When a new celebrity couple goes public, the usual reaction from fans are mostly positive—ranging from excited to swooning. Dating is normal after all and these personalities aren’t any different from us regular people.
But have you noticed how differently fandoms and media treat such stories when two K-pop idols start dating? For example, when EXO’s Kai and BLACKPINK’s Jennie Kim were spotted on a date, social media was buzzing with the words “dating scandal.”
For those who don’t know, this may seem weird, especially if almost every K-pop couple’s relationship is considered scandalous at first. But technically, it seems to be of a breach of contract when talents date someone.
According to BBC, there’s a clause that bans idols from being in a relationship, especially with someone that their managements deem inappropriate. Some idols even get sued by their own managements for breaking this rule. “They are very concerned about how their talents are perceived,” Mark Russell, an expert on the K-pop industry, told the outlet. Rolling Stone adds that such actions “are seen as off-course detriments to a group or star’s appeal.” If idols can’t avoid getting into relationships, an unspoken rule is to keep quiet about them so they won’t face a PR backlash.
It’s almost as if dating is up there with offenses like getting arrested for smoking marijuana, allegedly committing sexual assault and having sex with prostitutes. They make it sound that bad.
These “scandals” also depend on how fans welcome the new couple. Koreaboo observed that K-pop veterans are more likely to get support than those who just reached the height of their career. The ratio of male and female supporters matter as well, apparently. Fans also tend to accept couples if they’ve been “shipped” way before they even became official.
You might be thinking that this is just fans overreacting about their faves. But K-pop idols are really trained to perform and have a connection with their supporters—two-way devotion. Once the former is revealed to be dating someone, some fans might feel betrayed.
There was also one instance wherein dating could cost talents their jobs. Last September, Cube Entertainment fired singer HyunA and rapper E’Dawn from their roster after they went public with their two-year relationship. “When we manage artists, we consider mutual trust and faith our top priority,” the management said in a statement. “We decided the trust is broken beyond repair, so we are expelling the two from our company.” Take note that they released this statement months after making an earlier denial about their talents’ relationship status.
If you think about it, such clauses in idol contracts seem unreasonable—so much that they’re even called “slave contracts” and the South Korean government has been working to abolish them. Plus, calling dating and relationships “scandals” vilifies something that’s supposed to be natural among human beings. We understand that artists and talent agencies have rapports to live up to, but this creates the idea that if idols don’t give fans what they want, even in their personal affairs, they’ve failed them.
This might sound crazy but idols are humans, their romantic lives aren’t there to be scrutinized nor to be used as a scapegoat reason for not getting what you want out of them. On the brighter side of things, it’s also great that some fans are becoming more open to their idols’ dating lives and showing their support—and that’s how it should be.