K-pop stars brush up on their Ps and Qs

Aspiring K-pop starlets are now being put through "character education" to equip them with basic etiquette and a working knowledge on subjects ranging from history to international politics.

K-pop production agencies have started offering this new aspect of training so their entertainers would behave appropriately, such as during interviews, and avoid cultural sensitivities when abroad.

The latest move places yet another load to the already rigorous regimen of Korean entertainers, who undergo years of dance and vocal training before they are marketed.

Acting classes also became essential after singers started appearing on television dramas and films. Foreign-language classes were added when the Korean Wave went global.

DSP Entertainment, which manages girl groups Kara and Rainbow, educates trainees on what it calls "character development and basic etiquette".

"We teach our trainees how to greet people properly and how to address audiences and behave on TV shows," said an official at the company.

At Starship Entertainment, home to K-pop groups Sistar and Monsta X, trainees "have to follow rules like not swearing, not slurring speech and greeting people with loud, clear voices", said an official.

"Before each team debuts, we offer specialised courses on giving interviews, which includes speaking coherently and responding to unexpected questions," he added.

JYP Entertainment - the K-pop powerhouse which represents groups like Twice, 2PM and Wonder Girls - has strict policies concerning schoolwork and "moral character".

Some agencies even invite university professors to give lectures on topics that require a higher level of expertise.

They also send trainees to attend classes at the Korea Creative Content Agency's Popular Culture and Arts Center. It began offering a "character education" programme for K-pop singers and actors last year.

It includes classes on historical issues and cultural sensitivities - which are increasingly important for K-pop celebrities to understand, said the centre's director Jung Tae Sung.

"In Islamic countries, for example, it's taboo to hug fans or come into physical contact with them," added Mr Jung, noting that knowledge of diplomatic relations is also important for K-pop groups with members of different nationalities.

"K-pop stars are branching out into more countries than ever now. They're representing Korea abroad," he said.

This gap in training was highlighted by recent missteps by K-pop celebrities.

Last week, Seolhyun and Jimin of girl group AOA drew flak when they could not identify a picture of An Jung Geun, a famous Korean independence activist.

In January, fans in China were outraged when Twice's Taiwanese member Tzuyu held up a Republic of China flag during a television show, as they felt the gesture was promoting the independence of Taiwan.

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