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Dicembre 2019
Queste band pop sudcoreane formate da adolescenti hanno invaso tutto il mondo con il loro stile. Ma dietro alle coreografie e al look studiato in ogni dettaglio c’è una pressione che alcuni non riescono a sopportare.

di Mariam Khan

File audio:

Psy on NBC’s Today show in 2012
Psy on NBC’s Today show in 2012
K pop group BTS perform
in the US in 2017
K pop group BTS perform in the US in 2017

Speaker: Sarah Davison (British accent)

Most people outside Korea first discovered K-pop in 2012, when Psy’s Gangnam Style went viral. However, the Korean music genre has been around for decades. It started in 1992, with Seo Taiji and Boys, a boy band that participated in a South-Korean TV talent show. The trio performed a song Nan Arayo (“I know”) that blended western music styles with Korean lyrics and choreographed dance moves. No one had seen anything like it before. The judges, however, were not impressed. The band came last in the contest. Nevertheless, the public loved it and K-pop was born.


K-pop is hard to define. It is typically a mixture of pop, rock, R&B, hip hop and electronic music performed by a group of young men or women. Each band has a leading man or woman, who represents the group. Established K-pop artists are called ‘idols’. The biggest idols are more than singers; they are also songwriters, dancers, actors and entertainers. Driven by social media and music streaming sites, K-pop is riding the Korean Wave – the global trend of growing popularity of South Korean culture.


Some artists train for years before their debut, under the guidance of a management agency. Management agencies can easily spend €3 million to produce one K-pop idol. Artists from the same agency live and train together. The training programmes are intensive and often very competitive. Anxiety and exhaustion are common.
Some agencies are accused of exploitation. The idols can be very young when they are contracted and cannot handle the pressure. A number of K-pop artists have committed suicide, including nineteen-year-old Seo Ji Won and, most recently, Kim Jonghyun, the lead singer from SHINee. In his suicide note, Jonghyun wrote that he felt “broken inside.”
The problem is gradually being addressed. The South Korean government has introduced a law to protect young idols from slave contracts. The law guarantees their “basic rights to learn, rest and sleep.”   

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