4 Events that demanded change in the Korean entertainment industry
The Korean entertainment industry is no stranger to tragic events. No matter how glamorous and beautiful this business is made out to be, there are the occasional moments that rise to the surface that exhibit its uglier face. However, these moments of conflict or tragedy often become the cry to the larger public to demand change. Here are four times an event shouted for a significant transformation.
**A forewarning before reading on, some of the occurrences listed may be distressing to read for some.
1. 'Hwayugi' Staff Injury
Staff injuries have been unfortunately more normalized, especially on drama productions, than it should be. Happening time and time again, most recently on the set of tvN's 'Hwayugi,' a staff member fell from the ceiling while tinkering with the lighting. The staff member has been reported to be paralyzed from the waist down.
Non-pre-produced drama sets are notorious for their long hours and rushed filming. Actors are known for not being able to sleep for days at a time and think about how much busier staff members must be if even the actors aren't sleeping. Thankfully, with the incident at 'Hwayugi' the National Union of Mediaworkers opened an investigation on the staff safety, where they deemed the workers as being overworked and pushed to their limits. Hopefully, this becomes the stepping stone to ensuring that these injuries in such an exhaustive work environment do not happen again.
2. Ladies' Code Car Accident
The tragedy that shook up the whole Korean media industry and society, in general, was the sudden car accident where RiSe and EunB of Ladies' Code passed away. The conversation quickly focused on how overworked and exhausted idols were from going from one schedule to the next without rest. As a result of their crazy back-to-back schedules, their managers ended up speeding to get to their appointments in time, which in this case resulted in death.
Although car accidents are and still normal in this business, the tragedy of Ladies' Code was undoubtedly the biggest wake-up call calling for a change in the way for companies to manage and care for their artists. Although we can, unfortunately, say that not much has changed since then.
3. Han Ye Seul leaving the set of 'Spy Myung Wol'
In 2011, Han Ye Seul surprised everyone by not only leaving the set of her drama 'Spy Myung Wol' but also leaving the country and flying to her family in LA (for a full 48 hours) to boycott the unacceptable work environment on set. Even though she received extreme backlash from the public for being selfish for stopping filming, many fellow actors and industry participants defended her actions, calling for a change to the life or death working conditions. Especially when dramas have filmed until the day before the episode is aired, the Korean Actors Association was quick to point out that actors work 100 hours overtime as a given.
Although the exact details of why Han Ye Seul left in the middle may never be publically revealed, her bold act of defiance caught the attention of the whole industry and her one-woman protest is still remembered to this day.
4. Jonghyun's Suicide
A devastating event to end 2017 was the suicide of SHINee's Jonghyun. Truthfully, I debated a lot about including this one event in this article due to how fresh this wound is, but this tragedy may be the biggest call for change that the K-pop scene has experienced in a while.
Jonghyun who was in the midst of gearing up for his solo album and comeback, who was still actively participating in variety shows, who was still a central figure in the K-pop world, in a sudden of horrific dystopian events was no longer with us. It was a vivid, painful cry, in the history of K-pop, to once again highlight the stress and pressure of this industry. His last words called for understanding and uncovering the truths of how he actually felt, it was his last goodbye but it was also the start of hopefully, a more aware, frank mental health discussion that promotes better mental health stability in this realm.
As much as the Korean entertainment field is loved and revered, screams shouted by the participants must be listened to. Even more importantly, changes need to be made to ensure that these tragedies do not strike again.