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Alum Earns Fifth In Korean Singing Show

Heights Editor

Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

Few people can say they took a year off after college to pursue their childhood dream of singing. For Eric Nam, BC ’11, this dream has manifested itself in a spot on MBC Star Audition, a Korean television show  similar to The X-Factor or American Idol—a journey that took him much farther than he had ever anticipated.

After graduating from Boston College in 2011, Nam ended up taking a job with Deloitte Consulting agency. Nam was not ready to work immediately, however. “I felt like I needed some time off—a year off to pursue other things before I fully immersed myself into the workforce,” he said.

Nam’s past involvement in international service work and his experience as an International Studies major led him to India for 9 months with the IDEX Fellowship in Social Enterprise. He worked in affordable private schools in the slums of Hyderabad, India. Finding that this experience was not what he expected and frustrated with the program he was involved with, Nam was lucky to receive an e-mail from MBC Star Audition telling him he had been selected for a second round of auditions. He had posted YouTube videos of himself singing since he was in high school, but he never thought it would take him anywhere. “I thought it was a joke,” Nam said. “I didn’t even really remember applying, but I figured if it was a scam, the worst case would be that they’d send me a fake flight and I wouldn’t go to Korea.”

Although conflicted between remaining loyal to his fellowship and staying in India or pursuing a rather rare opportunity of becoming a singer, Nam considered this opportunity one to take advantage of. “I felt like I’m on a year off and I’m on it to explore everything that I want, and this is always a path that I had dreamt about—pursuing singing as a career,” Nam said.

When he arrived in Korea, he was met by many other people from all over the world, all hopeful to make some sort of impression, to reach a high threshold of fame and be the new Justin Bieber of Korea.

Korean Pop music, frequently known as “KPOP,” has exploded around the world, creating a buzz that has influenced every continent. “It was cool to be a part of a cultural movement that is so much bigger than I am,” Nam said of his first experiences with the beginning rounds of the Korean Idol competition.

Nam passed through many rounds of auditions, a notion that never ceased to surprise him. After the first round, 140 people were pulled into the “camp,” which was basically a boot camp for the budding singers. Next they were cut down to 75, then 34 people, which were next divided into partners for duets.

Nam and his partner Su, who came from London, encountered a slight problem—they were unfamiliar with most Korean songs on the list of 20. They managed to overcome this problem and advance to the next round, however.

The next step was picking a mentor—a process that Nam equated with the show The Voice. Five mentors who were the judges that started the program chose a mentee from the remaining contestants. It was then up to the contestant to choose which mentor he or she preferred. Nam and his fellow contenders then entered into a month of different challenges and auditions with their mentors watching over them.

Advancing in subsequent rounds judged by legendary and famous Korean singers, producers, writers and judges, Nam finally made it to the top 12 in December, where he began performing in live shows in which judgments were made by people’s votes as well as scores from two separate panels of judges. In the top five, Nam was unfortunately voted off the show, leaving him disappointed and his supporters surprised.

Although Nam’s journey with MBC Star Audition was severed, his singing career is far from over. “Right now, I’m at this point where I am talking to a bunch of record labels and trying to figure out what the right path is for me,” he said. “It’s going to take some more time for me to fully figure it out.” Nam will head back to the States to participate in Kollaboration Boston on April 21 at John Hancock Hall, an Asian American talent show and showcase that he founded during his senior year at BC.

“My ideal situation right now would be to figure out a way to continue pursuing my singing while also being a part of the working world,” Nam said.

His experiences with the show not only helped to refine his singing skills, but also gave him a group of friends in the top 12 that he didn’t expect to find in first coming to Korea. “I was worried that I would never find as close a group of friends as I had in college,” he said. “But the show really brought us together because we lived in a house together, and had that incredible but stressful collective experience.”

“Whatever I end up doing, I will never reflect back in my 40s and say I regretted not pursuing my dreams,” Nam said. “And for that, I am incredibly grateful.”

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