K-Pop: The 2nd North Korea

If there is one thing that George Orwell’s totalitarian society in Nineteen Eight-Four shares with a number of Korean record labels, it’s the unbearably austere control that folks like our fictional Big Brother has over the three superstates (Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia), as the elite media corporations have over the lives of young Korean musicians.

That’s not to say that record labels strap down their would-be Korean pop stars to a chair and have them undergo a “Ludovico-esque technique” before showcased t o society.

fellow fifteen year-old anti-hero, Alex undergoes the "ludovico technique" in "A Clockwork Orange"

fellow fifteen year-old anti-hero, Alex undergoes the “ludovico technique” in “A Clockwork Orange”

Instead, these unlucky participants are duped into signing tricky contracts that bind them to record labels for an unlawfully lengthy period of time. They are typically expected to adhere to strict exercise regimens, dieting habits, and sometimes might even undergo radical plastic surgery procedures in efforts to maintain their positions in their respective musical groups. –Which, I suppose is the equivalent.
Some have made generalized speculations about how the Korean music industry just might be morphing into what is, the modern-day totalitarian society.
..Let ‘s take a look at a couple of record companies.

SM Entertainment This here’s SM Entertainment. A widely controversial record company who has homed itself to many high -profile Korean  artists. In spite of the entertainment group’s glamorous exterior, what goes on deep down inside, to the written text, is awfully stark in contrast. In fact, a few artists under this company were subject to harsh conditions.



Back in 2009, three members of the South Korean musical group JYJ and former band members of ‘TVXQ,’ Kim Jaejoong, Kim Junsu, and Park Yoochun had filed a law suit against SM Entertainment to seek nullification of their laboriously disadvantageous 13-year contract.

“I was so physically and mentally exhausted that I really wished we could just sleep for 2 hours a day. If we only had things to lose, what choice did we really have?“

as revealed by Kim Junsoo


JYJ (left to right): Kim Junsu, Kim Jaejoong, Park Yoochun

After what seemed to have been a decade-long battle, the lawsuit had ultimately come to an end in the fall of 2012, as SM Entertainment and JYJ came to a mutual agreement, “to not interfere with the other party’s activities” in the nearby future.

YG Entertainment Members

YG Entertainment Members

On the other end of the spectrum, lies YG Entertainment. YG Entertainment is one of the largest agencies in South Korea, whose core philosophy revolves around the importance of artistic freedom and moderate transparency in the music industry. The YG Family has produced a number of “au natrel” music groups whose highly distinctive members have transcended the relationship barrier between musician and company.

2NE1 and BIG BANG "Lollipop" music video collaboration

2NE1 and BIG BANG members from “Lollipop” collaboration

These closely knitted groups include the four-member male band, Big Bang, and their female counterpart, 2NE1.

Here’s a little taste of both groups:

YG Entertainment has also provided these musical groups with filming equipment for their secondary channels on Youtube, to create video blogs at their convenience. This works as an additional medium for fans to interact and relate with members of the YG Family, on a personal level.

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