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Dita Karang of Secret Number is Indonesia’s first K-pop star and has a legion of followers, many of them Indonesians. Photo: Gowontae

How Dita Karang of Secret Number became Indonesia’s first K-pop star

  • Being Indonesia’s first K-pop star has been a blessing and a big responsibility for Karang as her parents were concerned about her role in the music industry
  • She studied dance at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, where stars Jason Derulo and Janelle Monae also attended
Yu Kang

Becoming a K-pop star is a dream for many adolescents, but Dita Karang made it a reality. Indonesia’s first K-pop star is part of Secret Number, a five-member girl group that made their debut last month with the single Who Dis?

In the music video for the single, Karang – clad in the K-pop staples of Balenciaga and stylish knee-high boots – flexes her ability to sing in Korean while busting out slick, choreographed dance sequences.

As the song’s English translation goes: “Everybody’s curious about me wherever I go/ Even if you look around, I’m the most dazzling thing you’ve ever seen.”

Karang’s fans tend to agree. Since Secret Number were launched, Karang – full name Anak Agung Ayu Puspa Aditya Karang – has amassed a legion of followers, many of them Indonesians excited at the prospect of one of their countrywomen becoming a full-fledged K-pop idol.

For Karang, it has all been a blessing – and a big responsibility.

“I’m really grateful to get such feedback from people back home,” she says. “But I can’t lie and say that I don’t feel any pressure, because I don’t want to disappoint them and those who look up to me.”

Karang does not feel that the title of “K-pop’s first Indonesian idol” pigeon-holes her in any way.


“I’m actually really proud of the term,” she says. “I joined this community because I love K-pop, and not because I wanted to be the ‘first’ of anything.”

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Karang’s path to stardom began much like that of any K-pop idol. Growing up in the Javanese city of Yogyakarta, the 24-year-old would spend her free time rehearsing dance routines from K-pop music videos – her favourite group was girl band 2NE1. Eventually she graduated to dance competitions and picked up a love of all things related to the hallyu wave of Korean culture.

She went on to study dance theatre at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, which counts celebrities such as Jason Derulo and Janelle Monae among its alumni. There, Karang fell in love with the stage.

“The way I feel when I get ready to perform, how it feels when I’m actually on stage, and that moment after I get offstage … that’s irreplaceable,” she says.

Karang (second right) with other members of Secret Number.

It was also in New York that Karang got her break: a chance audition in a K-pop studio put her on Vine Entertainment’s radar. The agency was impressed with her stage presence and dance skills, and invited her back to South Korea to join what would eventually become Secret Number.


Karang isn’t the only unique figure in Secret Number’s line-up. The multinational five-woman group consists of Japanese vocalist Léa and two Korean-Americans: rapper Jinny and main vocalist Denise. Lead dancer Soodam – a native South Korean – completes the quintet.

Being Indonesia’s first K-pop star has been a blessing and a big responsibility for Karang. Photo: Gowontae

Soodam says that because Secret Number’s members hail from different parts of the world, there are times when they have “cultural differences”. Instead of seeing this as a stumbling block, however, the group embraces each other’s uniqueness.


“Having foreign members has taught us to understand each other better,” she says.

Karang agrees. “Because we’re all very different individuals, we bring a lot of varying energy to each situation,” she says. “But when we practise and do things together as a group, we have a type of synergy – and since all of us make our team the top priority, we’re very open to one another for feedback and criticism.”

It’s a view that the rest of her bandmates take as well. The group says that their diverse backgrounds allow them to tackle more “mature” concepts in their songs – which, in turn, helps them develop their own sense of style in a saturated genre.

The group’s second single, Holiday, further pushes the message of female independence introduced in Who Dis? As Karang sings: “Now I’m finally alone/ I like it so much/ You can stay away” – and it’s a welcome change from the lovelorn ballads that often dominate the industry.


While Karang notes that her parents were concerned when she said she was going to join the K-pop industry, she says they gave her their blessings when they saw her determination.

“My parents are always supportive of my decisions, as long as I take responsibility for them,” she says. “And though I can feel their concern, they trust me and let me go.”

Karang’s promo picture for the Who Dis? single release.

For now, Karang says she is staying put in South Korea – but she’ll never forget where she came from.


“South Korea is the right place for me to develop myself and I really enjoy working here,” she explains, adding that she does miss spending time with her friends and family.

“But Indonesia is, and always will be, my home.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Indonesia’s first K-pop superstar counts blessings