Wannabe stars flock to audition cram schools

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Wannabe stars flock to audition cram schools

Haven’t won first prize in a chemistry olympiad, or in a writing or debate championship? There’s still hope for you.

While millions of students are agonizing at their desks, others are picking up their guitars. Aspiring vocalists, guitarists, drummers, dancers and even composers are honing their artistic talents at so-called “Applied Music Academies” day and night, just as their more scholastic counterparts do at a hagwon.

“It is a natural phenomenon, as audition programs such as ‘Superstar K’ or ‘The Great Birth’ are becoming popular,” said Jung Duk-hyun, a pop culture critic, in an interview with Mystar News. “The influence of auditioning is very powerful. No matter how many auditions are created they will always be fresh for the public.”

Lee Dong-ho, 19, currently attends an applied music hagwon and has ambitions of becoming a vocalist one day.

“It has been my dream since I was young,” he said. “As long as I balance my studies with my music, my parents pretty much agree with what I am doing.”

Lee said that trying to juggle his studies and his passion for singing has been a challenge.

“I only get to practice about two hours every day, but I will never give up. I plan to take an audition after going to university.”

With more parents accepting the notion that entering top universities and becoming doctors and lawyers may not be for everyone, many of them have started to think outside the box when it comes to their children’s future. In turn, many parents seem more willing to support their children’s dreams, more so than in decades past when popular music was often disparaged.

Chun Jun-gyu, owner of Dreamvocal Academy in Gangnam, southern Seoul, has been a beneficiary of the changing attitudes.

“These days, students flock to our institute even though we do not advertise as much as we did years ago,” Chun said, pointing to former students of his who have fared well in the entertainment industry, signing with companies such as JYP and YG.

Even though many come to his academy to learn music as a hobby, Chun said more and more students are becoming serious about their art.

“The number of students who wish to participate in highly publicized musical events such as ‘Superstar K,’ ‘The Great Birth’ and ‘K-Pop Star’ has increased,” he said.

But in some ways, the booming popularity of music hagwon has begun to resemble the traditional educational hagwon in terms of ubiquity and lucrative market.

In 2011, the number of music academies across the country rose to 1,100, making over a hundred billion won ($92 million) in total. One hagwon, K-note Music Academy, estimates its revenue to be over 4 billion won a year.

By Park Jae-sung, Lee Dong-hyun [ebusiness@joongang.co.kr]
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