180624 Mark speaks of his stress during trainee period, mentions JYP artists get autonomy after debut
Ni Zhong Hua’s Column: Turning Weakness into Uniqueness
Taiwan Apple Daily
24 June 2018
Ni Zhong Hua/ Music & Technology Institute Foundation Chairman
Last week, Korean idol group GOT7 held their first concert in Taiwan in Taipei and I was invited to attend. What was special was that this time, I was not invited by the company or the organiser, but by the father of one of the members of GOT7 – Tuan Guang Fu was my high school classmate, and is now more widely known as the father of GOT7’s Mark’s. His followers on Twitter exceeds 850,000, and can be said to be Korea’s most popular celebrity dad. On the day of the concert, I watched the performance with the celebrity dad, and witnessed for myself the scene of how the Korean pop culture has swept across the young people in Taiwan – the venue that was not huge was packed with idol-chasing young guys and girls, their screams reverberated non-stop, and the performance on stage was splendid.
After the concert, I chatted for a while with Mark and my old friend at their family gathering, and talked about the process of Mark going to Korea to be a trainee, to officially debuting and to now becoming a famous artiste. Mark’s personal background is very special, he was born in Brazil, grew up in the US. He was scouted in school when he was 16 years old and was invited to an audition. At first it was thought to be a small interlude in his life, Mark who had never thought of becoming an artiste, who did not know how to sing or dance, received a notification from the Korean entertainment company 3 months later, telling him that they wanted to sign him up and wanted him to go to Korea to be a trainee.
It was 2011 then, and my old friend asked for my opinion and I very honestly conveyed my reservations. After all, he would be leaving home to somewhere far away, and I was not sure whether the Korean training system known for being strict, was a good thing for a child so young. But Mark still went, and his father has been by his side all along, because he holds on to the belief of supporting his son’s development and interest.
At the dinner, Mark shared with me how it was like training in Korea: During the 3 years as a trainee at the start, every day from 10am to 10pm, the company would arrange for lessons such as Korean language, dance, singing and rap, the format of the lessons was largely 1-to-1 small group coaching, and every half a year there would be an evaluation. I asked him if he ever had the thought of giving up during the process, he, who is usually shy and of few words, nodded almost immediately. He said frankly that the biggest stress in the process was psychological, because most of the trainees had foundation in singing or dance, and in comparison, he often felt that he was not good enough.
At the 4th year, the company grouped him together with a few others who were more compatible in terms of style and characteristics, and debuted them as a Korean idol group under the name of GOT7. I asked Mark many things I was curious about, including how the company manages the artistes after they debuted, how they determine the style of each group, the position of each person within the group…… To my surprise, the company that Mark is in, gives the artistes rather large autonomy, breaking the stereotypical image I had of Korean entertainment agencies that they are really strict when it comes to management.
Mark said, after debut, there is no need to go for training and lessons every day, other than going for schedules, there is more time to compose and write songs, members can also freely choose between composing individually or with a team. When GOT7 just debuted, the style that the company decided for them was more towards Hip Hop, but after a period of development and discussion amongst the members, it was decided that the R&B style was more suitable for the group, and the company also readily respected their decision.
How the Korean entertainment companies nurture the trainees, is also actually a type of experimental education, just that the purpose and the content are different from what people traditionally think of when it comes to education. But the ultimate goal is to help everyone find their own path through guidance. As someone of his father’s age/seniority, I gave Mark, who is shy and of few words, some suggestions when it comes to career development: give off your best when it comes to what you are good at; then transform your weaknesses into your own unique characteristics. Individuality is the key to not being replaceable, regardless of what field you are in, it is so.