As a musician trying to work in Korea, it can be very difficult to find your niche, especially as a foreigner. When you work under a big music label, the work hours can be intensive and your musical liberties can be limited.  If you were a musician in a Western society before coming to Korea, it is unlikely that you would be familiar with those conditions, causing not only physical but psychological stress as well. But I will save further discussion about the music label environment for another time. What I want to talk about today is how one particular artist overcame these difficulties. Namely being dropped by a leading label and how, even after such instances, you can still be a successful artist in Korea. His name is Jay Park, also known as Park Jaebeom (박재범). This artist is proof that you do not have to disappear due to controversy or stop being a musician just because misfortune has befallen you.  His circumstances are not only a leading example for a musician, but also just a great way to move forward as a human being.

First though, let’s get acquainted with the artist. Jay Park is a 26-year-old Korean American born on April 25, 1987 in Edmonds, Washington, U.S.A.  From his early childhood Jay Park showed great interest in Hip Hop, particularly in break dancing. In high school he joined a b-boy crew called Art of Movement (AOM), a Seattle-based dance crew that prepped him for an audition with JYP Entertainment. He would later be signed on in 2005 for three years of training in dance, rap, vocals, and the Korean language. In 2008 the reality television program called “Hot Blood Men”  introduced him to the Korean public. The program was to show the tabulations of male performers competing for the upcoming groups 2AM and 2PM. Jay Park ended up being chosen to join the 7 member (at the time) group 2PM. Their debut song, “10 out of 10,” (10점 만점에 10점) peaked number nine on the Gaon Chart (which is the more or less the Korean version of the billboard charts). Upon becoming part of a brand new popular Kpop boy band, things were looking good for Jay Park until his past caught up with him almost a year later.

Now, I would like to make it very clear that neither Jay Park nor JYP Entertainment officially has given reasons why JYP dropped Jay Park, but there has been confirmed evidence why they “might” have let him go. During the period of his training from 2005-2008, Park has been stated (shown under the image below) in saying,  “Korea is gay,” “I hate Koreans,” “Korea is whack,” on his Myspace. Jay Park has explained that comments were made when he was being trained extraneously, missing his family, being unable to communicate easily, and had limited understanding of the culture. Basically, that he wasn’t in the right mind when making those comments. Those of you who have lived in Korea, however, know that Korea is a very proud, nationalistic country. JYP received many messages from Netizens (which is a term for an internet citizens that’s active online) demanding that Jay Park be deported back to America and a petition of over 3,000 signatures calling for his suicide. There were also rumors that Jay Park was a womanizer while being part of 2PM, a big issue since Kpop idols are usually not allowed to go out on dates while under contract. Again, these are just rumors, and there is no hard evidence on this matter.

JayParkMyspace

Normally under these circumstances most people would just have left, gone back home to their country, and never tried to get back in the same business again. I myself would probably be included in that group of people if found in the same situation. As having over 3,000 people petitioning for your suicide is not the most motivating of inspirations. But, Jay Park did not do this. In fact, he started his own YouTube channel, which changed everything! The first video he uploaded was a cover of “Nothin But You,” by B.o.B. The exact number of views is unknown mainly because YouTube shut down Jay Park’s original YouTube channel because of “multiple or severe violations of YouTube’s Community Guidelines,” but it’s estimated that it was in the millions. The upload was so successful that Jay Park grabbed the attention of B.o.B himself, who then asked Jay Park if he could release a single of “Nothin But You” in which Jay Park was featured. The single ended up being quite successful in letting everyone know that his time was not over yet.

Moving forward a couple of years, Jay Park was asked to sign with Korean entertainment company Sidus HQ. Sidus HQ is well known for their famous actors rather than their musicians, but it did not matter for Jay Park because his full-length album “New Breed” was very successful. So successful, in fact, that it reached number one on the Geon Charts in its first week and number two on the monthly chart, respectively. He released three singles from the album, “Girlfriend,” “Star,” and “Know your Name.” None of these made the number one (Know Your Name peaked at number 9), but they still did well enough to convince Sidus HQ to resign him and release a second album.

2013 is when I was introduced to Jay Park. I had not known who he was at all before moving to Korea. I had heard his name while attending the University of California, Los Angeles, but I never took the time to look him up. I only found out about him in the spring when he released the song “Joah.” It was very popular, and it could be heard while walking around the streets of Korea, with phone shops (which you find on every block) blasting it everywhere. I liked it, but it was not my style. It was too “Lovey Dovey” for me, so my interest was still not won over  quite yet. It was not until I watched the movie “After Earth” and stayed for the end credits that I heard his song and thought, “Who is guy and where can I find more of him?” (FYI, that was the only good thing about After Earth). The song was “I Like 2 Party,” which is a very under appreciated dance song. I honestly do not understand why it did not get any bigger. As it reached number one on the Billboard World Charts for crying out loud! Once my interest was sparked I researched Jay Park and found that he had a very colorful past.

Now, you’re probably like, “How does Jay Park’s past help me as a musician in Korea?” Well, it helps in the fact that even though he was basically tossed out in the trash, he fought his way back to the spotlight. In Korea, the basic thought for a musician is that if you are not working under the big three music companies (JYP, YG, and SM) that you are not really succeeding. You could make the argument that he did start with JYP, but just because he started with JYP first does not mean that the audience had to like him personally. I can tell you a lot of Kpop band names in Korea, but I would not be able to tell you the individual names of the members. I knew about Jay Park even before I knew who 2PM was. That is not very common, but shows you the appeal that Jay Park has on people. You should not give up on your dreams and goals just because you don’t fit the studio’s exact criteria. Success is a measure of perseverance and hard work – something that everyone can relate to.

How do you feel about Jay Park’s path? What other artists have followed a similar path? Sound off below.

Edit: Jay has also just released his new single Metronome you can check out here.

Cover Photo by visitmelbourne

About The Author

Klinton Koechner

Klinton was born and raised in Missouri, United States of America. He went to school at Drury University and UCLA to study music. Currently living in Anyang South Korea, his goal is to work in the music industry in Korea in some form or another. He enjoys every type of music and his life in Korea. If you want know more about Klinton you can follow his blog.