K-pop: A horror show for masochists

K-pop: A horror show for masochists

Do you like being treated like rubbish? Do you enjoy having your warmth and kisses rewarded with a fist to the face and a vacuum cleaner nozzle down your wallet? Do you sometimes find normal pop artists simply too talented, or just too nice?

If you said yes to any of the above, you will just love K-pop, that sugary, neon-coloured funtime that combines the best of a plastic surgery trade show and a mugging in a dark alley.

A few months ago, for example, I saw dozens of fans yelled at, marched out of the Singapore Indoor Stadium by security staff and have their belongings confiscated. Why? Because they dared take photographs of a Korean boy band during a show. Because if there is one place in which an artiste absolutely needs his privacy, it is up on stage in front of 20,000 people.

That same paranoid need for control is felt at K-pop press events. These events are notorious for the viciously tight rein over what can and cannot be said. According to what my colleagues tell me, it makes the interviews feel a lot like speaking to puppets with strings pulled by managers.

There is a rumour going around that managers do to artists what parents do to pets when the animals get too old. The parents quietly replace Snowy with a younger version every few years when the kids aren't looking, and hope they won't notice that Snowy version 2 or 3 has taken over. That K-pop performers all look the same and never seem to age is not an accident.

A few weeks ago, Fatfish Entertainment, a concert organiser for a K-pop show, asked fans to donate money to pay for its food and transport costs, as if it suddenly realised that it had forgotten to set aside money for wacky and unexpected expenses, such as eating and getting around.

That move was just a palate teaser compared to what happened later. Fatfish last week cancelled the show, stranding fans who had paid anywhere from $168 to $688 for a ticket.

The reason given by Fatfish was "unforeseen circumstances", words I've heard often when concert promoters can't do what you have paid them to do.

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