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The skills international students need to launch a career at a K-pop label

K-POP SONGS
Marketing and fluency in speaking and writing in Korean would come in handy. Source: Rich Fury/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

K-drama. K-pop songs. Korean skincare. And today, “Squid Game.” It’s clear that South Korea has it all. The popularity of its entertainment and culture has transcended borders and even language barriers.

If you’re an international student who has bopped your head to the pop queens and kings of the likes of BTS, Blackpink, or other famous K-pop artists, and would love to carve yourself a career in K-pop — though, not necessarily in singing and performing — here’s some welcome news for you. 

According to The Korea Times, experts say the K-pop industry is hiring more foreigners than ever, and there are numerous behind the scenes opportunities to produce and promote albums.

The report notes that HYBE — a South Korean entertainment agency — is home to boy group BTS, and currently has more than 60 job openings. The total number of its employees is 456 this year, a jump from 73 in 2017.

Conexus Lab co-founder and CEO Lee Sang-hwan told The Korea Times that with many companies expanding their businesses overseas, an increasing number of opportunities are now open to foreigners and the number is likely to keep rising. 

“JYP Entertainment, which houses megastars like TWICE and Stray Kids, recently posted job openings exclusively in Japan to hire workers for its Japanese subsidiary. SM Entertainment, a label behind hotshots like EXO and NCT, said in its latest job opening announcement that foreigners are also eligible to apply for the positions. In the coming years, I think the companies might even consider writing the job advertisements only for foreigners,” he was quoted saying.

Many of these foreign employees are currently in charge of star management, marketing or overseas business at their labels, as they have a good command of different languages including Korean, as well as an in-depth understanding of various cultures, said Lee.

k-pop songs

Manage the talent behind todays biggest K-pop songs. Source: Jung Yeon-je / AFP

To play a role in developing K-pop songs and managing talent, fluency in Korean is necessary

So, what can international graduates do to carve themselves a career working behind the scenes of K-pop songs and artists? A good start is to be fluent in speaking and writing in Korean. Other skills would vary depending on the role advertised. Roles in the field could include public relations and A&R (artists and repertoire).

Lee said applicants will have to write their resumes and cover letters in Korean and meet the basic qualifications specified in job descriptions. Applicants to marketing positions should also know how to use Google Analytics and have some photoshop skills, like other Korean jobseekers, he said.

Lee said Conexus Lab is offering educational materials for non-Korean speakers wishing to work at K-pop powerhouses. Until recently, all of its online lectures were only available in Korean, but Lee added English, Japanese and Vietnamese subtitles, among others, to reach more people worldwide. These courses are delivered by seasoned music industry insiders.