The Unsustainable Truth Behind K-Pop

Afreen Zaki


With the growth of the K-pop industry around the world, it is hard to ignore the dark and damaging side which comes along with it. While supporting your idols and the trends they set, it is important to keep notice of the generation of waste that often takes place. The industry has often proved to be careless in terms of sustainable fashion. Fashion waste often falls under two broader aspects of the industry.


Apart from the beautiful men and women with their talented singing and dancing skills, K-pop was often acclaimed for the high production values that it has for its music video. From the usage of minimalist designs and monochromatic colors to massive sets made which seems like a wonderland, the industry has done it all. Along with these, you have the idols wearing trendsetting outfits to fit into the vibe projected by the video. Echoing the words of Dr. Suk-Young Kim, in the fashion industry that produces more than 92 million tons of trash a year, K-Pop is a contributing reason to this waste.


Even though the outfits of K-Pop idols cost a large amount of money, they are rarely worn more than once. The outfits are often discarded or kept aside for the purpose of value preservation as often done by big fashion companies. [Brands such as Burberry had been incinerating unsold outfits to preserve their value and market price]. Due to this, every year, almost thousands of clothes are discarded which adds to the landfill already present. With the continuation of such trends, there will be extremely negative impacts on the environment and there will be a further decrease in resources. The K-pop industry should start re-using or recycling the clothes used to prevent an increase in damage or waste.



Abandoning such ideas will only lead to more problems, especially since the fanbase of such idols are easily influenced. This leads to the second point of the article.

The fans of the idol often indulge themselves in various trends set by the idol to feel closer to them. They even have the habit of buying or using items that the idol has previously used, even if the fan themselves has no affinity towards the said item. For example, when BTS star Jungkook accidentally released which laundry detergent he used, it only took a few hours for the stores to be wiped of said brand. These actions are often followed through in the fashion industry as well. Many fans often buy clothes that they see their idols sporting especially in Korea’s “airport fashion” trend which had started. Even if the fans did not wear the clothes themselves or have any requirement for it, they used to indulge themselves in such trends under the influence of their idols. This was vastly problematic as it became a huge contributor to fast fashion waste which was already plaguing the environment. It takes around 700 gallons of water to produce one cotton t-shirt which amounts to around 8 glasses of water a day for 3 and a half years. This water can be used as a better form of consumption, instead of fans investing in their idols merchandise.



Awfully slow developments have been seen towards incorporating any form of sustainability into the K-pop industry. Girl group Dreamcatcher released an eco-friendly tote bag on their “Welcome to the Dreamworld” tour, whilst BTS became the faces of Formula E, an electric car only championship. However, there is so much more that can be done. We can only hope that in the next couple of years, more idols and companies will further the cause of sustainable fashion and adopt it into their practice.


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