From the ‘stigma against mental health’ to the ‘idol’ phenomena, Amber Liu and AleXa are giving first-hand accounts to the pressures of the K-Pop industry in sit-down interviews for ‘CBS This Morning.’
Scrutiny over personal lives. Cyberbullying. Extreme expectations. These are all topics in the K-Pop industry that more and more people are talking about in light of the apparent suicides of Goo Hara and Sulli, both talented K-Pop performers and friends who left a world that mercilessly criticized them, just a month apart from one another in 2019. Now, fellow performers Amber Liu, 27 — who was Sulli’s former bandmate in f(x) — and AleXa, 22, who just made her K-Pop debut in Oct. 2019, have joined the conversation in a special segment for CBS Morning, which aired on Jan. 2.
“If you aren’t under a certain weight, you can definitely get cut. You’re told what to do, what to say, what to think,” Amber revealed. It’s hard to find an outlet for these pressures — Amber, who’s now a solo artist, added, “When (people) hear you’re getting help they’re like, ‘What? Why are you getting help? That’s weird.’ And that stigma against mental health is just so strong.”
AleXa, a Korean-American from Tusla, Oklahoma, reflected on how K-Pop stars are often seen as deities to the public. “They’re called idols, because they’re put on this pedestal of kind of like untouchable perfection I guess in the public’s eyes, in the consumers’ eyes,” she observed. “I myself have struggled with self-confidence for years and finding the capability to love myself, but I have recently stumbled upon that.”
AleXa also touched upon the demanding hours that go into her profession. Filming the music video for “Bomb,” which marked her debut in the K-Pop scene last fall, was no nine to five job. “The music video took two days to film, 24 hours each day, almost. With like six costume changes. Six or seven set changes,” she revealed.
Changes are trying to be made in the K-Pop industry. The Korea Entertainment Management Association revealed plans to crack down on cyber violence, the CBS This Morning segment had revealed. “Malicious commenters” would be punished, the very demographic that Sulli (whose real name is Choi Jin-ri) and Goo Hara faced leading up to their deaths.
Sulli, who defied gender norms in South Korea with her forthright nature and caused a commotion by sharing braless photos, was often a target of cruel online trolls and critics. “I am not a bad person. I’m sorry. Why are you saying bad things about me? What did I do to deserve this?” she had asked in her last Instagram Live session, before passing away in Oct. 2019. She was just 25 years old.
Not long after, Goo Hara, famous for performing with the girl group Kara, passed away in Nov. 2019 at the young age of 28. She had been at the center of a sensationalized scandal after accusing her ex-boyfriend, former soccer player Choi Jong-bum, 41, of allegedly blackmailing her with a sex tape that he had recorded without consent — the court found him guilty of “assault causing bodily harm, intimidation, coercion and destruction and damage of property,” but not guilty of “illicit filming” since Goo Hara had stayed in the relationship, according to BBC News. Now, fans are pleading for change, and Amber and AleXa have made a brave move by speaking up.