K-pop stylist laments low pay, long working hours in industry

Seo Soo-kyung has worked as stylist for Girls' Generation starting in 2011 when the group released the album "The Boys."

Seo Soo-kyung (right) with Girls' Generation's Sooyoung
Seo Soo-kyung (right) with Girls' Generation's Sooyoung Instagram

A K-pop fashion stylist who has worked with Girls' Generation, Seventeen and Psy revealed the low pay she and fellow workers receive.

Seo Soo-kyung has worked as a stylist for Girls' Generation starting in 2011 when the group released the album "The Boys."

"Working with Girls' Generation made me realize how important fashion was in the world of K-pop, and I drew many overseas fans of K-pop fashion all around the world," she told The Korea Herald.

She added that her aim "is to keep sharing what I know with them through my own social media content, rather than launching my own line, which many other stylists seek to do."

Despite the perceived glamor that comes with her job, she said stylists, artists and managers don't earn enough, especially from TV stations.

"It's a vicious cycle. K-pop artists and people working with them such as stylists and managers are usually lowly paid, as K-pop agencies, including Girls' Generation's agency S.M. Entertainment, don't get paid much from working with TV stations," she explained.

Seo Soo-Kyung added that stylists are not paid enough by K-pop entertainment agencies and TV channels.

"We work day and night for our artists, but we don't get what we deserve from both sides. So most of our revenues come from outside of the industry, such as shooting ads. And people from advertisement complain that we stylists ask for too much money. What else can we do? We don't get paid from our main field," she said.

When she was just starting, she said, it took three months to earn US$265 per month.

She also revealed that SM Entertainment, which manages EXO, Girls' Generation, Super Junior, TVXQ, NCT and Red Velvet, is the agency that pays the lowest.

"Did you know that S.M. gives the lowest salary for their artists and employees in the industry? They have this kind of mindset, 'You should thank us for being able to work with a superstar group like Girls' Generation,'" she added.

She credited Big Bang for wearing clothes that could be used by ordinary people.

"Before Big Bang, K-pop artists' costumes were literally costumes. Stylists' job was to kind of copy the lines of famous designers and recreate them into stage outfits. But Big Bang members were different in that they actually wore outfits freshly out from a designer's collection. The public could also dress like Big Bang. From that point on, K-pop stars like 2NE1 and BTS started to wear collections," said Seo.

Recently, it was announced that Sooyoung, Seohyun and Tiffany would leave SM Entertainment, creating speculations that Girls' Generation will disband but Seo thinks otherwise.

"Well, I don't think's it's such a big deal, because I don't think Girls' Generation will disband. People keep asking my opinion about the issue as if it's a big problem. If they are to disband, I would be heartbroken too, as I'm also a huge fan of the group. But the thing is, members are not taking the matter seriously, and I personally think Girls' Generation won't disband," she said.