Sophomore Brian Shin is so modest about his achievement that it’s almost hard to believe he will soon be performing in front of thousands of people on South Korean national television in a talent show based on survival rounds akin to those on “American Idol.”
He comes across in demeanor as reserved and slightly shocked about his accomplishment — discussing it almost as though discussing the achievements of someone else.
And yet his accomplishment is no small matter. Shin earned a spot on “K-pop Star,” a South Korean reality television competition that auditioned candidates in cities worldwide. The three largest entertainment labels in South Korea — SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment — have representatives at the show. The final overall winner of the competition debuts with one of the companies and also wins a cash prize of 300 hundred million won (approximately $300,000), two brand new vehicles and numerous other opportunities for fame.
Shin traveled to New York City for an audition on Sept. 8, competing against 360 to 400 other contestants, he said. Only 35 passed on to the second round.
Shin said that he thought he had not made the cut, believing he “didn’t even do that well at the audition,” but received a phone call on Sunday while taking a bus back to Rochester.
“I was surprised and stoked,” he said, describing an overwhelming phone call in which he was “bombarded with questions.”
Shin said that he believes one reason he was selected could be the fact that he performed an acoustic rendition of the song “Gangnam Style” by rapper PSY, which he believes showed judges his “originality and creative side.”
Candidates are permitted to perform in any form they choose — they can dance, rap or sing. Shin claims that dancing is not his forte. He has been playing the guitar and singing after teaching himself the trade in eighth grade, having never received formal instruction.
“It’s just something I’ve always really liked,” Shin said. “It’s my main pass time and hobby.”
Still, Shin said that earning a spot on this show was not something he was explicitly aiming at.
“It’s never been my absolute goal, but it’s something that has really interested me,” Shin said. “I never thought I would get on.”
Shin, who is studying international relations at UR with a focus on Asian studies, will be leaving school in mid-October to participate on the show, during which time he will stay with his grandparents in South Korea. He said his parents’ number one concern is his education, although he is “completely fine” with “resting a semester” if necessary, given that many of his South Korean friends are obligated to take significant time off from their college education for military service — sometimes as much as a year or more.
Contestants advance on the show in one-week increments, so Shin could be in Korea for as short a period of time as one week or until April if he wins. He humbly acknowledges that the latter option is “unlikely.”
Regardless, he’s already gotten a taste of the fame that might be in his future.
On Wednesday, Sept. 12 the show came to UR to film Shin, who, with the help of friends, organized a dancing flash mob of students in front of Rush Rhees Library.
“I felt the pressures of the media when I was told I had to dance,” Shin said. He had to learn most of the dance the night before and admitted that he forgot 90 percent of the routine during the filming, most of which was edited out.
“I was very happy with the turnout,” he said. “It looked really cool in front of Rush Rhees and I was more excited about our school being on TV. I’m really proud of our school.”
Shin’s friend and senior Anthony Wan said that he was unaware Shin was going through the selection process until Shin contacted him to ask him to do the dance on the day that the show was coming to film.
“Needless to say, I was extremely excited for him to have made it and also because we would get to have our flash mob publicized on national Korean television,” Wan said.
Wan handled the logistics — choreography and leading practices — of the flash mob with the help of some friends. The group had originally planned to do it later in September, but extended practices to prepare for the earlier date after learning that Shin would be filmed.
“I think it was an overwhelming success — more people than I ever could have imagined showed up to watch and join in,” he said.
The original point was to perform a “Rochester Style” parody of the original viral “Gangnam Style” music video, a South Korean pop music hit by PSY. The UR video will be filmed and edited through the end of September and released in early October, Wan said.
Wan added that he is “extremely excited” to follow Shin’s progress this fall.
“While I have not personally heard his performance, I have no doubts of his vocal and instrumental abilities and I do hope I can hear him perform someday,” Wan said.
Buletti is a member of the class of 2013.