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Black Pink blooms after years of sweat and tears

 South Korean hip-hop girl group Black Pink said on Wednesday its success was fast but difficult.

   In the eyes of the public, the four-member act has stood at the center of attention as "the first girl group of YG Entertainment in seven years," a prestige that rookie groups of humble size cannot be granted.

   Launched in July, the band started out big, with its debut EP "Square One" topping the music shows of terrestrial television broadcasters, which is considered one of the key barometers for K-pop idol success.

   "Playing with Fire," the lead song of their second and latest EP "Square Two," topped the mainstream music charts instantly after being released on midnight Tuesday.

   During their trainee years, however, the four girls only tried to keep their heads above water.

   "Some trainees were kicked out, some walked out on their own feet, but I only grew tougher," said Black Pink's Jennie at a group interview held in central Seoul.

   "We all came here at the expense of all we had, and we couldn't leave empty-handed. In the end, I was more desperate to keep myself from being let go rather than calculating my chances of a debut,"

she recalled. She and her bandmates spent four to six years as trainees and endured monthly performance tests to prove their potential.

   Lisa, the Thai member of gentle voice and somewhat reserved manner, said she had a difficult time due to the language barrier when she landed on Korean soil in 2011 to pursue her dream of becoming a K-pop idol.

   "Communication was the toughest challenge at first. But I caught up fast while taking my Korean lessons," she said.

   "Playing With Fire" has a tropical house style, accentuated with a powerful drum beat and enriched with a rhythmical piano tune and funky synthesizer. But the song's greatest weapon is its explosive choreography.

   "Monster rookies," the label the group was tagged with after their record-fast achievements, makes the Black Pink members proud, because it recognizes their "impactful and charismatic image," Jennie said.

   The Black Pink members' everyday life has not changed much from before their debut of three months ago. Except when they are out for an appointment, they are stuck either in the studio or at their group lodge. Prior to their debut, the members spent all day at the studio. After their debut, they still practice at the studio at least three to four hours every day, according to Jennie.

  All four Black Pink members spoke softly during the interview, a contrast with the daring image they portray in "Playing With Fire."

The song depicts the fiery crush of a girl who can "throw all she has" at winning the heart of a boy.

   The members denied having had such feelings in their personal lives, yet they admitted that they feel similar "fiery" feelings from the romantic scenes of Korean movies and television series that they watch together. Their recent favorite is SBS rom-com series "Jealousy Incarnate," according to Jisoo.

   The members of the three-month-old band do not have other girl groups or artists that they follow, citing their "pressure to review their stage performances every week."

   The girl group did not feel much pressure about the emerging rivalry with another girl group, I.O.I, either.

   The two girl groups are the two strongest candidates for the female rookies' award in the upcoming "Mnet Asia Music Awards 2016" (MAMA 2016). The big-name Asian music award event is organized every year by South Korean music and entertainment network Mnet.

   Last year, the MAMA female rookie's award went to girl group TWICE of JYP Entertainment and the male rookie's award to boy band iKON of YG Entertainment.

   Regarding their future plans, the Black Pink members crossed their fingers for opportunities to stage many concerts and tours outside their home country.

   The biggest role model of their global activities is 2NE1, the band's predecessor that launched in 2009.

   Since its debut, Black Pink and its agency have acknowledged that the band's funky and haughty concept is its musical heritage from 2NE1. But this heritage should not be belittled as mere copying, Jennie and Jisoo alleged, since 2NE1 is a highly deserving band.

   "Rather than putting in extra effort to distinguish ourselves from 2NE1, I'd like to emulate their global achievements, like a world tour," Jisoo said.