By: Jovillene Datu
After the passing of SHINee’s Jonghyun back in 2017, the talk about Mental Health within idols, finally became public. Mental health has been a sensitive subject to many Koreans and because of that, rates of individuals undergoing depression and anxiety increased back from 2.8% in 2002 and 5.3% in 2013 stated by ‘Nature.com.’ Eventually, as years passed, idols began to open up to their fans and speak the truth of why the seasons of depression spread among other idols. Many answers contribute to this question such as restrictions, bullying, trauma and many more.
In reality, K-pop idols have very restricted lives and careers. It’s extremely hard for them to do things publicly or privately without the attention of fans lurking around. That’s why dating is scandalous in the K-pop industry. As soon as fans reach a point of jealousy, some would even create fake rumors, to destroy other idols or fan bases. During award shows K-pop groups have to be separated by gender, if not, fan bases would be at war and chaos. Of course, not all fans are like that, and support is commonly given. Until idols terminate their contracts they’re not able to date, get married, or have female friends publicly.
Bullying is the main reason for K-pop Idol’s depression, and occurs mainly with females. Jihyo, a member of Twice, has been training for over 10 years to become an idol. Although the average is 2-4 years of training, her company felt that she had potential through singing, but her physical appearance did not fit South Korea’s standards. South Korea’s standards consist of females having a slim figure, small face, and pale skin, if those requirements are not met, then trainers are not able to debut as an idol. On a documentary about Twice, Jihyo stated that she’s, “always tense and cautious about how people see me,” and “because I started so young, I felt like this was the only thing I could do.”(allure.com) Sadly, Jihyo throughout her career, still faces criticism towards her body weight. So much so that she and another member had to lose 7 kg a week before a comeback with their diet consisting of no food, little to no water, and heavy exercise. Unfortunately, many other female idols face the same criticism, and males typically receive criticism about their masculinity and appearance as well.
The dark side of the K-pop industry includes idols dealing with trauma involving assault and sasaeng fans who are obsessive stalkers. Continuing with the first paragraph, Idols never have any privacy with their personal lives. Goo Hara from the girl group Kara was, “Secretly filmed by a boyfriend, who she publicly fought for justice.” She took her experience to the internet and was “Viciously attacked online” (BBC news). Her case was not public until her suicide back in 2019 and fans were devastated with the news. Cheska, a former member of Fiestar, confirmed that she was sexually harassed, and even raped at 18. In one of her recent twitch streams, Cheska confirmed that she, “couldn’t fight her depression and anxiety until she left the K-pop industry.”
Idols are slowly opening up to the public about their mental health. It’s very important to encourage and give reassurance to these idols in order to provide them with happiness and confidence. Without these components, the negativity in their lives would come through and take over them. That’s why it is best to stay positive not only for them, but for yourself as well.