«It takes 13 years of training to make K-pop»

From Brinza to Seoul with the dream of becoming a K-pop idol, Marco Ferreira, 33, from Vimercate, living in South Korea since 2010, is a YouTuber and a well-known face on Korean TV. His YouTube channel Seoul Mafia, in which he publishes videos and stories that compare Korean reality with Italian, has ended. 580 thousand customers, 245 thousand users follow his Instagram profile. Ferrara started out as a dancer, was on her way to pop stardom, escaped the trappings of the K-pop entertainment industry, is now an independent content creator and digital entrepreneur.

Seoul Mafia, why did you choose this name?
“Because Koreans used to call me that. It was the stereotype, I walked down the streets and the signs of Italian shops were almost all like Gelato Mafia, Pizza Mafia, most of the Italian things were associated with Mafia. The purpose of my Youtube channel was to show That’s how an Italian is seen by Koreans, and also to overcome prejudices».

How did it get from Vimarket to Seoul?
«I come from a family of musicians and singers, I was born as a dancer and my dream was to sing and dance. As a kid, when I was watching videos of great pop stars I admired on YouTube, from Michael Jackson to Britney Spears to Justin Timberlake, one of the recommended videos for me was a certain BoA, a very famous Appeared as a Korean singer. What I didn’t know was that she was at the center of a scandal because it was said that she copied Britney Spears’ choreography. I clicked on that video and I had a revelation, in my opinion she was better than Britney and her world represented mine perfectly, so I thought I was no longer a pop star but a K-pop, Korean pop star. I want to be an idol».

how did he do it?
“I started watching auditions online and found that a Korean TV show similar to Xfactor was auditioning in London. I went there without saying anything to anyone and they took me, although I’m afraid they picked me a little for my strangeness».

What was the name of the program?
«”The birth of a great star” (smiles), Koreans feel important. In any case, participating in that program on national TV gave me protection. At the end of the experience I returned to Italy and, in a short time, I decided to move to South Korea to try seriously. So I quit and started learning singing and dancing».

From where he started his Youtube channel?
«I started uploading my performance on my channel, from there a Korean agency contacted me, I auditioned to join a boy band and they took me».

And how did it go?
“It’s a complicated story. I started this system called training. In Korea, before you start a band, they prepare you in a way that can go on for years, even That even ten, there are kids who enter training even at the age of 12, 13. For me it was different, I was already old enough to be an idol in Korea, I was 21».

How did the training work?
“It’s a bit like military training, you live with the other band members, dance lessons last from midnight to six in the morning, you can’t use your cell phone, you can’t do mundane things like take a walk. go to the park, you have to focus on that alone and all your personal desires disappear. I was the only one in the band who complained because I didn’t understand that culture, so I got into trouble. I don’t know I knew how to get out of it because I had signed a contract that lasted several years, certainly not two months.”

how did it end?
“Being a foreigner gave me an advantage. There were no foreign idols at the time, the Korean government didn’t know how to recognize me, they were taking longer than expected for the residence permit, so I was out of I managed to get out, because of all the traumas of that period» .

And, once outside, what did he do?
«I stayed in Korea, I started as a dancer for quite famous K-pop singers and I participated in Korean television programs as a guest, my role was to represent Italian in foreign, Korea. In those years, around 2013, a boom of foreigners began in that country, Koreans wanted to know other cultures, the television schedule was full of foreigners and it was my luck, I had a lot of work. But at the same time the role was tight for me».

how come?
«Because I would have continued to be Marco the Italian, not Marco as a person. So, in 2016, I started investing in my Youtube channel. At the time, Youtube channels for foreigners were cropping up in Korea and I realized that being a content creator might be the right path for me, I liked the idea of ​​freedom and being able to be myself. It’s not possible to say everything you want on TV, for example I spent all those years hiding my homosexuality by pretending to have relationships with alleged Korean girlfriends, I would have lost my job if I hadn’t Gives

Was it cool with Youtube right away?
«Yes, the channel has grown rapidly, even though the work was complex and it takes idea, production, editing. When I realized that this was the right path, I took a year off from television work, lived in Korea with a special residence permit, and invested in Youtube as my main job.

If today you are asked what is your job, what would you answer?
«Now, seven years later, I define myself as an entrepreneur. I have my own online skincare shop, I do consultations, I organize tours in Korea with fans. Of course, I make money from YouTube, but I invest everything in content creation, which is expensive. In addition, I wrote a book (“All the Fault of K-Pop: Panomous Diary of an Italian in Korea”, D’Agostini), I am writing a comic, I am working on several projects in parallel ».

Skincare too. How did it get there?
«For Koreans, skin care and one’s appearance are so important, it is almost obsessive, a constant pursuit of perfection. I started doing this because, after a short time in Korea, I found myself on a romantic date and the person I went out with disappointedly told me, “You don’t take care of your skin, What do you do? It shows” and he recommended some products that I still remember, the trauma was so great. For me, skincare has been a real routine over the years, it not only works but makes me feel comfortable, it’s totally having a moment for me. However, for my business, I didn’t improvise, I started studying, I learned about active ingredients and how to choose the right products to present in my shop».

Excuse me, how many hours a day do you work?
«Many, even if I do not realize it, other people point it out to me. I have business in both Korea and Italy, with time zones I work multiple time slots of the day. I do many things for the Korean government, for example we are currently working to promote the city of Seoul and other cities that do not communicate well with each other overseas, with the Expo 2030 in Busan in mind. You know, then I produce things in Korea, a bulk of my work is there. But my audience is in Italy, I have an Italian manager and therefore that part of the work has Italian hours».

Doesn’t it weigh you down?
No, on the contrary, I have to say that I experience impostor syndrome, because I see less of what I do as a “job”. That’s why I work a lot, especially for myself, to prove to myself that I am worth something.

Would you come back to live in Italy?
«I am very happy with what I did in Korea, I had a career that Italy never allowed me. I have a diploma in musical theater, I tried to work in Italy, but unfortunately there is little work for actors, in Korea there is also a shortage of dancers instead, because they use them for everything. I try to go back to Italy as often as possible, above all to see my native family, I go back with my boyfriend with whom we have been together for eight years. It must be said that Korea is not really the most open country in the world for LGBTQ+ rights and that scares me, because we are a gay couple and in that country we have to be a family center even for practical things will not be recognized. There could be a problem”.

Marriage in sight then, in Italy?
“Let’s see, soon there will be some news.”

On July 22, he will perform at KPOP Summer Vibes 5 in Milan. an anointing?
«I am happy, this is an evening dedicated to KPOP every year in the beautiful location of Castello Sforzesco. If I think back to myself ten years ago, I would have loved to attend a Kpop event in Milan, there was nothing like it back then. I will be there and I will also have a very good friend Ji Jinseok, a very good Korean singer who also went viral in Italy because he covered a song by Marco Mengoni. And my boyfriend will be there too. Perhaps something more important, at that stage, will escape us ».

June 11, 2023

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