It takes grit, passion, commitment and luck to become a South Korean K-pop idol and to enjoy global success. Ever wondered what it takes to be an idol? Practice and auditions The first goal: get into an agency and sign as a trainee. A few lucky ones might be discovered by a talent scout at random, but most idol-wannabes go through auditions. According to K-pop news site Koreaboo: “it’s not uncommon for kids to participate in 30-plus auditions”. Most children audition as early as 10-years-old, so one can only imagine when they start to practise singing and dancing. Entertainment agencies hold online and live global auditions, opening opportunities to children from all over the world, which eventually, will extend the group’s fan base reach. Blackpink ’s Lisa is one example, being the only one to pass YG’s audition in Thailand during her time, and the only foreigner YG trainee to have made it. Idol life training To become a trainee is to have one foot in the door, making it as an idol is a far tougher proposition. With contracts spanning an average of seven years, an agency will assess a trainee’s talent, his or her ability to blend into a group, withstand the hardships of ‘idol life’, and avoid trouble. Seven new K-pop acts to watch out for in 2020 Bigbang’s G-Dragon spent 11 years in training – five years with SM Entertainment and six at YG. The king of K-pop is one of the first crossover K-pop artists, penetrating the western market as a producer, songwriter, artist and collaborator. Image maintenance Beyond song and dance practices, trainees are expected to manage their public image, maintain a certain weight, and be schooled on sex education, basic etiquette, media training and most of all, stay out of trouble – refrain from drink-driving, doing drugs and scandals. Euny Hong wrote in The Paris Review : “K-pop star training is an education of the whole person”. As a trainee, one can maintain a social media account, accept other jobs such as starring in television commercials, music videos, or modelling for brands, while abiding by agency rules. Red Velvet’s Irene was an SM Rookie in 2013, and appeared in Henry’s 1-4-3 music video, before her own debut. Debut and re-debut Based on the trainees’ evaluation, the agency decides when they are ready to debut. However, debuting as an idol isn’t the end of the road. While some K-pop groups quickly become household names, others fall by the wayside. Which EXO ex upset K-pop fans when he went on a rant about BTS? As consolation, idols who haven’t enjoyed their share of the spotlight or trainees who take long to debut can get a second shot at fame by joining survival shows for a chance to retrain or re-debut. Member roles Every K-pop group member has specific roles. First is the leader, who can be the eldest, the one who’s trained the longest, or simply the one who is the most respected and responsible, and is able to represent the group well. BTS ’ leader, RM is the fourth oldest in the group. He learned English by watching Friends , and now speaks on behalf of the group at overseas events. A group can have one or more main vocalists, depending on its size. As expected, the main vocalist, like Girls’ Generation’s Taeyeon, gets the most lines per song, and is supported by the lead and sub vocalists. The rap line works similarly, and consists of a main, lead, and sub rapper. iKON’s Bobby is a popular main rapper, and so is Mamamoo’s Moonbyul, who is known for her low vocal range. Taeyeon of Girl’s Generation reveals battle with depression As for the dancers, the main dancer has the best dancing skills, and is supported by the lead dancer. Naturally, the main dancer, such as EXO’s Kai, is placed front and centre at group formations and focuses less on singing. Each group also has its “visual” or the member who is the most attractive, and the “face of the group”, or the most popular member. For girl group Apink, Na-eun is the group’s visual; while the face of the group is Eunji, who became popular for her solo activities. Meanwhile, Cha Eun-woo stands as both the visual and face of the group Astro. Last but not least is the maknae , or the youngest member. A maknae can get various nicknames, such as “evil maknae ” for being mischievous, “visual maknae ” if he or she is also attractive, and “golden maknae ” for the exceptionally talented ones, such as Super Junior’s Kyuhyun. Individual personalities One way for idol groups to gain popularity other than going on tours, fan meets and winning awards, are through variety shows and interviews. It’s important for members to have personalities that allow them to bring colour and charm to the group. Can you spot BTS’ Suga on Halsey’s new ‘Manic’ album? Examples of stand-out members are: the fashion-savvy one, like Winner’s Mino; the eccentric one with a 4D personality, such as former 2NE1 member Park Bom; the bias wrecker, or the member that fans can’t help but love other than their bias; the “mum of the group” or the member who is most affectionate; the member who is excellent at fan service, and so on. Fandoms It’s not enough for a group to be exceptionally talented. They must be able to establish a connection with their fan base. Big Hit's Bang Si-hyuk, the mastermind behind BTS’ success, tells Time : “K-pop fans want to feel close with their idols”. Indeed, ARMYs from all over the world have fallen in love with BTS for the messages they find themselves resonating with amid the band’s powerful lyrics. BTS have also taken to social media to reach out and directly connect with fans. The group’s success, after all, is thanks in large part to their army of loyal fans. Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .