((Teenager’s Trend)): to be a K-pop Idol Trainee

Nahari Nurul Fitriani

Hallyu wave also known as Korean wave nowadays already become part of Millenial trends. Hallyu or Korean wave can be explained as the spreading of Korean pop culture including drama, music genre, fashion, make up trend etc. Many people also consider that K-pop idol is also the important part of the Korean wave.

Famous K-pop idols such as, Super Junior, SNSD, Big Bang, Wonder Girls, and EXO are having a big name and strong worldwide fandom.

The crowd of EXO’s first concert in Seoul

Being K-pop idols can make someone get the fame, gain much money, and also earn public recognition, not only in South Korea, but possibly in the overseas. Becoming K-pop idol also quite different from being celebrity, because of the fandom or fans that taking care so much if their idols. One idol usually has many fansites. Fansite here, is the fan union that is owned by person or people who is fully supporting the idols by taking their photos, attending the events such as fan meeting, concert, music program, fan sign, and also making the idol’s birthday support.

Birthday support for EXO’s Kai from one fansite

EXO’s Sehun birthday bus, supported by one fansite

Big Bang’s Taeyang Bus to promote his song, supported by his fansite

BTOB’s Minhyuk food truck from BTOB’s fan-union fan support

With all of these advantages, it is very acceptable that some teenager wanted to be a K-pop idol. The shining popularity, fan supports, and promising career are alluring them.

As a fact, the job vacancy in The South Korea is known as very competitive, the life cost is also quite expensive and some said that you can only have an excellent job if you are graduated from the top universities. That is why the CSAT (College Scholastic Ability Test) also known in Indonesia as SBMPTN, is kinda depicts the war. When someone from their family is going to take the CSAT it is like send him/her into the military service. Relatives and friends will gather and support them from the home until the school’s gate while bringing the supporting banners, and any other things that is illustrating the big support from their closeness. That is why for some other teenagers today, while K-pop become popular worldwide, they prefer to be a K-pop idol trainee to spend their young adult time rather than studying a lot to get perfect score for the test.

Every weekend, hundreds of teens line up outside the doors of entertainment companies, hoping to give their best shot at proving to the audition judges that they can become the next top idol. Usually only given around 30 seconds of time, the aspiring singers and dancers are to show their talent and potential and to impress the judges” (K-popstarz, 2013).

K-pop idols are usually known as those who are members of a K-pop boy group or girl group. Well, some people called it boy band or girl band and it’s kinda weird to hear because they dance, sing and make performances, not forming a band and playing instruments. The process of being K-pop idol is not the same as become an actual celebrity, actor, actress, or soloist singer. To be a K-pop idol, you have to go for an audition, then the trainee life will also awaited, and the worst is even after you become a trainee you are not promised 100% to be debuted under the same agency.

Although trainees work hard every day towards their goal of becoming a top idol, many trainees are oftentimes unable to debut due to various reasons. Entertainment companies may find that the trainee is no longer a good fit to debut as part of an idol group, or the trainees themselves may decide to quit due to the hardships of having to practice for hours while still studying at school” (K-popstarz, 2013).

These days, some foreigner also extracted to be K-pop idol, even though they have to communicate and sing in Korean. Some top K-pop idols agencies, for instance SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment and YG Entertainment often open the annual audition not only for Korean but also foreigners in overseas. For example SM had opened the SM Global audition in Indonesia (Jakarta & Surabaya) for two years, in 2014 and 2015.

Three top agencies in K-pop industry

2014 SM Global Audition announcement

The audition of several agencies usually required different specification and skills. For the basic skill you need to at least can dance or following choreography, singing, or doing rap. And even nowadays because some K-pop idols also casted on drama(S) and movie(s) so it would be better to master the acting skill. On the audition, usually they need to show their talents including singing and dancing in front of the judges from the agency and is recorded. Some of the agency need trainee who fits the camera well, or having the camera face. Because when you already become a member of boy group or girl group you will have your own title, for instance lead vocal, main vocal, rapper, lead dancer, main dancer, and visual in charge of the group. Practically, when a group debuted they also have the leader of the group, who is usually the oldest of the team or chosen by the agency or within the group members.

The trainee’s life is no jokes

Once they become the trainees they will sign a contract with the agency and should be obedient to the agency’s rules. Some of the teenagers who already became the trainee will receive full courses on how-to-be-an-idol. They usually get singing class, dancing class, acting class, language class, manner class, gym class and also a beauty treatment service. Well, to become an idol at least the agency also looking for a good appearance. Moreover, in South Korea where beauty is standardized and ideal beauty is needed to be an idol. Typical people will think that ‘their faces are fake or artificial’ some of them may done several changes on their appearances, but in fact, it is just the same there are people who born with beauty features and are naturally good looking. The typical prejudice is already common among the people mainly for those who judge without knowing the reality and they (the idols) have to deal with it. However, agency also decides the trainee according to their appearance at first impression. To become a public figure like an idol the trainees will also have to maintain their looking and take care of their own proportional bodies. No wonder, some of the idols look skinny, because agency also takes responsibility on their strict diet schedule, what-to-eat and what-not-to-eat.

Korean entertainment companies have long been known, and often criticized, for their rigorous training regimes, diet plans, and strict control over their trainees. The training period often lasts years. G-Dragon, the leader of one of Korea’s most popular groups, Big Bang, once revealed that he had gone through training for 11 years before he was finally allowed to make his debut” (Korea Bizware, 2016).

The ordinance for not dating, not using smart-phone, not making any of social media accounts, and involving into juvenile delinquencies are also strictly obtained. When the trainees are caught into those kinds of case, some agencies will give the admonition or even they will be no longer trainee. Likewise, some other agencies also look into the trainee’s background before debuting them. Because once they debuted as idols, they will face the journalists various manipulative articles, netizens’ comments and also the past scandals and rumors. Apparently, when a teenager spend their teenage time to be a trainee it is like they’re gambling for their life, whether they will really become a successful idol or wasting the time and back to their normal life. The trainees are usually barely sleep because they have to stay awake and practice like until 2 a.m. That is why they cannot focus to study and have good time with their friends.

According to an A&R official at an unnamed Korean entertainment company, the average age of applicants is 16. Only 1 percent of the trainees will get to debut. And only 5 percent of those that make their debut will become what they hoped for when they signed up: stars” (Korea Bizware, 2016).

Here is the video talking about how to become a K-pop star and the trainee life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5J0ZbXd6Gc

Teenager’s dream to be an ideal K-pop idol is made as thne tagline of program named, Produce 101. Produce 101 is a survival show, broadcasted in South Korean TV Cable, MNET. This is a program where 101 young adult girls from 46 different agencies to compete as 11 final girls who will be formed as a temporary girl group. The contestants of the program are not only come from Korea, but some of the trainees are also foreigners from Canada, China, Hongkong, Thailand etc. The original soundtrack of the program titled, Pick Me! Also becoming viral and even the choreography of the song are covered by some of students in South Korean schools. “We are girls that dream~ this is the moment we share our dreams…”,said the lyrics.

Produce 101 contestants

Here is the video of Pick Me Song, sung by Produce 101’S contestants -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiorIyrjTHc

The program tends to make the viewers as the nation producer of the 11 final girls who will finally debut as a girl group. The viewers will choose their favorites through clicking on the web. From watching the program, it can be seen that the contestants are really want to achieve their dream becoming a K-pop idol. Among them there is a 10 year trained and the shortest is about 2 onths. They overcome their wishes and make a big effort even to become a part of the agency’s trainee. On the program, the trainee should make a progress on their training period, if their skills still left behind the promising future may seem vague.

The Produce 101’s contestant to deal with the choreography given by the trainer

They were given challenge, usually per team. On first challenge, they had to sing the Pick Me song and then following the choreography while recorded on the solo cam. After the trainer saw their progress and performance on the cam, they were evaluated and placed into several classes. From the best A class, until the worrying F class. During the training and challenge, their performances were evaluated everyday by the professional trainers.

On the second challenge, they had to sing the several debut songs from the popular girl groups. The A class members had the advantages to choose the song they wanted and the members to be perform with. After the second challenge, the elimination started and only selected people in the rank will continue to become the Produce 101’s trainee. The third challenge, they could choose whether wanted to perform singing, dancing, or doing rap performance. And the elimination also continued, until only 35 trainees remained. The forth challenge, is when they had to sing the song produced by several famous producers who are not only Korean, and the contestants free to choose the song they liked. And after this challenge, only 22 trainees passed and joined the final line on the show. At the final, 11 girls are chosen and would be debuted as a temporary one-year girl group named I.O.I (Ideal of Idol).

After the show ended, some of the trainees got lucks that they will be debuted sooner on their agencies or became famous and is guested on several TV programs, and there are also trainees who gave up on their trainee’s life and back into their normal life, for instance Fantagio’s Lee Somin who left her agency and quit the trainee life. Some of them realized that becoming K-pop idols isn’t the path written for them.

The famous JYP Ent’s trainee of Produce 101, Jun Somi won the 1st place and became the centre of I.O.I

Overall, the life of being a trainee is has to be considered a lot before make it as a decision. It would be better if it is really their dream to become a successful singer or idols that is really come into the teenager’s passion. Not only blind of the sparkling life of K-pop idols they imagined. Because once a person enjoy what they do today, whether it is to study, to play, to develop his/her talents, to communicate with people, or to become a K-pop idol trainee, later they will find how that the thing is worthy for his/her future.

Here are several videos about the K-pop idols struggled in their trainee life:

Ex Miss A member, Jia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uv-KVDT1M-k

Ex EXO member, Tao https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3owJ0UA6sM

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Word count: 2113 words

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