Hallyu hopefuls strut, sing and prance for the judges
Byun Hyo-myeong and her friend Yang Eun-bi, both 16, were getting twitchy and nervous, waiting for their turn to go up on the stage and sing. “My mother really wants me to become a star, so she’s been taking me to casting auditions since I was thirteen,” Hyo-myeong said as she tried to smooth out her shirt.
Although the girl smiled and said she was “pretty confident” she would do well this time, she and her friend kept fidgeting nervously in their seats.
The two were among the 260 vocalist candidates who passed the initial online screening and won spots to the next round in the competition. The winner, though, would earn more than just a role on television or a spot in a singing group ― he or she would, possibly, become Korea’s next big made-for-export superstar.
Sponsored by the Korean Broadcasting Institute and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the event over the weekend was aimed at selecting the “next leading stars of the Korean pop hallyu wave.” Hallyu, meaning “Korean wave,” refers to the popularity of Korean performers across East Asia.
“This is no ordinary casting audition. It is professionally arranged and is the biggest of its kind to have ever been held,” said Price Kwak, the assistant manager at the broadcasting institute.
The audition, dubbed “2006 Entertainer Casting Convention,” was certainly huge, attracting most of the major talent agencies in the fields of music, modeling and acting.
The convention provided the agencies with the opportunity to meet many young talented people without having to hit the streets searching on foot. For the young people, it was a cheaper and easier way to become a star ― provided the agencies take them up.
Starting in March, the organizers received online applications from star-wannabes over a Web site (www.looky.co.kr). Applicants were provided with personal blogs to promote themselves using photos and video clips.
More than 7,000 people applied for the event. It was left to Internet users to pick their favorites and vote for the most popular blog. As a result, 1,167 advanced to the second stage, including 446 for the acting talent search and 200 for modeling.
Kim Jeong-yun, one of the aspiring actors, was curling her hair in the makeup room before her name was called. Dressed in only in a sheer underskirt, she said she was going to play a role of a divorced mother who buys her daughter a piano with the money she earned selling her body.
“I wanted to show the judges how confident I am, even when I’m only in my underwear,” Ms. Kim said. “This will give me the most attention possible and the chance to truly show my acting ability.”
She said her parents were not happy when their daughter, a college graduate, quit her job to concentrate on her acting career. But she was determined to take the “risky path.” “I studied at a prestigious acting class and I want to become a true actress,” she said.
Next to Ms. Kim, a younger-looking female candidate was also practicing her role as a “prostitute mother.” She slapped her cheeks and tried to pinch out a tear.
Outside the makeup room, the candidates’ mothers and fathers filled the seats in the audience section. Most of them were sitting quietly, looking nervously at their children, while some stood up walking around, trying occasionally to peek at the back of the stage, sometimes calling out to their children.
“This audition is bigger than any other that we’ve held so far. We see a lot of talented young people here,” said Kim Gi-beom, general manager of Pan Entertainment, the agency for the singer Psy and the actress Lee Tae-ran.
A staffer from Kim Jong Hak Productions said he was glad the government had finally decided to support the agencies in finding the next Boa or Rain ― two singers who have found success abroad.
But more agencies seemed to be keeping in mind that a large number of applicants does not necessarily mean a potential superstar will be among them.
“Many are trying to imitate what some celebrities are already famous for. That’s bad,” said Yoon Min-cheol of Doremi Media. “And how come there are so many covering their faces with long bangs and hair? That’s definitely a no-no if you want good marks.”
by Lee Min-a, Koo Hee-na