How to become a kpop star
JYP Entertainment’s Park Jin Young. PHOTOS: ONE

You would think vocal technique is the most important thing Korean label head Park Jin Young, better known as JYP, looks out for in potential singers, but what he really wants to see are your manners.

This comes up twice in an e-mail interview with the head honcho of JYP Entertainment and judge for talent show Survival Audition K-pop Star. Its second season premieres tonight.

Park, who is as detailed in his e-mail replies as he is when critiquing contestants, explains: “Manners and personality are what I look for first.

“Before all the fabulous skills one may carry, he or she first has to be a person who is genuine in his or her actions and be well-mannered in a suitable way. Then comes the skills to make that person a talent.”

Later, while discussing the type of singer that he would sign, he says: “What is the point of talent if he or she does not have manners?”

Park, 40, is one of three judges on K-pop Star, alongside Yang Hyun Suk, founder of YG Entertainment and singer BoA from S.M. Entertainment. Their task is to find the next K-pop sensation in candidates from around the world.

After the winner is picked, he or she gets to choose which company to join, which can make things a little competitive among the judges.

How to become a kpop star
The judges on K-pop Star are (from left) singer BoA, YG Entertainment founder Yang Hyun Suk, and JYP Entertainment’s Park Jin Young

Park says: “We all desire to bring in talent, provide the best coaching, and the necessary education. So sometimes, yes, it does feel like a contest among the judges, especially if all three of us have a common interest in one person.”

But he says the judges quickly get over any potential conflict.

“The reason is very simple – what is significant to each label is different. What we think to be important when selecting talents is clearly shown in the characteristics of our current stable of artists.”

The winner of K-pop Star Season 1, Park Ji Min, 15, who impressed the judges with her soulful, powerful vocals, chose to sign with Park’s label.

JYP Entertainment, which he founded in 1997, is known for a music style that combines dance and soul. Other groups under the label include Wonder Girls, 2AM and 2PM.

Korean superstar Rain was also part of JYP until he left in 2007 to start his own company.

Park says it is possible to find the next Rain, who was one of the first few K-pop artists to enter the United States market as an actor. He also performed at Madison Square Garden in 2006.

“I believe that with effort put in, anyone who has got such talent can have a chance to be like Rain.”

As a judge, Park says he adopts a “parenting” approach.

“For some participants, I know that they can do more than what they have performed for me.

“Seeing such hidden potential, I would like to be the person to help such talent emerge from the person than let it sit unconscious in him or her.”

And that is why he always has plenty to say to contestants, compared with his fellow judges.

Park explains: “Commenting on someone’s talent, aspirations or even dreams can bring hope or despair to the person who has just performed for me.

“Therefore, I have to be very careful in examining someone’s talent and express it as best as I can with elaborate comments.”

When Park is not judging, he has his hands full with running his label, acting and singing.

He started out as a singer in the 1990s but found bigger success as a producer- songwriter, penning hits such as the Wonder Girls’ Nobody and 2PM’s Again & Again.

Park has earned the nickname “The Asian Soul” for his music, which spans across genres such as jazz and blues. His latest single You’re The One was released earlier this year.

While he appears serious and pensive as a talent show judge, he has shown a goofy side in music videos (such as Wonder Girls’ “Nobody”, where he plays a singer who gets trapped in the toilet) and also on TV.

In drama series Dream High (2011, 2012), he played a music school teacher with dreams of K-pop stardom.

Park, who is divorced, says: “When I am starring in a music video or in a TV series, I can be as fun as I want to be. Not only do I broaden my interaction and cooperation with my fellow artists, but I also delight audiences who are watching.”

K-pop Star Season 2 premieres on One (StarHub Channel 823), One HD (StarHub Channel 876), One (Malay, StarHub Channel 124) and One HD (SingTel mio TV Channel 513) tonight at 11.45pm.

This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on December 4, 2012. For similar stories, go to You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.