Idol-turned-CEO Exposes K-pop’s ‘Dark’ Side: ‘There’s no idol who didn’t have illness’

A former YG trainee, who debuted in an underrated girl group, exposed the “dark” side of K-pop. She also revealed her plans to change the idol system as the CEO of her label. 

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Heo Yu Jeong Explains How Idol Contracts Work

Heo Yu Jeong, an idol-turned-CEO, unveiled in an interview the unfortunate environment of K-pop idols and trainees that are often overlooked in the music industry.

Heo is a former YG Entertainment trainee, and even lived in a dorm with BLACKPINK members. She later debuted as Bob Girls under Chrome Entertainment in 2014.

Idol-turned-CEO Exposes K-pop's 'Dark' Side: 'There's no idol who didn't have illness'

(Photo : Heo Yu Jeong (Instagram))

After disbanding, she continued her studies and is currently majoring in content at the Graduate School of Culture and Arts Management at Chung Ang University.

For her thesis on how to improve the practice environment of K-pop idol trainees then, she surveyed and visited 300 idols and trainees, and even joined an agency’s rookie development team.

Idol-turned-CEO Exposes K-pop's 'Dark' Side: 'There's no idol who didn't have illness'

(Photo : Heo Yu Jeong (Lay Kyunghyang))

Experiencing it herself, Heo stated:

“Our nation’s entertainment system is a power abuse system. Idols are in such a vulnerable situation in their young adolescence. If you are disliked by the agency, they will not release your contract, so even if you’re treated unfairly such as power tripping or sexual harassment, you can’t easily refute it.”

Idol-turned-CEO Exposes K-pop's 'Dark' Side: 'There's no idol who didn't have illness'

(Photo : Heo Yu Jeong (Lay Kyunghyang))

She also compared an idol contract to a “slave contract.”

“It’s an inevitable contract in Korea, where training is essential, but the idol contract is usually seven years. Actually, idol (career) have a short lifespan. During this golden time, you have to go all in and stay with one company with a single contract. You have to endure unfair treatment.”

Heo Yu Jeong Talks About the Unhealthy Environment of K-pop Idol & Trainees

After joining the rookie development team, Heo pointed out how the idol system infers human rights, such as forcing idols to be thin, not use cell phones and practice all night to succeed.

Former YG Trainee, Idol Reveals BLACKPINK Jisoo, Lisa's Personalities After Living With Them

(Photo : Yoo Jung (TV Report))

“The rookie development team always puts pressure on idols to lose weight. When I told my already skinny friends to lose weight, they had no choice but to go on an excessive diet. However, rather than making a diet plan, they starve themselves unconditionally.

Among the idols I interviewed, gastritis was common, as well as alopecia areata (hair loss), menstrual irregularities, osteoporosis, dermatitis (skin irritation)… there was no idol who didn’t have an illness.”

Former YG Trainee, Idol Reveals BLACKPINK Jisoo, Lisa's Personalities After Living With Them

(Photo : Yoo Jung (Kpop Wiki))

She also emphasized the human rights abuses that can’t be justified in the idol trainee system, adding:

“Usually, the practice room is in the basement, so growing children don’t get the sunlight. If you measure their bone age, it’s at the level of the elderly.

When I was on the rookie development team, I always nagged the kids to go for a walk in the sun after eating, but it is no use unless the system changed.”

Idol-turned-CEO Exposes K-pop's 'Dark' Side: 'There's no idol who didn't have illness'

(Photo : Heo Yu Jeong (Instagram))

She says that companies that cannot support basic life and systematic education while fostering idol groups are not qualified to raise idols.

After retiring as an idol, Heo Yu Jeong got a new dream, which is to become a researcher who creates policies for a healthy idol training system.

She started a company called Souju Company, and is actively working as its CEO and Director.