From what I’ve gathered, he wants to live a more normal life, one without stalkers, one without a crazy obsession over weight, and one without crazy hours. Life as a kpop idol is hard, far harder than any of us can imagine, especially to those of us who are international fans who do not have as much exposure to their promotional activities.
While I am glad that Dongho has taken such a public step out, I am still unsatisfied. Has Dongho spoken up against the kpop idol system? No. His statement on wanting to leave the group was mostly focused on him– he feared his health wasn’t up to par, and thus, this implies that it was no fault of the company’s. That claim I find hard to believe, because secondhand evidence seems to point otherwise on how lowly these idols are treated. Moreover, these scandals and quittings are happening all over the place, most notably with ex-Super Junior member Hangeng, JYJ and KARA’s Nicole.
Yet has there been any substantial change in the kpop industry? No. Granted, SM has rewritten their idol contracts after JYJ, but from the rumors, it was just a mechanical reaction to ‘save face’, as were most other reactions by idol agencies. Idols are still being shunted from schedule to schedule, fed poorly, going on unreasonable diets, and forced to have plastic surgery that is neither needed or even wanted by the idols. It breaks my heart to know that Onew lost a few kg for Everybody comeback, because whenever he talks about weight loss, he always tries to smile, but it always seems so sad. As the recent Vice article on Busker, Busker shows, the contract is still very much a slave contract.
Fans for the most part are ignorant or ignore this and as do idols, scared that their jobs will go away, heavily influenced by the Korea’s overwork culture, and daunted by the terms of their contract. Nonetheless, fans cannot be the catalyst of change for this, and only kpop idols can ultimately provide the final push for better working conditions for themselves and their colleagues; they are the only ones that know what is really going on. I just hope that one day there will be a whistleblower confident enough to come forth, and spill so much blood on the rug that it is impossible to hide or clean.
Dongho, have a good rest, and I wish you all the best.