh at these parents too.
the_erotomanic 13th-Oct-2012 06:04 pm (UTC)
not really surprised by what's written here. similar situations happen everywhere. people who want to become famous end up being exploited. and if they're not savvy enough, even when they're big and famous, they hardly have control of their own life.
rinn1e 13th-Oct-2012 06:13 pm (UTC)
With news like this, makes you wondered where the "Ministry of Magic" (Ministry of Gender Equality & Family) is. Can't blame them, banning songs and mvs is quicker, easier than helping society.
julietislimited 13th-Oct-2012 06:47 pm (UTC)
72% of the 5,000 actors they have registered with them make less than $10,000 USD a year.

That is way under the poverty line. Like that is just blowing my mind. 72%? That is absolutely horrid.
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seung_is_my_ho 13th-Oct-2012 06:51 pm (UTC)
are there actor/actress or "idol" unions in S. Korea? of course, I'm sure it would be very hard to organize actors or idols b/c of 1) the nature of the job, and 2) if you threaten to quit b/c your company is exploiting you, there's a 1,000 kids dying to take your place that will put up with worse treatment. it really sucks the joy out of being a kpop fan when you know your fave idols are constantly sleep-deprived, under-nourished from crazy diets, constantly being compared with other idols, put up with anti-fans, and have no life really to speak of outside of work. :( the sex industry in S. Korea appalled me the most. but hey, who am I to pass judgement? I live in the biggest human-trafficking hub in the US (if you don't know where that is, go google it.)

Edited at 2012-10-13 06:56 pm (UTC)
chibiyunie 13th-Oct-2012 10:09 pm (UTC)
"it really sucks the joy out of being a kpop fan when you know your fave idols are constantly sleep-deprived, under-nourished from crazy diets, constantly being compared with other idols, put up with anti-fans, and have no life really to speak of outside of work."

MTE.
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