Over the past few months, numerous idols have come under fire for allegedly bullying classmates and perpetrating violence during their middle and high school years—but why didn’t their agencies know? These scandals have led fans to question whether agencies background check their idols at all. Now, two K-Pop industry insiders are explaining the truth.
Through the course of his career, Dragon J (author of How to Become a K-Pop Star) went from K-Pop manager to girl group training manager to head of business development at a Korean entertainment company. YouTuber In Ji Woong is also a former idol trainer and currently directs K-Pop choreography.
So, who better to explain how idols’ past scandals slip through the cracks in a new “Comment Defenders” video with AYO on YouTube?
They don’t investigate idols’ past? It’s all bullies tsk tsk
— AYO commenter
First and foremost, Dragon J explained that agencies can’t investigate a trainee’s entire background. Many have theorized that it’s likely difficult for agencies to do thorough background checks on aspiring idols due to time and resource constraints, legal reasons, and safeguarding restrictions.
Dragon J went on to note that many idols are recommended by art schools, such as the well-known School of Performing Arts Seoul (SOPA) and Hanlim Multi Art School. In those cases, Dragon J says the idols are “guaranteed” to not have bullying issues in their past—at least while they were studying at the school in question. When they recruit through auditions, on the other hand, Dragon J says they’ll “never know” who has a violent or mean history.
However, that doesn’t mean agencies don’t do anything to try to prevent debuting idols who were bullies. In Ji Woong elaborated but revealing that when agencies train future idols, they can usually tell which ones “have a temper“. Trainees have to dance until their bodies are worn out, and In Ji Woong says the ones who don’t have any anger issues usually push through to the very end—even if they break down in tears. According to the former trainer, those who do have attitude issues tend to yell or leave before that point.
Usually trainees who don’t have a personality problem do it til the end even while crying, but some can’t hold their temper and they storm out of the room while yelling.
— In Ji Woong
Ultimately, In Ji Woong says the most important thing the agency checks isn’t the idol’s full school history, but rather their personality. Operating on the assumption that school bullies will remain short-tempered even after securing a training contract, personality is believed to provide agencies with most of the information they need. Later, trainees presumed to have an attitude or personality problem will be filtered out and sent home.
When you keep seeing them, you get some data, then later the agency will internally filter them. Since the social atmosphere has changed now. I think agencies can filter thoroughly on that part, like school violence.
— In Ji Woong, Dragon J