I still have chills and ZERO tolerance as I type this down. Being a fan of the Korean entertainment industry (K-Pop, Dramas, Movies) since 2009, I have observed many phases of how idols behaved, responded and even interacted with each other. There have been many incidents caught on camera but dismissed as “their culture” so many news that flashed and were gone the very second. Fair warning: the article followed is a brutal take and questioning to this industry, if you are faint hearted towards truth or simply in denial because of the love, please exit now.
The East Light is a teen South Korean band formed by Media Line Entertainment. The band originally consisted of six members, who made their official debut with the single Holla on November 3, 2016. The band currently consists of 4 members: Sagang, Woojin, Junwook, Eunsung. Seokcheol and Seunghyun decided to leave the band after Seokcheol opened up about the repeated abuse and violence from their producer and Ceo Kim Chang Hwan on October 19, 2018.
After the revelation made by Lee Suk Chul the leader of The east light, of repeated abuse both verbally and physically by producer “A” and Kim Chang Hwan the Ceo, their agency Media Line Entertainment have denied all reports. Lee Seok Chul was forced to take matters in his own hands and held a public press conference with his lawyer where he opened up about the atrocities he and his younger brother (who was also part of the group) went through including other members: (Source: Naver 1 & 2)
“As the leader of The East Light and as one of the K-pop artists who lead Korean culture, I could no longer tolerate the pain that our members were going through. We decided to hold a press conference in hopes of eliminating child abuse and violation of human rights in the K-pop industry.” “We are people who stand on stage and appear in front of the public. So we thought that it would be wrong to show our scars from the violence and abuse. Just like that, we continued to be beaten in our waiting rooms, and my brother Seung Hyun once had his own food thrown in his face. Even so, we vowed to ourselves to show the public our smiles. We came to these decisions on our own, just us members. Behind the scenes, we were always victims. When I think about how we smiled on stage, it still hurts me and upsets me.”
Further addressing the abuse Lee Suk Chul said, “From 2015 through 2017, I was habitually hit by Yoon Young Il PD with a baseball bat. I was constantly told that if I told my parents, he would kill me. My younger brother [and band member] Lee Seung Hyun was beaten while locked up in a studio on the 5th floor. Fellow member Lee Eun Sung bled many times after being beaten with a bat. The label’s chief director Kim Chang Hwan did not prevent these actions, but only commented, ‘Go easy’. Director Lee Jung Hyun made us go on broadcasts with our wounds untreated. My younger brother and bassist Lee Seung Hyun is currently receiving psychiatric treatment after developing trauma from these experiences.”
“Even now, it is difficult as I was threatened with the lives of the other members on the line. I was abused with guitar cables around my neck, getting choked to the point of bruising and scarring if I made mistakes. My parents saw my scars, but I wasn’t able to consult them due to the threats.”
Since then the agency has declared talks of settlement, however that does not seem the case as JTBC’s “News Room” released an audio recording from The East Light’s Lee Seok Cheol of the CEO speaking to him after he made it known that he was going to go public about the abuse.
In the recording, Kim Chang Hwan says, “If you’ve entrusted [someone] with something, than you need to leave it alone even if they beat you to death. If you make the paper as a celebrity, you won’t have any ground to stand on, you **. Who’s going to ** take in a kid with problems? You can’t make a big deal out of this, you can’t. Your parents will just be more upset. Ten times more upset than they are now.” (Translation Cr: Soompi)
Regarding the audio file, Media Line claimed that while the conversation between Kim Chang Hwan and Lee Seok Cheol did get heated, “[Kim Chang Hwan] just wanted to help all the members continue to do music.” (Translation Cr: Soompi)
This incident has once again flashed light onto the dark side of the entertainment industry, K-Pop world has always been questioned for its inhumane ways of work like, the slave contract, recruiting young kids and giving them intensive training for a debut that does not event guarantee success, idols are sold to fans as their gf & bf giving fans a sense of ownership, such mentality is not only borne in the minds but also nurtured and encouraged; So that they sell more and make money. Many idols do not earn for years even after their debut to repay debt of their own company. Agencies have been known to violate financial, employment & human rights.
The point is, this is not new its been there but very few talk about it. The unfair contracts have been known but how much do we know about the abuse? This makes us question, how many more victims are there- teens, girls, boys all wanting that dream to come true, have gone through? Over the years some idols (SISTAR) have opened up about the scary “sunbaes” and people of this industry. Latest news of suicide of the idol Jonghyun (member of boy group SHINEE) who belonged to SM Entertainment (Top 3 Agency) shook the very core of all fans. Despite being one of the biggest stars not much was found out about his struggles and why he took such course.
Some Idols braved enough to speak out on social media and yet their voices went unheard.
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I've given my everything. I tried to work things out. Whether it be the creative or business, I’ve been doing everything myself for years so I can keep myself afloat. But in the end, I’m continuously neglected, hurt, and taken advantage of. I’ve been patient… the fans have been extremely patient and I can’t take it anymore just sitting around, waiting, being constantly rejected and given false hope. I’m so tired mentally and physically and this is where I draw the line. No more.
Not very Long ago the long reigning queen of K-Pop – Hyuna, was unfairly dismissed from her company Cube entertainment. A company that was built on her shoulders and have profited ever since, released statements of her removal and Edawn‘s (Member of boy group PENTAGON) just after Hyuna released a statement of accepting her relationship with Edawn.
There are numerous agencies, 100s of groups debut every day, I have only highlighted the recent cases who’s to say what these artists go through that have not come to light. Debuting from a big company, having a successful career still did not guarantee them fairness in this industry, we can only wonder what other groups go through!
I would now like to point out another evil/boon of this industry: “Sponsors“. Trainees are trained for years, upon being ready to debut they are presented infront of sponsors (Investors) if the rich like it, they put their money in their debut helping them to make top Music videos, outfits, photoshoots etc. Though this has always been hush hush but there have been many cases of artists being forced to provide sexual favors in exchange for support of their art. (The sponsors can be anyone from rich businessmen to powerful politicians)
Just earlier this year, South Korea was set ablaze by the #MeToo movement where many veteran actors’, directors’ wrongdoings splashed the media, making the entire nation furious. But somehow the wave didn’t catch the Kpop industry, not many are aware but the media is run by the very rich and powerful pulling strings on what to disclose and how to cover up scandles. It’s all played well! Just like our K dramas, I am sorry to announce the dramas are not always exaggerated there is a lot of truth in it and such is the working of this place.
After all this reflection we are left with some very troubling questions that need to be answered in order to establish humanity! Is the recruitment of young kids right? If so shouldn’t their contracts be outlined by government and public and not “to each his own” which gives power to companies? Should’nt all companies follow one linear format of rules and regulations for employment rights, as entertainment is also a job!? Who is going to take legal action against the mistreatment of artists? When will mental trauma considered a matter of serious issue and addressed publicly? Why aren’t their open investigations into the accused agencies and people? Shouldn’t their names be disclosed when we can parade the names of victims (as in the case of Goo Hara)? When will the people change their mindset and shame the wrongful, not the victim? When will the toxic marketing of idols change?
Someone needs to take responsibility for all the sketchy errands happening within the industry, that are being curbed down by the powerful. We need more brave artists to come out and speak against violence, we need more responsible parents that care for their child’s wellbeing and not have fear or have greed. We salute Lee Seok Chul and his family for braving against everyone and voicing out a serious issue, more power to them and hope that justice prevails.
My biggest question is when will the horrors be uncovered and artists get justice in the K-pop industry, will a problem only come to light when everyone is subjected to deep mental trauma or end their lives?