What Does the T-ARA Controversy Say About the Industry?

T-ARA's management, Core Contents Media decided to remove the contested member from the group when controversy and rumours arose from witness accounts and tweets that could have been pointed at the new member, Hwayoung.

This isn't entirely original. We've seen Girls' Generation's Taeyeon, KARA's Kyuri, After School's Uee and T-ARA's Boram have all been involved in bullying and conflict scandals before. Super Junior's Yesung said, at their 6th album press conference, "If you look at all the groups, 99% of them don't get along."

- Why are there conflicts?

Music industry insiders believe that it is the limitation of the idol groups who live in the same space and do everything together. International press have commented on the process of creating these idol groups as one cultural commodity and how that may lead to such problems as this one.

Chung Duk-Hyun, a pop culture analyst, said, "Idol groups are not musical groups that formed naturally or as a result of people collaborating. They are artificial creations by management companies to sell an image. Past groups split up because of differences in musical visions but now this is the result of just putting people together and expecting them to get along."

Another reason can be due to extreme competition amongst the members.

Recently, groups have also been focusing on how to sell each individual member as a commodity and solo activity has also been an issue of contention within the groups and for the management as well.

For example, one girl group experienced a conflict where members and their families protested when one member's individual exposure became extensive and the member gained a lot of popularity. In order to prevent such conflicts, management companies have been ensuring that the extra profit from one member's individual activity is shared by all.

Recently, groups have been experiencing increasing resizing and this can be another hotbed for conflicts as well. New members and old members leaving can all be issues for members and their competition and entitlement to their group. Because it's a job that involves having other people like them, it can be hard for members when their competition is constantly changing or when they feel that new members are simply freeloading on their hard work.

Sometimes management companies resize or replace members in order to spark more competition.

- What are the side effects?

Music experts believe that conflicts within groups can have a negative effect on the image of K-Pop worldwide and its expansion into other markets. This is evident in the case of T-ARA, where you see both domestic and international fans reacting negatively to the news of bullying within the group.

When the TVXQ contract case was a hot issue a couple of years ago, BBC and other foreign press commented on the news as a negative aspect of the Korean music industry and how contracts and management companies are often at the heart of the issues. T-ARA's bullying issue comes at a bad time, especially when their main fanbase is with teenagers and society is increasingly paying more attention to what happens as a result of bullying to teenagers.

- How do you prevent it?

Management insiders said that in order to prevent any more conflicts, management must have extensive and constant communciation with the groups and its members.

Super Junior members, at their 6th album press conference, confessed that their secret to success and compatibility was that they would always communicate with each other and that when members didn't get along, they would fight and make sure that another member or a third party was present to mediate the conflict and ensure the group's coherence.

In fact, some management companies are known to hold regular meetings where they discuss possible issues or any personal problems the groups may have with anything involving their group or the management. Some groups are said to even have sessions with psychiatrists for group therapy and they have proven to be helpful for most of them.

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Super Junior
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