Getting past auditions and getting into a K-Pop company is only the beginning of a slew of struggles that any aspiring idol has to face. Not only is their whole life invested in this dream, but realistically, most of their finances are too. As such, idols and idol groups often have to start from extremely humble beginnings before seeing a ray of success. Many of the most popular K-Pop groups had to start from non-ideal living conditions. However, it is important to note that one group’s struggle can in no way be compared to another, and documenting every group’s struggle is a herculean task. Here are some of the biggest groups in K-Pop that had to start right from scratch.
One of the major groups that put YG Entertainment’s name on the map, BIG BANG, could not even afford food in their pre-debut days and had to beg the producers of their debut documentary to buy them biscuits, not even proper food. Their training period went on for 6 whole years in this manner with debt piling up. As a matter of fact, the members would get reprimanded for using up more than $5 for food in a day. The members had to come up with a rationing system, even with one pack of cookies. To make up for whatever little they spent, the boys had to resort to mopping the floors and cleaning toilets at the YG office. At the end of the day, they would still have to return to a rat-infested tiny dorm and accommodate each other just to get through the night. Even after their debut, BIG BANG was still struggling. There was not one showcase, one variety show, one opportunity they missed to get themselves out there. Despite their CEO wanting to almost disband the group, the members proved themselves to be true pioneers in their field despite everything they went through. It is a widely known fact now that YG didn’t make BIGBANG, it was BIGBANG that made YG.
At the dawn of their possible original debut in 2013, Pledis Entertainment went bankrupt and delayed SEVENTEEN’s debut indefinitely. Having already trained for so many years and then watching their debut pass them by must have been heart-wrenching. Still, one can only imagine the members' mental and financial pressure when they could not be supported even with a penny by their company. They had to write and produce their songs and create their own choreography that they stuck to over the ages and became one of the best self-producing idol groups in K-Pop. The members individually also had to go through personal struggles, which they’re still trying to overcome today. Eventually, two years later, in 2015, the Vice-President of their company sold off his house to debut SEVENTEEN. At that time, the company could not afford ear-pieces for the members and asked them to buy ear-pieces out of their own pockets. A majority of members could not do that and had to work with earphones instead. While the group did receive disapproval and hate for absolutely no reason whatsoever when they first debuted, SEVENTEEN’s passion was unstoppable, and the rest is simply history.
One of the biggest acts in K-Pop history, BTS, too had really humble beginnings. It was hard for some of the members to decide on this career path owing to their own circumstances, but once they had come together, even though the struggles were only starting, the group could overcome all of it as one. Members of BTS have often spoken about the difficult living conditions and lack of any budget whatsoever for basic amenities during their pre-debut days. BTS could not afford to hire actors or props for their music videos, so they had managers pitch in and acted as extras. At the same time, they couldn't even record their songs in a proper studio and had to use a makeshift garage for the same. However, even though, due to belonging to a smaller company, nothing was handed to them, their company never mistreated them in any way. Society did. BTS received huge amounts of hate, Suga had his songs downright stolen, they were cut from broadcasts, accused of sajaegi or sales manipulation simply because no one believed a smaller group like them could ever make it. When the members would receive hate comments in English on online forums, RM, the leader would mistranslate them into positive messages, which kept the group going. In 2014, Suga revealed that he had been battling depression ever since his pre-debut days. The group’s visuals were brought into question as well. After 2 long and arduous years since their debut, BTS won their first music show ever. Sajaegi accusations were raised once again, and BigHit responded quite matter-of-factly by saying that they simply lacked the resources to ever attempt such a thing. Netizens nitpicked on every single thing BTS did. The malice went as far as death threats towards the members, especially RM, which ultimately led to concerts being abruptly canceled due to safety concerns. Malicious comments got so out of hand, with personal attacks being made against the members that were simply unspeakable, that BigHIt decided to firmly handle them legally. However, the BTS members were meant to walk only on a road of flowers from then on as their success reached new heights. Even today, BTS continues to face hate like never before, but now, those voices have faded to white noise.
Another group that had to cut through extreme pressure from the company, hate speech, language barriers, and continually delayed debut dreams is one of today's biggest K-Pop girl groups BLACKPINK. BLACKPINK had to start their day early in the morning and got to finish up only very late at night, and sometimes even 2 AM of the next day! Their small dorm was infested with cockroaches and flies, and they often didn’t have any food to eat. However, that did not excuse them from having to practice for over 20 hours. Monthly and mid-term evaluations demanded that they write their own songs, create their own choreography, and present, which meant that competition was heavy, and so was the pressure. Despite having so many variables to overcome, BLACKPINK did not back down for once, never giving up on their dream that they shared together and worked so hard for. Needless to say, it all paid off, and the girls deserve every bit of it.
INFINITE, the dark horse of K-Pop was truly the definition of rags to riches. INFINITE members were training endlessly with no definite debut date in sight, and the environment they did so in, was far from being conducive to growth and well-being. In fact, they struggled financially to the extent where if they spent money on food, they wouldn’t have any left for transportation. This, coupled with the immense practice hours, often made the members physically sick. The Company was going broke and the CEO himself had to pledge his house to afford INFINITE’s music video shoot. Their tiny dorm had leakage in the pipes and roof, which made rainwater drip inside, the air conditioner never worked in the summer, and neither did the heaters during the winter. Even after debut, there wasn’t any considerable income, which would have almost caused INFINITE to disband until finally, the tables turned with the release of ‘Be Mine.’ There was no looking back from that point onwards! INFINITE made a name for themselves as the Hallyu wave's forerunners and truly created the blueprint for success that many junior groups have followed. INFINITE was truly exemplary.