So You Want To Be a Kpop Idol, a Kpop Star?

This is a special post for my “little sisters” who are interested in pursuing a career in the Korean music industry as singers; and, if you haven’t yet, be sure to check out THIS post by seoulbeats about what it’s like for Asian-American, Latino, black, and white people who are currently pursuing “The Korean Dream.”

I’ve talked about the music industry in Korea before HERE, but I’d like to offer some advice– not just a warning, and introduce two possible role models (for my little sisters in particular) who have made it big in Korea and are black and Korean: Insooni and Yoon Mi-rae (aka “T” or Tasha).

And, here are two important links for everyone:

Entertainment Companies and Their Artists

Entertainment Companies and Their Addresses

I know that there are people of every race who are pursuing careers in music or entertainment in Korea, so there is someone out there who we can all look up to! If you’re not sure, just ask me. I wish I had room to mention them all– from Jessica Gomes to Julien Kang to Sam Hammington and even Olivia, a French girl, and Sam, a Kenyan boy. But, don’t even get me started on the people who are Korean-American or Chinese and have made it big in Korea!


From now on, I’m not going to use the word “Kpop idol” or “Kpop star.” I don’t think you’ll make it (very far) in the Korean music industry as a foreigner unless you have the humble heart of a true singer and are willing to work incredibly hard from learning to speak Korean to learning about Korean culture to learning about the people and companies that make up what has become a very large industry– on top of actually singing and maybe even dancing if you become a “dance gasu.”

These days, anyone can get surgery and be styled to look like a Kpop idol or Kpop star. These days, anyone can even have the attitude of a Kpop idol or Kpop star. So, what separates you from everyone else is your voice, talent, and work ethic. Having a good work ethic, especially in a place where people are often overworked like Korea, will be the best way to make your dreams come true.

After all, by now many of us know that auditioning to be a singer in the Korean music industry both in America AND in Korea is an ordeal, and the competition gets harder and harder every year! So, that means YOU have to work harder, too. To see what its like to audition for SM, watch THIS video as the members of Infinity Challenge– seven of Korea’s most famous comedians, do just that!

If you DO manage to pass the audition and sign with a music or entertainment company, then practice harder than everyone else. Take critique– in fact, ask for it. Go out of your way to sing or dance anywhere and for anyone. Most importantly, don’t let the challenges you encounter, such as discrimination or cultural differences, bring you down. It’s hard for Koreans to make it in the music industry, too, so don’t see your challenges as any harder than anyone else’s, although they might be different in many ways.

From running errands to performing favors to standing on small stages night after night and even being scolded and getting your feelings hurt– you better be ready to deal with it all and get through it all, always learning and improving along the way. In addition, take the time to get to know your sunbaes in the Korean music industry, from H.O.T. to EXO, from G.O.D. to 2PM, from S.E.S. to SNSD, as well as other legends and current trends in the Korean music AND entertainment industry.

However, for my “little sisters” who are looking for a sunbae and role model who might hit a little closer to home, then look no further than Insooni and Yoon Mirae.

Go HERE to read more about Insooni and her story, as well as get some excellent advice from The Diva of Korea herself.

Yoon Mi Rae is someone many people are more likely to already be familiar with, so I won’t spend too much time talking about her except to say she is an amazing rapper AND singer who has come a long way in both Korea and America.


If you have a dream, go for it; and, don’t be afraid to dream BIG. 

But, be realistic. Don’t just see your dream– see the hard work, dedication, and effort it will take to make it come true.

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22 responses to “So You Want To Be a Kpop Idol, a Kpop Star?

  1. I have no music chops what so ever. Thankfully children do not care about if their moms can carry a tune just simply the love the sound of their voice.

    But thanks so much for such insightful tips. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to break into the music industry period!

  2. I am indian. (asian). 18yrs old
    My colour is light brown.
    I can sing and dance well.
    But my colour could be a problem????
    Please be honest! And thanks for your article. Its nice.

    • Koreans think that lighter skin tones are more beautiful for KOREANS. I don’t know if they will hold you to that standard, too. I mean, Beyonce is popular in Korea, but so is Naomi Campbell. I also got many compliments on my skin color in Korea when I was there and even here in America from Koreans.

      For you, here are links to a half-Korean, half-Indian girl who did well on a Korean music talent show:

      http://toptalentkorea.com/the-host-judges/judge-punita-bajaj/

      http://www.kpopstarz.com/articles/3355/20120128/punita-great-birth-2-young-days.htm

      There was another girl who was much darker and even wore hijabi, and she was also very popular and did well on a Korean music talent show, but I don’t remember her name anymore. >.<

      Also, your biggest problem is speaking and singing in Korean– not speaking and singing well for a foreigner but speaking and singing just as well as any other Korean.

      Your skin color, I don't know if it really matters as much as the fact that you are just not Korean. So, learn Korean language and Korean culture and just know that Kpop Idol standards of beauty are very hard even for Koreans to reach!

      • Thanks a lot! It means so much for me.
        Right now i am learning korean.
        And do sing korean songs too by memorising the words.
        But because of that beauty standards i dont think any company would select me! :( dazz sad. Because this is my passion..
        Well can you tell me more how to audition online and which company?
        ThAnks once again.

        • If you’re talented they will select you, but you might have to diet or get plastic surgery.

          I don’t get so involved in audition process, and you really should audition in Korea… but for now, you just need to keep an eye on when companies allow you to audition online. SM and YG are the best, but smaller companies like Cube, BigHit, Loen, etc. manage their artists well, too. I’ll update this post with a list of kpop companies later:)

    • i am sorry, light brown skin color is a issue. All korean idols and trainees have light skin. One of the major entertainments called SM is considered 80% looks.

      • I have won so many competitions in singing beating so many talented girls out there..
        So according to my talent and personality i can say that i must be a tough competition ^^
        but yes am not white as they want to be… :(
        You guys are so sweet thanks :) 4 ur generous comments

        • Koreans expect other Koreans to be a certain way. There were two Indian girls on singing competitions, both dark girls and light girls, who were recognized for their beauty. As a foriegner, you are beautiful in your own way. Skin color doesnt change that. If you want to be a Kpop idol, then I’m not sure. If you just want to sing in Korean, then find a good agency in Korea who knows your talented and beautiful. SM and whatever isnt all thats out there!

  3. Me and my cousin want to be a korean artist.can you help us how to be a korean artist?We are good in dancing and singing.anything we try just to be a korean artist. we want that badly :)

    • First, you need to learn how to describe yourself right, and “Korean artist” is wrong– unless you are Korean. Race in Korea is not defined by where you choose to work, so just saying that you want to be a foreign artist and work in Korea is more appropriate and more professional!^^

      Sorry, but, just because you are good in dancing and singing doesn’t mean anything. You need to be great! Breaking into the Korean music industry is difficult even for Koreans, and as you can see, your image and marketability often matter more than your talent… when it comes to being a Korean Pop singer at least.

      (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you need to study business more first! This is still just a business!)

      Since its just business, no one will care about your dream or that you think Koreans are nice.

      (People working in the industry are not that nice.)

      So, think: What separates you from the millions of other people who want to be foriegn artists in Korea? Why should they pick you at an audition? Do you speak Korean, do you sing and dance better than the majority of people, are you incredibly attractive or at least have the potential to be through surgery?

      That’s the reality, and when you have the right answers to those questions then your dream can be a reality, so fighting!

      (I’m in law school. It takes a lot to be successful at anything, and being good is often not good enough no matter what career path you choose. It’s a competive, globalized world that we live in. Strive to be the best at what you do!)

    • Yes, but Korean people are like all people everywhere: good and bad. Please be careful of smaller, unknown Korean entertainment companies that try to scam both Koreans and foriegners. Kim Woo Bin and many other famous Korean celebrities were scammed! It’s a serious issue in Korea.

      Other than that, Koreans are always so kind and helpful and friendly. I miss being in Korea and hope you get to go someday!^^

  4. Annyeonghaseyo :) I just wanted to know some suggestions for these 3 questions :
    1.its a real risky thing for any participant to select a right margin to acknowledge himself /herself that what range did s/he marks in any competition so please help to judge me by the details ^^
    Age:15yrs. Skills:perfect in singing, can grasp dancing in average,modeling.
    Height:5.5″ skin: fair.

    2.system for auditions basically in SM
    3.formalities and terms if selected
    And some more information if you can give I’ll be glad to see your suggestions. Your article is a great support for daring and having faith in auditioning :-)

    • Hi!
      Since I don’t know what you look like your hieght and skin tone mean nothing. There are short and tall models and idols as well as light and dark models and idols. Its about your overall look and feel and how hard you work to learn Korean, Korean culture, and how things really work in the Korean music industry.

      There are tons of good singers and decent dancers, btw, so I don’t think that’s what will help you win a competition. What makes you unique and marketable?

      SM… Is hard to audition for. They usually scout their stars on the street, but they do have auditions in Korea. They look at your face on a monitor first to rate your looks and see if you need plastic surgery. (Almost a must to get plastic surgery these days.) They also rate your dancing and singing after you perform. Thats really it.

      3. Its different for everyone, but SM is notorious for having slave contracts, which is probably why Kris is leaving EXO.

    • Make sure you dance with lots of flexibility. When you sing, hit the right notes and make sure you have high vocals. It’s even better if you know how to rap.

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