The Washington-State born Korean pop lothario on his unusual career and Jeremy Lin
In the March/April issue of SPIN, David Bevan ventured to Korea to explore the country's fruitful system for producing top-flight pop stars. He'll be writing additional K-pop stories right here at #1 Crush.
"I got off the plane, and there was a different scent in the air." That's how Jay Park remembers his first seconds in Seoul, in January of 2005, just months before he graduated from high school back home in suburban Seattle. Park had been flown over to begin training for JYP Entertainment, one of three major entertainment companies headquartered in the South Korean capital. Only 17 at the time, he spoke little Korean and knew even less about Korean pop music — his passion was b-boying, which he utilized during a local JYP audition he attended at the behest of his mother. "I met all these people and I couldn't really communicate with them," he says of that first day. "I didn't even know what to eat."
As part of JYP's trainee program, a highly calibrated system designed to prepare dozens of teenaged recruits for the demands of increasingly international pop stardom, Park essentially went back to school. He practiced choreographed dance. He took vocal lessons. He took intensive classes on acrobatics and Chinese. And in 2008, he eventually found himself on Korean television for the first time, as part of MNET's Hot-Blooded Men, a documentary series that allowed fans to watch him and fellow "trainees" as they vied for spots in what have become two of JYP's most successful bands/brands to date, 2PM and 2AM. "It's pretty cutthroat," he says of the trainee system. "You have a bunch of guys who are trying to debut, and you don't know who's going to make it or who they're going to choose. You have to be on top of your game." By the show's conclusion, fans would vote "Jaebeom", as he's known in Korea (also his birth name), to lead seven-member boy band 2PM in September of that year. "[My friends] made fun of the outfits and all that," he says. "They were used to seeing me chilling with sweatpants on. All of a sudden, I'm wearing eye makeup and crazy clothes."
To read the whole story on SPIN.com, click here.