South Korean children navigate rocky road to K-pop stardom

Thu Jan 22, 2015 2:07pm EST
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By Ju-min Park

SEOUL (Reuters) - Nine-year-old Kim Si-yoon has no time to throw tantrums.

She wakes up at half-past seven for school, followed by hours of voice training, dance lessons and cram school before crashing into bed at midnight. Kim is a wannabe K-pop star.

Thousands of Korean children dream of becoming household names like rapper Psy, whose 2012 "Gangnam Style" video was a global YouTube hit, often putting up with punishing schedules in the hope of one day making it big in the music industry.

A new generation of younger and prettier music idols is further influencing impressionable minds, with a recent survey of pre-teens showing 21 percent of respondents wanted to be K-pop stars when they grow up, the most popular career choice.

Kim, a third-grader at elementary school, said she recognized the sacrifices needed to realize her dream.

"It is tough. So I am trying to have fun and when I make efforts, I can perform better," she said, as she prepared to run through a sample dance routine, despite a bad cold.

For her performance, she wore a diamond-patterned pinafore with black leggings, topped off with a trendy K-pop baseball cap.

Kim's desk is decorated with photos of her favorite boy and girl bands. A microphone is propped up beside her pens and pencils, and a pink guitar rests on her bedroom wall. A treasured pair of black high heels with a white floral print lies in her closet.   Continued...

Kim Si-yoon (C) takes part in a dance class at DEF Dance Skool in Seoul November 11, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji