As a Kpop fan, it’s always exciting to imagine what it’s like to be a Kpop idol, but the idea of actually becoming a Kpop idol often seems impossible. Today’s article was written in the hopes that maybe, if you actually know the various ways to become an idol, you will be able to actually go out there and do something to make your dream come true instead of just sitting in your room, fantasizing. Below are three ways to become a Kpop idol in Korea.
● First, the traditional way.
The most traditional path is to be cast by an entertainment agency and train as a trainee until you debut. You basically prepare your profile and demo album, and you try out for an audition. Then, if you pass the audition, you train for years, after which only a selection of people among you and the other trainees get to debut.
It’s a constant repeat of competitions. Since becoming a trainee is the first stage of a long journey, it might seem like it’s not that big a deal to become a trainee, but it’s no easy task. There are countless people who yearn to become trainees, and many of them even go to specialized academies to be professionally taught how to sing and dance.
So, which idols debuted this way?
SHINee Taemin is perhaps the best example. Taemin actually passed SM Entertainment’s Saturday Audition, which is notoriously difficult to pass. Before Taemin, nobody had passed this audition for 2 years, which shows just how big a deal this was.
Another example is BTS V, who actually passed an audition that he didn’t really prepare for. He had a friend who had an audition, and V just tagged along to watch. But it was V who ended up passing the audition. After debuting, V revealed that he had already known about BTS prior to the audition and had thought it’d be cool to join the group.
Meanwhile, BTOB Changsub went to an audition with Seo Eunkwang who eventually became a member of the same group with Changsub. They went to an audition together when they were both students at a vocal academy. They both passed and began training as trainees in Cube Entertainment. But their debut project ended up being scrapped, which made him leave the agency. Afterwards, he went to Howon University where he studied applied music and met Im Hyun Sik, a future member of BTOB. After Im Hyun Sik tried again and again, he managed to persuade Changsub to join Cube Entertainment again and train.
● Second, audition programs on TV
In the 80s and 90s, University Song Festival and Gangbyeon Song Festival were only big programs for discovering new talents. There are plenty of audition programs these days, including Produce 101, Produce 48, Boys24, Idol School, The Unit, Mix Nine, and Super Star K, so perhaps, not choosing not to go to any of those auditions even if you desperately want to become an idol is no excuse. One interesting fact about going to an audition to become an diol is that whether you get to debut or not, is directly linked to how much the viewers like you.
So let’s look at the idols who debuted this way.
First is Kang Daniel, who actually has been since he was little. He had made a dance video in which he showcased his b-boy dance moves, and apparently, many entertainment agencies watched the video and called Kang Daniel. After pondering on what to do, Kang Daniel became an idol trainee. He rose to fame when he participated in Season 2 of Produce 101, where he won the most votes in the final episode and became the lead member of WANNA ONE. Kang Daniel got a lot of flak for various issues recently, but he is still hugely popular among K-pop fans across the globe.
Kim Yohan, who became the lead member of X1 after the latest season of Produce X 101, walked a similar path to Kang Daniel’s in that Kim Yohan also won the most votes in the final episode of Produce X 101. But what makes him starkly different is that he is in fact a former Taekwondo player. He was always interested in the entertainment industry, though. One of his acquaintances introduced him to OUI Entertainment, and only about a week after Kim Yohan joined the company, Kim Yohan got to meet with the production crew prior to the production of the program. His appearance on Produce X 101 was basically decided almost immediately after his joining the entertainment agency. FYI, that is pretty rare.
● Third, being discovered by chance.
For some idols, just their sheer beauty worked. Big time. In other words, they were approached by casting managers on the street because they were so incredibly beautiful.
When it comes to talking about the idols who fall in this category, the one person who is always mentioned is MAX Changmin of TVXQ. MAX Changmin was one day playing badminton at school when he was in middle school. And then suddenly, he was approached by am SM Entertainment casting manager.
MAX Changmin was asked if he had any interest in becoming an idol, and he answered, “No.” But the casting manager didn’t give up that easily and came to Changmin’s school every day after that. Changmin still had no interest, but his mother was super excited at the thought of meeting K-pop singer BoA in real life, so she persuaded her own son to visit SM Entertainment. And thus began his training as a trainee and eventually, the official debut as a member of TVXQ.
EXO Sehun was discovered by an SM casting manager as well. When the casting manager approached, Sehun was actually eating tteokbokki ata snack stand near the elementary school he went to. But it wasn’t easy for the casting manager to even have a conversation with this guy, because Sehun had been taught as a little boy that he should never take anything from a stranger, so he chose not to take their name cards and just ran away. This was how the famous 30-minute pursuit. Sehun ran and ran, and so did the casting manager. It might have looked weird in real life, but remember: it was this persistence of the casting manager that made it possible for all of us to watch Sehun in EXO.
F(x) Krystal was discovered when she was with her mother, shopping at a department store. The casting manager who discovered Krystal later visited her house, where Krystal’s sister Jessica opened the door for the casting manager, which eventually led the two beautiful sisters to join SM Entertainment.
So these are the three most common ways to become Kpop idols. But as it gets more and more difficult to debut as an idol, people are getting more creative in how to make themselves known more. So if you have any ideas of how to make yourself without breaking the laws or something, maybe it’s worth giving it a shot.
But however you approach your dream, remember this: life as an idol is extremely hard, and you are never free from competing against others. If you are ok with it and you just cannot complain about anything because you just love singing and dancing and you feel like there is nothing you want more than to become a Kpop idol, go for it.