March 02, 2013 08:00
Top stars like IU, Kara's Gu Ha-ra and miss A lead the K-pop scene at different entertainment agencies, but all have one thing in common: being spotted by Lee Ji-young at JYP Entertainment.
Over her 10-year career, the casting manager has earned a reputation for her on-target instinct in identifying new stars.
"This is my 10th year looking for new talent in showbiz. I have probably seen more than 200,000 people in auditions," said Lee, who started her career at SM Entertainment in 2004 before moving to JYP a year later.
Others discovered by Lee include 2PM, 2AM, 4minute's Kim Hyun-a and Nam Ji-hyun, and Sistar's Hyo-lyn and Da-som.
"People say having a flamboyant personality is important to becoming a star, but I disagree. There are so many stars who were timid when they were younger and in training. I cast young people with special talent in one of three areas -- singing, dancing or looks. miss A's Su-zy was the only person who had all three. The star's other qualities can be nurtured later," said Lee. "Once a recruit passes the audition and becomes a trainee, then I take personality very seriously. A positive and sociable personality is very important as you have to spend so much time with the trainees for years."
Lee travels around the country and the world on her quest to discover the next star. "I sometimes feel sorry to see young children who audition 10 or 20 times with a vague fantasy of becoming a star. I always hope to see improvements in subsequent auditions, but that doesn't happen most of the time. People need to specifically identify their weaknesses to improve, but many think passion is enough," she said.
Outside of her standard audition work, Park also does on-the-ground recruiting on the streets and in schools. She often visits middle and high schools to find boys and girls known for their singing or dancing skills and holds individual auditions with them.
And the process doesn't stop with recruitment. Lee said she often accompanies her recruits to their first television appearances. "I cry my eyes out every time because I know how much they've gone through over the years as trainees," she said.
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