Bora Kim became fascinated by how K-pop had become such a frictionless carrier of culture. The corporate talent agencies of K-pop had hit upon a winning formula. But could that formula be distilled? Could K-pop be reverse engineered? She decided to find out. With fellow Asian-American artists Samantha Shao and Karin Kuroda, she put out a casting call in New York, looking for singers, dancers and rappers with that signature “idol look.”

“I kind of jokingly said that they have to look like ‘boyfriend material,’ you know? They should be friendly, more than just ‘oh, way over the top hot,’” Shao says.

Another thing? No Koreans.

For PRI’s The World (a co-production of the BBC)

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