Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Big hopes for Kiwi K-pop girl group

Could the next big Korean pop stars be New Zealanders?

A contest in Auckland is looking for talent to debut a Kiwi K-pop girl group, and top female singers will be offered a chance to perform in China.

Lindsay Chen, 17, has been putting in hours every day to polish up her voice and memorising lyrics.

"Not being Korean, I find it hard to memorise the Korean words," said Chen, a student at Pinehurst School in Albany.

"But I really want to be a K-pop star and I think this will be a good stepping stone."

Auditions for the K-pop-Global Star contest starts this week in Auckland. The contest is part of a K-Fest event organised by local Korean internet TV company, HTV, and the Korea-New Zealand Cultural Association.

South Korea's top three K-pop agencies - SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment - hold regular global auditions, including in New Zealand.

But some here with dreams of a career in K-pop feel that international competition makes it too hard to try to break into the K-pop scene through these agencies.

Overseas, young students attend special K-pop schools and spend hours every day to learn dance moves and sing the bubbly lyrics.

"It is great that the winners can become the voice of New Zealand K-pop and not become just another group from Korea," said Vivian Xu, 19, a member of Ace Crew, who were last year's winners.

"This will also allow us to create our own dance moves and brand of K-pop and have a point of difference," she said.

Organiser Diane Lee said the competition was open to all, but the aim was to form a New Zealand K-pop girl band. K-pop girl groups had the higher potential for commercial success, she claimed.

Lee said a K-pop group from New Zealand will "stand out" and "generate high interest" overseas.

"We already have sponsors in China offering the winning girl-group a possible deal to promote their brands and products," Lee said.

Dr Lorna Piatti-Farnell, director of the Popular Culture Research Centre at AUT University, said K-pop has been around since in the 90s.

It is often regarded as part of what is known as the "Korean Wave", and the increase in popularity of South Korean culture is aided more recently by the use of social media platforms.

"K-pop has also had a very distinct impact on fashion in Asia, with lines of clothing replicating the style worn by the members of the bands," Piatti-Farnell said.

The finals of the K-pop contest will be held at the Victory Convention Centre in Freemans Bay, Auckland, on August 20.

- NZ Herald

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