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Girls’ Generation Jessica Jung Takes Us Through The World Of K-Pop With Her Novel ‘Shine’

Her debut novel takes the reader through the glittering, glamorous world of K-Pop

The glamour, the glitter, and the legions of fans are part and parcel of what makes the life of a K-pop star seem all that, but has one really taken a behind-the-scenes look at how these come alive? 

After more than ten years in the K-Pop industry, Jessica Jung of Girls Generation and SNSD royalty penned her debut novel ‘Shine,’ which takes the reader through the glittering, glamorous world of K-Pop. The story of the industry is told through the eyes of Rachel Kim, a seventeen-year old trainee making her way up the ladder of fame in the fictional DB Entertainment, an entertainment company run by the punctilious and precise Mr. Noh. 

Jung did not share much about the reason behind why she wrote it on her social media, but in an interview with Time Magazine, she confirms that it is part-autobiography and part entertainment. “There’s a lot of information out there about what it’s like to be a K-pop star, but not a lot of people know about the behind-the-scenes of what it takes to become a K-pop star, and what you go through to get your chance to debut. I really wanted to share that,” she said. She also adds that she wrote the book with a purpose to let people know that hard work and effort must be put in to succeed, and it’s not circumstances that get these stars to where they are today. 

Amidst the popularity of BTS, Blackpink and other popular Korean pop groups both in their local and the international scene, I too was fascinated with the world and the empire they built for themselves and for their fans, and I was always drawn to novels that spilled the tea about an industry that intrigued me. The K-pop industry in itself is a machination shrouded in mystery, and so I picked up an e-copy to see what the buzz was all about. 

In the novel, Kim has her eyes set on the ultimate goal: to be a K-pop star. But her journey was not without the catfights and the strict rules, elements that Jung did not hold back in her novel. In fact, the story was peppered with great detail that would have one’s eyes glued to the pages as more and more of these points are revealed as the book goes on. The code of ethics gets off-kilter at times, especially during the portions where the trainees are roped in with the company’s austere authorities: coaches who rate you by the pound, strict dance instructors who give a yelling remark per missed choreography step and international guest mentors who enhance your other skills like sports, creative arts and the like. 

In today’s #MeToo world, the discomfort that resulted from these insults may weigh heavier than most, and it may or may not have been Jung’s creative decision to do so. While these comments should not be taken lightly, a love story comes in the form of Jason Lee, DB Entertainment’s biggest hitmaker. While it may have been the ‘lighter’ part of the story and I did fawn over their cute moments together, there is a twist that comes unexpectedly, and it surprised me to say the least. 

I began the novel with no expectations and I was glad to have left with my expectations slightly exceeded. Jung doesn’t have the perfect book down pat, but the story was riveting enough to hold on to until the very end. I also liked the Korean code switches—it really made the book much more true to nature.

She is slated to release a sequel soon called Bright, which continues the tale of Kim’s journey, and we can still expect to see more secrets from the K-pop stage soon. But for now, grab a copy of Jessica Jung’s novel Shine, available in National Bookstore and Fully Booked branches nationwide. 

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Lead photos from @jessica.syj