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"My trip was OK. It wasn't great," Min explains outside of earshot of the JYP staf- fers. "I'm so different now. I didn't think I would have to be away from them for so long. I left home at 11. I thought I would see them after six months."
Most of Park's trainees are plucked from poor families, and they worry about supporting their parents back home. Park knows he can count on that worry to motivate them.
"Here, being poor gives you street credibility," he says. "In Korea, it means nothing. [But] I have found that it's the poor ones that work hard and really want it."
Min's parents aren't compensated for their daughter's time in training. They pay nothing, however, for their child's housing, schooling, and artistic lessons. All of that Park recoups when he puts out an album.
"I get a monthly allowance of five dollars," Min says when asked if she is paid anything now. "I mean, $500," she corrects herself, laughing. "I lost my English a little since I got back."
All this talk of rigorous training and kids not seeing their parents for years is starting to sound weird, even downright cultishand the JYP staffers seem to know it. They start crafting responses that play down the training process and make it all sound less odd. But the harder they try, the weirder it sounds.
"We're more like a family structure," says the vice president of operations, Jay Kim. "Our company has a lot of credibility, and parents know we are trustworthy. From the parent's standpoint, their child is getting a better education and opportunity being here with us." A special department manages the company's relationships with parents. Park thought about living with the kids, but instead got his own penthouse on 42nd Street.
He's living in Trump Tower until that renovation is finished.