By now, you probably know of at least one singer or member of a group that made their debut through an audition program. Don’t know what this is? Allow me to explain! An audition program is a televised program featuring a survival singing audition with many contestants applying from all over the world for a chance to win a recording contract with a label in Korea. Some of these programs feature a contract with a major agency, and all of these programs feature guest judges and mentors who are all well-establish icons in the Korean music industry.
There have been many of these programs aired through the years, but of all of them, four stand out in recent times. These four have also show the vast diversity of contestants who make it on to these programs. They also show huge potential through certain contestants who amaze the judges time and time again each week during the program’s run on-air.
Today I will be talking about the four most popular singing auditions programs in Korea to date – Superstar K (which is considered the Korean equivalent of the popular “American Idol” series), K-pop Star (which focuses on young talent from all over the world and features the three largest KPOP companies in Korea), Birth of a Great Star (which has heavy emphasis on YouTube singers and their judges come from all facets of Korean music), and The Voice Korea (which is the Korean equivalent of the super popular “The Voice” franchise).
Each of these shows have produced some amazing talent over the course of their existence – and some even more amazing performances. I will be focusing mainly on the winners of each program thus far, and note some facts about each program:
Superstar K (2009-current):
Superstar K is widely considered as the most successful and most watched audition program in Korea, to date. Nicknamed “the Korean American Idol,” this program, created by Mnet, has attracted a variety of talents not only from Korea, but elsewhere globally. Many big names have had their careers cemented in Korea because of this program.
Judges (current): Lee Seung Chul, Yoon Jong Shin, Lee Ha Neul (DJ DOC)
Notable alumni: Jo Moon Geun (season 1), John Park* (season 2), Jang Jae In (season 2), Kang Seung Yoon (season 2), Kim Ji Soo (season 2), Kim Greem (season 2), Busker Busker (season 3), Two Months (season 3), Chris Golightly* (season 3), Dickpunks (season 4), Jung Joon Young (season 4)
*Note: John Park and Chris Golightly both previously auditions for different seasons of American Idol, prior to being on their respective seasons of Superstar K
Winners: Seo In Guk (season 1), Huh Gak (season 2), Ulala Sesson (season 3), Roy Kim (season 4)
K-pop Star (2011-current):
Aimed at a much younger generation of singers and rappers, SBS’ hit audition show KPOP STAR has two successful seasons under its belt for good reason: for the first two seasons, the three largest KPOP entertainment companies each had a potential contract up for grabs to the winner (SM, JYP, or YG), and many of the alumni have gone on to sign with notable agencies, and in some cases, debut far quicker than through a normal audition.
Judges: Park Jin Young, Yang Hyun Suk, BoA (seasons 1 & 2), Yoo Hee Yeol (season 3)
Notable alumni: Lee Ha Yi (season 1), Baek Ah Yeon (season 1), Lee Seung Hoon (season 1), Bang Yedam (season 2), Andrew Choi (season 2), 2000 Won (season 2)
Winners: Park Ji Min (season 1), Akdong Musician (season 2)
The Voice of Korea (2012-current):
Touted as the Korean version of the popular “The Voice” franchise, Mnet’s second audition program debuted to rave reviews, bringing in a wave of talented underground, and in some cases forgotten, talent from all over Korea and various parts of the world. From vocal trainers to former artists, from former trainees to session singers, a vast amount of talented singers were mentored by some of the finest singers for the first two seasons thus far, and its popularity even allowed it to create a spin-off series in Korea called “The Voice Kids”.
Judges: Shin Seung Hoon, Kangta, Gil (Leessang), Baek Ji Young
Notable alumni: Season 1 (Lee So Jung, Sam Ku, Yoo Seung Eun, Kang Mi Jin, Huh Gong, Shin Ji Hyun, Ji Se Hee, Woo Hye Mi), Season 2 (Park Eui Sung, Lee Si Mon, Shin Yu Mi, Yoo Da Eun)
Winners: Song Seung Yeon (season 1), Lee Ye Jun (season 2)
Birth of a Great Star (2010-2013):
This short lived audition program created by MBC brought many more undiscovered talents to the limelight. From music students to YouTube artists, Birth of a Great Star discovered three amazing singers and many more talented vocalists, many of which have now debuted in groups or as soloists, or are training in companies now.
Judges: Kim Taewon, Bang Shi Hyuk, Shin Seung Hoon, Lee Eun Mi, Kim Yoo Na, Lena Park, Kim Yeon Woo, Brave Brothers, Kim So Hyun, Yoon Sang, Lee Seung Hwan, Yoon Il Sang, Lee Sun Hee
Notable alumni: Season 1 (Shayne Orok, Lee Tae Kwon, Kwon Ri Sae, David Oh, Lee Tae Il, Roh Ji Hoon, Jo Hyung Woo, Yoon Gun Hee), Season 2 (Eric Nam, Jang Lee Jung, Megan Lee, Justin Kim, Jang Yi Jeong), Season 3 (Park Soo Jin, Oh Byung Gil)
Winners: Baek Chung Gang (season 1), Goo Ja Myung (season 2), Han Dong Geung (season 3)
What to look forward to?
– Superstar K is current airing its fifth season on Mnet
– K-pop Star season 3 will begin airing some time before the end of this year, with new panelist Yoo Hee Yeol replacing BoA
– The Voice Korea has yet to announce a third season for next year, but it’s most likely that the show will return for another season
– Birth of a Great Star has been discontinued by MBC due to low ratings during its third season and have no plans at this time to air another season, let alone start another audition show on their network
There’s always amazing talent out there, and personally I am thankful for the existence of such programs…else ways, how else would we discover all these singers? :)