When management agency JYP Entertainment, whose stable includes manufactured bands 2PM, Wonder Girls and Miss A, interviewed for new staff last week, five of the six finalists were from Yonsei University and one from Korea University.
"These days when we recruit new staff, a lot of graduates of prestigious universities apply. We seem to attract young talents who would normally go to large corporations," a staffer said.
YG Entertainment, which manages Big Bang and 2NE1, has a similar story to tell. The company quietly advertised one vacant job on an employment portal, and 322 people applied. "Even though we specified that the job requires just certain level of foreign language skills, most of the applicants attached transcripts of near-perfect TOEIC, TOEFL and JPT scores," said a staffer.
The status of entertainment agencies has grown thanks to the Korean Wave, and this is reflected in current trend in the job market. Until a decade ago, most showbiz agencies hired staff through close-knit networks within the industry. But open-competition recruitment has become more widespread with emergence of big corporate agencies with sophisticated management expertise.
The rising status has led to explosive interest in the industry among jobseekers as well as aspiring entertainers, with many highly qualified young people from prestigious universities competing to join major agencies.
SM Entertainment, an industry leader with Super Junior and Girls' Generation under its wing, is concerned about the trend. It hires an average of 20 to 30 new staff a year, and has a policy of not taking educational background into account in recruiting staff. But a staffer said, "We're worried that people will get the wrong idea about our recruitment procedure that educational background matters simply because the level of applicants has improved so much."
SM said the A&R team, which is in charge of finding musicians and getting songs for the artists, and the IA team that coordinates overseas tours and copyright issues, are especially popular, drawing competition from 500 applicants for one position. Nearly 30 percent are graduates of six leading universities -- Seoul National University, Korea University, Yonsei University, Ewha Womans University, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) -- and 20 percent are from elite foreign universities such as Beijing University, Tsinghua University and University of California at Los Angeles.
One CEO of an entertainment agency said, "The improved status of showbiz played a role, but the free and creative image of the showbiz industry is also an important pulling factor. The competition will only intensify because the future of the content industry is bright."