Looking for lessons in K-pop? These universities teach it all.

Singer Lee Mu-jin, a student at the School of Applied Music at the Seoul Institute of the Arts (SIA) [SIA]

While K-pop has been riding high in recent years, major arts conservatories in Korea have been nurturing the country’s finest pop music talents in applied music schools that have been around for decades.

Applied music refers to the art of all technicalities related to the production and performance of pop music, including music composition, vocals, dance and playing diverse instruments.

The Applied Music Program at the Seoul Institute of the Arts (SIA) is Korea’s most esteemed school of applied music, boasting 35 years of history since it was first established in 1988 as the first applied music major in Korea.

The institute provides a wide array of studies associated with the pop music industry such as music production and composing and also DJing, audio visuals and more. Famed singers who have graduated from this school include singers Kim Beom-su, Kim Min-seok of MeloMance, Suran, Lee Mu-jin (who is still enrolled), Lim Jung-hee, both members of singer-songwriter duo J Rabbit and many more.

SIA is a three-year junior college but a bachelor’s degree is given to students to complete an additional year. Most lessons are held at the Ansan Campus in Gyeonggi but there is also a small campus in central Seoul.

Also located in Ansan is Dong-Ah Institute of Media and Arts (DIMA), the second school to establish an applied music major in Korea and also a champion when it comes to pop music courses.

DIMA is well-known for its top-notch instrument players and vocalists. Many of its graduates are still active in the entertainment scene, including singers Cheeze, Ahn Ye-eun, Solji from girl group EXID and Jaeyoon from boy band SF9.

Students at the Department of K-pop take the digital audio workstation (DAW) class. [PARK SANG-MOON]
Students at the Department of K-pop take piano and harmonics class. [PARK SANG-MOON]

Some universities that have arts and music schools are also popular choices among talented students, namely Howon University, Hongik University and Seokyeong University.

Howon University boasts the longest history and therefore biggest reputation among these names but Hongik University is fast chasing its tail despite only being established in 2020 thanks to its western-Seoul location — as opposed to Howon’s North Jeolla location, provinces away from the capital. The Hongdae neighborhood where Hongik University is located is also bustling with music venues and indie artists.

Howon University has come into the spotlight in recent years thanks to the newly-founded Department of K-pop that joined the roster in 2019. The school’s dean is Shin Yona, a member of ballad and R&B quartet Big mama famed in the 2000s. The department has rolled out two project girl groups Azer and A-plus as a part of its special curriculum.

The increasing interest in K-pop and Korean pop music has been leading to the birth of many other K-pop departments and courses which have popped up in universities across the country.

Schools that provide K-pop courses include the aforementioned DIMA, the Korea Arts Conservatory (KAC), Kookje University, Yeonsung University, Dong Seoul University, Paekche Institute of the Arts, among others.