Remember Kpop auditions? This audition boom started with SuperstarK in 2009 influenced by American Idol, and since then we’ve seen shows after shows in seasons after seasons phase in and out of our attention: Kpop Star, Star Audition: The Great Birth, Voice in Korea, etc. Many of these shows seemed to promise a smoother gateway into the gigantic K-entertainment industry, as essentially that was the premise of some of these shows: if you win, you’ll be placed in an entertainment agency and granted support. So, years from the first audition episode, how well are the contestants doing?
Here are 12 Korean audition contestants who shined in 2016 and have carried the momentum into 2017:
1. Seo In Guk – SuperstarK Season 1, First Place
This actor-turned, audition-borne singer was part of the first wave of both the Korean audition movement and the Reply 1997 drama syndrome. Although he’s going off to the military tomorrow (literally) and unfortunately will be losing some of that momentum, he remained very active in the K-entertainment scene until recently with his hit drama Shopping King Louie and other variety programs.
2. Huh Gak – SuperstarK Season 2, First Place
Last year, Huh Gak made an appearance on Oh! My Baby with his son Huh Gun. He also featured in drama soundtracks like “Bandage” from Entertainer (Tantara).
3. John Park – SuperstarK Season 2, Second Place
2016 was a great year for John Park, where he continued on his popularity with his signature dorky, childlike sense of humor. He currently hosts a radio show called John Park’s Music High, where his personally-curated songs recently merited a “Most Looked Up Radio Songs Award” on Melon. He’s also heading a prank show called Secretly Greatly as one of the main MCs.
4. Ulala Session – SuperstarK Season 3, First Place
Overcoming the grief and absence following the death of their leader Lim Yoon-Taek in 2013, Ulala Session recently held a promotional charity event for children with cancer.
5. Roy Kim – SuperstarK Season 4, First Place
This balladist is also the king of drama soundtracks, featuring in The Goblin OST “Heaven” and Another O Hae Young OST “Maybe I.”
6. Jung Joon Young – SuperstarK Season 4, Third Place
Out of all kpop audition contestants, Jung Jun Young was probably the most active in the K-variety scene in 2016 thanks to his role in 1 Night 2 Days and Law of the Jungle…until he found himself in a damaging scandal involving his ex-girlfriend and a “sex tape”. His ex-girlfriend pressed charges against him for sexual assault, claiming that he filmed their act without permission, but he was found not guilty and is starting to come back around this year, reappearing in 1 Night 2 Days and releasing a new album.
7. Yu Seung Woo – SuperstarK Season 4, Sixth Place
Placing sixth place back in 2012 and now flyin’ through 2017, Yu Seung Woo is slowly but surely rising to stardom not only singing for Masked Singer but also appearing regularly as one of the panels on the show.
8. Kwak Jin Eon – SuperstarK Season 6, First Place
After blowing away the crowd with his deep, melancholy voice and winning first place in 2014, Kwak Jin Eon finally made his official debut in 2016. Since his debut he made frequent appearances in Immortal Songs.
9. Kim Feel – SuperstarK Season 6, Second Place
If Kim Feel kicked off 2016 with the ever-popular Reply 1988 soundtrack “Don’t Worry Dear,” which is a remake of the 2013 original by Deul Guk Hwa and is also the song that drove him and his rival Kwak Jin Eon to fame, Kim Feel is now taking hold of 2017 with a soundtrack of another tvN drama With You.
10. Lee Hi – Kpop Star Season 1, Second Place
Fans had waited for SO long when she finally made a comeback early-2016 with her new album “Seoulite.” Sadly we don’t see too much of her on variety shows, but hopefully this year will change that.
11. Akdong Musician (AKMU) – Kpop Star Season 2, First Place
These kpop stars are getting busier by day, now expanding their exclusive concert to a national concert tour due to so much demand in big towns other than Seoul. Recently they appeared on a number of variety shows and radio programs, giving a hilarious talk on what it’s like to be siblings.
12. Son Seung Yeon – Voice Korea Season 1, First Place
Known for her powerful vocal, Son Seung Yeon can be found in just about any music-based variety shows out there, from Immortal Songs to Duet Song Festival to I Can See Your Voice.
But let’s not forget Bae Suzy, who now epitomizes an “audition success” story (if you didn’t already know, she was picked up by JYP when she auditioned for the very first SuperstarK in 2009–before she was even an official on-TV contestant–and the rest is history). She’s not doing so hot lately after her epic drama fail, Uncontrollably Fond. But never mind the low viewing rates; Suzy is Suzy and Suzy can sing.
So many contestants passed through so many Korean audition shows, and so many more have yet to see the light. For that reason, I’m excited to see how these contestants will come forward in 2017:
Kim Young Geun – SuperstarK 2016, First Place
Kevin Oh – SuperstarK 7, First Place
John “Ofa” Rhee – SuperstarK 7, Top 10
By Hyeyoung Jung · Contributor