K-Pop idols are dependent on their company for proper promotions, schedules, and even the quality of the music they release. Understandably, it’s incredibly frustrating to both the idols and fans when a company mistreats their idols, and while normally idols aren’t able to speak up against their company, there have been brave idols who have publicly spoken out.
For instance, Jay Park has spoken about the way JYP Entertainment (where he was originally a trainee) treated its trainees.
The culture in itself was kinda like when you get certain lyrics wrong or you get a certain dance move wrong they would literally hit you. That’s kinda like the Korean way, you know? It’s not like that now, it’s much better now, but back then they were like, ‘You mothaf*cka!‘
— Jay Park
And Girls’ Generation‘s Sooyoung has spoken up about her frustration with SM Entertainment and their line distribution.
I only got eight words to sing in this song. I get my makeup done at 5 A.M. just to sing eight words.
Although it requires a lot of bravery for idols to call out their companies, some idols have actually stood up to their companies against mistreatment. Here are five times idols have stood up against their agencies.
Jessi used to be a soloist under P NATION until her recent departure. While still signed to P NATION she had spoken up about how PSY didn’t usually approve of her outfits, deeming them too “provocative.”
Jessi has always been true to herself, not willing to focus on anyone else’s expectations of her so it’s no surprise that she “[didn’t] really care” what he thought. In fact, she was even willing to directly tell him that she wasn’t going to change her style.
For example, whenever I dress too revealing, PSY would tell me to cover myself up a bit more, but I would say ‘no.’
2. Taeyong (NCT)
NCT‘s Taeyong is an incredibly talented performer signed to SM Entertainment. Fans were grateful, but not surprised when Taeyong revealed that he was behind the iconic “ZOO” collaboration stage that featured NCT’s Taeyong, Jeno, Hendery, and YangYang, and aespa‘s Giselle.
But despite the immense potential of the track, SM Entertainmeitially just planned to include the song in the SMTOWN album and not give the members a stage. Determined to perform the song, Taeyong took the initiative to encourage SM Entertainment to let them perform it and even choreographed the dance himself.
First, ‘ZOO’ was actually going to be just a track in the album. But I told the NCT managers and aespa managers, ‘I love this song. Why don’t we make this into a performance? I’d love to make the choreography for this.’
3. Taeyeon (Girls’ Generation)
Girls’ Generation’s Taeyeon has never been afraid to call SM Entertainment out for their treatment of herself and her members, but the talented idol actively took action when she was worried about Red Velvet‘s treatment.
Taeyeon once went with Red Velvet’s Seulgi and Wendy to get ice cream together. Although the idols were all excited about eating the dessert, Seulgi and Wendy eventually realized that their manager was watching them eat their ice cream from afar. The two idols slowed down eating, likely worried about being scolded for not maintaining their diet.
Taeyeon immediately scolded their manager, believing that Seulgi and Wendy should be allowed to eat what they wanted.
They can’t breathe because of you. Eating what they want for one day shouldn’t be a problem.
4. HyunA and DAWN
Perhaps one of the most iconic instances of idols standing up for themselves against their company was when HyunA and DAWN revealed their relationship.
The two had been embroiled in dating rumors after being called out for having “excessive and unnecessary” touching when they were in Triple H (a group that included HyunA and PENTAGON‘s Hui and DAWN, then known as E’Dawn).
Cube Entertainment released an official statement to deny the rumors of HyunA and DAWN dating.
The report about HyunA and E’dawn dating are not true.
— Cube Entertainment
But rather than staying silent and letting the company speak for them, HyunA and DAWN decided to share the news of their relationship, which led to them being kicked out of Cube Entertainment.
We know that (our relationship) will stick with us but we both thought it would be difficult to see our fans on stage (if we didn’t announce it). So we wanted to honestly tell our fans who have loved us and showed us their support, and present ourselves confidently and joyfully on stage.
— HyunA and DAWN
HyunA shared that she wanted to “take responsibility for [their] decision” by being honest with fans.
I got to know E’Dawn when he was a trainee and since becoming friends after performing together, we began dating in May 2016. We began dating after working on our music together. We were very cautious about our relationship. Our decision to open up about our relationship was to be honest in front of those who support us. And I want to show our best on stage so that we can take responsibility for our decision.
And DAWN promised to “repay [fans] by working very hard.”
Although it’s a little different from the reality, I felt the need to admit the fact in order to be happy. I felt bad and told my members beforehand in case it would affect our team. I am very sorry towards our fans as well but I’ll make certain that I repay our fans by working very hard.
After being removed from Cube Entertainment, the two continued with their solo careers and have been publicly sharing their adorable relationship with fans who couldn’t be happier for the couple.
5. Sakura (LE SSERAFIM)
LE SSERAFIM recently released a documentary that exposed the brutal reality of what K-Pop idol trainees go through while trying to achieve their dream of debut. The documentary included everything from a trainee’s sudden removal from the debut lineup to the staff’s critiques about their trainees’ diets.
As the current members of LE SSERAFIM prepared for their debut, doing photoshoots and filming teaser videos, their management team leader, Kim Hyeong Eun, told them they needed to learn strict self-management when it came to dieting.
Sakura, who has been in the entertainment industry since her debut in 2011, teared up at the critique, explaining that “[they’ve] been working so hard, [she didn’t] want [them] to stress about this.”
The translation of Sakura’s comments had come under scrutiny from netizens who believe that the clip was meant to seem like Sakura agreed with the executives when, actually, the idol was arguing that LE SSERAFIM should prioritize their practice since their weight was never a problem.
Even though HYBE potentially tried to edit the footage to create a narrative of their choice, fans were incredibly proud of Sakura for standing up for her members and speaking out against such an important issue.