(RADIO STATIONS CHANGE) (STATIC PLAYS) (‘GANGNAM STYLE’ BY PSY PLAYS) (SINGS IN KOREAN) # Hey! MATT DORAN: K-pop is for Korean pop, and it became very popular with Psy’s hit, ‘Gangnam Style’. Nearly four billion
YouTube views later, the music and the madness has become a global phenomenon. # Oppa Gangnam Style. # (ALL SING IN KOREAN)
# Ice-cream cake. That man is the love
of my goddamn life. K-pop bands are stunning,… Hello!
(AUDIENCE CHEERS) ..charismatic, and they dance with wild abandon
in perfect synchronicity. (PEOPLE SHOUT) K-pop is taking over the world one teenager at a time. GIRL: They just kind of came out of
nowhere and captured our hearts. They love all of us unconditionally. # I scream, you scream # Gimme that, gimme that,
Your lips. # But the road to K-pop success is often anything but glamorous. About one or two dollars a day. Here in South Korea, K-pop wannabes are sometimes housed in military-like
star-making facilities, where the conditions
can be oppressive. The performers sign away their lives and even change
their faces for a chance to be one of the chosen few. You make them look cuter,
more energetic, more youthful?
(CHUCKLES) WOMAN: They tell you what songs
to sing, what you should look like, what your next concept
is going to be. If the company thinks your nose needs to be smaller or bigger, you pretty much have to just let them do
what they wanna do to it. That hasn’t deterred hundreds of
talented kids here in Australia, who are prepared to give up plenty to pursue their K-pop dream. No cellphones.
No seeing family often. No having relationships,
stuff like that. MAN: Every single morning, we get up at 5:00am. First meal is lunch, and then singing, rap, acting. We don’t always get dinner. Now, one idol who spent years in the system… We eat together, sleep together, shower together. If one person does something wrong,
we all get punished. ..lifts the lid on a story this mega-billion-dollar industry
doesn’t want told. K-pop training
is like army training. We’re not holding guns;
we’re just holding a microphone. (BEEPING) (FUNKY MUSIC PLAYS) This is one of Korea’s
newest supergroups, Stray Kids. Like most K-pop stars, their videos are highly produced, special-effects-driven performances. But Stray Kids has
something different in the mix. Two of its biggest stars were born a long way from Korea. (ALL CHANT) Aha. Hi.
Wow. Here they are.
Hello, hello. Hi, boys. Come on in. Hello. Nice to meet you. Very, very nice to meet you.
Pleasure, pleasure. Nice to meet you. Listen to those thick
Australian accents. (LAUGHTER) Hi.
Have a seat, gentlemen. BOTH: Thank you.
Wow. What do you mean “wow”? Wow from me. No, I’m glad that you guys came. (LAUGHTER) Oh, Channel 7. Channel 7. Channel 7. Channel 7.
Come on. You walk out on stage to tens
of thousands of adoring fans. You’re not nervous walking
into an interview with me. I’m sitting here with K-pop royalty. BOTH: Oh, no, no.
Wouldn’t say royalty. Well, they are royalty. Just ask these fans. Hello. We are the Stray Kids. (AUDIENCE SCREAMS) This is a K-pop convention
in Los Angeles. Stray Kids! Stray Kids! AUDIENCE: Stray Kids! Stray Kids! And because Bang Chan and Lee Felix
were born in Western Sydney, they’re among the most unlikely
K-pop superstars ever. Oh, my god. You’re so cute! (LAUGHS) I love you so much. The steamrolling, unstoppable thing that is K-pop right now around the world – why is it captivating people? And why is it so successful,
do you think? I think it’s actually kind of like a
gateway for us. It’s like a gateway. OK, so five, six, seven. (ALL HUM TUNE) Through K-pop, we can reach out to people who, you know,
might be having a hard time,… Who are in need.
..who might be lonely, might feel a bit depressed, but especially we really wanna
reach out to those people. (LAUGHTER) The fact that, you know,
people listen to our music
and really gain strength from it, we feel like, you know, to whoever’s listening to K-pop,
I wanna personify it as just a friend. You know, the way you can
rely on your friend, you can lean on your friend, you can gain strength
from your friend. You know, for us, I think K-pop is, like, yeah, something…
..the answer. Parramatta Road.
Yeah, Parramatta Road. We always went through there.
Yeah. I’m fascinated to know what it’s like as
a couple of Aussies growing up in Western Sydney and what it’s like adjusting
to life here in Korea.
What are the differences you notice? Well, it’s an adventure, firstly,… Yeah, it’s a big adventure.
..just coming here. It’s very new,
and I’ve learned a lot of things, including the language, the culture,
the food. What have we got in here? A bit of everything?
A bit of a medley. Yeah, just chuck it in. And the boys are eager to showcase Korea’s twist on the Aussie barbecue. That is well and truly on fire. Like the Stray Kids
at their latest concert. Ah!
(LAUGHS) See what I did there? Felix is 19 years old and what you could call
an overnight K-pop success story. He left Sydney’s working-class
suburb of Seven Hills for Korea when he was 17, unable to even speak the language. Why K-pop? K-pop – well, for me, when I was at a young age, I had listened to a lot of music, and my mum introduced me to K-pop. From there on, I guess, you know,
why not take a different road and, you know, take this chance to, you know, take a K-pop life,
you know? So, you arrived in the country
not being able to speak any Korean? I knew a bit of the basics, just to say “Hello. How are you?
I’m good,” you know, “Thank you.” Felix adapted quickly
and auditioned to join Stray Kids. The story of the band’s journey became a hit TV reality show. (ALL SPEAK KOREAN) Chan, who was also on the show, began chasing his K-pop dream
much earlier. When he was 13, he auditioned
for a Korean record company… # I fell right through the cracks # Now I’m trying to get back. # ..and was chosen for a coveted
K-pop traineeship. With the blessing of his family, Chan moved to Korea,
where he lived in a dormitory with hundreds of other hopefuls. So, I live with other trainees who came from foreign countries or,
you know, some far from Korea. And we all live in a dorm, and… ..from there, we’ll just practise,
sleep, practise, sleep, eat, practise, sleep, yeah. Chan endured that regime for seven years before also being
chosen to join the Stray Kids TV show. During those years, he rarely saw his family. (GONG RINGS) There’s no luck in this industry,
is it? It’s hard work. It’s pretty hard work, yeah.
It’s hard work. There’s… There needs to be a
lot of determination, really, yeah. (SPEAKS KOREAN) Because I came to Korea
at such a young age, there were…
Without family as well. There were a lot of times
where I felt, you know, I just wanted to give up. There were times where I thought,
you know, “Is this the right thing to do? “You know, should I just
do something else? “You know, what is the point?” Chan stuck with it, and it paid off. He’s the official leader
of Stray Kids. (‘GET COOL’ BY THE STRAY KIDS) And, Felix,
who was still working on his Korean, became the lead rapper. It’s only been, like, a year and a
half since we’ve actually debuted. You know, what is it?
Six or eight EPs. You know, millions of followers. Oh. You’ve got fans all over the world. You’ve been playing concerts
all over. I think that’s success,
but I might be wrong. I will say we’re getting there.
We’re on our way. We’re on our way.
You’re on your way? BOTH: On our way. (‘GET COOL’ BY THE STRAY KIDS) But to get to here, there was one other strange skill that Felix and Chan
also had to master, something the Koreans call aegyo. (SPEAKS KOREAN) It means ‘cute’,
and it’s a look and sound every K-pop star has to have. (SINGS HIGH-PITCHED) Aegyo… Aegyo is, um… (LAUGHS) ..is an act of where you, you know, show your very cute sides. (LAUGHS) Or very happy sides. Yeah. Care to explain, Felix? (LAUGHS) Um… ‘Described as an adorable
cutie-pie offstage.’ Aw.
Oh! Can we… Can we see that, Felix? I’ll give you the count of three,
alright? You ready? Right. One, two, three. (SPEAKS KOREAN HIGH-PITCHED) (LOW PITCHED)
Well, I mean… I mean… Oh. We’ll do it together into the
camera, alright? You ready? What do you wanna say? Oh, wanna say, “Thank you, stan.” Thank you, stan. Alright, on the count of three.
One, two, three. BOTH: Thank you, stan. And that cuteness translates into infatuation across the world. At a coffee shop in Seoul, tourists spot the Stray Kids. Oh, dear.
Hello. Who have we got here?
Hello, hello, hello. Where are you guys from? WOMEN: London.
London? Yeah. London, Spain…
Germany. Germany, wow.
The Philippines. Thank you.
Thank you for existing. Thank you so much. Bye. See you, guys. Bye-bye. Hoo! MAN: Up and down. Back in Melbourne, just the mention of their names guarantees
a near hysterical response. And stop! Now, I’m going in a couple of days
to meet Stray Kids. (INHALES)
How do you feel? Look at that. (GIGGLES) If you had a chance to get a message
to those two Australians, what is it that you’d think
they’d… (LAUGHS) Look at this.
(GIGGLES) Um… You’re almost, like, losing…
losing control of your limbs when I mention these guys. OK, well, um, “You’re talented and the way
that you’ve built yourself “from Australia is so inspiring, “and thank you for
representing Aussies…” (BOTH LAUGH)
“..in Korea.” And one, two, three and… All of the dancers here are hoping to follow in the
footsteps of Felix and Chan, but just a handful will have the chance to try out for a coveted traineeship in Seoul. And good job. OK. What they’re doing is they’re selecting
the best in the group, the ones that they think
probably show the most promise as potential K-pop stars. And if you have a little pan
around the room, you’ll just see just how frightened, just how important it is to
these kids that they’re chosen. WOMAN: So, first person, Jade. Jade and Timothy make it
through the audition. They already know
that to be a K-pop star, they’ll require far more than
learning to dance and sing. Not being able to do… having
free time or do what you want, no cellphones, no seeing family often, no having relationships, stuff
like that, would be hard for me. But as you’re about to see, they are not the only sacrifices they’ll need to make. (‘BUBBLE POP’ BY HYUNA) MATT DORAN: Korea’s entertainment
juggernaut, K-pop, is conquering the world. These dancers may look slick, but they’re not K-pop artists. They’re ardent fans copying their idols. This music generates extraordinary passion. In a Sydney hotel room, four friends are getting ready for
their favourite K-pop group, a Korean boy band called ATEEZ. I’m so scared of that, because Hongjoong already knows
I love him. Like, from the airport, the fan site and the concert,
he knows. Like…
That boy. That man is
the love of my goddamn life. Literally, he is so hot. Like, he is just everywhere. Every spare penny goes into tickets, make-up and K-pop paraphernalia. I have way too many airport photos.
This is a mess. They are giddy with excitement and determined to look their best
for their heartthrobs. Um, Meg, the top half of that one
slightly darker, and they’ll match. (‘WAVE’ BY ATEEZ) But their commitment goes much
further than just dressing up. They’re about to join the hundreds
of other fans camping out for front-row seats. We’ve been camping out since Sunday. We were in
the Melbourne show as well. So we got and camped out
for Melbourne since Sunday, and then we flew out
and camped out again last night for the Sydney show. (‘HALA HALA (HEARTS AWAKENED)
BY ATEEZ) Fans take the edge off a chilly winter’s day with K-pop choreography. (SONG CONTINUES) With the ATEEZ boys
soon to take the stage, the excitement is building. (ALL CHANT) And I get what the fans crave, a chance to meet the boys backstage. Whoa! (ALL SPEAK KOREAN) Wow. That’s dramatic.
I’m impressed already. (BOYS LAUGH) And a lesson in that
famous K-pop sultry look. Now, one of the moves I really like, which I’m hoping you can teach me, is the what I will call the dramatic head raise. Oh, yeah. So, can you teach me?
(BAND AGREE) Let’s do it together. So… (ALL HUM TUNE) (DING!) Yes. You need an expression too. It’s a bit sexy? What is it? Little sexy…
OK. ..and little charisma. What if you don’t have
any sexiness or charisma, like me? What do you do then? No, you have. Say you are ATEEZ. Oh! (BOYS EXCLAIM)
Happy? (‘PIRATE KING’ BY ATEEZ) (AUDIENCE ROARS) (SONG CONTINUES) Some of this screaming is guttural. Like… It’s like their life
is on the line. It’s extraordinary. # We can go (we can go) # We can go. # (AUDIENCE SHRIEKS) WOMAN: The way they dressed, the colour of their hair, you know, the way the groups interact
with each other, everything is
the part of the package, and I think that’s what is
so appealing to so many people. Thank you, Europe! I love you! HOST: You have done it, Dami Im. You are incredible. Dami Im knows exactly
how these young fans feel. As a teenager, she became obsessed with a K-pop singer, BoA, and it inspired her to pursue
a career in music. # Oppa Gangnam style. # Instantly I was just, like, in awe. You know, it was like
my first crush on somebody or something.
Really? Yeah, it felt like love. (PLAYS GENTLE TUNE) (SINGS IN KOREAN) Dami’s career didn’t go
the K-pop route, but she has close friends in the Korean music industry and has even visited
the K-pop bootcamps where stars are born. There’s thousands, thousands
and thousands of young people wanting to become K-pop stars, so they can pick any of these people
who come to the auditions to fit these parts. And, yeah, essentially
they are created by this mastermind behind… behind these groups. These huge companies
are creating these mega groups. (SINGS IN KOREAN) (PLAYS FINAL NOTE) Oh, yes, what a treat. Brilliant.
Ooh. They, you know, tell you what songs to sing,
what you should look like, what your next concept
is going to be, you know, whether you’re gonna be
the sexy one or the cute one. You know, it’s the company
that decides that. Very few insiders
are willing to open up about the controversial flipside of the K-pop phenomenon. See, I wouldn’t dare to say this
three years ago. But one of the first Australians
recruited into the industry is willing to tell all. Henry Prince Mak has now left
the business and is an actor. Growing up in Australia, Henry struggled to get work
as a singer and dancer and moved to Asia. He auditioned and won a spot in a K-pop training centre in Seoul. I was born and raised in Australia. I grew up speaking English, so the
contracts were all in Chinese. I’m like, “Yeah, whatever.”
It’s like, “Sign here.” So, you signed it on the spot? Yeah, on the spot. He’d signed up for
what can only be described as an extreme bootcamp filled with hundreds
of other wannabes. Henry shared a two-room apartment with six other trainees. We live in one dorm. There’s no time for seven guys,
one at a time, to have a shower. So we all just go in
at the same time, just shower and sleep, ’cause you can’t wait
after a long day. You’re all sweaty.
There’s only one toilet. (LAUGHS) Wow.
Always, always fighting for the toilet. You know, you can’t go to the toilet
seven guys at a time, you know. But, like, you know, if you shower, it’s just like,
“Yeah, we don’t even care any more. “So tired.” The glamorous life of a pop star. Yeah. Yeah. Every day began with a training run. When I came here,
I knew K-pop was hard. Everybody knew K-pop was hard. But I didn’t know
it was that insane. Like, the first day I arrived, they started kicking my door at 5:00am, and they wanted me to run
at the Hangang River. So, this is the track
you’d run every morning? Yeah, that’s right. 5:30am every morning, sunshine, rain or even snow. Snow? That’s a bit much.
(LAUGHS) Yeah. How far would you run? Roughly about 9km on a good day. A good day? What’s a bad day? (LAUGHS) If we get in trouble,
if we do something wrong, then about 60km. Punishments were regularly
handed out to the trainees for breaking strict rules. Contractually, it was… ..prohibited to have a girlfriend
or a boyfriend or any relationship.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Would the members
find ways around that? They definitely tried to, but, like, if they get caught, it’s not like
the company’s gonna say, “You’re fired.”
They just punish you. “Oh, fine, you have a girlfriend.
OK, then break up.” You break up with them and,
you know, do your 60km, and then the next day,
everything’s normal again. Normal was getting up before sunrise and finishing any time
after midnight, often missing meals. In reality, that picture
you’re painting is quite horrific. You’re saying breakfast
you wouldn’t get. Yeah, we didn’t get breakfast. You’d be going from virtually 5:00am
to 1:00 or 2:00am, right through the day, and dinner was sometimes optional
too. Yeah, yeah. When you’re working that hard,
that’s beyond belief. So, I lost so much weight. I think 99% of K-pop idols are
probably underweight, I’d say. They push you.
They push you really hard. And the pressure continued
on to the stage. Henry was forced to perform with a broken foot. How soon after breaking your foot
were you dancing? The next day. I did. I did every
single show that was on schedule. Not a day off.
Was it painful? Oh, yeah, it was. It was painful. It was painful. But, like, I think there is probably worse
than me in the K-pop industry. (AUDIENCE CHEERS) Some K-pop stars are pushed so hard, they would literally faint
from exhaustion and often… ..for little reward. You make money, but it’s not enough money for you to live. Yeah, I probably calculated about
one or two dollars a day. I’d say, like, K-pop training is like army training. We’re not holding guns;
we’re just holding a microphone. (ROCK MUSIC PLAYS) (TENSE MUSIC) (MONITOR BEEPS STEADILY) Well, if you’re serious about K-pop stardom,
then, of course, you are serious
about the K-pop look. In just this neighbourhood alone,
at Gangnam, there are 3,000 plastic surgery
clinics to choose from. And whether it is a new nose
or a brand-new set of peepers, you can be in and out
in under two hours. In Korea, cosmetic work is commonplace. But if you aspire to be an idol, the pressure to look perfect
is even greater. DAMI: If the company thinks
your nose needs to be smaller or bigger,
your eyes need to change shape – plastic surgery – then you pretty much
have to just let them do what they wanna do to it. (MONITOR BEEPS STEADILY) This plastic surgeon has helped
plenty of hopefuls achieve that coveted K-pop look. What are the sorts of things
that wannabe K-pop stars would ordinarily have done in order to achieve
the ‘K-pop look’? (SPEAKS KOREAN) TRANSLATOR: In this industry, there are so many
entertainment companies which are helping people
to get ready for becoming a K-pop star, and having these surgeries are… ..one of their, you know, culture –
became a culture to make them more cuter and more energetic, more and more prettier. # The day you kissed my lips
Light as a feather And chasing the elusive dream means perfection in everything. # No, it’s never been better. # It’s 9:00 at night, and these youngsters
are learning to sing in English, because the future of K-pop is the world stage. (SPEAKS KOREAN) Competition for K-pop traineeships
is fierce. All over Seoul, hundreds of after-school academies
prepare the next generation for their auditions. Of the millions of kids who lust after K-pop stardom, only a miniscule number will get anywhere near even touching fame. Each year hundreds of groups debut and only a handful are picked up to begin that gruelling road
to success. So the question is – in all of this… (CHUCKLES) ..how do you stand out
from the crowd? Well, one way is to literally
take it to the streets. Any time of day or night, K-pop kids are strutting
their stuff. These girls are at the bottom
of the ladder but are already generating a buzz. Drawing a crowd of photographers and fans, the street show
is instantly uploaded online. WOMAN: Oh, now it’s a global world, so the social media can… ..spread to the other countries. America, Australia, India, China. And that’s the secret weapon
which has spread K-pop so far and so fast. (ALL CHANT IN KOREAN) They all know it’s a tough road
ahead, but for the few who make it to the top, the sacrifices
seem to have paid off. BANG CHANG:
Well, as the saying goes, if there’s an up,
there’s always a down. And, you know, I think… ..it might have been a bit hard. It might have been a bit…
Times where we, you know, feel a bit exhausted
and it’s not always perfect. It doesn’t always the way
we want it. There’s no way of going, you know,
around it. You have to go through in order
to reach it, so… That’s a great way of putting it. Yeah. (‘MY SIDE’ BY STRAY KIDS) (AUDIENCE SCREAMS)