New Bill To Protect Underage K-Pop Idols Approved By Ministry Of Culture
The South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism recently announced that a new amendment to the “Popular Culture and Arts Industry Development Act” was approved during a plenary session. The new bill targets a number of issues in the K-Pop industry, including new rules regarding the rights of minor-aged idols as well as new contractual obligations for entertainment companies.
One of the biggest new requirements the bill imposes on K-Pop entertainment agencies is that they must disclose their income statements to their idols at least once a year in addition to whenever the artists request. The new rule follows the scandalous allegations made against singer Lee Seung Gi‘s company HOOK Entertainment when Dispatch revealed the singer had been working on a “slave contract” for the past 18 years. The reports also showed that Lee Seung Gi has never been paid for his music, despite releasing countless hit songs.
The amended law requires that contracts for popular culture and arts services include specific details on settlement methods and cost deductions. The Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism is also instructed to consider the results of contract-related investigations when creating or revising standard contracts for popular culture and arts professionals.
Other than financial transparency, the new bill also imposes several new rules on companies that hire minor-aged idols, aiming to strengthen their protection. Most importantly, the bill will lower the upper limit of working hours for young entertainers. The previous regulations allowed up to 35 hours per week for artists under 15 and 40 hours per week for those aged 15 and older. The new rules are:
- Under 12 years old: 25 hours per week and 6 hours per day
- 12 to 15 years old: 30 hours per week and 7 hours per day
- 15 years and older: 35 hours per week and 7 hours per day
Additionally, the bill bans activities that infringe on young celebrities’ right to education, such as school absences or dropouts. It also prohibits actions that pose risks to their health (coercing them to ‘look better’ and/or ‘lose weight,’ etc., abusing them physically and/or verbally in any way).
To help ensure young artists’ rights are protected, the amendment mandates that entertainment businesses appoint a “youth protection officer” responsible for safeguarding their well-being.
Concern over the protection of underaged idols has been on the rise among K-Pop fans and Korean netizens as of late. This concern follows the start of a “trend” among entertainment companies that are seemingly debuting younger idols more than ever before. Companies like ADOR and YG Entertainment have been criticized online by international K-Pop fans for debuting or setting to debut idols as young as 14 years old, such as Newjeans‘ Hyein or potential BABYMONSTER member Chiquita.