When Girls’ Generation debuted in 2007, it was a shocker. Such a girl group with so many, if not all, visual members, jam packed with talent, was unprecedented. Where did SM Entertainment find all these brilliant ladies that ruled a generation of K-Pop? Check out each member’s casting story here.
Taeyeon‘s father used to be a band vocalist in college, while her mother used to be a competitive singer who won all the children’s song contests. So it is no surprise that Taeyeon felt the inclination to sing and the family supported her desire to do so. Taeyeon began winning singing contests and thinking about taking up singing as an actual professional career.
With her family’s encouragement, Taeyeon became a member of the fourth group of the “SM Academy Starlight” main vocalists’ division in 2003. For around a year, she traveled back and forth between her home in the suburbs and the academy in Seoul so that she could participate in training sessions. Taeyeon went through a puberty-fueled voice change at this point. When she couldn’t reach the higher notes, she felt miserable and cried. Of course, Taeyeon overcame this natural phase of life by practicing even harder. Super Junior members recall Taeyeon being an incredibly devoted student who fought them for the practice rooms.
In 2004, 15-year-old Taeyeon featured on The One’s album, “You Bring Me Joy (Part 2)”. By August of the same year, Taeyeon beat a 10,000:1 competition to be selected the “Dance Queen” and the Final Winner of the “8th SM Teen Best Contest”. Through this competition, she became officially cast by SM Entertainment.
Once she began training with the agency, she learned from the popular Korean R&B singer Johan Kim. After three years of idol training, in August of 2007, Taeyeon was the seventh member to be selected as the group to debut under the banner of Girls’ Generation.
It may be helpful to note that Sunny‘s father is a legendary vocalist in one of Korea’s very first bands, Runway. Sunny had the performer’s blood running through her already! So Sunny showed great potential in music since she was young. She was a part of the KBS Children’s Chorus and she used to lead the music period as a teacher’s assistant at school.
Sunny began her training adventure at her father’s agency, Star World, in 1998. At this agency, Sunny was preparing to debut with another trainee as a duo under the name “Teen Top”. With the complete support of her family, Sunny was able to continue training for about five years, until her father had to shut down the agency due to financial difficulties.
That’s when Sugar‘s Ayumi strongly recommended that Sunny audition for SM Entertainment…right in time for the agency’s third round of recruitments for the debuting group of Girls’ Generation. Of course, while the head of SM Entertainment, Lee Soo Man, is Sunny’s uncle (on her father’s side), she auditioned without anyone realizing her identity. It was only after Sunny successfully passed the audition with her own set of amazing talent that word got out she was the CEO’s niece.
Sunny became the very last member to join the group of girls debuting as Girls’ Generation.
Tiffany faced strong opposition when she wanted to become a singer. Even though her mother used to be a dancer (and this influenced Tiffany greatly), she had to convince her father for days before she could begin training.
That is to say, Tiffany did have a whole other set of goals before she realized she wanted to become a singer. Tiffany’s older sister strongly recommended that Tiffany become a lawyer. Tiffany herself considered this her goal and would have moved on to law school had SM Entertainment not discovered her.
It was at a Korean festival held in Los Angeles in 2004 where Tiffany received a selection of business cards from different entertainment agencies. Because she liked BoA, Tiffany decided to get in touch with SM Entertainment.
At the young age of 16, Tiffany flew out to Korea on her own, against her family’s will, so that she could train to become a K-Pop idol. Tiffany later explained on a TV program that by this point, it had only been two years since she lost her mother and she was “lost”.
I didn’t know back then, but I must have been so lost and confused. Only music gave some meaning to my life. Working to become a K-Pop idol, I did grow distant from my father. I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with him growing up. That breaks my heart.
It was this level of dedication (to put even her family aside for a while), that made it possible for Tiffany to become a member of the debuting group after only two years of training with the agency. She has always been, and will always be, a hard-worker dedicated to the stage life.
Hyoyeon was born with a dancer’s soul. Since she was an elementary school student, Hyoyeon made appearances on different TV programs as a dance prodigy. By the time she joined Winner’s Dance School, her potential was explosive. For three years, she received professional teaching from this dancing academy.
Prior to becoming a trainee at SM Entertainment, Hyoyeon and former miss A member Min performed as a team. By early 2000, Hyoyeon was discovered by the agency for her amazing dance moves.
In 2005, during her traineeship, Hyoyeon went on stage as BoA’s back-up for the Mnet KM Music Festival (now better known as MAMA). While Hyoyeon danced behind a screen, BoA moved across the stage through a path beneath the stage to appear on the other side of the screen.
After seven years of training, and with so much stage experience already, Hyoyeon was easily selected as the fourth member of the group to debut as Girls’ Generation.
Yuri would have become a professional swimmer, a very hot one at that, had she not been discovered by SM Entertainment.
She was an athletic girl with a lot of spunk and potential.
Yuri actually appeared in several TV commercials when she was a young girl. One of her best and most popular commercials was an ad for the Chinese version Choco-Pie’s in which she starred with actor Jang Dong Gun.
In 2001, she was chosen the “Best Dancer” at the very first SM Teen Best Contest and signed with SM Entertainment to start off her official training to become a K-Pop idol.
Even during her traineeship, Yuri continued working on commercials and gained a small fan base all her own. She also appeared in TVXQ‘s “Beautiful Life” music video.
So by the time she was announced as the third member to debut as part of Girls’ Generation, Yuri was already quite popular.
Sooyoung was meant to be a star: in only one week, she was approached three times by entertainment agencies.
When she was in fifth grade, she was discovered in front of her school. Then, when she went shopping with her mom, she was discovered again. After the third casting offer, Sooyoung auditioned for SM Entertainment and passed along with Lina of The Grace.
Sooyoung had an interesting and unique experience prior to debuting with Girls’ Generation. During her traineeship, Sooyoung was sent to Japan to compete in a Japanese-Korean cross-produced TV program Route O, which was an audition program to select one Korean and one Japanese member to create a duo that was to debut in Japan. A total of 15,892 applicants tried out for a spot on the show, one of which Sooyoung snatched with her pure talent.
Among the nine Japanese and nine Korean semi-finalists who actually competed on the show, Sooyoung became the one Korean finalist to debut. She and the Japanese finalist, Marina Takahashi, became a female duo, releasing three singles in Japan before disbanding. This was in 2002 and Sooyoung was only twelve years old.
By 2003, Sooyoung appeared in a Samsung cellphone commercial alongside Jewelry’s Park Jung Ah. In 2005, she was selected to host the Mnet TV show Hello Chat. In 2007, Sooyoung co-hosted a radio show with Super Junior’s Sungmin. She also starred in a K-Drama, shot a school uniform commercial, and sang the Korean version of the intro song for the Japanese animation series Inuyasha. This all happened during her six years of training before she debuted with Girls’ Generation.
Sooyoung was already an industry veteran by the time she was selected the fifth member of the girl group in the making.
Yoona had dreamed of becoming a singer ever since she was in the second grade. Growing up listening to the original K-Pop girl group S.E.S, Yoona practiced and practiced until, in 2002, she auditioned as a sixth grader.
At the audition, Yoona sang Wax‘s “Please” and danced to Britney Spears‘ “Oops, I Did It Again”, becoming one of the only five people to have ever passed the infamous SM Entertainment Saturday Audition.
Prior to debuting with Girls’ Generation, Yoona appeared in several music videos and commercials, TVXQ’s “Magic Castle” being the very first one. Even during her traineeship, Yoona auditioned over 200 times to star in different TV programs and commercials.
After training a little over five years, YoonA became the first member to be selected for the group to debut under the name of Girls’ Generation.
Seohyun comes from a family of musicians as well. Her mother, who majored in flute and piano in college, runs a music school and Seohyun knows how to play the piano quite well. Before she debuted, Seohyun actually dreamed of becoming a pianist and was preparing to study abroad in the United States to better hone her musical skills.
In 2002, when Seohyun was a fifth grader, she was randomly discovered by SM Entertainment. She was playing with her cousin in the subway station, on her way over to a relative’s house, when a man approached her. Seohyun recalled being scared of this man because she thought she was in trouble for being loud. Instead, the man asked if she wanted to become a singer.
At the audition, Seohyun sang a children’s song because she didn’t know any other songs. She also showed off her ballet moves, as she had never prepared for a K-Pop idol audition and didn’t have anything practiced.
Yet Seohyun passed the audition and signed with SM Entertainment! She debuted as the “Maknae (막내, youngest)” member of Girls’ Generation in 2007.
9. Jessica (Former Member)
January of 2000, Jessica, the elementary school student, was shopping with her parents at Lotte Department Store in Bundang, Seongnam City when a casting agent of SM Entertainment approached her and offered to cast her and her younger sister, Krystal.
At first, once she received the recruitment offer, only Jessica was sent to Korea to begin training. Soon, her entire family moved back to Korea to make sure the young Jessica received all the support she needed to make this dream come true.
Jessica was so young when she auditioned that there is no recording of her trying out for the agency. Still, H.O.T member Moon Hee Jun recalls Lee Soo Man bringing a little girl over and introducing her to him.
This is Jessica. She came to Korea because she likes music.
— Lee Soo Man
Jessica also began receiving vocal lessons from Johan Kim. Because of this relationship, Jessica was able to appear in his music video before debut and attract some attention. In fact, Jessica trained for a long seven and a half years and became quite well-known as an SM Entertainment trainee, the way SM Rookies are well-known now.
Jessica was a member of Girls’ Generation from debut until 2014.