T-ara: The World’s Most Popular Slaves?
Things have definitely changed for T-ara ever since they debuted! Not only have they become one of the biggest groups in Korea (in popularity and size [now that they have recently grown to a 9-member girlgroup]), but they have also made a very popular career for themselves in Japan. I have definitely expressed my discontentment for some of their post-Breaking Heart decisions, but considering Funky Town wasn’t half as bad as Temptastic or John Travolta Wannabe I think that maybe this time they’re going to get it right for me.
What has been bothering me lately, however, is how openly enslaved they are by their record label. A long time ago, I remember when several of the original members tweeted ominous or sad statements that reflected their unhappiness towards their lifestyles, and back then I thought that maybe it was just an adjustment process to their busy schedules, but I doubt that greatly now. It seems like Core Contents Media, T-ara’s record label, is working the girls like slaves, and that they have little to no decision over the changes that are going on with the group. What really alarmed me were the statements that Kim Kwan Soo was coming out with to explain the changes in the group:
When I look back on my 30 years of experience in discovering new talent, by their third year they become full of themselves, and lazy. If they are not always on the edge of their seat and working hard, and think that they can just get by with what they already have, they will not be able to beat the competition. I have seen many singers become complacent because of their pride. For the members who have no singing ability and do not work hard, I will not give them parts [in the songs].
and of course, his lovely statement about the group dynamics:
If the members are lazy, or harmful to other members including the new members, we’ll make the bold decision to remove and replace them with new members.
Not only is he managing the group with an iron fist, but he’s doing it for no reason at all. His statements show no consideration for the fans at all, and his only concern is that the girls will grow too cocky to remain under his control as long as he wants them to. That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard and it makes my heart ache for them and how they need to be managed by such a jerk.
In a post about this very matter, allkpop lays out some very interesting facts and possibilities about his behavior. Something very interesting to note is the inconsistency of the roles of the girls in each of the group’s songs. Initially, pretty much everyone but Qri got a decent amount of attention, but as time went on, the amount of attention each member got in songs and videos grew inconsistent and the group went from having several main vocalists to relying solely on SoYeon. Fans know that there are some pretty talented singers in the group other than SoYeon, such as EunJung and BoRam, and I always wondered why they weren’t getting as much attention as before, and it’s most likely because Kim Kwan Soo is treating them as children who need to be taught how to behave.
The most heartbreaking news are the ones where we learn that a member has been hospitalized or wounded due to exhaustion or overworking and they’re still being instructed to carry on with their schedules, once again, treating the fans like T-ara-hungry monsters who only want to see their idols, regardless of their health. Personally, I would much rather see my idols healthy and glowing every once in a while than broken and upset all the time, which is what I’ve been getting from T-ara. During promotional activities for Dream High 2, a frustrated JiYeon tweeted
In the drama, there are special laws protecting minors in the entertainment industry, and I wish those laws existed in reality.
JiYeon has also collapsed after a performance of Cry Cry, and had to be hospitalized, which exemplifies the degree of exhaustions the girls need to endure. EunJung sprained her ankle in January and was forced to continue performing with the use of painkillers and pressure bandages which consequently lead to her rupturing it. She wasn’t even allowed to recover entirely before having to retire the clutches and going back under the spotlight.
I can’t even imagine how depressed and hurt the girls are and having to put on a smile all this time. I remember all the blackmail Core Contents Media did with T-ara fans as they promised numerous events if T-ara’s latest releases sold a certain number of copies, the latest being the Jewelry Box fiasco. Core Contents Media announced that if T-ara’s debut Japanese album went on to sell over 500,000 copies, they would raise a guerilla concert in Japan and South Korea. However, the album only went on to sell 23,796 copies on its first day of release (usually the best-selling day for Asian albums, since pre-orders take up a large amount of sales due to all the pre-release promotion) and the events seem unlikely. In past guerilla events, everything had to be canceled considering the large mob of fans that crowed the place.
The latest proof of T-ara’s slavery is the fact that T-ara will be holding a fan-meeting event in order to celebrate the inauguration of their official fanclub, Queens, on the 14th of July. Initially, they were promoting it as a free event (probably a misunderstanding), until Core Contents Media started to collect a fee of 18 dollars from the fans who wanted to attend. They offered a refund, in order to keep the event free, as initially advertised, but the money is coming from T-ara’s own pockets.
So not only is T-ara being worked to their last sweat beads, but they can’t recover when they’re ill or injured and if they make a mistake, the money that’s going to compensate for that is coming straight from their pockets. Does it sound a lot like a certain ex-boyband you know, slavery, or what?
I wish T-ara would get a break. They don’t see their family members in months and I’m sure they can’t be happy with their current contracts and situations. I’m just waiting for something to happen so they can be let go by the record label. I’m not sure if they even want to continue in the entertainment industry at all anymore, so maybe signing with another label would be too much to ask, though an ideal scenario for them.
Soon they’ll be releasing their new music video, Day By Day, which looks quite promising! Now we just have to hope that they don’t need to cope with injuries and disasters throughout live performances and promotion. I think it’s important to watch out for them because they’re in a very delicate situation.