K-pop boot camp just an 'appetiser'

Former member of Korean girl group SKarf Ferlyn Wong (second from left).
The Straits Times

If K-pop wannabes think the two-week K-Xperience Bootcamp, organised by local entertainment company Big Boss Entertainment, will prepare them enough for the harsh realities of a K-pop trainee in Seoul, they are very wrong.

Take that from local singer Ferlyn Wong, former member of Korean girl group SKarf.

The 23-year-old spent four years chasing her dream in Seoul after being selected for SKarf at an open-call audition by Alpha Entertainment in 2011.

She left her group last September, citing reasons such as not being able to fit into SKarf's "sweetie-pie concept" and not being able to voice her own opinions, to pursue a solo career.

Wong released her debut solo album, First, in January.

On Monday, The New Paper reported that a parent is spending US$3,800 (S$5,300) on her 15-year-old daughter to join the boot camp in South Korea.

Participants will be trained by Korean record label trainers and get to attend auditions held by some of Korea's top entertainment agencies, like JYP, MBK and Cube, at the end of the camp.

In an interview with TNP, Wong said that while aspiring stars might get a taste of the regimental lifestyle, she has "high doubts" they will know "the real harshness".

"How long can a boot camp be? A few weeks? If that's the case, they won't be able to experience the 'full course meal' which I had. They will likely just be trying the 'appetisers'.

"Not being able to fully understand Korean might be a good thing for them.

"At least they won't be getting the full impact of insults, or rather verbal abuse, which was something I was unprepared for."

Her mum was called by her Korean manager because Wong was allegedly "too opinionated".

"My manager told my mum off, saying she should have taught her daughter better and that her daughter is not living the way a proper human being should," said Wong.

Wong's manager also allegedly scolded her, saying "she will never succeed in anything she does".

She also explained that while the boot camp might be beneficial for character building, toughening up and experiencing a new culture, it would not be useful in terms of picking up skills due to its short duration and lack of continuity.

Wong said she would instead recommend exchange programmes in schools, or even church camps which are free. "As for picking up dancing or singing, I think that signing up for long-term regular lessons would be more effective," she said.

As for those who have already signed up, Wong said: "I'd advise them not to expect too much out of it - just enjoy and learn as much as they can.

"It'll definitely not be a total waste of time and money. They might learn that this career path is not for them or vice versa, and might be more determined in working hard for their passion.

"I hope they are motivated by passion towards the art, and not just blind passion about being a celebrity and being famous."


This article by The New Paper was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.