S.M Entertainment Focuses on Internship Program For Trainees

Andrew Park , March 2, 2017, 10:25 a.m.

South Korean entertainment agencies have been focusing on handpicking the right trainees to debut via survival programs. S.M. Entertainment took a step further and established a system called “S.M. Rookies” in 2013 that allows trainees to experience the entertainment industry ahead of their debut. 

S.M. Rookies acts as a program that connects trainees under S.M. Entertainment with the entertainment industry before their debut. It’s similar to the concept of an internship, where job seekers receive chances to get a taste of the industry they aspire to work in. 

S.M. has kept their trainees in the dark, away from the public eye before the launch of the system. The system’s launch enabled its existing trainees to flaunt their talent more openly to the public. 

The cast of the Korean version of “The Mickey Mouse Club” -- the now-canceled television talent show that featured A-list Hollywood stars such as Britney Spears and Ryan Gosling -- was consisted mainly of trainees under S.M. Rookies.

The trainees that were cast on the Disney Channel’s variety show got to experience on-air performance with their status. They also worked with Leeteuk from Super Junior, a boy band under the same label, since he was the main host of the show. 

Overseas in Japan, Johnny’s Entertainment, one of Japan’s most influential entertainment companies behind top-tier boy bands such as SMAP and Arashi manage a similar program. Much like S.M. Rookies, “Johnny’s Junior” also grants its trainees opportunities to work within the Japanese entertainment industry. 

They perform on-stage, hold concerts, star in films and record albums, despite their status. The projects are a tie-in or collaboration with the debuted artists within the agency for most of the time. 

Same goes for AKB48, a girl group with a name coined after the Akihabara area in Tokyo. The group rocketed to stardom in 2011 by winning the Grand Prix award at the 53rd Japan Record Awards. They appeal to their fans by regularly holding live concerts in their private theater located in Akihabara. 

Staying true to the group’s catchphrase and identity, “idols you can meet,” the group’s trainees, also called understudies, perform as backing dancers during these concerts. They learn how to act like a professional by observing successful idols within proximity. 

The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages for both the agencies and trainees under these systems. It allows the trainees to build an in-depth experience of the industry with special help from professional artists. The system also aids trainees in determining their career path by allowing them to weigh both the good and bad of show business before debuting.

For the agency it saves them from investing time and money in a trainee that lacks potential and passion. According to a local media outlet, it costs agencies an average of 500 million won a year to manage one trainee. 

Members of Red Velvet, a quintet girl group produced by S.M., were all once trainees under S.M. Rookies. They recently released its fourth EP, “Rookie,” which rose to the top of the Billboard’s World Albums chart in February. 

As long as S.M. Rookies system continues to produce successful artists, S.M. Entertainment will continue to develop its own internship program.

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