A list of K-pop stars who were scouted based on their appearance alone, complete with a brief guide on how to know if you’re being street-casted too.
Korean pop idols have received worldwide recognition, especially in the last decade, for their unique and vibrant music, sharp, complex choreography, and eye-catching visuals. While K-pop idols have a lot to offer with their highly trained voices and incredibly synchronized dance moves, it’s their visuals that first call out to new and old K-pop viewers alike.
How exactly does the K-pop industry have such an impeccable ability to find the most attractive faces? It turns out that this ability isn’t rocket science. There is an old-fashioned (and admittedly, oddly selective and unfair) route Korean entertainment agencies take to seek out potential idols who can captivate audiences of national and global ranges with their looks. This method is called street-casting, and it means exactly what it sounds like—looking for someone who has the perfect look for the job on the street. It happens in modeling, television, film, and, of course, the K-pop world.
Street-casting agents in K-pop represent their respective companies when they get sent out to public places to find the next big star. They look for the most beautiful or good-looking faces, and when they spot one, they will approach the person, informing the lucky girl or guy that they fit the role visually. A common misconception is that street-casted prospective trainees receive special treatment by being offered a contract right away. In fact, what happens in reality is that the selected person listens to what the agent has to say about the company as well as the initial offer to come audition at the agency’s offices. These attractive potential trainees still have to pursue this audition to prove their talent and if they pass, they have to train for years like every other aspiring idol. Entertainment companies can get away with selectively looking for beautiful or handsome faces because each K-pop group has a visual whose job it is to bring in more attention and interest.
We know EXO Sehun’s famous story about eating tteokbokki when an SM Entertainment agent spotted him, then running away from the agent for thirty minutes straight. But did you know these other famous idols also had their beginnings in street-casting? Here are some examples of idols you may be very familiar with who have been street-casted.
1. Joshua – Seventeen
Joshua Hong was 18 years old when a PLEDIS agent scouted him at a festival playing the guitar in Los Angeles, California. Despite being of college age, his parents were supportive and let him pursue his dream of becoming a musical artist. He came to Korea for a month to train and show his talent, and his company decided to cast him to be a trainee for the next few years. Watch this video to see how he (and fellow Seventeen member Vernon) got street-casted.
2. Minhyun – NU’EST
Here’s to another PLEDIS Entertainment idol! NU’EST’s charming Hwang Minhyun was street-casted when he was eating chicken skewers with his friends after school in his hometown of Busan. It was thanks to Minhyun’s decision to join his friends and eat chicken skewers that he caught the eye of an agent nearby. The former Wanna One member has even said that he might not be where he is today if he didn’t go out to eat chicken skewers that day.
3. Seohyun – Girls’ Generation
Seohyun was a little 12-year-old girl riding the subway when she was street-casted by an SM Entertainment agent. She has talked about her beginnings, saying it was due to chance that she got noticed on that very day and on that very subway line she was taking. She remembers how she got street-casted in this video when the chef serving her asks about how she got started in her entertainment career. She says her original dream was to become a pianist, but it changed because she had so much fun singing, dancing, and acting. The chef jokingly asks her which part of the subway she got scouted in, to which she responds, “Maybe it was subway line 3?”
4. Sana – TWICE
Sana was out shopping with a friend in her home country of Japan when a JYP Entertainment agent approached her, asking if she wanted to audition to become a K-pop idol. While Sana wasn’t initially convinced, the agent showed her cast members of the Korean drama “Dream High” who were under JYP. The rest is history from there; she passed the audition, trained for the next 3 years, and became a contestant on SIXTEEN, where she demonstrated more of her talent and quirkiness. From there, she became a member of TWICE.
5. Jaemin – NCT
NCT U and NCT Dream member Jaemin has a heartwarming street-casting story. The 20-year-old idol has a smile that could heal the deepest of wounds, and it seems like the agents who noticed Jaemin caught on right away. Jaemin was doing volunteer work in Incheon by handing out posters and picking up trash when SM Entertainment agents approached him with the opportunity that would change his life. Since then, Jaemin has been an integral part of SM Rookies and the constantly changing NCT team, and has even earned the nickname “Volunteer Casting.”
6. Jin – BTS
Jin is known among his fans and more recently, new viewers for being “Worldwide Handsome,” as he likes to introduce himself on American talk shows and award shows, and for good reason. He has the ability to draw in interest with a single look at the camera. The oldest member of BTS was scouted twice, the first time by SM Entertainment, and was originally planning on going into acting when he entered Big Hit Entertainment. Now, fans can’t imagine him anywhere else than at the top of the K-pop world along with his fellow BTS members and Big Hit Entertainment.
7. Ryujin – ITZY
ITZY is one of the trendiest girl groups in K-pop nowadays, and the group’s visuals show us why. Shin Ryujin, one of ITZY’s main rappers, was street-casted when she was at a GOT7 concert. Ryujin is no stranger to the K-pop world in her tastes, and it worked out in her favor when she got casted by JYP Entertainment, the same company her favorite idols are under. According to Ryujin herself, she was approached by a lady in front of the bathroom, who asked her for her phone number. Luckily, the agent was representing JYP at a JYP event, and Ryujin was caught in the middle of the right circumstances.
Now…How to Know If You’re Being Street-Casted
From learning about idols’ street-casting stories, fans can be aware that street-casting can happen at any time and at any place. The unpredictable, unexpected nature of it all is exciting, but also cause for caution. Not all agents are genuine in their intentions when they say they want to help an unsuspecting passerby reach stardom, so it is important to be aware of what constitutes a real offer.
First, talk to the agent. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the company and why they chose you. Ask what stood out about you. The agent will be more than happy to answer, going beyond just “You have a great smile,” “You’re beautiful,” or “You look like a K-pop star.”
The next step is crucial. Ask for their business card. Don’t simply give them your phone number and expect a call back. Their business card will have the agent’s name, contact information, and company details (like a website with its own domain name), and is physical proof of their status and legitimacy. The agent may have already given you a business card throughout the conversation or should already be willing to give it to you and ask to think about it.
The agent should be friendly and not forceful, like offering a bribe in exchange for taking up the offer. As much as the agent should promote the company and speak highly of it, the company has to be held in high regard as well. That means it should have a fairly large following on its social media accounts. The content on the company’s social media accounts also must speak volumes of its production quality. The agent may communicate how established and reputable the company is, but the content must be high-quality and free of grammar or spelling errors. You must also never give personal information like your address in the case that the agency requests it.
Overall, use your common sense and take these fortuitous events with a grain of salt if they occur. Remember that the possibility of being street-casted doesn’t just apply to K-pop, these idols were in the right place at the right time, and they took the long road to reach fame and fortune like any other celebrity in the K-pop industry.
Cho, S. (2019, September 13). Idols Who Caught The Attention Of Agency Scouts On The Street With Their Stunning Visuals. Retrieved from https://www.soompi.com/article/1351643wpp/idols-who-caught-the-attention-of-agency-scouts-on-the-street-with-their-stunning-visuals
Davis, R. (2020, April 16). 10+ Idols Who Were All Street-Cast By SM Entertainment For Their Visuals, And Turned Out To Be Incredibly Talented As Well. Retrieved from https://www.koreaboo.com/lists/10-idols-street-cast-sm-entertainment-visuals-turned-incredibly-talented-well/
Davis, R. (2020, August 24). 12 JYP Entertainment Idols That Were Street Cast, And Now Captivate Fans With Their Visuals And Talents. Retrieved from https://www.koreaboo.com/lists/12-jyp-entertainment-idols-street-cast-now-captivate-fans-visuals-talents/
ITZY's Ryujin And Yuna Reveal The Story Of How They Got Cast While At A Concert. (2020, March 28). Retrieved from https://www.koreaboo.com/news/itzy-ryujin-yuna-story-got-cast-concert/
Majority of this boy group members debuted without even auditioning? (2015, November 29). Retrieved from https://www.koreaboo.com/news/majority-of-seventeen-members-revealed-they-did-not-audition-into-pledis-entertainment/
The Behind Story of NCT's Jaemin Casting Will Make You Smile. (2019, January 16). Retrieved from https://www.koreaboo.com/stories/casting-story-behind-nct-jaemin/