In December, Claudine Ebeid talked about the explosion in popularity of Korean pop groups in the United States. We can’t stop watching Girls’ Generation and 2NE1 videos on YouTube, and we’re not the only ones. Reporter Doualy Xaykaothao says that K-Pop is also spreading like wildfire in China. These groups are often huge — Girls’ Generation includes nine members, Nine Muses confusingly includes eight — and to stoke the flames, South Korea’s suddenly in-demand pop factories are looking to the country’s youth.
Inside a nondescript building on Seoul’s Rodeo Drive sit dozens of teenagers, some with their parents. They’re taking part in open auditions held by entertainment giant SM. “The Boys,” a giant hit by SM’s own Girls’ Generation — recent veterans of The Late Show with David Letterman — is playing over loudspeakers.
Girls’ Generation is idolized by the assembled hopefuls. “When I see Girls’ Generation, I think they are so pretty and so cool,” says Young-eun Park through a translator. “I am going to be just like them.”
She has zero formal training, but she’s hoping to wow the judges by singing “Ballerino,’ by Leessang, another K-Pop group. It’s her third audition, and she’s hopeful that this time she’ll get a callback.
“I live only to sing and dance,” she says. “If I don’t become a singer I won’t be happy in my life. I want it so bad.” She’s almost tearful, but looks up in determination and says she’s going to give it her all.
A few famous K-Pop stars are actually from China, Thailand and the United States. And more hopefuls, like 19-year-old Rebecca Chiu, from Taiwan, are here to try out. She especially likes the dance moves that go along with just about every K-Pop hit.
The fact that she doesn’t understand the words in the songs — “I can read and I can pronounce, but I don’t know the meaning,” she says in broken English — isn’t necessarily a cause for worry. If the top entertainment companies like her, they’ll invest in her study of the Korean language and will spend up to $3 million or $4 million on years of rigorous training in song, dance, acting and more. If she makes it through that, then she might have a shot at contracts worth millions.
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