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K-pop idols suffering from stress-related illnesses

Julie Jackson

The Korea Herald/Asia News Network

 /  Mon, October 24, 2016  /  07:57 pm
K-pop idols suffering from stress-related illnesses

EXO member Lay. He fainted at the Incheon Airport on Oct. 11. (SMTOWN official vyrl account/File)

This month alone the local entertainment industry has been hit with a number of K-pop idols suffering from fatigue and other stress-related mental health issues. With all these stars taking time out from their hectic schedules, one question needs to be answered -- where do we draw the line?

In a span of three weeks, a member of mega hallyu boy band EXO fainted at Incheon airport, a Crayon Pop starlet suspended all her music activities due to anxiety, and a member of the newly debuted WINNER halted the group’s new album endeavors in order to tend to his “psychological issues.”

On Oct. 11, EXO member Lay, along with the rest of his group members, were at the Incheon International Airport getting ready to board their flight to Japan when the K-pop idol suddenly collapsed. Those who saw the incident occur at the airport said that Lay remained unconscious as he was transferred to a hospital.

After being rushed to the hospital, the K-pop star’s agency released an official statement saying, “Lay momentarily lost consciousness due to a lack of sleep. Thankfully, the doctor said he will make a full recovery after he gets some rest.”

However, the incident led to a massive online outrage by dedicated EXO fans who bashed and lashed out against the entertainment agency for overworking the idols to the point of causing damage to the young entertainers’ health. 

(Read also: Dangerously skinny K-pop girl groups)

Following the incident, Lay later went to urge fans not to blame S.M. Entertainment for the incident.

“The fainting was my fault, please don’t curse out my fellow company colleagues,” he said in a press conference for his upcoming Chinese drama “The Mystic Nine,” eight days after the incident occurred. “The schedule arrangements were all mostly my choice. I’m the type of person who doesn’t like admitting defeat, so I always try to do everything I can. The agency respects my thoughts.”

However, this is not the first time the K-pop star has lost consciousness. A similar incident occurred last May during filming for a Chinese variety show. It was concluded that Lay once again passed out due to exhaustion and fatigue.

WINNER member Nam Tae-hyun. He is presently taking a hiatus due to psychological health issues.(

Earlier this month, both Crayon Pop member Soyul and WINNER member Nam Tae-hyun announced they were halting all of their public appearances and recording sessions.

On Oct. 12, YG Entertainment announced that Nam will be suspending his role as a member of the popular new boy band WINNER indefinitely, claiming the young singer is currently seeking treatment for “mental health issues.”

Although the agency did not specify exactly what sort of health issues Nam has been diagnosed with, they claimed that his issues were something that he had been dealing with since his days as a trainee, adding that his condition has “taken a turn for the worse.” It has been reported that the singer has moved out of his dorm room at the agency and is back living with his mother and is receiving treatment for his illness. 

(Read also: Far East Movement drops K-pop studded new album)

In the case of Soyul, a representative of Crayon Pop’s managing agency stated that she would be suspending all group activities for the foreseeable future as the singer was recently diagnosed with having an anxiety disorder. “Her conditions are worse than expected,” the agency stated, noting that for the time being, Crayon Pop would be continuing as a four-member act.

Soyul of Crayon Pop recently halted all her entertainment activities as she continues to struggle with anxiety disorder. (Chrome Entertainment via The Korea Herald/File)

It is certainly no secret in Korea that the training process to debut as a K-pop star is no quick or simple venture. Often referred to as music “boot camp,” K-pop training among some of the nation’s biggest talent agencies is intense, to say the least.

And with only a fraction of trainees able to become K-pop stars, the atmosphere among trainees can be fiercely competitive and cutthroat.

With popular K-pop reality shows such as “WIN: Who Is Next?” and “Sixteen,” the public eye has been given a rare behind-the-scenes glance at the extreme late hours, stressful pressure and sheer competitive nature of the local music industry.

Many ex-K-pop trainees go on to share their various experiences online through various blog postings such as “Confessions of an EX-SM Trainee” and “K-pop Secrets!,” further shedding more light on all the gritty, cut-throat reality of life as a K-pop trainee. 

(Read also: Did K-pop boy band Beast members hint at new label?)

“We had all begun to work extremely hard. Education turned out to be our last priority and making an impression on the reps, staff and CEO was (the) first priority,” wrote one former Korean-American ex-YG trainee. “This was a terrible time for me. Friends that I had made were slowly turning to rivals.”

“We all began to battle each other and whatnot. I have to say that YG is definitely a serious agency, as in like the competition is dead on, there is no time for laughing and fooling around,” he continued. “Being in an agency that focused mainly on talent made things extremely difficult.”

In the past, Girls’ Generation member YoonA went public about her ongoing battles with depression, as well as other famous stars including Park Bom of 2NE1 and Hee-chul of Super Junior, Epik High’s Tablo, who all claim to suffer from depression. Singer-songwriter IU has also gone public with her struggles with bulimia, while f(x)’s Amber, SHINee’s Jong-hyun and MBLAQ’s Lee Joon have all been diagnosed with insomnia.

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This article appeared on The Korea Herald newspaper website, which is a member of Asia News Network and a media partner of The Jakarta Post