Earlier this week, Ladies' Code was involved in a car accident that shocked the K-Pop community--not because celebrities getting into car accidents is an uncommon thing, unfortunately, but because someone finally lost their life to a repeated problem; someone paid the price for somebody else's mistakes.
That someone is EunB, a young girl in her 20s who, just a few days ago, was struggling to start her career as a K-Pop idol. That somebody else is the world of K-Pop itself, and the harsh, fast-paced system it has in place. As a K-Pop fan who has watched these idols herded about at such high risk for years now, I find it upsetting how, because of such a system, a tragedy like this was not prevented.
It's common K-Pop knowledge by now that entertainment companies overwork their idols to death. During promotions, companies eager to tackle whatever chance they have at fame and fortune overload idols' schedules so much to the point that many celebrities start and end their day in the hours of dawn. The result: they become anxious, stressed, and sleep-deprived.
Pic: Lee Joon gets so tired that he's known to pass out anywhere, from the floor, closet, to even the bathtub.
K-Pop and K-Drama celebrities clearly don't get enough sleep because of their ambitious companies and their heavy workload. The job of a manager is just as stressful, if not more so. Managers are like parents, responsible for supervising the idol, waking them up in the morning, keeping track of the idol's schedule, and making sure the idol follows it. They are like messengers, constantly communicating back and forth between the label, the idol, and other companies interested in working with that idol. And lastly, they are like chauffeurs, driving idols from one place to another. If idols have long hours, managers have longer ones; and if idols are sleep-deprived, well, you can do the math from here.
Here's another equation to consider: if your driver is barely functioning on little sleep, then you have a problem. Girl's Day's Yura once revealed on an episode of 'Crisis Escape No. 1' that her manager was so tired, he fell asleep at the wheel. Imagine being in a moving vehicle with a sleeping driver; you have no control, and your fate is up to physics and luck. That's my nightmare come to life.
Fortunately for Girl's Day, the manager snapped awake in time before anything serious happened. Kim Jong Kook on the same episode, however, revealed that such an incident didn't come as much of a surprise, noting that he would drive during his boy band Turbo days because his manager was always so tired.
Pic: Exhausted actor Park Min Woo falling asleep at the wheel on an episode of 'Roommate'.
Managers sleeping on the job is a common occurrence--but it really shouldn't be. They're exhausted and definitely not functioning under a healthy state of mind. And yet, they're still asked to drive their idols around. Many celebrities--both idols and non-idols alike--have suffered from car accidents probably because their managers tried to rush them to their schedules and couldn't focus due to lack of sleep.
In 2007, Girls' Generation's manager tried to hurry over to 'Music Bank' with the group in fear that the girls would get banned from the show if they didn't make it on time. After getting into a minor car accident that day, the manager apologized to the girls, blamed himself, and quit. In the same year, Super Junior's manager guiltily cried that he wanted to commit suicide when his car totaled and Kyuhyun was critically injured to the point that, according to the Super Junior members, he could have died. Talk about traumatizing.
There are other incidents that might not involve accounts of the manager taking the blame, but were probably caused by the same reason. Many accidents occur while managers and celebrities are en route to their schedules during the late night or early morning--when they're tired yet anxious to get somewhere.
In 2002, Shinhwa's Dongwan was on his way to film 'Heaven's Kids' at 5:15 AM when his car crashed and he suffered blows to his back and neck. In 2011, Super Junior's Kyuhyun got into yet another car accident on his way to his musical 'Trio'. T-ara's Soyeon was on her way to shoot 'Haeundae Lovers' at 7AM in 2012 when her car flipped over. miss A got into a minor car accident on their way to film 'Show Champion' while INFINITE's Woohyun car slipped en route to film the drama 'High School: Love On'.
Pic: Gong Hyo Jin's car crash aftermath.
Some accidents also occur when the managers and their celebrities are coming back from schedules, probably exhausted. F.CUZ's Kan was coming back from filming 'Athena: Goddess of War' when his accident landed him a dislocated shoulder and a stitched up face. Dal Shabet's Subin injured her hip and leg after filming 'Nine to Six 2'. Actress Gong Hyo Jin got a fracture in her left arm after filming ended for 'It's Okay, That's Love'. BESTie was involved in a minor accident after attending a pre-recording for 'Inkigayo,' and SECRET got into a serious accident around 2AM with Hana suffering from broken ribs and a bruised lung.
Pic: Dal Shabet Subin's car crash aftermath. Video clip can be seen here.
Of course, there can be other factors that culminate and lead to a tragic result. In EunB's case, some speculate that neither she nor RiSe, who is currently unconscious, were wearing seatbelts, as there are rumors that the two flew out of the car. Wearing one's seatbelt can definitely make a huge difference; Super Junior's Heechul commented that wearing a seatbelt saved him from his own 2006 car accident. But what about the condition of the driver and the car?
According to reports, the car, which the company had rented, spun out of control after the back wheel came off. How does a back wheel come off without anybody realizing that it was loose enough to do so? Who is checking these vehicles prior to driving and making sure that they're safe? Is that the fatigued manager's responsibility, too? As Eru mentioned in his Twitter post earlier this week, both the vehicle and the driver should have been checked that night. If EunB had worn a seatbelt, she may have survived; but if the vehicle and driver were in better condition, the accident would have never happened in the first place.
Pic: Ladies' Code's car crash aftermath.
The amount of car accidents that occur yearly in the K-Pop world is infuriating--especially when these accidents can be easily prevented. A 2-step solution for entertainment labels would be to 1) schedule fewer appointments, and 2) hire more people to do different things. Celebrities shouldn't be constantly herded from one place to another like tired sheep or cattle, and managers shouldn't have to take on so many tasks when the entertainment labels, particularly bigger ones, have the money to hire more people. Celebrities should even have their own chauffeurs instead of having to rely on their already tired managers to take them places.
Maybe there will be a few missed opportunities without these overloaded schedules; maybe there will be less profit if money is spent on hiring extra people. But considering that these celebrities and their managers are actual people whose health should be priority, a few more schedules and a few more bucks is not worth putting their lives at such risk.
EunB is not the first idol to die from a car accident. In 2004, Seo Jae Hyo from the boy group Wanted passed away after rushing to a recording schedule. He was 22 years old, the same age as EunB. As a 22-year-old myself, it makes me upset that two young adults who probably had a lot of anxieties about their futures--but at least had futures--passed so soon, likely because of poor management.
Pic: Wanted Seo Jae Ho's funeral.
I'm not saying that Ladies' Code's label, Polaris Entertainment, is necessarily the one to blame for this tragedy. The company was only following a system and mentality that have ruled the K-Pop world for years. Their management decisions and hastiness are understandable when put in the context of this world. After all, how is one supposed to compete by taking things just one step at a time, when everyone else is gobbling up all the opportunities and speeding towards the spotlight?
The one at fault is the K-Pop system itself, and if these celebrities and managers are going to get the treatment that they deserve, it will have to start with big business heads realizing that human lives are not worth gambling for money. Knowing how business tends to work, however, it doesn't seem like that realization will happen anytime soon.