Throughout the years, more and more people deeply involved in the K-Pop industry have been revealing information about some of the shady things K-Pop companies are known to do. Here’s a list of just some of the shadiest things that K-Pop companies are known to do.

1. Forcing idols to leave their group

K-Pop companies are known to be harsh on their idols, as there have been some instances when idols got kicked out of their group. Former U-KISS member Alexander is an idol who had to experience this. He shared that one day, his agency suddenly decided to kick him out of the group.

We were doing a lot of overseas events, and I was helping with that. I even taught them how to use Twitter and with promoting our stuff. But then they came to me and said, ‘We’re thinking of swapping out some members. How about you join the overseas team instead?’ I knew they were just trying to kick me out.

— Alexander

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An employee at the agency even tried to give Alexander a reason to leave the group.

An employee told me, ‘Thank about it, Alexander. Where do you think you rank in terms of popularity in Korea? You’re not popular.’ I was young at the time, so I just agreed.

— Alexander

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Alexander also believes that this happens to a lot of artists in K-Pop.

I think a lot of entertainment agencies do this to artists.

— Alexander

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While Alexander did end up leaving his group and agency on good terms, the agency decided to lie about the reason why he left the group.

The agency stated that I left the group because I wanted to go back to school.

— Alexander

2. Forcing idols to switch their concept

While there have been plenty of instances where K-Pop groups change their concept, sometimes groups are forced to do this by their company. A group that had to go through this is Stellar. In the first few years of their career, they did cute concepts as well as some girl crush concepts.

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Stellar during their debut

However, one day their company suddenly decided to change their concept to a sexy one, which the members weren’t in favor of. Not only that, but member Gayoung also revealed that the company tricked them into filming provocative scenes for their music videos.

There was one scene where a member had to drink milk. The script said, ‘Missing your past lover, Tossing and turning in bed, Wake up and drink milk.’ We simply thought that they wanted her to drink milk to portray a morning scene. The member drank the milk for the scene, but they apparently told her, ‘Spill the milk while drinking.’ She thought that she was spilling it to show that the character had no strength, but we were shocked when we read the comments that said, ‘This scene can make you imagine a certain act’. The member who filmed it was only 20 years old at the time, and she was so shocked that she can’t drink white milk to this day. She was hurt a lot. No one knew that was [the purpose of the scene].

—Gayoung

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Stellar after their concept change

If the members tried standing up for themselves, then the company would threaten them with penalty fees. All of this mistreatment eventually led all the members to leave the agency, and Stellar ultimately disbanded.

3. Chart manipulation

Some K-Pop companies go far lengths to have their artists rank high on music charts.

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Former MBLAQ member G.O once revealed that there are a lot of businesses dedicated to doing chart manipulation. They do this by blocking Korea’s domestic traffic servers and controlling them from abroad. G.O even once received this kind of offer from chart manipulators, but he declined the offer. 

If you pay us $375,000 USD, we’ll rank your singer no.1 on the charts for one month.

ㅡ Chart manipulators

Throughout the years, many artists have come out and spoken against people who choose to use these methods. During the 2019 MAMA, BTS‘s Jin decided to throw some shade at chart manipulators.

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I really want us to live in a world where all of those songs are heard and get recognition they deserve. I know there are some negative ways to do this, but music should be done in an honest way. I look forward to living in a world where music is produced in good faith, and heard in good faith.

— Jin

4. Staff members selling information to sasaeng fans

Sasaeng fans are obsessive “fans” who invade the privacy of their favorite idols, and they are one of the worst things idols have to deal with. While a lot of companies try to protect their artists from sasaeng fans by blacklisting them, it seems that sasaeng fans can easily get past this. A former sasaeng fan by the name of Kasami Yamamoto explained how a lot of K-Pop companies have staff members who sell information to sasaeng fans!

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Most ent companies claim to try and protect their idols from sasaengs by methods like blacklisting sasaengs. But sasaengs can easily get past this because entertainment companies don’t realize that people in their own company are selling information to sasaengs just for cash. Some companies actually know, but some don’t.

— Kasami Yamamoto/Quora