Former Idols Expose How Rookie K-Pop Groups Survive For Years Without Getting Paid

Many groups don’t get a paycheck during their early years.

Many K-Pop idols have spoken about never getting paid by their companies. Some didn’t receive a paycheck for up to seven years of work, while groups like SECRET took matters into their own hands by suing their companies.

Former SECRET member Jun Hyo Seong.

Because idols can’t do much while under contract, former idols Joel (formerly BTL‘s Jay) and Aaron (formerly NU’EST‘s Aron) revealed how groups survive those early years of not getting paid.

The Korean Cowboys, Joel and Aaron. | @koreancowboyspodcast/Instagram

Shortly after BTL debuted in 2014, the group’s company faced “financial difficulties.” The members no longer received money for food, got kicked out of their dorm, and weren’t allowed to get part-time jobs. The company didn’t give them any money but offered a different solution.

Because BTL needed food and housing, Joel asked the company what they should do. The company brushed him off, telling them to live off their parents’ money. Sadly, Joel had to do what they said and still hasn’t finished paying back his parents nine years later.

At which point, I asked my company, ‘I don’t have a job. You won’t let me work. What am I supposed to do?’ They were like, ‘Well, just ask your parents for money.’

…But unfortunately, that’s what I had to do. I’m now very, very deep in the hole mom and dad. I will pay you back! Don’t worry about it.

— Joel

Joel wasn’t the only one who had to rely on his family’s money despite being an active idol. Although NU’EST debuted in 2012 and lasted ten years, they weren’t making any money in their early years.

During those times, Aaron received “spending money every month” from an aunt, which he used to feed the entire group. He admitted, “That’s pretty much how I survived my trainee days and my early debut days.

Whether groups disband in less than two years like BTL or last ten years like NU’EST, Joel and Aaron exposed how poor idols are in their early years. They may be famous but can’t afford food to eat.

Idol Struggles & Victories