Inside SM’s K-Pop School: A Day In The Life At “SM Universe”

Students attend different classes from 9 AM to 6 PM.

SM Entertainment founded SM Universe, a training center for students that want to become stars, last April, and recent South Korean visa developments will make it easier than ever for foreigners to also join. Currently, the academy is located in Daechi-dong situated in Gangnam District, an area known as South Korea’s private education hub.

But what does a full day spent at the SM Universe training center involve? For anyone interested, here are the classes students are required to attend from 9 AM to 6 PM every weekday.

Student practicing acting at SM Universe | SMTOWN/YouTube

The academy offers essentially two different kinds of classes, those that provide basic education for students and those that will help them go through the necessary training to become stars. SM Entertainment provides the latter group of classes, whereas the basic education is entrusted to Jongro Academy, a popular cram school known to prepare students for their CSATs (College Scholastic Ability Test).

The need to teach students basic education comes from the fact that students will need to drop out of their normal school to be able to attend SM Universe’s classes. The academy deems it important for Korean and foreign students to have the basic level of education necessary.

We help students earn high school equivalency credentials because we think we should be responsible for guaranteeing at least the minimum educational qualification for students, even for students that decide to stop pursuing their dreams.

— Hong Jong Hwa, Dean of SM Universe

Students practicing their runway walks at SM Universe | SMTOWN/YouTube

Thus, from 9 AM to 12 PM, students spend the first three hours in Korean, English, math, and history classes every day. This helps prepare the currently enrolled Korean student for their upcoming GED (General Educational Development) tests. With SM Universe expecting to gain more foreign students once the new Hallyu visas start rolling, they plan to offer SAT preparation classes as well. The students will be taught by certified teachers at Jongro Academy’s branch in Gangnam and will be required to take quizzes, midterms, and finals.

It was hard adjusting to life at normal schools, and I spent a lot of time worrying about my future. But here, I like that I don’t have to waste my time.

— SM Universe student

Student practicing singing at SM Universe | SMTOWN/YouTube

After a one-hour break, students will then attend classes that train them in singing, dancing, acting, and modeling from 1 PM to 6 PM. These classes offer a variety of lessons available, Korea JoongAng Daily shared that during their visit they saw two different classes being held.

Visiting the academy last week, a group of students were busy practicing basic dance steps, while another class was composing their own music and getting feedback from the instructors.

— Lee Hoo Yeon and Lee Tae Hee, Korea JoongAng Daily

A student practicing their songwriting and producing at SM Universe | SMTOWN/YouTube

An interesting fact to note is that despite classes ending at 6 PM, all students are allowed to stay until 9 PM and use the facilities to practice what they want.

Though SM Universe is proof of SM Entertainment’s ambitious plans to create the next generation of K-stars, not many have had good things to say about the academy. The main point of criticism seems to be the training center’s high fees, going from ₩2.20 million KRW (about $1,670 USD) to ₩2.60 million KRW (about $1,980 USD) a month.

Student practicing dancing at SM Universe | SMTOWN/YouTube

Meanwhile, the dean of the academy, Hong Jong Hwa, called SM Universe a serious institution that is selective about which students they admit and allow to attend the numerous classes.

The students aren’t official trainees, but we are not an institution that blindly accepts everyone or even people that don’t have high chances of achieving their dreams. We plan to help create artists and properly teach them academics, how to become a better person, and in-depth singing and dancing skills.

— Hong Jong Hwa

Source: Korean JoongAng Daily
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