South Korea

Angle: Japanese youth chasing K-POP dream regardless of discord between Japan and South Korea | Reuters

SEOUL (Reuters) – Yuka Hasumi, 17, flew to South Korea last February after taking a break from high school in Japan. This is to challenge the dream of becoming a K-pop star. Even if it means enduring hours of song and dance practice, loss of privacy, boyfriend, and even time for the phone.

On May 1, 17-year-old Yuka Hasumi (pictured left) dropped out of high school in Japan and flew to South Korea in February. This is to challenge the dream of becoming a K-pop star. FILE PHOTO: An Acopia school party in Seoul in March 2019. Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

Yeonsil enrolled in Acopia School in Seoul. It’s a preparatory school that teaches choreography, singing and Korean to young Japanese, giving them the chance to become K-pop stars.

Hasumi sings after class. This file photo is taken in Seoul, South Korea on April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Hasumi is one of about 1 million people in Korea and abroad who dream of becoming a K-pop star. He hopes to pass the extremely difficult auditions held by major entertainment organizations, and only a few people are selected as “trainees”.

Mr. Hasumi was sweating and said in Japanese, “It’s so hard.” I just finished a dance lesson with Yuho Wakamatsu, a 15-year-old friend of mine, also from Japan.

Mr. Wakamatsu took a photo for Mr. Hasumi. File photo taken on March 12, 2019 in Seoul, South Korea. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

“After rigorous practice and perfecting my skills, I thought it was time for me to debut,” she said.

About 500 young Japanese like Hasumi attend Acopia schools each year. Course and accommodation fees can range up to US$3,000 (approximately 330,000 JPY) per month.

Ms. Lianshi took a walk with the principal of Acopia School. This file photo is taken in Seoul, South Korea on April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

It also co-sponsors candidate auditions with talent management firms. It’s also the driving force behind the so-called “Korean wave,” a pop culture that has exploded onto the world stage over the past decade, including boy band BTS, which topped the world charts.

While the influx of talent from Japan is transforming the K-pop industry, political rivalry between Japan and South Korea is growing fiercer, undermining diplomatic ties.

Japanese kids prepare for an audition at a park in Seoul. March 15, 2019. Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

However, the K-pop craze among young Japanese and the willingness of Korean entertainment agencies to hire Japanese talent have not been affected by the Japan-Korea conflict, indicating the strength of the bond between the two peoples. Longtime K-pop watcher.

“BTS is very popular in Japan,” said Lee Soo-chul, director of the Seoul-Tokyo Forum, an NGO that brings together Japanese and South Korean diplomats and business executives.

Concerts by K-pop groups and veteran South Korean musicians have sold out across Japan, said Lee, who was once the head of Samsung Group’s Japan operations. “I don’t see any animosity between South Korea and Japan.”

The microphone and speakers are placed on the ground. File photo taken on March 21, 2019 in Seoul, South Korea. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji


The conflict between Japan and South Korea, which began during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945, flared up again after a South Korean court ruled they had been forced to work by a Japanese company. Behind this is South Korea’s belief that the Japanese government has not adequately compensated for its past colonial rule.

But as Korean culture and K-pop music become more popular in Japan, many fans and artists say they don’t mind the diplomatic conflict.

“I might get criticized for being Japanese, but I want to show (to Koreans) that Japanese can be so cool on stage,” said 16-year-old Rikuya Kawasaki.

Hoping to become a K-pop star, Kawasaki auditioned for admission to Acopia School in Tokyo, but was not selected.

Hasumi-san and Wakamatsu-san are having a Korean class. FILE PHOTO: Photo taken in Seoul in March 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Japan’s music market, which surpasses China’s and ranks second in the world after the United States, is a huge draw, with many schools and entertainment organizations launching campaigns to discover Japanese talent.

“I hope Japan and South Korea can become friends through music,” Hasumi told Reuters during a break in Korean class.

From Japan to South Korea, there have been many successful cases. South Korean girl group TWICE, which includes three Japanese members, has helped them become the second most popular group in Japan after BTS.

Following this success, JYP Entertainment, the Korean entertainment company to which TWICE belongs, plans to launch an idol group composed entirely of Japanese girls. The agency did not respond to a request for comment.

Entertainment outlets are reluctant to talk about their success in Japan or the influx of Japanese talent for fear of sparking a political backlash, industry insiders said.

Nao Niitsu checks photos before an audition. FILE PHOTO: Photo taken in Seoul in March 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji


Under the scrutiny of entertainment brokerage companies, Japanese applicants who want to improve their capabilities emerge in an endless stream. Some have even given up successful careers in their home countries to become famous in K-pop.

“I’ve heard that they don’t have free time and can’t do what they want. But I think all the K-pop stars who are active today are walking the same path,” said first a 19-year college student. Nao Niitsu says:

Mr. Niitsu is looking at the photobook of BTS. Photo taken in March 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Niitsu visits Seoul at the expense of his mother, who is an avid BTS fan.

Whether they will debut is unclear. The situation in Japan is different. It is easier to debut as an idol, and then you can hone your skills and attract fans.

Miyu Takeuchi takes classes in Seoul. March 2019. Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

For Miyu Takeuchi, giving up her decade-long career with Japan’s top idol group AKB48 and signing with K-pop talent agency Mystic Entertainment this past March as a trainee wasn’t a difficult decision. it says.

Despite her high grades, she practiced vocals seven hours a day, took two-hour dance lessons twice a week, and even took Korean language lessons early in the morning.

Boyfriends aren’t allowed, and success isn’t guaranteed, but Takeuchi says she has no regrets. “I don’t know how long the training period will last, but one day the coaches and the management company will say, ‘Miwoo, you’re a pro.'”

(Translation: Eacleren)

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