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Second chance: faded K-pop star competes for comeback

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by Kang Jin-kyu

When Ryu Sera made her debut with Okay-pop girlband 9 Muses, the years of intense coaching and ruthless competitors appeared worthwhile, her goals of stardom lastly coming true.

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A couple of high 10 singles adopted, however inside 4 years she had been solid on the Okay-pop scrapheap, sacked by her administration firm because it reshuffled the band’s line-up.

An tried solo profession foundered, she was left in debt, battling melancholy and considering suicide.

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However six years after her dismissal, she has been given a second likelihood on a groundbreaking new tv present for failed and former idols — and is talking out in opposition to a construction that consumes younger hopefuls with solely a tiny minority surviving to stardom.

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“The Okay-pop business has a factory-like mass-production system,” she informed AFP.

Okay-pop is the most recent and largest occasion of the so-called Korean Wave, because the South’s common tradition positive factors abroad recognition — epitomised by the worldwide success of boyband BTS, who topped the US Billboard singles chart earlier this yr.

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The phenomenon earns billions of {dollars} for the world’s twelfth largest financial system and scores of teams are launched every year to attempt to seize a slice of the pie.

In contrast to many teams elsewhere, Okay-pop bands should not usually fashioned by the members themselves who then attempt to safe a report deal, however are as a substitute normally assembled by their managing companies.

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They put the members by way of intensive coaching programmes and management the whole lot from their music and lyrics to their seems to be and lots of points of their every day lives.

However most acts rapidly disappear, leaving barely a hint on the rating of musical historical past.

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– ‘Like an addict’ –
Ryu was 22 when she handed an audition to turn out to be a trainee with Star Empire, a medium-sized company in Seoul.

She was amongst 40 to 50 contenders for a spot in 9 Muses.

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“It was an infinite contest with assessments each week, and people who ranked backside on dancing, singing abilities and appears had been kicked out.”

At first, she usually scored poorly for dancing and singing, however she “practised like an addict”, she mentioned.

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A yr later she was chosen to be 9 Muses’ lead singer.

Even after their debut, there was no let-up within the routine, and she or he was subjected to fixed evaluations, usually vital, of her look.

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“Managers would say issues like ‘Why are you so fats?’… as a result of I didn’t fall into their class of stylish, horny girls,” she mentioned.

“I doubt they’re even conscious that they harm me with their phrases.”

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However she complied with their calls for: “Once they informed me to chop my hair, I did… There was an environment that we must always be pleased about being given an opportunity to turn out to be idols.”

When her contract got here up for renewal, she demanded that the 9 Muses members participate in each idea assembly, that they might have management over what garments they wore, and no extra members would get replaced.

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The producers didn’t provide her a brand new deal.

“There are such a lot of trainees, so many artists, so many younger people who need to get into this business,” she mentioned.

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“So, they generally think about us replaceable merchandise.”

A Star Empire consultant informed AFP the agency and Ryu had been “unable to agree on new contract phrases”, including: “We want her all the most effective.”

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– Sickness and disgrace –
In an try and construct a solo profession, Ryu borrowed cash to supply her personal albums and placed on live shows, however with out the backing of a significant company none of them generated a revenue.

“I felt like I had completed nothing and was being forgotten,” she mentioned.

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South Korea is an intensely aggressive society and has an unusually excessive suicide charge, with latest superstar deaths together with singers Goo Hara and Sulli, each of whom had been subjected to vicious cyber-bullying, and Kim Jong-hyun of the boyband Shinee.

Ryu additionally thought-about killing herself.

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“There are very, very well-known people who selected to finish their lives,” she mentioned.

“Once I was actually depressed I believed concerning the worst factor.”

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She has been on treatment since she was recognized with melancholy final yr.

Numerous youngsters flock to leisure companies aspiring to turn out to be stars however no-one takes care of those that don’t make the minimize, she mentioned, nor those that debut however are changed quickly afterwards by youthful rivals.

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“Within the Okay-pop business, we don’t take psychological well being significantly,” she added.

“If you find yourself mentally sick, you instantly really feel ashamed.”

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– ‘Miss Again’ –
The enterprise makes use of a “high-risk, high-return” system that generates “numerous also-rans” within the course of, mentioned cultural commentator Jung Ho-jai.

“Former idols and trainees take the brunt of their failure available in the market,” he added.

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“Somebody wants to talk up concerning the negative effects of this business. Now Ryu is doing simply that.”

Greater than a decade since passing the Star Empire audition, Ryu is competing once more in a brand new tv present, “Miss Again”.

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Hosted by Okay-pop queen Baek Ji-young, who has eight studio albums underneath her belt in a profession nonetheless going sturdy after 21 years, it presents former feminine idols a brand new showcase — some who by no means made it and others who had been as soon as well-known however then pale away.

Round 200 had been interviewed for under seven slots on the programme.

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However among the many chosen few, no-one might be eradicated.

Every week, all seven carry out the identical tune, and the one the judges rating highest is launched as a single, with the performer sharing within the earnings.

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Within the course of, the solid members share the pains and struggles they endured within the hidden shadows of the glamorous business.

And there might be no total winner.

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Ryu mentioned: “This programme is like remedy for wounded troopers.”

kjk/slb/am/jah

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© Agence France-Presse
/AFP


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