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In global auditions in Canada and the United States last summer, Korean talent scouts were awed by the number of non-Korean participants.
Non-Koreans made up 60 percent of the participants," Yang Min-suk, CEO of YG Entertainment, was quoted as saying by Chosun Ilbo.
"We intended to select a range of new talents with an open mind but it was a surprise that so many foreigners showed up. They participated in auditions after taking into account the possibility that they could become international stars through Korean management companies," Yang said.
The phenomenon is attributed to a surge in the number of young foreigners who wish to become trainees with major Korean management companies like SM, YG, and JYP amid growing interest in K-pop stars such as Psy, Big Bang, and Girls' Generation.
Local management companies are also considering creating multi-ethnic boy or girl bands and pursuing related projects.
Talent agencies already are creating boy or girl bands aimed at the global market. There is a boy band created to specifically target ethnic Chinese fans in Asia: EXO-M created by SM.
EXO, a boy band with 12 members, consists of EXO-K and EXO-M. Kris, Luhan, Tao, and Lay of EXO-M are all Chinese. EXO-K (K means Korean) is based in Korea while EXO-M (M means Mandarin) is in China.
The two groups in EXO wear the same outfits, dance the same moves, and sing the same songs but in their respective languages.
"Recently, China's entertainment market has developed more and there is a growing preference for those from their own country. It is not as easy as before for us to export successful singers in Korea to China," an SM official said in an interview. "EXO-M is part of our new strategy."
Victoria of f(x) and Fei and Jia of Miss A are Chinese while Nickhun of JYP is Thai. They are already famous and have become international K-pop stars.
Victoria and Kris joined SM through its global auditions in recent years. "Most of the trainees are Asian but their ethnicities will become more diverse," a talent agency official said.
Experts say that amid the K-pop sensation around the world, there is a growing interest in Korea's star management system and there would be more foreigners knocking on the doors of Korean management companies.