K-Pop Girl Group Detained at LAX Because Customs Thought They Were Sex Workers

In The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory, the excellent book on the modern music industry by John Seabrook, there’s a chapter describing South Korea’s K-pop factory. The lengths at which these puppet masters will go to create hit songs and pop idols is beyond staggering; it’s actually frightening. It’s nothing less than a sweatshop that produces pop groups.

There’s a huge emphasis on good looks and cuteness with K-pop acts. (I should take a moment to point out that Psy is an outlier when it comes to the South Korean music industry. He’s basically shunned by the K-pop establishment.) The young men and women who make it through K-pop boot camp are gorgeous. Skin lightening and surgery can be part of the arsenal. Crazier still, kids as young as 12 and 13 are often highly sexualized for maximum appeal–so much so that the government had to step in a few years ago.

Which brings me to Oh My Girl (OMG, for short), a carefully groomed, trained and manufactured all-girl group.

The eight-member group aged 16 to 21 flew to LA this week for a photo shoot but were detained at LAX because someone at immigration thought they were being shipped in as sex workers. They were detained for 15 hours before sent back to Seoul.

There are suggestions that the detention and deportation resulted from some kind of visa mixup, but denial for entry into the US also came after customs people went through their luggage and props. It was determined that they were probably “working women,” which apparently is a problem at LAX.

I can only imagine the scandal back home.




Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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