Korean pop idol

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Korean pop idol, or K-pop idol, is a term used to describe a South Korean musical artist signed under a mainstream entertainment agency.[1][2][3] In South Korea, potential idols are commonly cast by agencies via auditions or street casting[4][5][6][7] in order to become trainees.


Trainee system[edit]

Idol group Girls' Generation, signed under S.M. Entertainment

Hundreds of candidates each day attend the global auditions held by Korean entertainment agencies to perform for the chance of becoming a trainee.[8] Others are street-casted or scouted without auditioning, based on looks or potential talent. Those who successfully pass this audition stage are offered long-term contracts with the entertainment company. There are no age limits to becoming a trainee; thus is not uncommon for trainees, and even debuted idols, to be very young.[9][10]

The trainee process lasts for an indefinite period of time, ranging from months to years, and usually involves vocal, dance, and language[11][12] classes while living together with other trainees, sometimes attending school at the same time, although some trainees drop out of school to focus on a career as an idol.[13][14] In 2012, The Wall Street Journal reported that the cost of training one member of Girls' Generation under S.M. Entertainment was US$3 million.[15]

BIGBANG member and solo rapper, singer-songwriter and producer G-Dragon is one of the highest-earning K-Pop idols, along with Psy, who is also under YG Entertainment.

The trainee system was popularised by Lee Soo-man, the founder of S.M. Entertainment, as part of a concept labelled cultural technology.[16] As a unique process, the Korean idol trainee system has been criticised by Western media outlets. There are also negative connotations of idols within independent and underground Korean music scenes.[17][18]

Reported earnings[edit]

According to the South Korean National Tax Service, the average annual earnings for a K-pop idol in 2013 were KR₩46.74 million (USD$42,000). This was more than double the 2010 figure of KR₩26.97 million (USD$25,275), a rise attributable to the global spread of Hallyu in recent years.[19][20]

Some of the highest-earning K-pop idols, for example G-Dragon, receive multimillion-dollar annual incomes in album and concert sales. On June 25, 2015, SBS's "Midnight TV Entertainment" revealed that G-Dragon earned an annual KR₩790 million (USD$710,000) from songwriting royalties alone.[21] Idols can also earn revenues from endorsements, merchandise, corporate sponsorship deals and commercials. According to The Korea Herald, once a K-pop music video attracts more than a million views, it will "generate a meaningful revenue big enough to dole out profits to members of a K-pop group."[22]


The Korean Wave has led to a global rise in interest in K-Pop idols, along with other aspects of Korean culture including Korean films and K-dramas.[23]

Sasaeng fans[edit]

Main article: Sasaeng fan

Some idols have experienced extreme invasions of privacy from obsessive fans as a result of their career in the public eye. Alleged invasions of idols' private lives include stalking, hidden cameras in idols' dorms, fans attending personal events such as relatives' weddings, and physical assault.[24][25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Caramanica, Jon (2011-10-24). "Korean Pop Machine, Running on Innocence and Hair Gel". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 September 2012. 
  2. ^ Seabrook, John. "Cultural technology and the making of K-pop". The New Yorker. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  3. ^ Sun, Jung. "K-Pop Idol Boy Bands and Manufactured Versatile Masculinity: Making Chogukjeok Boys". Hong Kong University Press. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  4. ^ "[Instiz] Interesting idol casting stories ~ Netizen Buzz". netizenbuzz.blogspot.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-04-17. 
  5. ^ "Girls' Generation reveal their individual audition stories; Sooyoung scouted four times in a row". Koreaboo — breaking k-pop news, photos, and videos. Retrieved 2016-04-17. 
  6. ^ "Street casting of SM Entertainment artists revealed | allkpop.com". www.allkpop.com. Retrieved 2016-04-17. 
  7. ^ "Majority of this boy group members debuted without even auditioning? – Koreaboo". Koreaboo. Retrieved 2016-04-17. 
  8. ^ "K-Pop Boot Camp". ABC News. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  9. ^ amycwang93. "18 of the Youngest K-Pop Idols Ever to Debut". Soompi. Retrieved 2016-04-17. 
  10. ^ Tam, Vivien (16 November 2015). "10 Youngest Debuted Baby K-pop Idols!". NowKPop. NowKPop. Retrieved 17 April 2016. 
  11. ^ "In any language, JYP spells success on the global stage". Joong Ang Daily. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  12. ^ Leung, Sarah. "Catching the K-Pop Wave: Globality in the Production, Distribution, and Consumption of South Korean Popular Music". Vassar College. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  13. ^ Woo, Jaeyeon. "Journey to K-Pop Star, 'I Am.'". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  14. ^ "The Price of Fame in South Korea". Toonari Post. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  15. ^ Yang, Jeff. "Can Girls' Generation Break Through in America?". WSJ. Retrieved 2016-04-17. 
  16. ^ Seabrook, John (2012-10-08). "Factory Girls". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2016-04-17. 
  17. ^ "Us and Them: Korean Indie Rock in a K-Pop World | The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus". apjjf.org. Retrieved 2016-04-17. 
  18. ^ "Ask a Korean!: What's Real in Korean Hip Hop? A Historical Perspective". askakorean.blogspot.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-04-17. 
  19. ^ "Average annual incomes for K-pop idols rise significantly thanks to the Hallyu Wave". Allkpop. January 22, 2015. Retrieved 27 June 2015. 
  20. ^ Jeff Benjamin (January 19, 2015). "K-Pop Star Earnings Swell in Recent Years". Billboard. Retrieved 27 June 2015. 
  21. ^ Tamar Herman. "G-Dragon's Annual Earnings From Song Royalties Add Up To An Impressive Sum". Kpopstarz. Retrieved 27 June 2015. 
  22. ^   (2012-08-24). "Successful social marketing translates into profits for K-pop acts-The Korea Herald". View.koreaherald.com. Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  23. ^ "South Korea's K-pop takes off in the west". Financial Times. Retrieved 7 September 2012. 
  24. ^ "13 extreme accounts of sasaeng fans | allkpop.com". www.allkpop.com. Retrieved 2016-04-17. 
  25. ^ "'Sasaeng Stalkers' (Part 1): K-pop fans turn to blood, poison for attention". sg.celebrity.yahoo.com. Retrieved 2016-04-17.