Every month K-pop fans are delighted to hear that their favourite idols are performing in a new and upcoming musical, or making their key acting debut in a new movie or Korean drama. Most of the time its pretty much over-looked and we all applaud and cheer that our talented public figures are showing their potential to the fullest… But there is another side to the story, where not everyone in the industry is as happy as the fans.
I was looking at the announcement that a new bunch of K-pop idols are turning their talents to Korean dramas (Most recently the announcement of BTS’s V in a historical drama) and musicals – and as much as I do love a person who I can connect with on different levels being on my screen and promoting the best way they can; a little part of my heart goes out to all those trainee actors and actresses who have worked just as hard, day and night, to hopefully see their name in the big headlines.
Now I can hear you all saying under your breath “but our idols work just as hard too” – and this is 100% true, but let me explain why im finding this to be a problem within the Korean entertainment system right now.
Training, Movies and Dramas
Just like our favourite idols, actors and actresses have to train exceptionally hard. They go to universities, colleges, and special schools for acting and musical degrees – all so they can have that exceptional bit of paper that declares them worthy of possibly being looked at for a career in something they love to do. They spend equally as hard of training with vocabulary, singing, dancing, and acting lessons to make sure that whatever project comes their way they are fully prepared. They are not from the same mould (as many say with K-pop idols) and they each have their strengths (you can’t beat a good villain!).
But on terms of K-idols becoming actors my question lays with “Where and when do they get their training?” – It’s fair to argue that it comes as a package when training to become a K-idol, but for me it feels that 70-80% of that training is aimed at debuting as a singer/dancer and then as a back up plan there is 20% interest and care given to their acting. Now its an absolute obvious that a small amount of acting skill is taught to the debuting idols of late, that fake smile, always looking happy, always knowing what to say at the right time (thank you monologue screen) – and we all know that acting comes out best with their “fan service” at special events and concerts, sorry guys its all been planned from the very moment they wave to that moment they stand and stare in a certain direction.
The never ending schedules of the idols which keeps them forever busy, and their own personal feelings (something that’s greatly overlooked throughout the Korean Entertainment system) it does make me wonder how they even get the chance to study for their schools and for their big debuts. If you could imagine that you were a newcomer director, and you have a chance to make a huge movie which is guaranteed to sell out no matter who is acting (new comer or familiar face), you have to choose one of the following options –
Option 1: A fresh face, fully trained, completely prepared and a potentially great actor straight from a acting degree willing to work for slightly less than anyone else for “their first actual chance” – Its your chance to create a well known actor of them.
Option 2: A familiar face on the tv screen, familiar name with a big company behind them, larger acting fees, and not being able to dedicate endless amounts of time on set with the downfall that they don’t actually have any “real” training – But they have a huge fan following, and their company (not the idol at hand) are going to promote their idol and your movie on most of the interviews and tv appearances the idol is on.
If most of you said option 2, then I couldn’t fault you for it – in business terms you have more chance to actually get viewers and sell tickets in a theatre or cinema if there is an idols face and name to it. They might not have the training, and with a few shouts from the Director or PD, you can soon have the kid good enough to state a few words; they might look wooden and not be the best actors, but they will bring in the viewers.
But if you chose option 1 I would stand and applaud you. If your movie is set to be one of the biggest things in the industry, you don’t need “another” big name in the form of a K-idol, try to create a job and future for someone who needs a chance! We have all, no matter at what age, needed just one person to give us the experience or that little shove in the right direction; we all know how “dog eat dog” the acting and celebrity world is, so actually giving the chance to someone who has nothing, but is showing 100% potential of becoming a huge sensation is the step forward – And I feel this is what the Korean entertainment industry has lost, instead its about fandoms, money, and how big the name of the idol or entertainment company behind the idol is.
For a while Korean musicals were an untapped source of entertainment, through the likes of musical singers Park Eun Tae and Hong Kwang Ho I was introduced into a whole new world of Korean entertainment – less fandoms, more support of the artists, and raw energy which showcased the talent of the performers to their fullest with live singing and some pretty intense acting and choreographies to perform; they became K-idols of the musical world really fast.
But soon enough the Korean entertainment industry latched on to this new phenomenon that was also interesting those abroad, and with the visiting European and American stage shows going to Korea to then get their own Korean cast, it wasn’t long before the big money makers of the entertainment industry was ready to start including Korean actors from some of their favourite TV dramas or movies. Now my problem with this was on the same terms as K-idols going into movies and dramas; These actors had literally no percentage of training and were jumping at the chance to perform on stage. The only problem – They couldn’t sing.
So why was they taking up a spot of a newcomer who could potentially make it really big in the musical industry and follow in the footsteps of people like Park Eun tae and Hong Kwang Ho? Yet again it lays with the Entertainment world believing they need the biggest names in the smallest of productions to make a bigger impact, to get more coverage and promotion. Now days we have K-idols belting their little voices out on a stage that is well suited to them, they can sing, they can dance – but there is always that moment when it comes to the “acting scene” and you can see the fear in their eyes, and in the eyes of all the musical lovers who are there for the musical and not there for the names which are performing.
Now I completely agree that if your good at what you do, and your good at other things, then go ahead and do the best you can – heck im also up for letting people cross over job roles (so to say) and perform on stages, in movies or on K-dramas. Even though I made this a discussion I am neither for nor against the crossing over of idols into non idol jobs and thus. This is where I am making my stand and explaining why there are no new faces in the entertainment scene that isn’t a K-idol or K-pop star. There were a lot of talks wondering why the buzz and excitement around the K-drama, movie and musical scene isn’t as pumping as it once was a few years back, and in honesty I personally think it lays with this very fact; the hardcore movie goers and K-drama watchers don’t want to be bored to tears by an idol whose acting is wooden. An avid theatre and musical goer don’t want actors who cant sing nor K-pop idols who cant act – they truly want the right people for the right jobs.
It’s a hard thing for fans of all sectors (like myself) to describe when you yourself love seeing an idol exploring other talents, or seeing them embark on a whole new adventure of their life whilst they grow into a multi-talented woman or men. But for me at least there is a understanding from taking a step back and seeing why the entertainment industry of Korea is becoming stagnant – and that’s the over saturation of the supposed “Hallyu” that’s sweeping everywhere to the point they believe that an idols “Celebrity status” means more to the people who are watching their productions, than that of a good story and good (believable) acting. my conclusion comes from many years of watching K-dramas, K-movies and K-musicals and being a huge fan of each, and seeing how different it is now, to how it was then. From promotional activities of each of them, to the involvement of idols and actors in areas they really cant handle, to finding out that some Korean idols are truly multi-talented and very bright.
It’s just something to think about, next time you watch a movie, drama or musical – count how many people are known for being a singer, actor, dancer, or by any other known job titles; then ask how you would title said person – you will be surprised.