By Avier Tan

Being A Singaporean K-pop Star: An Achievable Goal Or Merely A Far-Fetched Dream?

GBB's Cheris Lee and Alfred Sun of Chinese reality programme We Are Young share their experiences

The K-Pop industry is an indisputable success. It is now a booming billion dollar industry which generates about $10 billion for South Korea annually.

K-Pop powerhouses like BTS, Blackpink and Twice are now worldwide icons. In hopes of making it into the next big band, some Singaporeans have taken the leap of faith to chase their dreams.

Some started out by participating in auditions, while others got casted on the streets.

In the context of a highly competitive Singapore, I start to wonder, is becoming a K-Pop star an achievable dream? Or is it just a far-fetched dream that’s great to fantasize about from time to time?

“It does seem far-fetched due to the qualities that the companies are looking for, but definitely not impossible,” said Akif Halqi, 27, a freelance choreographer, singer and actor. Ultimately, it “boils down to our capabilities, image, and even sacrifice”.

Akif bagged the Best Vocal Award at the 2017 KBS K-Pop World Festival, an experience he deems “surreal”. Then, he covered Taeyang’s Eyes, Nose, Lips (2014) and scored a chance to train and perform in Changwon, South Korea.

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His childhood dream was becoming a professional singer, so that was “one of the main highlights in [his] life,” Akif told HallyuSG. Separately, he also performed for former South Korea president Moon Jae-in during his Singapore visit.

While Akif did not enter any groups as a member officially, another Singaporean did.

“I got street casted [in South Korea],” Cheris Lee, 26, told HallyuSG. She was a member of the now-defunct South Korean girl group GBB, gawibawibo. Or Rock, Paper, Scissors in English.

Cheris Lee performing with the now-defunct GBB. Photo: Courtesy of TheGSD

Currently, she is promoting as an actress, but is planning to head back to the music industry soon.

If given a second chance for an audition, Lee said that she’ll be game for it. “I was not able to showcase myself to the maximum,” she said. “If I was given a second chance, I would certainly do better than before”.

Good news for K-Pop hopefuls: such second chances exist. iGET Entertainment, helmed by Alan Chan who produced K-Pop groups with Singaporean members like SKarf back in 2012, held auditions recently in search of local talents.

SKarf was the brainchild of Alan Chan, who’s now the COO at iGET Entertainment.

“For me, I think this was an opportunity to get a chance to be a K-Pop idol,” Vasantha Tan, 25, told HallyuSG. Tan, who is currently a dance trainer, auditioned for the dance category.

When asked about the feasibility of such a career choice, she said: “this pathway is not the most well supported in Singapore. But if you have the passion to perform and in the arts, you should give it a shot”.

Local singer-songwriter Alfred Sun, 31, echoed similar sentiments. “Being a K-Pop idol is not an easy feat—it requires a combination of talent, hard work, and opportunity,” he said.

He added that “in Singapore, there are limited opportunities for [the] young to focus solely on their craft and develop the necessary skills to succeed in the K-Pop industry”.

Sun previously trained in South Korea as an idol trainee as he was offered the opportunity to train and debut in a five-member band. 

In 2020, he participated in Chinese boy group reality programme We Are Young. Despite the experience being “emotionally draining and incredibly stressful at most times,” it helped him grow both as a performer and as a person.

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When he watched the recent idol reality programme Boys Planet 999, he told HallyuSG he “[found] it hard to consume [the content] as a viewer, knowing firsthand what goes on behind the scenes”.

“I can’t help but feel a sense of empathy for the contestants, knowing the level of stress and pressure that they must be under”.

After the gruelling training, Sun is back in Singapore and he dropped his debut single Vampire (2022) last year. 

Now, Sun occasionally shares K-Pop dance covers on his social media and he’s “excited to release more songs that will eventually lead to [his] first EP”.

Well, being a Singaporean K-Pop star might not be a far-fetched dream per se. If one puts in the effort, determination, coupled with some talent and luck.

Who knows, with the upcoming launch of the SM Entertainment headquarters in Singapore, being a Singaporean K-Pop star might not be out of the question anymore.

This article originally appeared on HallyuSG.

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