The harsh reality of dreams of K-pop idols

Thao My editor(vietnam)

Facilitated by open center auditions, email castings, and global searches for “The NextK-Pop Idol”,the facade that becoming an idol is realistic and tangible for most people poses serious implications. It breeds a certain level of envy for a few people. This envy is not necessarily malicious, but it can be.Let’s take for example the recent 2021 Belift Audition. To search for the next possible trainee to feature in their hit survival show program, I-LAND, the subsidiary of HYBE Labels posted an open casting call available to girls across the globe from ‘99-09. This was a real, tangible opportunity for these hopefuls across the world to grasp the same success as members they saw on the screens. The same members who also auditioned and through their merit and talent got in. The successful few stand on a pedestal, shining a beacon of light onto those who want to become trainees themselves. Hearts elated and waited for the post made by the audition casting agents that those who made it to the second round successfully have been contacted. But it does not take more than a simple glance into online community discussions as the days go by and more and more applicants have to face rejection.

They turn hope into anger. How could they be fairly assessed for their talent like those before them if there is not even a view on their video? Just like a business resume where companies will just skim the front page of an applicant, K-Pop casting can consist of just a simple glance at their face. They begin to be angry when they realize many companies are not as fair and organized as they think. Many come to resent idols they deem as less talented than them or direct their anger to those who did pass the audition. 

To explain, we can turn to the Harvard study on malicious envy. This study explores how hiding failure can develop a false idea that certain careers and people are accessible to anybody. Because they seem like anyone can do it, it drives resentment. We do not resent being a doctor or president of a country, because to some degree we all understand the gap between the general population and these "one in a million" occupations. But in careers wherein this gap is painted over by constructed relatability, incorrect mindsets are born. They resent Youtubers who seemingly do “easy” content for loads of money. Because of their “relatable” and “I’m just like any one of you guys” narrative, the work behind success is eclipsed. This is applicable to what is occurring in the idol industry. Not understanding the truth about the bar of entry to become a K-Pop idol can be harmful to all involved on a personal and industry-wide level. 


The applicants of all ages and backgrounds were revealed in a report by BELIFT Labs to have totaled to an astounding count of 150,000. But of that amount of people, a generous guess of 500 people may have passed the first round. That is a 1 in 300 chance just to pass the first round itself. And out of the 150,000, it is not even guaranteed that 1 will pass to the final round and become a trainee. At a chance of less than .001%, according to The National Safety Council, you have just as much of a chance of being struck by lightning in your life. You are more likely to experience winning a lottery than becoming a trainee. Furthermore, a trainee with no promise of a debut or if  they will even be kept in their company for the entire duration of their contract period. 

For those who want to become idols, it seems crazy that you could be removed from a company at the drop of a hat. But that is the reality. We hear the stories of the people who passed their companies standards enough to debut, but not of the girl who was kicked from the company because her image no longer fit the new concept of a girl group invented overnight. When she tries to argue, citing her contract, her heart nearly stops. There’s nothing she can do. She was lured in by the success of others and treated with her reality.

It’s easy to just say, I’ll be different. I’ll handle it better or I know better. But in reality, no one is bigger than the industry itself. Trainees and artists alike are but small cogs in a barely functioning yet massive machine. To want to become a piece of it is a harmful pipe dream.


Thao My editorvietnam