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G-Dragon at Wembley Arena London
G-Dragon backstage at Wembley Arena, London

‘K-pop star’ most popular job choice for South Korean kids

More than a fifth of pre-teens dream of landing a career like G-Dragon, 2NE1 and 4Minute

While life as a musician in Britain has gone a bit "two tuna sandwiches in a Transit van on the way to a gig in Milton Keynes", the hallyu wave is still going strong in South Korea. According to a recent study reported by Reuters, 21 per cent of Korean pre-teens have said that they want to be a K-pop star when they grow up. That makes it the most popular career choice in the country. Watch out, G-Dragon

The average annual income for K-pop stars has risen 72 per cent in the last five years. The industry is so successful that it has even attracted the investment of big global players like LMVH, the luxury goods giant that owns Louis Vuitton, Dior and Fendi. Last year, Psy's "Gangnam Style" racked up so many hits that it broke YouTube's counter at 2.18 billion views. 

But the infastructure for becoming a star in South Korea is vastly different to any framework in the UK. While British parents freak out at the idea of their children attempting a music career and pray they scrape some GCSEs, Korean parents are happy to make huge financial sacrifices and devote lots of time in a quest to make their kids stars.

Reuters spoke to a nine-year-old called Kim Si-yoon, who shares a joint vision of success with her mother, Park Sook-hee. Kim wakes up at 7.30am and goes to bed at midnight. A typical day consists of school, voice modulation lessons and dance training. "It is tough," said Kim. "So I am trying to have fun and when I make effort, I can perform better."

Her mum drives her around Seoul every day to make sure she doesn't miss out on any opportunities that could boost her chances of making it big. "Competition is very intense, and there are so many good kids," Park said. "She knows that she can't help but work harder." 

The South Korean music industry is dominated by huge management companies like YG Entertainment (think Syco, but bigger). These hit factories are responsible for auditioning talent and crafting pop hopefuls into megastars. But there is no guarantee that trainees makes the cut even if they do sign to an agency – not that that's putting any of South Korea's young wannabes off.