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"When I first saw Si-yoon dance performance, I was taken by surprise."
KIM HONG-JI, REUTERS PHOTOGRAPHER
It was when I first decided to do a story about K-pop that I realised the massive scale of the industry. I had no idea where to begin! I tried contacting various K-pop dance schools, but many refused to leak their secret training recipes to the public.
Then one day, I met nine-year-old Si-yoon at a dance school. She didn't look different from other kids her age. Her dream, however, was very different. Her one hope was to become a famous K-pop idol.
When I first saw Si-yoon dance performance, I was taken by surprise. She was dancing among a group of over 30 adults, but her performance was outstanding because she had been practicing for three years already.
Her daily schedule is tough. After elementary school, she goes to piano class and then English class. She returns home at 5 p.m. but the day does not end there.
After doing her homework, she takes a short break for dinner and then is off to the dance academy, where dance and vocal lessons last until late at night. As it's quite far from her home, the only time for a nap is during the drive there.
But what surprised me most was how happily Si-yoon followed this tough path as this was what she had to do to achieve her final goal.
I once met her on Saturday - the only day in a week that she could play for an hour after taking a vocal lesson. She was playing with her best friend, her best dancing partner, and they looked happy like other ordinary kids their age.
But during the lesson, the students were given time to think about their dream. Si-yoon wrote hers down without hesitating:
"I want to be a great singer. I am always doing my best. My dream is to become one of YG Entertainment’s artists. I will keep putting all my efforts into achieving everything I want."
Si-yoon has admitted how tough the path she has chosen would be, but still she does not want to give up.
One day, after her packed schedule ended at last, I asked her what she would do if she did not become a K-pop singer.
"I will be a famous K-pop Idol star. If not, my life is meaningless," she responded.