The phrase 'blood, sweat and tears' is not just the title of the famous song by South Korean music sensation BTS but a reality for majority of upcoming K-pop groups persevering to forge their identity and command respect among audience.
As much shimmering and flashy the life of a K-pop idol group may look under the arclights, the effort to be pitch perfect - both in vocals and appearance - is a tall order.
On a usual work day, the routine begins with exercise and vocal training for the girl group Cherry Bullet. But Jiwon, a vocalist-rapper in the seven-member band, said whenever she has some spare time she loves spending most of it catching a wink and eating.
"I have to sleep a lot. Maybe 12 hours. On my day off, I would enjoy food, watch dramas, drink coffee and then go back to sleep again," she told PTI here. Every member of Cherry Bullet, managed by the agency FNC Entertainment, has individual schedules. Also present were other five members -- leader Haeyoon, Bora, May, Remi and Yoojoo.
Seventh Cherry Bullet member Chaerin gave the programme a miss as she is currently busy with the ongoing 'sageuk' (Korean period drama) "Under the Queen's Umbrella", starring popular Korean star Kim Hye-soo in the title role.
Jiwon said she is watching "Under the Queen's Umbrella" to support fellow member Chaerin. Two of the youngest Cherry Bullet members May and Remi are still studying in high school. "It is hard to have a balance between work and study. Finding a balance is another joy of our lives. It is exhausting," they said.
The artists are usually on a diet. "We are in the show business, we should always be on a diet. That is very important for stage appearances. We practice hard especially when we have to sing and perform live," the septet, known for songs like "Aloha Oe" and most recently "Love in Space", said.
For boy band DKZ - popular for songs "Uh-Heung" and "Cupid" - it's all about being on the move. The members are group leader Jong Hyeong, Kyoung Yoon, Se Hyeon, Min Gyu, Jae Chan, Gi Seok, and Mun Ik - who requested absence as he was feeling under the weather.
"If there is a schedule, we start our day by paying a visit to the salon for hair and makeup. Then we go where the next activity is," Se Hyeon told PTI. If there is no schedule, they practice their performances to "gain confidence and improve competence", he said.
"Hobbies differs from person to person. Some walk around, others listen to songs," he added.
According to Kyoung Yoon, the group members are able to meet their respective families after they secure permission from their agency. DKZ, formerly called Dongkidz, was formed by Dongyo Entertainment in 2019.
"We meet our families only on vacation. But if we are on our schedule, we can't meet them until the preparation process ends. If there are any other engagements besides the extra schedule, we have to wait to meet our friends," the vocalist added.
Family away from home
After hours of spending time together training and waiting for auditions to make the cut as a group, the members find comfort in each other as a family away from home.
Cherry Bullet member May, who is a Japanese, said the group was very welcoming towards her. "I am a Japanese. At first, it was really hard but all the elder sisters helped me. So, I think now I feel I'm part of their family," she added.
Following the global popularity of K-pop groups like BTS, EXO, Seventeen and Blackpink, there is an unsaid expectation from every rookie group to match up to the bar set by their seniors in the industry.
Asked if the pressure was daunting, DKZ group leader Jong Hyeong said yes. However, they choose to rise above the trappings of fame and success, he added.
"Frankly speaking, we have the pressure to be successful, but we choose not to be obsessed with it. Because if we only focus on that we will lose our path to achieve our goals," Jong Hyeong said.
Members of BTS, who are set to embark on their mandatory military enlistment soon, have made it easier to enter into global market, feels Jae Chan. "Other junior groups, including us, should strive to keep the status of K-pop (high)."
Advantages of being in a group
So, are there any advantages of being a group as opposed to being an individual artist?
Cherry Bullet leader Haeyoon pointed out, "Since we have never been in the field as a solo artist, I can only talk about the advantages of being in a group. The biggest advantage is that we can compliment each other because we all have our different charms and attractions." In future, both groups Cherry Bullet and DKZ said they would want to tour India.
"I wish I could visit India some day as there are many Lullets (fan group name of Cherry Bullet) there," said Yoojoo. DKZ member Jae Chan, who visited India when he was a child, said he would love visit the country once again.
"I found India really impressive and fun. So, if ever we are allowed I would like to visit India with our group and have a concert to meet our fans there," he said.