Another week and that means only one thing - Prince Mak is back on SBS PopAsia radio with "The Prince Mak Hour."
In the latest episode of his radio show, Prince Mak gets serious and gives a little insight into the dark side of the K-pop industry. While there are certainly positives in being a K-pop star - such as fame and popularity - not everything is as rosy as it seems on the surface.
There have been many murmurs about "slave contracts" in the K-pop industry for many years now, and Prince Mak confirms the existence of such a thing, saying that these could range anywhere between 7 to 15 years in duration. The kicker is that a company doesn't start "counting down" these 7 to 15 years when someone signs on as a trainee. Rather, the years only start ticking off when a trainee debuts, so it is very possible for a trainee to spend 10 years not debuting and then being contracted to spend 7 to 15 years on top of that in a K-pop group.
In addition to being locked up in some long-term contracts, K-pop stars don't earn very much. According to Prince Mak, the most common income distribution rates are either 80/20 (80% to the company, 20% to the artist) or 90/10 (90% to the company, 10% to the artist). For those in K-pop groups, this number gets even lower as that 10% or 20% is to be split between each group member, meaning that earnings aren't as high as what it may seem on the outside. As a final kicker, K-pop groups need to also pay back all the money invested into their training by the company, so it can take a long time before anyone earns anything.
Outside of the low pay, it is very common to have 20 hour work days, usually split up between filming, practicing, and recording, meaning that K-pop stars average only 4-5 hours of sleep a night and burn out is a very big issue.
Given that South Korea places greater emphasis on looks than most other countries, entertainment companies strictly control things like diets. Not only are K-pop stars kept on strict diets, weekly weight checks are common and should girl group members not meet this requirement, they will get punished via extra exercise or being forbidden to eat. Plastic surgery is also something that's very common in Korea, and it is very common for companies to push trainees into going under the knife.
While Prince Mak experienced all this in some degree, he also had to endure the difficulties of being a foreign K-pop star. South Korea as a country may generally be accepting of foreigners, the K-pop industry is a different story. There is no sympathy for those who can't speak Korean well, and there is an expectation that everyone must be able to adhere to Korea's norms and language if they are going to be in the K-pop industry, something that Prince Mak really struggled with.
Needless to say, being a K-pop star isn't all sunshine and rainbows, something that Prince Mak knows firsthand about.
Hit the audio tab above ^ to listen to Prince Mak talk about the dark side of K-pop at the 32:26 mark
Or listen right here at the 32:26 mark:
Catch Prince Mak's SBS PopAsia radio show "The Prince Mak Hour" every Tuesday @ 8PM (AEST).
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