Wannabe K-pop stars enrol in 'Idol School'

SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Young women looking to become the next Twice, Girls' Generation and Black Pink will learn from some of the nation's prominent entertainers and trainers at South Korea's first "Idol School" and viewers will get access to every step of the process.

Mnet on Wednesday (July 12) held a press conference in Seoul for its new television show and project designed to train teenaged girls to debut as a K-pop girl group.

South Korean acting legend Lee Son Jae will be the principal of the school and veteran K-pop star Kim Hee Chul will be in charge of the homeroom. Singer and musical actress Bada will teach the students how to sing - along with vocal trainer Jang Jin Young - while choreographer Park Jun Hee and K-pop star Stephanie will be in charge of dancing.

Songwriting team Black Eyed Pilseung will produce the music. A total 41 students will participate in the programme.

"Idol singers and Hallyu is a global phenomenon now, so we have to keep on finding new and promising talents. Both the experts and Mnet (music channel) officials are working together to make sure that (the applicants) acquire the qualifications of an idol singer," said Lee at the press conference.

Bada, a former idol singer herself, said the experience reminded her of her training to become a star.

"It is a school first, so instead of trying to find a superstar, I want to help (the students) grow and keep their dreams," she said.

Those who have enrolled - only females aged at least 11 can apply - will undergo an 11-week curriculum of not only singing and dancing lessons, but also classes about the history of K-pop, mental training for the pressures of becoming an idol singer and lessons on what to do in case of unexpected situations on stage.

While the school is operated under an official curriculum, Mnet has made it clear that it is not a state-approved educational facility and not qualified as an actual school.

But the show has already been embroiled in controversy, the biggest of which has been over the qualifications of applicants. Some of the students at the school had already received professional training from entertainment agencies, while others have even officially debuted in girl groups.

There have been complaints that allowing participants with this kind of experience is against its self-proclaimed concept of training ordinary students.

"We've recruited (participants) since April. At the time, they (the participants) hadn't signed with an agency and we felt that excluding them from the programme because of their past experiences would be an adverse discrimination of some sort. So we decided to give them a chance," said Shin Yu Seon, one of the producers for the show.

Chief producer Kim Tae Eun denied speculation the girl group debuting through the show would be forced to sign with CJ E&M, the operator of the programme.

"We will decide on the management issue later, so that (the girl group) will be managed the best they can be," she said.

The show will air on Mnet every Thursday, starting this week.