Degree Name





Fine Arts and Communications

Defense Date


Publication Date


First Faculty Advisor

Kevin John

First Faculty Reader

Robert Walz

Honors Coordinator

Pamela Brubaker


korean, kpop, BTS, idol, music, documentary


Korean pop music has risen to an international consciousness during the surge of the cultural Korean wave. However, many are still unaware of the struggles that idols face when pursuing a career in this industry. Many artists in the industry struggle with their physical and emotional health due to rigorous schedules in training and as a performing group, high expectations of performance and appearance, and restrictive contracts known as “slave contracts” that limit their personal freedoms and financial resources. These factors lead to the industry being highly damaging to the stars that participate in it.

In this documentary, I take research from academic studies, news events, public commentary online from the Korean pop community, and my own investigation conducted through interviews to draw conclusions about how this exploitative environment looks today in a modern world.

The conclusion I come to in my documentary is that, while many harmful expectations and behaviors remain the same in the Korean pop industry, there are changes starting to happen to allow idols more freedom and decrease the frequency of slave contracts. I attribute this gradual change to the involvement of fan bases with their idol groups through social media empowering these celebrities to stand up to their companies via lawsuits. This impact of public opinion on companies’ consumer base is now widespread enough with the internet that many agencies are highly responsive to fans’ concerns, meaning the fans act as advocates for the artists by holding their company responsible.