South Korean Parents Look To K-Pop Schools To Create Career Paths For Musically Gifted Children
By Jesse Lent | August 09, 2013 07:27 PM EDT
Lee Byeong Hwa is a 48-year-old South Korean stay-at-home mom whose 11-year-old daughter Kim En Jae wants nothing more than to become a K-pop star.
Although in years past, Lee would have written off her daughter's obsession with stardom as a childish fantasy, there are, she believes now real world steps a musically gifted child can take to achieve fame.
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"In my days, studying hard was everything, but now we see there are other options for our children," Lee told the New York Times as mother and daughter waited outside a Seoul studio for Kim's chance to audition for the reality singing television program "Superstar K."
Options that include one of the thousands of K-pop training schools around South Korea, like Def Dance Skool in Seoul's Gangnam District, started by Yang Sun Kyu in 2002.
"Eleven years ago, when I first started this school, parents thought only teenage delinquents came here," Yang said. "Parents' attitudes have changed."
And so apparently have the attitudes of students.
A study conducted last year by the Korea Institute for Vocational Education and Training, found the vocation of entertainer to be the most popular career choice for students of all ages along with doctor and teacher.
And although K-pop record labels like YG Entertainment and S.M. Entertainment have operated their own "training" schools for their up-and-coming artists for years, Yang believes the popularity of the genre has created the need for such schools by the general public.
Student Chae Young, 13, wants to be like the rapper and international sensation Psy. He believes all his time at the school will pay off.
"All these hours I spend here are my investment for that dream," Chae said.
But singer Hong Dae Kwang, who came in fourth in last year's "Superstar K" competition, warns of the fierce competition in the world of K-pop.
"They all sing, dance and perform well, like well-made machines," he said.
But for aspiring stars like 18-year-old Woo Ji Won, who was also auditioning for "Superstar K5," it's all about being more driven than the competition.
"My classmates are cramming for college entrance exams, but I go to a K-pop school seven evenings a week," Woo said. "After coming home past 10, I study K-pop video on YouTube for hours."
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