Welcome to K-pop Idol School, Where Only the Beautiful Enter

“We are recruiting beautiful freshmen.”

This shamelessly explicit phrase on its website says everything about Idol School, an institution that aims to nurture K-pop girl group members.



In the video, girls in lolitaesque school uniforms (the skirts barely cover their thighs) vow to follow the school’s curriculum so that they would become a competent member of a K-pop group. The school, in return, vows to prepare the students to become an “outstanding idol talent” that would entice the global audience.

This all-girls program is actually South Korean cable channel Mnet’s upcoming survival show, airing this July. The application for the “school,” which just closed, was open to any woman born before 2006, or over 11 years old, from South Korea and beyond. The first class was public, held last week on Facebook Live to teach the applicants how to sing and dance to the school song, which they will need to perform in the audition on June 3.

The program sticks to its concept as an educational institution, shown by its detailed efforts to resemble one: Its website presents the school emblem, teaching aims, school song and detailed curriculum. It even delineates some school regulations that emulate those of an average South Korean school with some tweaks. “There is no restriction on hair length,” but “the student needs to manage a hairstyle that suits her,” says Article One, Subsection Four of the school rules. (Most South Korean secondary schools have regulations on students’ hairstyles, from length to color.)

There’s only one requirement to enter Idol School: You have to be beautiful. Even dancing and singing skills are irrelevant. “Anyone with the dream of being in a girl group can apply,” says the promotional video.

Some advocates of Idol School say that not prioritizing artistically talented applicants actually lowers the entry barrier, because anyone can join (as long as they’re “beautiful”). They…

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