British-born woman who moved to Seoul as a child to train as a K-pop star reveals the gruelling reality of no days off, starving to lose weight and being constantly monitored by an 'uncle'by Harriet Johnston For Mailonline
- Euodias, 21, from Sunderland, trained to be a K-pop star in South Korea
- Lived in a house where she trained 5am-11pm and people slept on the floor
- Revealed starving yourself was normal and many girls stopped having periods
- After two years, Euodias decided to walk away and moved back to the UK
A British-born K-pop star who moved to Seoul as a child to train to join a girl group has revealed the grueling reality of no days off, strict monitoring and sleeping on the floor in cramped dorm rooms.
Euodias, 21, from Sunderland, spent two years living in a trainee house while she pursued her dream of stardom in South Korea.
She told the BBC that girls would regularly starve themselves and pass out during rehearsals due to exhaustion, while the company 'encouraged' them to have plastic surgery to look more like a popstar.
There were also 'uncles' who closely monitored the girls' behaviour to ensure they didn't miss strict curfews.
Despite being placed in a girl group, Euodias ended up walking away from her dream at the end of her contract before the band launched, and returned to the UK.
The 21-year-old now works as a YouTuber and has over 38,000 followers on Instagram.
Euodias, who is of Chinese and Korean heritage, grew up watching South Korean TV dramas and dreamed of being a star.
When she was 10 she started sending videos to companies and ended up getting an audition alongside 2,000 others while on holiday in Seoul.
Within days she was asked to return with a parent to discuss a contract, which outlined how she would leave her family and move to South Korea in order to live and train with the company.
It stated that if she left before the end of her contract, her family would have to repay the full cost of her training, which could run up to thousands of pounds.
Her mother signed the shortest contract available, two years, and Euodias moved into the building with the other trainees, who were all between the ages of nine and 16.
Relatives could visit, but only if they had approved permission from the company in advance, and she was only allowed to use her phone for 15 minutes at night.
Training was rigorous, starting with pre-school dance practice at 5am, with many trainees staying up till 11pm for late-night dance sessions in order to impress their instructors.
And the group had a strict curfew to ensure they were back in the dorms before the staff locked the building for the night. Many girls had an 'uncle' who would text to ensure they were in their rooms.
Euodias said there were 'no such thing as weekend or holidays' for the group.
The dark side of K-pop
In January, K-pop stars began speaking out about how they are expected to be perfect as they lifted the lid on the cutthroat industry in the wake of a string of suicides from high-profile stars.
The culture of K-pop is one of South Korea's most lucrative soft power exports and has drawn a massive audience of young people internationally.
But the suicide deaths of two popular female stars less than two months apart drew attention to the industry's darker side and the intense pressures that artists face.
K-pop star Sulli, whose given name is Choi Jin-ri, took her own life in October.
Her friend and fellow star, Koo Hara, killed herself a month later. Both stars had been victims of severe bullying on social media.
In an interview with CBS in January, K-pop artist Amber Liu said there was an industry expectation to be perfect in looks, performance and discipline.
'If you aren't under a certain weight, you can definitely get cut,' Liu said.
'You're told what to do, what to say, what to think.'
Liu, who was Sulli's former bandmate, said she has witnessed firsthand the toll the industry, as well as cyberbullying, can have on its stars.
'When (people) hear you're getting help they're like, 'What? Why are you getting help? That's weird',' she said.
'That stigma against mental health is just so strong.'
K-pop stars, who are often referred to as 'idols', usually have an average retirement age of about 30.
In some extreme cases, stars can undergo training for 10 years before they can make their debut in the industry.
Many stars face tremendous pressure to look and behave perfectly in an industry powered by so-called 'fandoms' - groups of well-organised admirers who spend enormous amounts of time and money to help their favored stars climb up the charts and attack their perceived rivals.
In return, the stars are expected to tread carefully in an industry where today's most-fervent fans can be tomorrow's most vicious critics if their idols fail to meet their expectations - or 'betray' them.
Drug use or drunken driving are seen as career-breakers, while behavior that causes a 'stir' - anything from a social media gaffe to a failure to smile ceaselessly at public appearances - could be criticized for years.
Many are constantly chased by paparazzi and camera-touting fans who share or sell every single detail and images of the stars' daily lives online for public scrutiny.
Within the building, trainees did not use their own name, but instead instructors gave them each a number.
Euodias was a favourite of the company because of her petite size, with instructors regularly praising her for her tiny frame.
She said: 'Weight was the constant obsession of everyone there. Everyone was required to be no heavier than 47kg (7st 6lb or 104lb) regardless of their age or height.'
During weekly weigh-ins, each trainee's body would be analysed before their weight was announced to the room.
If anybody was over the 47kg (7st 6lb) weight, food would be rationed or taken away completely.
As a result, Euodias revealed: 'Starving yourself was really normalised. Some trainees were anorexic or bulimic, and many of the girls didn't have periods.'
She said it was also 'common' to pass out from exhaustion, and the group would often find themselves carrying an unconscious trainees back to the dorms.
She passed out twice during dance practice, waking up in bed not knowing how I got there.
Euodias was delighted when she was asked to join a K-pop group, but was also told that another girl was competing against her for the spot of 'visual'.
The visual is the face of the group, with the selected girl chosen for her appearance, and how she might look in the future.
While Euodias felt her competition was prettier than her, the company encouraged her to get plastic surgery because they said it would make her more attractive.
Trainers encouraged her to change the bridge of her nose and shave her jawline.
Later, after learning she had beaten out the competition for the spot as visual, Euodias learned more about the group and started to feel 'iffy'.
She was told the character behind her stage name Dia was 'very reserved, sweet and innocent.'
However she ultimately decided to leave at the end of her two-year contract. Euodias returned to England and was reunited with her family and friends, going on to do an art foundation course before going to fashion school in Paris.