Teenage is screening in at the DMZ Korean International Film Festival this weekend, hosted in Gyeonggi Province, and the cities of Goyang and Paju. This area is part of the “Demilitarized Zone” that runs across the Korean Peninsula and buffers North and South Korea.
Digging for local youth culture, we discovered the very popular Dream High, a television drama about high school students in Goyang who dream of becoming pop stars. Korean pop, or K-pop finally started gaining some traction in the west in 2013, largely thanks to the ubiquitous “Gangnam Style.” But of course, the music industry in Korea is much, much bigger than that (click here for a great intro mixtape plus commentary and videos). The “big three” of Korean music labels — JYP, SM and YG — are famous for hand-picking teens in middle and high school and grooming them to become super polished professional pop stars through a rigorous and even grueling schedule of song and dance training (The New Yorker, Spin, Forbes and Billboard have all reported on this process, which is often likened to a “pop star factory”). Enter Dream High, which dramatizes the balance between shooting for fame in a hyper-competitive, hyper-demanding industry with like, homework and boys. Think Glee but much higher stakes and a lot zanier.
The first episode is available to stream online. But if you start watching — be warned — though they may look cheesy, K-dramas are super addictive.
More information on the Goyang sreening and DMZ Doc Festival here.