By Kang Hyun-kyung
Kang Hyun, a high school senior who was competing in Mnet's popular hip hop audition show High School Rapper, quit Saturday. His sudden decision to drop out of the popular contest, widely regarded as a springboard to fame for aspiring hip hop singers, came days after his alleged violent past was revealed.
In a post uploaded on a hip hop fan community, an anonymous internet user wrote that she had been sexually assaulted by Kang. Her post came shortly after the show aired the first episode of season four, Friday. Kang was one of the 40 contestants vying for the title. The alleged victim claimed that he raped her three years ago at his studio, but was fined a mere 2 million won after a trial, emphasizing that she and her family members were horrified to see him again, this time on TV.
Mnet said its staff checked with the 19-year-old contestant to see if the allegations were true. Admitting to the crime, he said he would quit to take responsibility, adding he was sorry for causing trouble.
Kang is one of the figures whose career was abruptly cut short after their violent pasts were revealed to the public.
Girl band (G)I-DLE member Soojin is also accused of having bullied an unspecified number of her classmates when she attended middle school, allegations she has denied.
Many of the celebrities who are accused of being bullies in the past have been singers or aspiring singers who compete on hit audition shows.
Asked why singers whose past violent deeds catch up with them outnumber actors or other celebrities, pop music critic Ha Jae-keun said it's all about "ratios."
"Think of how many contestants compete in an audition show. Usually dozens. There are many audition shows and many of them are popular. This means it is easier for singers to draw the public's attention," he said. "Considering this, I think it's natural that people in the pop music industry are more probable than actors or celebrities in other fields to be caught up in scandals, including things about their past deeds."
Another critic Kim Hern-sik said the popularity of audition shows makes it easier for singers to find themselves at the center of negative attention.
"It's difficult for actors to rise to stardom so quickly. But in music, overnight success is possible and unknown singers can suddenly become household names for their performances," he said. "The popularity of audition shows, meanwhile, can serve as a curse for them, too. Their appearances on TV can be a tragic reminder for people who had traumatic experiences with them. Seeing them on TV, the victims are reminded of their past wounds and some feel the urge to let the public know about who they really are."
Celebrities fall from stardom for various reasons.
K-pop superstar BIG BANG member Seungri found his career cut short and was brought to justice. There are several other singers, including Jung Joon-young, whose careers hit rock bottom after their participation in crimes such as gang rape were reported in the media.
Bullying is one of the most common past deeds that has brought singers down. Their or their parents' unpaid debt, and other types of scandals also dealt a blow to their careers after they were belatedly revealed to the public.
Once made public, it's not only the stars that suffer the consequences. Damage is also inflicted on their agencies and the TV shows they appeared in.
Kim said entertainment agencies have begun to pay attention to background checks when signing contracts with stars. "But knowing whether they are free from bullying or other scandals before their debut is much harder to discover than you think. This is partly because stars can lie about their past. Investigating whether stars they are to sign were trouble-free students or not is really tough," he said.