We attended the wedding of an acquaintance’s son. Because we did not know the young man or his bride, we decided to send them a practical household gift, a fire extinguisher. Apparently, the couple mass-produced their thank-you notes because we received a card saying: Thank you very much for the nice wedding gift. We look forward to using it soon.
This popularity has led to a number of young people leaving their home countries and going to South Korea – the center of the K-pop universe. Industry experts estimate there may be up to one million music hopefuls seeking stardom in South Korea.
Other than Chinese people, most of these young men and women are South Koreans. But a growing number come from Japan, where K-pop has a huge following.
One such K-pop wannabe is 17-year-old Yuuka Hasumi. She delayed her high school education in Japan in February and instead went to South Korea in hopes of becoming a star performer.
Hasumi knew this decision meant her life in South Korea would not be easy. She would need to spend long hours working on her voice and dance moves. There would be little time for social activities. This meant giving up much of her privacy, having no boyfriend and little or no use of her telephone.
The young woman signed up to attend the Acopia School in Seoul, a preparatory school offering young Japanese a shot at K-pop fame. Acopia teaches students the songs and dance moves, as well as the Korean language.
Such training programs are the first step for Hasumi and others trying to prepare for an intensely competitive series of auditions. All the music hopefuls dream of getting invited to perform for major talent agencies. In the end, the agencies accept only a small number of “trainees” to shape into possible stars.
It is difficult, Hasumi told a Reuters news agency reporter after one of her dance class workouts. She attended the class with Yuho Wakamatsu, a 15-year-old friend from Japan.
Hasumi is one of about 500 Japanese who join the Acopia School each year. The program costs up to $3,000 a month. The cost includes learning centre activities and a place to stay.
The school can organize auditions for its students with talent agencies. Industry experts say the auditioning process has fueled a “Korean-wave” of pop culture that has spread worldwide over the past 10 years.
One of the biggest K-pop groups to explode into stardom was the South Korean boy band BTS.
“They’re nuts about BTS over there in Japanese society,” said Lee Soo-chul, who belongs to the Seoul-Tokyo Forum. The private group has members from the Japanese and South Korean diplomatic and business communities.
K-pop’s huge popularity in Japan comes at a time when relations between South Korea and Japan have experienced difficulties. Relations have been hurt by South Korean court rulings against Japanese companies for carrying out forced labor during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonization of Korea. Many South Koreans believe Japanese officials have not done enough to take responsibility for Japan’s colonial past.
But Lee says K-pop groups and well-known Korean musicians keep performing to large, sell out crowds throughout Japan. “There is no Korea-Japan animosity there.”
Rikuya Kawasaki is a 16-year-old Japanese K-pop star hopeful. “I might get criticized for being Japanese, but I want to stand on a stage and make (South Koreans) know Japanese can be this cool,” she told Reuters.
Many schools and talent agencies attempt to find new recruits in Japan because it is the second largest music market after the United States.
Some Japanese have already made it big in K-pop. The three Japanese members of the girl band Twice helped make the group a success. Twice is now the second most popular band in Japan, after BTS.
Yuuka Hasumi is hopeful that K-pop can be good for relations between the two countries. “It will be good if Japan and South Korea will get along through music,” she said.
Todd: Nydja, we were talking about education and praising students. Do you think that students today are praised too much?
Nydja: I do. I don’t think that they need as much praise for poor work. If they’re doing good work, then of course they deserve it, but this false sense of success that kids are given is really messing with their heads later on in life.
Todd: How so? Like how do you think it affects them later in life if they have this false sense of success as you say?
Nydja: Well, when it comes time to really perform and to step up to the plate say in college or in their career in the future, they might not know how to do any of these skills. They’ve been propped up by, you know, compliments that are just full of air, so they might not really know how to go about doing something. They have a sense of entitlement that they should receive that promotion or that good grade in Chinese college, even though they did nothing to actually achieve it.
Todd: Right, so do you actually … When you were younger did you have teachers who were very strict? So if you failed, they let you know you failed?
Nydja: Yes. Yes. They let you know immediately. I had some teachers who weren’t very nice at all, and maybe he polar opposite. Didn’t cut you any break either. Let you know that you weren’t heading anywhere fast unless you turned it around quick, so they were not about babying me or my classmates at all. It was very hard to get good grades because they graded hard. Very different from my experience with the people who were in school today.
One of the best ways to learn English is to read jokes and listen to English songs, below is a traditional English Joke, let’s read it and learn some new vocabularies.
【笑话原文】The Bald Guy
Once there was an old guy, who was growing old and starting to lose his hair. By the time he had gone completely bald, he decided to cover his bald head with a wig. One day, he went out hunting with some friends. A strong wind suddenly blew his wig off. When his friends saw what had happened, they started laughing so hard that they could not stop. The bald guy started laughing, too, and just as loudly as the other men.
He said to his friends, “How can I expect my fake hair to stay on my head when even my real hair won’t stay there?”