Friday, August 9, 2013

Cram schools to become a Korean pop star

Kim Chae-young attends cram school five evenings a week, toiling deep into the night. But unlike most young South Koreans who spend hours at special schools to polish their English and math, she studies slide steps and bubbly lyrics.

“I want to become a K-pop icon, one like Psy,” said Chae-young, 13, referring to the Korean rapper of the viral video “Gangnam Style.” “All these hours I spend here are my investment for that dream.”

For the past four years, she has practiced her hip-hop moves at the Def Dance Skool in Seoul, which is just one such school among thousands in South Korea. Even though there is no official tally on the number of schools teaching children and teenagers to become pop entertainers, industry officials all agree that it is on the rise. Even traditional private music and dance schools — more accustomed to teaching Bach and ballet — have switched their curriculums to get with the pop plan. ...

With the motto “cultivating the next generation of K-pop artists,” the Def Dance Skool trains 1,000 students, up from about 400 in 2006. Fees vary but usually run about $135 a month for two or three evenings a week. That’s about the same price that some traditional cram schools, known as hagwon, charge for their academic programs. ...

For Woo Ji-won, an 18-year-old high school senior, it’s her third year in a row trying to pass the audition.

“My classmates are cramming for college entrance exams,” she said. “But I go to a K-pop school seven evenings a week. After coming home past 10, I study K-pop video on YouTube for hours.”
--Choe Sang-Hun, NYT, on buying costly lottery tickets