Searching for the Next Rain and Wonder Girls

 Wonder GirlsRain

In the past, Korean students wanted to become doctors, lawyers and the like. Now, sought after professions include acting, singing and modeling. These talented celebrities are nearly worshipped here in Korea and in Asian countries due to “hallyu,” the Korean wave.

JYP Entertainment, led by singer and producer Park Jin-young and whose roster includes the Wonder Girls, 2PM, 2AM and “Dragon Ball: Evolution” co-star Joon Park, is one of the biggest entertainment agencies here, along with SM and YG Entertainment. The company that once nourished singer and actor Rain held its fourth open audition last month, with high expectations among aspiring singers, actors and models, naturally supported by their parents and friends.

The agency received UCCs, or User Created Contents, through popular networking Web site http://www.cyworld.com. More than 18,000 elementary through university students posted their videos. Only 33 were chosen for the final audition.

“We discover more creative and talented kids uploading videos every year. Internet users are very enthusiastic and we are looking forward to more applications,” the agency said.

Agencies, both large and small, have sprung up in the entertainment business, and there’s been change since when agency managers scoured the streets in search of the next star. Now, thanks to the Internet, they don’t have to go anywhere.

“It’s not just about good looks. Talent is a prerequisite and so we see how hard they have worked and taken care of themselves. It has become a tough environment in which, if you don’t work hard, you will never succeed,” an employee from entertainment agency Star Empire said.

The audition took place for more than two hours, with the 33 contestants singing, dancing, rapping and strutting the stage, and finally ended with the announcement of three lucky winners who will be given the chance to train under JYP the supervision of and receive lectures from some of the best vocal and dance trainers.

“Thank you, thank you! I will do my best until I finally fulfill my dream as one of the most popular stars in Korea,” Sohn Hyun-woong, the first prize winner and aspiring singer, said after receiving the prize.

Picking three out of the 33 may have seemed a bit stingy, but most of the contestants were more than happy to be chosen as the final 33.

“I never dreamed of (my son) winning third place. I didn’t even prepare flowers!” Jang Duk-sun, the mother of third-place winner Kim Sung-woong, told The Korea Times.

As a parent wishing the best for her son, she said she was worried about the life he may have to endure to achieve success as a singer.

“I’m sure he will have to go through a tough time. There’s actually nothing I can do but support him and wish him the best. Music was his dream, and I’m glad that his dream is finally coming true,” she said.

The mother of Cho Yun-young, the youngest contestant, at 14, also showed her enthusiasm even though her daughter didn’t win.

“We have prepared for over a year now. Of course, I disapproved because she was so young, but I realized that she simply found what she wanted to do at an early age. She was good ever since fifth grade. She loved to dance and sing, and so we will try harder to make it big some day,” she said.

The young Cho looked confident as she appeared on stage, singing and dancing to a song by the Wonder Girls, but as soon as she stepped down from the spotlight, she blushed like any other 14-year-old.

“I love to dance and my favorite group is the Pussycat Dolls,” she said.

On its fourth mission to find the next Wonder Girls and Rain, the agency said that they were surprised to see so many contestants, including some from other parts of the country.

“Many contestants from other provinces participated in the audition, and we realized that we need to work more on auditions beyond Seoul,” the agency said.

The winners will train under the famous agency until they make their debuts, while others who didn’t make it to the top three will continue their search for stardom.

“I tried out for the audition but didn’t make it to the final round. We want to stand in the spotlight, too, like our favorite singers. We didn’t make it this time, but we’ll continue until we do. We will someday,” one 19-year-old said, smiling, before leaving the audition venue.

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