The idols that we are presented with in K-pop are, as we all know, products of many years of training and hard work. Even more than that, they are a product that has been shaped by the hands of many different kinds of people involved behind-the-scenes: CEOs, managers, vocal trainers, choreographers, PDs, fashion coordinators… the list goes on and on.
The question that we posed for our writers this week was: If you were given the opportunity to work behind-the-scenes on some aspect of the Korean entertainment industry, which role would you want to take on, and why?
Fatouma: If I wasn’t a fashion terrorist, I would want to be a fashion coordinator — colloquially known as a coordinoona when referring to older female coordinators — mainly because I would have relative control over the fashion choices for my idol groups and prevent them from looking hideous on stage and giving their fans second embarrassment. Seriously, some of the outfits idols have to wear for promotions makes me think that I would blend right in as a coordinoona with my current sense of fashion.
All kidding aside, I would really want to be a manager. Sure, it would be a stressful job with the lack of sleep and having to run around with your idol charges, but I think it would be worth it to be able to take care and be there for the idols in case they wanted to vent or needed encouragement. I’m a maternal-type fan, and if I had the chance, I’d be more than willing to feed and take care of idols as best as I could. I’ve also been really inspired by the manager in the drama Shut Up Flower Boy Band–Shil-ba–who would always try to help the boys, in any way he could, even if he couldn’t really control them and their behaviour. He was always there for the boys, and I think that would be something I could easily do. Another bonus would be that I would get a chance to see how the idols really are, behind the cameras, and maybe all of the drama that goes on behind closed doors. I think those moments would make a manager’s job, from a fan’s perspective, very satisfying. The only downside would be if an idol, or many of the members, were real brats. I think that’s the only major deterrent for being a manager, other than the long hours and dealing with crazy fans, really bratty, ill-mannered idols.
Gaya: I’d become a MV director. The MV is an important part of each debut/comeback, as it’s seen to be the ultimate representation of a group’s concept for their comeback. The audiovisual medium that is the music video allows for infinite possibilities in conveying ideas and portraying various concepts, which I would love to explore. There have been some fantastic K-pop MVs, so the chance to contribute to them would be something that I really cherished. And even if I was heavily restricted by companies, why, that would just give me even more incentive to be all subliminal and hence get even more creative–I’d be like a MV ninja. Is that a viable career path?
Being a manager sounds kind of stressful to me; I’d rather be a translator, though I know none of the languages that would be needed to be a translator in K-pop (such as, say, Korean). I’m developing a soft spot for EXO-M‘s translator noona, as well as for Super Junior-M‘s–I felt so bad when she kept getting teased by the members during their show in Taiwan! Translators can be involved in idols’ schedules without the responsibility that comes with being a manager, or they can be utilised for occasions like overseas concerts, providing greater career flexibility, and they are more often than not female, which works out well for me.
Salima: As if I haven’t already thought of this millions of times before! I would, hands down, like to be the one who films the sporadic mini-documentaries that some of the agencies do. The one who films “The Real 2PM” and “YG On-Air” and whatever SM has. Since photography and video rival K-pop as my favorite things in the world, I imagine putting all three of them together would blow my mind. I’d love to follow the artists and film them as they get ready for performances, practice dance routines in the dance rooms, and goof off during photoshoots. Then sit in the editing booth and giggle like a crazy person as I re-watch the footage and relive the moments.
The beauty of being behind the camera is that when people forget that there’s a camera in the room, they tend to just be themselves. You catch candid moments that you’ll rarely see from idols during variety shows or onstage. The camera catches subtle mannerisms, tendencies, and relationships that idols have with one another. Focusing on hands, feet, eyes, and movements, you get a larger picture of who that idol is as a person. The camera person/documentarian is the channel between the idol and the viewer. And although they’re usually regarded as invisible, I’d still like to be the person to bridge that relationship.
Ambika: I’m wary of my own creative choices, so I wouldn’t want to exercise them on another person or group. So being a fashion coordinator, stylist, or director of sorts would be out. Honestly, I’d want to be a lackey or an assistant, someone with limited visibility to the idols, much like Salima. I’d have proximity to the idols, potentially be acquainted, but I’d be the type of person that wouldn’t outright get attention from them. A little more specifically, I think I’d like working backstage on one of the regular music programs. I’m sure there’s a lot to prepare: the waiting rooms, snacks or water, making sure the proper artists are ready to perform at the right times, etc. There are plenty of moments to be an observer, see how artists behave when there aren’t eyes waiting to make a rumor about their lives. And not only would that be a good place to differentiate between fact and rumor, but it’s a place where idols of different groups can get together and talk, just like old friends (given they had the time). That would probably be a heart-warming sight, especially since in K-pop, not every group member goes on variety shows and interacts with other idols publicly.
I like the idea of being a manager. It’s a job that clearly requires organizational skills, care for the artist in your charge, and a sense of authority (especially with younger idols). But I don’t think I’d like having that sort of control over another person’s life. And I am not large or strong enough to block those fans from getting near any artists in my care.
Maria: I would gladly be their lyricist — I just need to know more Korean for that. No biggie, it is just another new alphabet, grammar and lexicon. I solemnly swear to never use ‘supersonic,’ ‘loverholic’ or ‘robotronic,’ and I’ll use English only when necessary and make it age-appropriate in most of the cases. I’d get idols to work with me and express themselves, since the result would be by far more genuine. Oh, and I would demand them boys to sing as sensually as they can. Because the lyrics ask for it, you know, like artistic stuff… or something. Also, I’d be all over Gaya, asking her to always read my lyrics before doing an MV. I’m not even hired and I am already acting like a dictator.
Another job I’d take, which unfortunately doesn’t exist right now, would be the idols’ therapist. I’d get the juiciest details beforehand, know who dates who, if there’s anybody bullied or how friendly members are with each other. And honestly, idols need me. There’s a long list of them who confessed dealing with depression and I felt so sorry for Solbi, who took a two-year hiatus to deal with it. I could prevent that, granted I had a degree. Damn you, jobs, why do you need skills and education to be done?
Gaya: Maria, you wouldn’t even need to ask–I’d be all over the lyrics in order to find inspiration for my masterpieces (oh, I am having so much fun with this!). Besides, I apparently already know up to 500 words in Korean (apart from “oppa” and “saranghae”) due to their similarity to words in Tamil in both meaning and sound. And I’m sure the grammar structure is the same as well, so I’m more or less set. Hey, even that translator dream seems more achievable now!
OK, OK, I’m only kidding, but this fact might give me at least a bit of a head start for when I actually do start to learn Korean so that I can read your lyrics, Maria.
Nabeela: Hmmm, interesting! Well, in the back of my mind, I’ve always wanted to be a make up artist or fashion coordinator behind the idol scene because those are two things I’ve always wanted to dabble in and plus I feel like you could really get to know the idols you work with experimenting with the fashion and styles they like. For example, GD is known for expressing his artistry through fashion. As a fashion coordinator, I feel like getting to know GD’s tastes would allow me to better understand his art form and appreciate his music more. But also as a fashion coordinator, I feel like you also help idols get dressed to always look their best, and who wouldn’t want to see some sexy idols up close and personal before the public gets their hands on them?
Also, lately, I’ve been dreaming of being a choreographer, because honestly some of the choreo I see sometimes just makes me want to cry. And also because I’ve recently fallen in love with Kai and have nothing better to do other than fantasize about dancing with him.
Gaya: I would love to choreograph routines as well, though my dance background is different; I guess I could make up a Bollywood or Kuthu style, but unless dance prodigy and classical-dance enthusiast Kai shows an interest in Barathanatyam, I might have to put to put my choreographer dreams on hold (not that I’m fantasising about dancing with Kai or anything, no, why would I do something like that)…
Though seriously: Super Junior, you would love Kuthu dance.
Nicholas: Given how I am a conservative dresser with two left feet, I guess it would be safer to play to my strengths of writing, talking and planning. With that, I could imagine myself as a senior manager conceptualising ideas for new groups, while taking charge of the finances and executive decision making. Being at the senior level also means the pay is better (hello company car, paid flat and credit card for entertaining clients). Of course, at times I have to be near the idols (to admire the pretty and to understand life on the ground), so that means jobs like driving the idols around and doing final checks would be a given.
Being at the top also means I get to see things as an insider, so when I leave the business, I get more money from compiling and publishing the ultimate insider expose! Now if I could just get the first plane out…
Jasper: I think I’m going to agree with Salima here and be a cameraman or a VJ (videojournalist) since I love filming also. But instead of filming specifically idols, I’d rather be a little more involved and less invisible and film variety shows like Running Man or 1 Night 2 Days. I’d love to see for myself an entertainers’ mannerisms and behavior up close and capture moments not broadcasted to the public as so much material is cut in a variety. While to a degree, they’re still entertaining to the camera, as a VJ, I’ll still be able to see a little bit more of a personal side of an entertainer and create a little more of a personal relationship yet still remain behind the scenes where I’d prefer. You can tell in shows like Running Man where they show or talk exclusively to a personal VJ that they share a pretty unique bond with their designated entertainer. VJs are always accompanying their entertainer, and while most of the time they’re silent, some sort of relationship has to made with all that time filming together. Yoo Jae-suk‘s VJ Rye Kwon-ryeol actually did an interview and told of how Jae-suk bonds with him and keeps him in mind when they’re filming. The relationship seems genuine, so I’d love to be a part of that. My only problem really would be staying silent — I’d be cracking up at every second — or catching up with the faster entertainers — imagine all the exercise Kim Jong-kook‘s VJ goes through.
Actually, as much as I complain about scrips in variety, I wouldn’t mind being a scriptwriter either. I mean who wouldn’t want to be in charge of planning some crazy or near-impossible activity your idol or entertainer would have to go through? I’d prefer not to write actual dialogue but rather just guidelines, but the chance is just golden.
Fannie: I would love to be a back-dancer for K-pop groups (more specifically, a backup dancer for YG), as they seem to have so much fun performing and doing what they love, without most of the negative aspects of idoldom involved. And overall, they just seem to be a really chill set of attractive people. If you really think about it, they also get to perform far more often than idols themselves, and cover a wide variety of styles, as they shuffle from artist to artist in between different promotions.
And who knows, you might become slightly famous à la Kim Ji-hye — the girl who is continuously partnered with Taeyang — or even become close friends (or more… remember Kahi and Yoochun?) with some of the idols themselves!
Kimberley: I’d love the high-flying prospects of a company exec, as per Nicholas’ choice, but based on my personality and interests, I don’t think I could choose just one. I like the anxiety and exhilaration of performing on stage (sans spotlight, if possible), so like Fannie, back-up dancing for YG especially (and for the same reasons, haha), would be nice. But then I also like strategising and scheming so a place on the Running Man scripting/planning crew would be more than ideal. And all of these should involve travelling in one way or another, which would be a huge bonus!
Fannie: Oooh, yes, strategizing for Running Man would be really fun. You know what else would be fun? Well okay, not necessarily ‘fun’ per se, but if I were a VJ for Running Man, I would never have hit up the gym, ever again. And I’d get paid for it. Seems like a pretty sweet deal to me.
Ambika: Honestly, I think I’d do anything Running Man related. That show seems like a hoot to be a part of.
(images via Mauve, Famous_Jae, YG Entertainment)