K-Pop: No Mercy?

Screenshot of Heo Yoorim (Aisha) from the ‘Dun Dun’ MV. Copyright goes to YeHua Entertainment and Everglow.

Hi! It’s Annie!

For those of you who didn’t catch my title reference, that is a reference to the Starship Entertainment show ‘No Mercy’ that formed the group Monsta X. And this is a show I am going to bring up in this post, because I don’t think I’ve seen anything that so clearly shows how idols are treated. Yes, I know that it is a reality television show where much of it is dramatized, but a lot of it isn’t. And the show was called ‘No Mercy’ for a reason. I’ve been edging around this topic for a while because I was unsure of how to approach it with so much material. But now that the way idols are treated was brought back into the limelight because of a situation with ‘Everglow’, I feel like I need to tackle this topic now more than ever. Because we’ve talked about the messed up ways fans and haters have treated idols on this blog, but we haven’t as much talked about the way their companies treat them. So this will be a deep dive on several things, from the Everglow situation this morning to the show ‘No Mercy’, that really show us how idols are treated sometimes.

Aisha and Everglow:

This morning I woke up to Everglow trending pretty much everywhere, which doesn’t happen often. Everglow is still a pretty new group and is still gaining a fandom, so trending on multiple platforms, unfortunately, doesn’t happen for them much yet. I was hoping that it would be something good, but my expectations sunk when I saw that Aisha was trending singularly. Mostly because the last two times a singular member of Everglow started trending, it was because Yiren caught Covid and Aisha got caught up in a bullying scandal. Yiren put out a voice only V-Live that seemed to be innocent in the beginning, but part way through in the background fans could hear what sounded like a man shouting and a woman sounding scared. Most people felt that the woman’s voice was Aisha, but no one really knows for certain. No one really knows for certain what happened at all. And maybe it was nothing, but the way that YeHua Entertainment responded to the fans concern makes it not sound like nothing. YeHua Entertainment assured fans that the sound of the man shouting was a sneeze (what?) and then took down the Live Chat Replay for the video immediately afterwards. I have no idea whether or not it was a sneeze, but this is not looking good for YeHua Entertainment. And I sincerely hope that someone wasn’t yelling like that at Aisha because it really makes me fear for the safety of the girls. Something that was brought up several times in the Twitter discourse was the fact that this isn’t out of character for what we know about how idols are treated. In fact, this is one of the reasons why more and more people have started boycotting bigger companies in this industry in mass.

‘No Mercy’:

I’ve started getting really into Monsta X lately, which I haven’t really been discreet about (sorry), so I decided to watch ‘No Mercy’. All of the episodes are on YouTube and I was actually pretty interested in seeing how they formed. I was, in fact, warned about this show by my Monbebe friend who dragged me into this fandom. She did inform me that the title ‘No Mercy’ was no joke and that the show was intense from what she had seen of it. But with all of the episodes so easily accessible, I really couldn’t help myself. While I started out with the intention of fully watching all ten episodes, I ended up massively skipping through the entire series. And, of course, it had nothing to do with the boys. But I couldn’t stand to see any of them treated that way. And I am definitely also including the trainees who didn’t end up in Monsta X in that statement. People think that some of the judges on American singing shows are harsh (I’m looking at you Simon), but this was an entirely new level. Some of the criticism seemed like it had the intention to humiliate and embarrass them. They were given mixed signals by judges who told them to both view the other contestants as a team while also telling them that they should hate each other. I.M came in more than halfway through the series and had an awful time because nobody could bear to talk to him after everything that had happened. In the short amount I could bring myself to watch, I cried several times because it was tough to see them put in those situations. I honestly can’t imagine what it would have been like to live it. And one of the judges even told Kihyun at one point that her debut was harder so if he found this too difficult then he should just quit. I don’t think whose experience was worse that whose is a justification for how this show treated them or how idols are treated in general. It all has to stop.

BTS and HYBE:

One of the reasons that BigHit formed was because the founder thought the way idols were treated was downright evil. Bang PD wanted to create a company that both gave the idols a say in the songs they created and would consistently treat them like human beings. Many people are convinced that this nurturing environment is one of the reasons BTS became as successful as they are now. I would definitely add that in as a factor to their success. Treating people unkindly does not ensure they will work harder, it just makes them afraid. While BTS still saw some hardships, I do think that many companies should take inspiration from the way BTS is treated by their company.

In general, there is not an excuse to treat someone as less than human. Ever. I understand that training is difficult and it would still be difficult without this treatment, but this treatment doesn’t make it any better. Idols should not be treated as machines to churn out the next big hit for their company. Everyone should always be aware that these people are human. Their fans and their companies. We don’t know what happened with Aisha, but I hope that this reaction from the fans made it clear to companies that the fans won’t stand to see artists treated this way. But I’m glad that it seems like BTS is paving the way for this to get better. With the bigger companies starting to die out, we’re seeing artists being treated better by their companies right off the bat. Part of this is the success of BTS, but part of this is also because fans have stood up to say that we won’t condone this behavior any longer. So, while this is still really upsetting, don’t discount the progress that’s being made either. This isn’t a hopeless cause. Even looking at how Monsta X is now compared to where they started in ‘No Mercy’ is proof that things have improved exponentially for artists. But we aren’t there quite yet.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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