The sad truth behind hopeful trainees waiting to debut in KPOP

Elly Zulaikha
April 28, 2020
3 minutes

Have you wondered what happens to some hopeful trainees that were left in the dark and never debut? We’re here to shed a light on that, where KPOP isn’t necessarily glitz and glamour. 

Mostly on their own

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Do you know that many hopeful KPOP trainees who dream of achieving fame were mostly fending for themselves? Since most trainees left their families behind for an extended period, pursuing this arduous dream is incredibly challenging right from the start.

Imagine you can’t contact your family members and friends, and the outside world you’ve known remains a distant memory because once you sign up as a trainee, you have to sacrifice everything and devote every time you have on becoming an idol.

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But if that doesn’t happen, these trainees ended up training for so many years without knowing if they’ll debut in a group.

Sexual assaults looming over their head

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The KPOP industry has long been under fire for their mismanagement and abuse they inflicted on these trainees. While we haven’t heard of a shocking case of sexual abuse from the big 3 agencies like SM Entertainment, JYP, and YG Entertainment, we’ve heard of accounts from trainee survivors who were sexually abused in lesser-known agencies.

What’s worse is that many of these trainees started their training years from a young age, so they’ve at least encountered varying degrees of sexual assaults and other kinds of abuse they’ve been subjected to. 

Scaled to “perfection”

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If you’ve heard of the many crazy diets done by KPOP idols, then it’s probably not surprising to know even the trainees practice such diets to qualify themselves. For instance, TWICE’s Momo confessed she once ate only ice cubes for a week and went training in the gym like crazy, as she was told to lose 7kg no matter the cost. 

Not only that, but most agencies usually have a clear rule on their trainees’ weight in order to maintain the “perfect” image an idol possesses. Both female and male trainees are included in this extreme regime, but female trainees mostly took the heavier brunt from criticism and judgment when it comes to their body weight. 

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Some examples of the criticism/judgment include having to step on the weighing scale in front of others, their thighs being measured meticulously with a measuring tape and even have a weekly review that mostly consists of discouraging words so these trainees will “work harder” on their “heavy” weight.

Intense training and preparation

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Koreans work super hard in almost everything they do. The KPOP trainees were no exception to this, as they must prepare and practice A LOT in their path to become an idol. As these trainees usually started out as a student, they went through a grueling schedule like schoolwork, singing, dancing, acting and even learning additional skills to become a “perfect” idol. 

Similar to being scaled weekly, their agencies usually gave these trainees a “monthly evaluation”, where their progress and performance were observed especially by their coaches. Naturally, if the review isn’t satisfying as per the agencies’ standard, these trainees took this on themselves and trained even harder, affecting their mental health in the process.

Spiraling debts

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Depending on the length of training years, sometimes five months or even 10 years, all the training and accommodation costs were sponsored by the agencies. So even when things went downhill for these trainees, escaping takes courage as well as financial will out of them as trainee life is extremely costly.

Even if some trainees managed to debut, they would have to wait a long time to enjoy their paychecks as they will have to repay the debt they owe throughout their training years to their company, which could last years. 

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Lastly, after going through a long period of hardships, many trainees eventually left their company to resume their normal life. But even so, was it all worth the blood, sweat, and tears?