Park Jin-young, the pop musician and producer who “invented” the K-pop superstar Rain, is planning another Asian culture assault on the U.S. market by training up a group of future pop idols from scratch. The Chosun Ilbo met up with him at the new office of JYP USA on 31st Street in Manhattan New York. In the office, which opened June 20, Park started off by saying, “This building cost W3.5 billion (US$1=W938) when the company bought it. But it’s now worth W4.3 billion after we got the repairs done. I’ve already made money with this building before I even started business.”
Park Jing-young, pop singer and producer, dressed in Korean traditional dress made by designer Lee Young-hee at the New York Office of JYP USA. |
JYP USA, the U.S. arm of JYP Entertainment, has officially opened. What is its main business?
“It’s simple. We’re going to develop global stars who can attract U.S. customers. There are currently three Korean and two Chinese trainees getting lessons in dance, English and vocals. JYP USA is a company that creates added value by investing in stars rather than music. We aim at nurturing high-quality stars who can meet the global standard.
Entering the U.S. market may not be as easy as it sounds.
“Do you know what the problem of the U.S. music market is? The problem of the U.S. music industry is that music companies, management companies and performance planning companies work individually. It’s hard to create added value with music only, so companies are likely to make a loss. We are going to do these three sectors at the same time, centering on stars. This is the Korean style. If we produce successful cases, the U.S. music industry will follow us. I think we can make a success of it in two years.
What is your key to developing stars?
“A consistent image can create stars with high added value. Physical appearance, hairstyle, costume, dance, music, marketing, music video and even interviews should be closely related under a single image. We’re making such singers with a consistent image here. When I pick potential singers, I set out the direction where they should go within a year.”
MIN, a sixteen-year-old Korean singer trainee with your company, will make her official debut in the U.S. and one of the major U.S. music labels will release her debut album. Her official U.S. album will be the third by an Asian singer after Taiwanese singer Coco Lee and Japanese singer Utada Hikaru, and she’ll be the first Korean.
“She has finished recording eight songs. Top U.S. producer Lil Jon and I are co-producing her album. Her debut album will be released by a major music label in October. I taught her singing and dancing for four years and she will debut with black music with a K-pop feel. Lim Jeong-hee and G-soul, two other trainees with JYP USA, will meet with hip-hop big shots like R.Kelly, the Neptunes and Outkast.
Have you ever thought of developing American singers?
“It’s possible. I think three types of people can be global stars: Chinese who speak English, Americans who speak Chinese and Koreans who speak Chinese and English.
These days, a star can go global only by dominating the Chinese and U.S. culture market. Even U.S. culture, one of the most dominant cultures in the world, has not produced any new global star since Mariah Carey.
Talking about global stars, he recalls Rain’s concert at Madison Square Garden in New York in 2006. “The only thing I regret about Rain is that I didn’t teach him enough English. When the New York Times published an article about Rain, interview requests from many big broadcasters flooded in, but Rain needed a translator at the time and that became a major stumbling block. If Rain had been able to speak fluent English then, he would be a superstar in the U.S. now.
Rain left JYP Entertainment. Didn’t you want to dissuade him?
“Certainly, if I had persuaded him, Rain would never have left JYP. But I couldn’t hold him back when he said he wanted to stand on his own feet. I thought it would be right to give him a chance to stand on his, considering his future. I bet Rain will succeed in U.S. market if he has a good command of English.”
Do you think the Korean Wave will continue?
“I believe three factors have contributed to the success of the Korean culture wave. First, Korea has a great capacity for absorbing U.S. culture. In Korea, AFN (the American Forces Network) has been one of the major channels for a long time. Secondly, Koreans have a strong will to go beyond the crowded domestic market and a population of only 50 million. Koreans have no choice but to make inroads into overseas markets. Thirdly, Koreans have artistic potential as a people living on a peninsula, like Italians.
But the problem is the standardization of Korean public education. What can we expect from children who get standardized and equalized education from school, crammers and other private institutions? Education in Korea has been destroying the creativity of youngsters. If I were to invest in Korea’s artistic future, I’d choose to invest in juvenile reformatories rather than schools.
You once said we have to remove the Korea tag in order to keep the Korean Wave alive.
“I didn’t say Korea should get rid of its national identity. I pointed out the problem is an obsession that only Koreanized thing works in the world market. Actually, I miss Korea more as I am living in New York. It doesn’t feel the same to me when I’m with Korean friends and when I’m with American friends. Actually, I feel better when I’m with my Korean friends.”
After wrapping up the interview, Park said, “It is my wish that people remember me as a player who lived a joyful life.”
He plans to make a comeback on stage and has already produced 30 songs that will be included in his new album. “I will come back as singer Park Jin-young with songs that the fans can enjoy and sympathize with,” he says.