The 2016 Christmas holidays are not even here, yet. But, that’s not stopping the number 1 K-pop agency, SM Entertainment, from announcing plans for its 2017 Global Auditions. The countries announced are: Korea, Thailand, Japan, Canada, USA, and China.



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SM Entertainment founded in 1995 by Lee Soo Man, who returned as Chairman in 2015 after an unfortunate 2014 that saw the agency lose key members, has always been at the vanguard of K-pop, unleashing groups like Super Junior, Girls Generation, Exo and Red Velvet on a fawning and predisposed fan-base ready to lap up anything the agency releases, because of its stratospheric brand and superb track record. Lee Soo Man originally resigned his position in 2010.

One of the secret’s to their success, is the agency’s willingness to invest heavily in scouring the globe looking for new potential talent to inculcate and indoctrinate into its trainee system. It’s this strategy that has given fans, Jessica and Tiffanny both of Girls Generation (although Jessica has since moved on), Wendy of Red velvet, as well as Chris and Luhan both formerly of Exo.


The SM Entertainment 2017 global auditions will be held in several cities in each country selected. Although still a large number, the total number of countries is a reduction and a less ambitious outreach than the 2016 global auditions, which saw countries like Australia and New Zealand included, as well as smaller U.S. cities like Chicago and San Francisco included in 2016.

The country-selection process within the agency for global auditions, is not widely known. However, the countries with the largest Korean emigres are China with 2.5 million, and the United States with 1.7 million. The next two largest are Japan and Canada, which are also on the list for the 2017 global auditions. You can read more on Korean emigres.

The categories for which SM Entertainment will be searching for new talent include, singer, actor/actress, model, dancer, and lyricist/composer. Given the lack of ethnic diversity in K-pop, addressed recently by JY Park in a ground-breaking CNBC interview, the role of lyricist and composer will be more open to non-Koreans and non-Asians.

Given the proximity of Japan to Korea, it’s surprising there are not more Japanese K-pop idols. Regional China (including Taiwan and Hong Kong), and the United States definitely provide the largest number of “foreign” kpop idols. It could be that one of the things SM Entertainment takes into consideration when looking for “foreign” talent is cultural fit, on a national level. Less stringent and more amiable agencies like JYP Entertainment, more readily embrace Japanese talent including Momo, Sana and Mina of Twice.

Momo, Sana, Mina of JYP's Twice
Momo, Sana, Mina of JYP’s Twice

For the singular purpose of this article, “foreign” talent means those born, raised, and/or discovered in countries outside Korea. They may still be of Korean or Asian origin. For instance Mina of Twice was born in the United States but grew up in Japan.

SM Entertainment doesn’t often debut Japanese talent. In fact, none of it’s main groups comprise of any Japanese talent: Exo, Super Junior, Red Velvet, and Girls Generation. Even its planned global boy group, NCT has yet to include a Japanese member. Yet, they often tour there. As the case may be, Japan does offer myriad opportunities for Japanese kids who want to go into show business and J-pop, such as AKB40.

Will the 2017 global audition see SM Entertainment embrace a more diverse foreign talent-base? We’ll find out in 3-4 years, when those successful in this 2017 auditions will be getting ready to debut.

For more information, check out SM Auditions on Facebook.

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  1. hi
    I’m Georlyn Mae Esco 14 years old
    i know how to dance and sing
    i have a confidence
    and I’m willing to learn