September 15, 2018 08:22
More and more Korean parents are putting their children into showbiz schools as soon as they can walk as prospects in traditional jobs dwindle and K-pop looks like the country's only growth industry. The craze has been given a boost by Bangtan Boys, also known as BTS, making it to the top of the U.S. Billboard 200 Albums Charts for the second time last month.
One K-pop crammer that opened in central Seoul in late June accepts children as young as five. They are given one lesson a week for a price of around W200,000 a month (US$1=W1,118).
Kang Byoung-won, head of marketing at Interpark Academy, said, "A lot of parents want their children to grow up to be a K-pop star like BTS. We have received more than 40 calls over the last two months from parents of children aged three or four asking if their kids can register for classes."
They require a different approach from teenagers. Shim Hee-eun (31), an instructor at the K-pop cram school, said, "Young children can't concentrate for long and don't really understand dancing, so I use moves from everyday chores like dusting and hanging up the laundry to explain different moves."
Persistent demands from parents have persuaded K-pop crammers to lower their age limits. One 33-year-old housewife who sends her five-year-old daughter to a showbiz mill said, "I will try my best to support my daughter if she shows talent and wants to live the pop-star life."
Im Jung-hee (42) runs a K-pop crammer for six- and seven-year-olds in southern Seoul. "Some parents demand that their young child is moved to a higher age group, because he or she is such a good dancer," she says.
Many parents see pop stardom as a shortcut to fame and fortune. One 34-year-old mom who sends her seven-year-old daughter to a K-pop crammer, said, "These days, students who graduate from top universities have a tough time finding jobs. When I see K-pop idols raking in the cash, I wonder if my own child can grow up to be like that."
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