Daddy, Where Are We Going?, an entertainment program in which members of the cast are celebrities, along with their children, has recently gained national popularity. People of all ages love watching the children’s bright, innocent, pure smiles and behavior. In fact, every move they make and every word they say draws a lot of audience's interests. Nonetheless, problems arise when child stars begin to receive excessive attention and interest from the public.
Celebrities who gain fame in their early years often encounter a variety of troubles and personal issues. When children show up on television for the first time, basically audiences seem to never doubt that young celebrities, like Peter Pan, will be able to maintain their innocence and pure beauty forever. These children become public property and people anticipate they will remain good, innocent, and cute. However, crucial qualities of young celebrities start to fade away as they grow up. Once young stars fail to meet the public’s expectations, they are easily forgotten, as is the merciless nature of the entertainment industry.
One of the well-known cases is an actress, Kim Sung Eun, who used to enjoy nationwide popularity in her youth through a sitcom called Soon Poong Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1998. Audiences loved her cute, mischievous behavior. Unfortunately, however, her image as a prankster was so strong for the audiences that she was unable to shake off that image when she became an adult actress. Whenever she challenged a different genre of drama, people were indifferent and paid attention to newly rising stars, and Kim soon disappeared from the screen. Later, she confessed that she had a mental breakdown and fell into depression, eventually suffering from social phobia.
Childhood is a personal and private period when most people are not economically savvy and have not fully developed a professional persona, but the boundary is vague for young celebrities. They are open to the same mud-slinging that is aimed at all celebrities. Young celebrities grow up in the full glare of publicity and cannot experience a childhood, which is a special time for one’s life and cannot be repeated if one misses it. Therefore, such young celebrities tend to relive that childhood period as an adult; such a phenomenon leads to diverse problems with their adult identities.
Being scarred for life by early success, young successful celebrities have lives rife with pain, drama, and legal problems. A famous example of a child actor who meets his end too early is Macaulay Culkin. Culkin charmed millions of moviegoers with the character of Kevin McCallister, the joyful young boy in the Home Alone series. However, such excessive fame, popularity, and money were too much for a ten-year-old boy. Without a fixed set of values or an ability to control his feelings and behavior, the boy was easily influenced by the public’s eye, especially when privacy was lacking because of the increasing aggression of the paparazzi. Culkin, as a result, soon fell into a trap of self-destruction as a drug addict and alcoholic.
As various problems associated with child stars continue to crop up, the urgent need for relevant policies is reinforced. Young Hollywood celebrities frequently visit rehabilitation centers after years of exposures to harmful elements. Such treatment helps young stars to maintain physical stability and to overcome early Hollywood pressures. The United States (U.S.) also has strict policies on the number of working hours for child actors in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). According to this policy, actors under the age of 14 are limited to working up to three hours a day during school periods and up to eight hours during school vacations.
Nonetheless, Korea seems to be dragging its feet in promoting a favorable environment for young celebrities. Although audiences are highly aware of their problems, no legislation has yet been enacted. The government should establish strict policies and programs to provide a positive, friendly atmosphere for young celebrities; at the same time, individuals as members of the audience should become more careful and think twice that young celebrities are also ordinary children who need private childhoods and love from their parents: they are too vulnerable and pure to become victims of the merciless entertainment industry.