The BBC World News's decision to air a 50-minute cut of the documentary "9Muses of Star Empire," in February, portraying the darker side of the K-pop industry, reignited a firestorm of allegations that South Korean artists are co-opted too young and tossed aside when they're too old.
The documentary, which follows the members of the K-pop girl group 9Muses as they prepare for their debut release over the course of a year, chronicles the struggles the singers experience as they take their shot at international fame.
"Amidst all the dramas, the tears, and the fatigue, the manager and one of the members develop a forbidden relationship and results in the member's removal from the group," reads the film's official description.
"9Muses of Star Empire," which made the rounds at several film festivals after being released last year, raised issues about the price of being a K-pop star that are still sparking debate.
Geoffrey Cain, a reporter for Idaho newspaper the Boise Weekly, brought the allegations of K-pop idol abuse back into the headlines, with a scathing editorial published on Friday.
"After rehearsing their dance moves and singing skills at one of the country's few K-pop boot camps run by major labels, many boys and girls are recruited when they're adolescents or teenagers," Cain writes.
"From there, the recruits must dedicate their youth to prepping for the concert circuit. They can spend anywhere between four and sometimes 10 years in training with their new musical buddies for hours each day."
Entitled "K-Pop's Dirty Secret," Cain's editorial also touched on the hot button issue of whether aspiring artists are forced by their record labels or management to get plastic surgery.
"The marketers will expect nearly all men and women to get a cookie-cutter assortment of cosmetic operations: a pointier nose, Botox injections, and an eyelift among others," he writes.
Although the U.S. leads the world in plastic surgery per capita, South Koreans had the most plastic surgery done in 2011, according to a study by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons.
Last month, K-pop idol CL of the band 2NE1, whose real name is Lee Chaelin, told Elle Magazine that record label executives at YG Entertainment urged her to get plastic surgery before her first album was released.
"You know, YG [Entertainment record label executives] told me to," CL said. "They told me to get plastic surgery before my debut. I stood up for myself and said 'No, I'm not doing it.'"
"Like I said before, I love CL, but I still want to be Chaelin," the star added. "And if I felt like I had to change I would. But I love the natural way I look. I said 'no' and I'm not planning to [get plastic surgery]."
Read the full Boise Weekly editorial RIGHT HERE
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