With over a decade of experience in the Korean music sphere, K-Pop reporter Jeff Benjamin has interviewed numerous K-Pop groups—from TWICE to ENHYPEN to Red Velvet. So, there’s no one better to reveal the truth about whether idols’ agencies control what they say when they talk to the media.
During a recent AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) on Reddit‘s r/kpop, one long-time K-Pop fan asked Jeff to address a rumor going around social media. According to the grapevine, fans have long been under the impression that agencies “cherry-pick questions” for interviews to avoid any controversial topics (such as pay, vacation, and more). The commenter went on to say that rumors suggest managers even stand behind the cameras to coach idols on what to say. But how true is it all?
First off, according to Jeff Benjamin’s response, it is true that agencies pick and choose suitable questions for their groups. However, the K-Pop journalist explained that controlling which questions artists answer in interviews is something that “happens in all industries“, not just in the K-Pop sphere. That said, he did reveal that there’s one key difference in the K-Pop industry: some of the most “mundane” questions can be considered “controversial“.
To be honest, I don’t really play that game and usually sneak my questions in one or way or another.
— Jeff Benjamin
As for whether managers coach idols behind the camera, Benjamin said he couldn’t say for sure. However, he did note that the managers sometimes ask the interview team to remove “certain camera moments“. While that could include removing answers deemed inappropriate by the agency during some interviews, in Jeff Benjamin’s experience, managers have only asked to edit out mundane issues like long pauses.
[They ask to remove] mundane things like… “that member hesitated a really long time with his answer, can you not include him saying ‘ummmm'” and the answer is of course because why would we want 10 seconds of him saying um in the video in the first place?
— Jeff Benjamin
The veteran K-Pop journalist also brought up another way agencies sometimes interfere with the interviewing process: preventing small talk. Often, interviewers like to ask talent mundane, everyday questions to build rapport, warm up quiet artists, and add interest to an interview for fans. However, Benjamin says that a manager once stopped him from asking a group “if they’ve done anything in fun in LA” because “they didn’t see how this was relevant to the interview“.
On top of that, he’s also had managers and assistants cut off his interviews because of time constraints—”which is just rude and you can’t wrap things up well“, Benjamin says. But ultimately, he finds that agency staff are “just being overly (and unnecessarily) worried and cautious“. Jeff Benjamin wouldn’t name names, but he did lament that too much interference makes for a bad interviewing experience.