The World of K-pop: A Well-Crafted PR Image
A K-pop skeptic shares her views on the PR culture surrounding the genre
A young writer from India
The World of K-pop: A Well-crafted PR Image
I find the world of K-pop to be particularly unusual. There are several things that make me question K-pop, such as the toxic work culture, the prevalence of toxic fans (including ones that stalk band members), and a new wave of people wanting to look like Koreans. However, the part that intrigues me the most is the image maintenance. If you’ve ever worked in public relations or are on deuxmoi on Reddit (not the Instagram account), then you probably know about the ‘image maintenance’. It’s when a celebrity has their personality crafted out and scripted because they are either too problematic or too boring. The truth is, many celebrities have their personality crafted out for them. They are backed heavily by PR personnel who make sure to keep their image spotless and try to erase any trace of problematic behaviour off of the internet.
Unfortunately, the same applies to innocent K-pop idols. Agencies manipulate the images of their stars to feed off the fans, who are usually young people. The best example would be Seungri, who often rode the ‘innocent boy’ wave but was involved in one of the biggest gambling and sex scandals in South Korea. Agencies make sure that they sell you the idea of a perfect boyfriend or the perfect girlfriend because these idols bring in money.
In fact, K-pop brought so much money to South Korea as a whole that the country started investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the K-pop industry. To make sure that the industry never dies, they have to constantly put out new groups with fresh faces and hot bods who can pull in a certain target demographic audience. But they can’t do that if one turns out to be a bully, or another turns out to be a chain-smoker, or the next has a girlfriend. So, they ensure that these people have a spotless image with a humungous fan backing such that a single question against the idol will get you ridiculed or worse, massive backlash.
You cannot call them out for appropriating a different culture. The fans will defend them. You cannot call them out for using black music and not giving credit because the fans will be on your doors, burning with rage. You cannot even call them out for homophobic or misogynistic comments because, God forbid, the fans will find out.
Once you go down the rabbit hole of K-pop, you realize the sunshine and roses only lead to a dark, dingy dungeon. Personally, I don’t think these idols enjoy such a fake perfect boy/girl/person persona. They aren’t allowed to date, aren’t allowed to smoke, aren’t allowed to do anything outside the lines because the fans are going to boycott them. The funny thing is, they probably wouldn’t be cancelled for serious reasons, but rather because they chose to date and have a baby. Well, capitalism prevails even through the worst, I guess. Of course, in the end, the agencies will enjoy their million dollar profits.
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