Does JYP accept foreigners?

Created on 14 Nov, 2019
Last Update on 01 Oct, 2022

Official Statements

JYP Entertainment is the most open company for foreigners out there in K-pop. According to Park Jin-young, founder of JYP Entertainment, the industry can no longer rely on Korean nationals alone to stay globally relevant:

“We're trying to figure out the next stage … We can't just keep sending over Korean stars forever, we need to find the next thing. Now, I want to build with foreign talent and create something with young talented kids from Japan and China.”
Park Jin-young, founder of JYP Entertainment, according to CNBC [1]

He's already tested the idea out with TWICE, a nine-member girl band consisting of:

  • 3 Japanese: Sana, Mina and Momo.
  • 1 Taiwanese: Tzuyu
  • 5 South Koreans: Nayeon, Jeongyeon, Jihyo, Dahyun, Chaeyoung.

Signed onto his JYP label, TWICE is now one of the genre's hottest K-pop girl group and has already made its U.S. performance debut (see also: Twice Facts).

However, things weren't always smooth for its foreign members. There was a lot of criticism from nationalist K-netz and K-media for just being associated with their home country:

  • Controversy for briefly speaking Japanese in a Live App [2]
    Mina, Sana and Momo were heavily criticized for briefly speaking their mother language to each other in a live that was mostly in Korean. Note: They're from Japan, a fellow East Asian country.

  • Flag Controversy [3]
    Tzuyu held the flag of the Republic of China (Taiwan) alongside that of South Korea. Chinese internet users reacted angrily. Soon after, Twice was barred from Chinese television and Tzuyu was pulled out of her endorsement with Chinese communications company Huawei. Meanwhile, JYP Entertainment released a video showing Tzuyu reading an apology.

Many fear the integration of foreign talent will force K-pop to lose its quintessential Korean quality that made it so appealing and novel to outsiders in the first place. But maybe that's not so bad after all:

“We can't keep trying to get other cultures to love Korean stuff. Now, we have to try to understand theirs, and make something together. We owe them that, because they've been consuming Korean culture for so long.”
Park Jin-young, founder of JYP Entertainment, according to CNBC [1]

Unofficial Remarks

The goal of these agencies is first and foremost to create a pop group geared towards Korea, their home.
And Koreans prefer their own kind instead of foreigners (which is also true for several other nations).
There, a Korean look + off-stage behavior is as important as the on-stage performance itself.

Also, in general, Korea is still a very closed and homogeneous country. It is rare to find non-ethnics or even mixed Koreans in the society. Furthermore, there is no need to talk about how much a non-Asian would have to go through in a completely Asian society.

Looking at their history, they haven't had the best recent experiences with foreigners anyway:

  • The long and brutal Japanese occupation.
  • The controversial American military bases.

Past events have created a somewhat paranoid and sensitive society and the kpop industry reflects that. Therefore, the idea of foreigners coming in and taking their jobs is not very welcome.

K-pop companies know this. No wonder foreign trainees must justify the risk the company is putting themselves in. They, understandably, care about money, and if you don't bring something to the table that your Korean counter-parts don't have, in their eyes you're just a failed investment.

The same reason its hard for foreigners to become U.S. citizens: it's a different situation that is hard to adapt to, especially if you don't speak the primary language or know anything about that culture.

2005 Hangeng Milestone

It was a huge milestone when Hangeng was chosen by S.M. Entertainment to become a member of Super Junior in 2005. However, there was a lot of struggle. At the time there wasn't even clear laws on what he was allowed or not to do as a foreigner. So he was left out of a lot of promotions or had to perform with a mask to conceal the fact that he was a foreigner (he was Chinese!).

Now it's a bit more relaxed and East Asians have a bit of easier time. A lot of agencies now have opened up to taking in East Asian foreigners because they can blend in with a group, look cohesive and pass off as "Korean".

JYP Online Auditions

It is very hard to see a foreigner passing all the JYP online auditions. Even when it happens, it doesn't guarantee anything beyond the video interview with a staff member. They will only advance to an actual in person audition if they are seriously looking at taking the attendant. At this point, they will pay the attendant to fly in and perform in front of a panelist of judges. Therefore, this process adds up pretty quickly if they do it for a lot of potential trainees!

Very few applicants ever reached that stage (perhaps one or two per year), and so far it is unknown if any online auditions ever actually joined the trainee pool. Based on that, JYP does accept non Koreans. However, JYP has yet to accept a non Asian.

External Links

[ 1 ] JYP thinks foreign talent could find K-pop success, CNBC, 2016

[ 2 ] Korean Netizens Bash TWICE’s Mina, Sana, And Momo For Speaking Japanese On V APP, Koreaboo, 2018

[ 3 ] Wikipedia: Tzuyu, Flag Controversy, Wikipedia

Further Reading

[ 4 ] Twice Facts

[ 5 ] Can an Indian girl join K-pop? How?

[ 6 ] What is the age limit for KPop auditions?

[ 7 ] How do I audition for K-pop online?