If you’ve been dreaming of working for your favorite idols, you could be in luck—experts say the K-Pop industry is hiring more foreigners than ever.
As more and more K-Pop groups hit the market and begin branching out into new fields, the industry needs more employees than ever. In fact, HYBE currently has a staggering 60 job positions open for hiring, which could push the company to over 500 staff members next year.
But interestingly, Koreans aren’t the only ones scoring these coveted roles. Lee Sang Hwan, CEO of K-Pop career resource service Conexus Labs, revealed to The Korea Times that agencies are looking to hire more foreigners than ever before.
The number of foreign employees in K-pop labels is growing these days and is likely to keep rising
— Lee Sang Hwan
JYP Entertainment, for example, recently posted Japan-only job openings, while SM Entertainment recently announced that foreigners are eligible to apply for its new job openings. Some of the positions global workers are being considered for include Idol Manager as well as marketing and business direction roles.
I think the demand will gradually grow, because more K-pop labels are launching their groups in countries other than Korea
— Lee Sang Hwan
The growth rate of international employees in the K-Pop industry is rising so quickly, Lee proposed that in the near future, “I think the companies might even consider writing the job advertisements only for foreigners.” He went on to explain that having a good command of different languages and an in-depth cultural understanding is what sets international employees apart from Korean employees.
Of course, if you do want to work in the K-Pop industry, it won’t be easy—no matter how many foreigners they hire. Lee Sang Hwan says hopeful applicants must speak Korean, write their resumes and cover letters in Korean, and meet the same qualifications as Korean jobseekers.
To help those around the world who want to work in K-Pop, Lee’s Conexus Lab has been translating its online lectures from industry insiders into English, Japanese, Vietnamese, and more. It also plans to open a Study Abroad Program in cooperation with Korean universities. After helping around 300 Koreans land jobs at K-Pop agencies, Lee’s company aims to bring the same success to international job seekers.
However, those who want to work in K-Pop do need to keep their expectations realistic. For staff behind the scenes, life is not as glamorous as it may be for idols. Lee Sang Hwan says that working in a K-Pop company comes with a 9-to-6 work schedule, plus extra work overnight during comeback eras.
On top of that, initial salaries are lower in the K-Pop industry than you may expect. The average annual wage at HYBE, for example, is just 30.9 million KRW (about $27,300 USD). In comparison, the average salary in South Korea as a whole is about $42,000 USD per year.
Plus, avid fans may have more trouble finding a job than they’d expect, no matter how qualified they are and how well they speak Korean. While some companies prefer to hire fans of their idols, Lee Sang Hwan says others do not. That said, if you do still aspire to work in the industry, you’ll want to start practicing Korean and refining your skills early for a chance at competing.