K-pop Struggles with Plagiarism and Lack of Creativity: A Great Crisis

The increasing similarity among newly debuted music groups in recent times has led to K-pop losing its diversity.

Recent controversies, including statements by CEO Ador Min Hee-jin alleging that HYBE’s girl group ILLIT copied New Jeans, debates about LE SSERAFIM’s live performance abilities, and a handwritten “apology for dating” letter from aespa member Karina, have highlighted the fundamental challenges faced by the K-pop industry.

These issues also highlight that K-pop needs to strive for creativity, improve live singing abilities, and reduce dependence on fan communities. These are essential factors for fostering uniqueness, artistic quality, and transparency in the industry.

As the number of idol groups increases, the similarities become more apparent. This contradicts the global success formula of BTS and BlackPink, which aimed for cultural and musical diversity.

“Magnetic” by ILLIT and “Ditto” by NewJeans

On platforms like YouTube, comparison videos of ILLIT’s and NewJeans’ choreography are abundant. Both groups belong to HYBE’s subsidiary companies. Fans have pointed out similarities in the choreography between ILLIT’s “Magnetic” MV (2024) and NewJeans’ “Ditto” (2022). Although the release of “Magnetic” was initially seen as an homage to NewJeans, the CEO of NewJeans’ agency, ADOR, disagreed with this approach.

illit newjeans

She believes that HYBE Chairman Bang Si-hyuk is copying NewJeans’ achievements through choreography and costumes. According to Min Hee-jin, when production formulas become standardized, they can only produce a single type of commodity, leading to destructive competition within the same company.

HYBE is currently the leading music production company in Korea, owning renowned labels like BigHit Music, Belift Lab, and Source Music. The conflict at HYBE regarding plagiarism allegations has shown an increasing awareness among producers of systemic issues and crises in the industry.

Experts believe that as K-pop companies increasingly penetrate the stock market, establishing their own identity will bring higher profits.

“While YG Entertainment releases sub-groups as a form of hierarchy, HYBE actively pursues mergers and acquisitions to create a multi-label system,” said Lee Dong-jun, a K-pop researcher at Seoul National University. 

According to him, HYBE’s approach is more about “consumer diversity or product diversity rather than cultural diversity.”

The conflict between HYBE and Ador shows that the K-pop music industry’s focus on expanding quantity through familiar success formulas has become outdated.

Controversial Live Singing Abilities

As idol groups become increasingly indistinguishable, fans are more eager for authentic vocals. Most recently, LE SSERAFIM’s performance at the Coachella music festival in the US on April 13 shocked fans due to the girl group’s poor live singing abilities.

le sserafim coachella

“As distinguishing personal styles in music become increasingly difficult, K-pop fan communities must find ways to affirm the identity of idol groups through vocal abilities,” cultural critic Sung Min0seong remarked.

However, instead of focusing on improving skills for their artists, K-pop companies now maximize profits by leveraging fan communities. Enhancing business activities on platforms like Weverse and Bubble, communication platforms with fees between fans and artists, is a typical example.

Communication based on emotions rather than talent has led fans to feel entitled to interfere in idols’ personal lives. aespa member Karina, after admitting her relationship with actor Lee Jae Wook, had to publicly apologize through a handwritten letter on social media. An adult without marital obligations having to publicly apologize for a romantic relationship demonstrates the pressures fans exert on idols.

Source: K14, Koreatimes

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