By Han Eun-jung
These days, it's not a fire fighter, a teacher, a doctor or even the nation's president that kids want to be when they grow up. Instead, according to a recent survey, 2 out of 3 children want to go into show business, as either an actor or a singer.
Of the some 5,000 children aged 12 and younger who logged on to cable cartoon network Tooniverse's Web site, 67 percent replied that they would like to see themselves on television one day.
This may explain the increasing interest that children themselves are showing in getting themselves exposed to the business, earlier and earlier on.
MTM Communications, which for almost two decades has been South Korea's largest acting school and talent agency, has witnessed changes in the attitudes of children looking to make it big in the entertainment industry.
"In the past, you'd see children coming through the doors with their mothers leading the way", MTM director Lee Ju-deok said. "But now, let's just say that it's certainly something else. More in number and younger in age, they're rushing in.
"And 90 percent of the children that set foot in here have looked MTM up themselves. Because it is they themselves that have taken up the interest, right from the start, these aspiring talents show eagerness, willingness to commit and readiness give their all".
MTM trains and produces more than 60 percent of the total child acting community. They include Cho Jung-eun, who played royal court chef Chang-kum as a young child in MBC's historical drama "Dae Jang Geum
", and Kim Young-chan
, whose supporting role as the adorable know-it-all nephew in the hit romantic drama "Lovers in Paris
"won him the prize for best performance by a child actor at the SBS Awards.
The academy as set forth some of today's best known actors as well. Shim Eun-ha
, Kim So-yon, Kam Woo-sung
, Song Yoon-ah
are just a few of the names on MTM's star roster.
At the far end of the corridor and behind a shut door, children are learning steps to the latest Wheesung
Today, instead of the regular role-playing and discussions, MTM's child acting class is in for some jazz dance.
Surrounded by mirrors and lined up in neat rows, the children scurry to try and imitate the sequence of steps of the instructor leading the class.
But kids will be kids. Every so often, the children whisper to one another, then a fit of mad giggling follows that ends with them flopping on the ground, gasping for air.
Suddenly the music cuts out. The children turn around to the back of the dance studio where the instructor has her hand over the switch.
"What kind of attitude did I tell you all I wanted to see when you come to my class?" the instructor asks carefully yet firmly.
"Happy!" yells out one. "Smiley", calls out another.
One boy voices out "Confident and professional".
Apparently the answer the teacher had been looking for, music fills the air once again class is back in session.
And these children mean business. Their eyes may shine of the same mischievousness as any other child of primary school age, but, due to their making a commitment to this special path early on, their seriousness is also apparent.
Child actor Lee Seung-jin
says that although he thinks of the training, auditioning and acting as fun, the heavy element of competition makes it so much more intense.
Going on to the sixth grade next March, Lee's latest role was Sol Kyung-gu
as a young boy in the recently released feature film "Public Enemy 2"
"We compete against each other for roles", Lee said, sounding older than his 11 years. "So there is some jealousy sensed after callbacks and later on with the naming of roles.
"But I think it goes for my acting friends too, later the competition works for the better _ it makes us want to work harder".
Lee admits that sometimes the acting gig is rough. With the historical pieces there is the heavy makeup, stiff costume and long standbys, but, because it's something he has chosen to do, he is happy with where he is at right now.