Korea’s got talent, but its youth crave stardom

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Korea’s got talent, but its youth crave stardom


A total of 2,200 applicants hoping for overnight fame as an actor or actress crowd into Bexco in Busan on Saturday to audition in the preliminary round of SBS’s “Audition of Miracle,” which will air in June. By Song Bong-geun

When 25-year-old fan repairman Huh Gak won the second season of cable network Mnet’s “Superstar K” talent reality show, he won 200 million won ($184,375), a car and a national following to become a professional singer.

Overnight, Huh became Korea’s Cinderella, a guy who hit the big time without great looks, a wealthy family, a fancy diploma or a desirable job - essential qualifications for success in most Korean lives.

And a lot of Koreans paid notice. For its third season, “Superstar K,” an “American Idol”-type show, opened its telephone hotline for applicants Sunday and in 10 hours was flooded with 15,000 applications.

As of yesterday, more than 1.17 million hopefuls had applied. Applications will be accepted through June 28, and the show expects the number to surpass 2 million. During the second season, 1.34 million people tried out.

The turnout stunned producers and the entire entertainment industry. And in the sincerest form of flattery, rival networks are coming up with similar programs to attract fame-seekers, viewers and advertisers.

There are now 10 reality programs on television channels attracting not only singers but also actors, fashion designers, models and chefs. MBC recently started airing “Star Audition: The Great Birth,” which is a singing competition in the mold of “Superstar K.” It had ratings of 22.8 percent on April 8, according to AGB Nielsen Media Research.

Last Saturday at 10 a.m., tens of thousands of young people crowded into the Busan Exhibition and Convention Center (Bexco) to try their hands at a preliminary audition for SBS’s “Audition of Miracle,” which looks for potential actors and actresses. It is set to be broadcast starting June.

“I failed the show’s preliminary audition in Daejeon so I’m trying again in Busan,” said Jeong Soo-hun, 28, who prepared an improv performance for the audition. “If I fail again, I am going to apply in the Daegu preliminary round,” he added.

All applicants waiting outside Bexco crossed their fingers and cleared their throats.

“I want to become a celebrity,” said Suh Hyo-jin, a ninth grader who was waiting her turn to audition. “I don’t care whether it’s as an actress or a singer. I just want to show my talent to the world.”

Another girl in the second year of high school said, “My mother wants me to live a normal life by working at a small company, but I want to stand out. I gave up on studying anyway.”

A young mother waited in line with the thousands of other hopefuls.

“I gave up on my dream to become an actress after I married and got pregnant,” said Lee Na-young, 26, who gave birth to her first child 83 days ago. “I hope this opportunity will help me achieve the dream I once gave up on.”

College student Jeong Bo-seob, 23, said he was giving it a try after being inspired by Huh Gak. “After witnessing such success [for Huh Gak], who is short and doesn’t have a great background, I thought I might as well take a chance,” said Jeong.

On the same day, cable channel tvN held a second preliminary round in Busan for its “Korea’s Got Talent,” which is set to launch later this year.

About 100 applicants who passed the first round a week before competed from 2 p.m. at Busan Dongnae Cultural Center.

Finalists from the regional preliminary rounds will participate in auditions that will be aired live on television. The winner will receive 300 million won in prize money.

The prizes being offered by the shows are also on the rise. SBS’s “Audition of Miracle” gives 200 million won to the winner, and season three of “Superstar K” plans to give cash and prizes worth 500 million won.

Despite their popularity, the shows are being criticized for focusing on profits rather than seriously trying to nurture young talents.

Director Ahn In-bae of Koen Media, which produces “Audition of Miracle,” disagreed.

Ahn pointed out that entertainment agencies are constantly defrauding ambitious young people by getting their money with promises to make them stars.

“These reality programs are a totally transparent system to discover real talents,” Ahn said.

By Yim Seung-hye, Kang Hye-ran [sharon@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]
오디션 200만 시대 … 보통 영웅의 탄생
학력·인맥 사회에 대한 저항인가 … ‘끼’ 하나로 인생역전 노린다

이들 중 누구의 꿈이 가장 간절하고 원대한가. 9일 부산 벡스코(BEXCO)에서 열린 SBS ‘기적의 오디션’ 예선에 연기자 지망생 2200여 명이 몰렸다. TV 프로그램이 ‘로또 인생’을 조장한다는 일부 비판에도 ‘나도 할 수 있다’는 꿈을 안고 오디션마다 수천, 수만 명이 몰린다.

200만 명. 올 한 해 각종 TV오디션 프로그램에 몰릴 것으로 예상되는 지원자 수다. 선두에 Mnet ‘슈퍼스타K’가 있다. ARS(1600-0199) 지원자가 10일 현재 117만5200여 명이다. 6월 28일 마감까지 200만 명에 육박할 것으로 예상된다. 지난해 시즌2엔 134만 명이 모였다.

오디션 열기가 뜨겁다. 지난해 ‘슈퍼스타 K’에서 허각이 우승한 게 기폭제가 됐다. 실력과 노력으로 누구나 ‘영웅’이 될 수 있다는 것을 보여주었다. 학력·인맥 중심의 기성사회에 대한 일종의 반발이다. 올해 현재 각 방송사가 준비한 오디션 프로는 가수·연기자·디자이너·모델·요리사 등 10개. 시청자들의 호응도 크다. 8일 MBC ‘스타오디션 위대한 탄생’은 전체 2위인 22.8%(AGB닐슨미디어리서치, 전국 기준)를 기록했다. 문자투표에도 160만 콜(call)이 몰렸다.

 프로그램 규모·상금도 점점 커지고 있다. 총 50억원을 들인 SBS ‘기적의 오디션’은 1등 상금이 2억원이다. ‘슈퍼스타 K 3’는 총 5억원대 상금과 포상을 준비했다. 광고주의 협찬 경쟁도 거세다. ‘기적의 오디션’ 메인 협찬에 10억원, ‘슈퍼스타 K 3’엔 20억원 이상의 경쟁이 붙었다.

 ‘오디션’의 어원은 라틴어 ‘아우디레(audire)’다. 오페라극장에서 가수를 채용할 때 청각에 의한 판단만으로 가수를 채용하는 데서 유래했다. 요즘 TV오디션 프로 역시 공개경쟁을 원칙으로 한다. 심사위원들의 독한 평가도 여과 없이 전달된다. 신뢰할 만한 권위자와 납득할 만한 평가체계가 전제인 셈이다.

 MBC ‘나는 가수다’에서 김건모 탈락 번복을 두고 일어난 공정성 시비는 합리적인 상벌(賞罰)체제에 대한 사회적 갈증을 반영한다. 김대호 사회디자인연구소장은 “마이클 샌델의 『정의란 무엇인가』가 80만 부나 팔린 데서 보듯, 질서와 원칙에 대한 우리 사회의 갈망이 오디션 열풍에 깔려 있는 것 같다”고 분석했다.

 관련 시장도 들썩인다. 음악교육 사이트 ‘K노트온라인’에 따르면 전국1100여 개의 실용음악아카데미(시장규모 1000억원대)가 성업 중인 것으로 집계됐다. 지원자들과 각 오디션을 연결해주는 전문 에이전시도 생겨났다.
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