In the last few years, Korean pop culture has taken over the mainstream in a big way. From chart toppers to hit TV shows to our lifestyle and fashion choices, Korean pop is now an integral part of our day to day media consumption. 

So, what does life behind the scenes look like for the Korean pop stars themselves? Here’s a quick look at what it takes to make a K-pop star. 

Korean pop stars make it to the spotlight either as soloists or as part of a group. To make it, they first need to be signed as a trainee by a major label. Usually, aspiring K-pop stars start their training very young. They take regular classes for performing arts, before moving into more specialised institutions. 

Entertainment agencies forming K-pop groups usually look for people with a range of skills. The idea is for each person in the group to do different things. This helps production value and minimises any risk of conflict.   

The journey of a trainee is not easy. It is physically demanding and intensely competitive; of 1,000 students, only 40 or 50 manage to make a full-time career in the industry. There are usually strict diets and lifestyle choices, and pop groups mostly live with each other. Even if they don’t live with each other, they spend very little time with their families; they work on photoshoots, lessons, interviews, and more together. 

While there has been a spotlight on the training and recruiting process from the international media, some stars think that growth has made the process more transparent. There is now an improvement in contracts and paperwork, and trainees have a better idea of what to expect so that they are not taken advantage of. What’s more, the industry is now starting to focus more on the mental well-being of entertainers. 

Like most other careers, the life of a Korean pop star involves intense competition, training, and building toughness. And, like most other careers, while it takes hard work and passion to succeed, it also takes an equal amount of growth opportunities and being in the right place at the right time.

By Bindu and Ambi Subramaniam for The New Indian Express. Read more about all-things-music (from stage fright to learning parallel skills) here.