By Kim Tae-jong
Three different Asian languages can be heard among the shouts of joy, as fans flash their cameras continuously at local actor Bae Yong-joon
, who has captured the hearts of many women in neighboring countries.
When Bae finally made his appearance to promote his newly-published photo album entitled "The Image Vol. One" and to participate in his photo exhibition after a six-month break, it was not a surprise at all that hundreds of his fans from Japan and China had also flocked to Seoul to get a close-up of the star.
"I am really impressed by the number of people here and their affection for me. It's much more than I expected. I am really glad and grateful to them", said Bae in a press conference on Nov. 20 at Lotte Hotel Jamsil in southern Seoul, after the opening ceremony of his photo exhibition.
The much-anticipated book consists of about 200 photos featuring his different looks and images focusing on his more masculine side, while the exhibition displays around 40 photos of him and his clothes. And for the project, Bae underwent hard physical training and an intensive diet to build muscle.
"The most difficult part of building muscle was that I couldn't eat anything but chicken breast and vegetables and fruits for an entire three months", recalled Bae, with a bright smile on his face. "Although it was a really difficult challenge for me, I am now happy knowing that I achieved my goal".
The 31-year-old actor added that he decided to show fans totally different images from what he did in his TV dramas since he believes that actors should also be able to play numerous different characters.
Bae has gained an unprecedented level of popularity since his television drama "Kyoul Yonga (Winter Sonata
)" was released in Asian countries last year. His intelligent and gentle image with his boyish face led to the series receiving phenomenal popularity as part of "Hallyu (Korean Wave)" in Asian countries.
"I love Bae because he is kind and handsome. He has something unique compared to other Asian actors", said Christine Cheng, 35, from Taiwan in the exhibition hall last Saturday. A member of Bae's fan club, Cheng has visited South Korea five times so far to travel to the locations of Bae's previous TV dramas.
But the current "Kyoul Yonga" craze and the fame of Bae seem more serious in Japan, especially among female fans in their 30s to 50s. Due to his growing popularity, NHK aired "Winter Sonata
" twice on its satellite channel last year and via a terrestrial television network.
And according to a recent survey by Japanese newspaper Asahi, Bae's Japanese nickname "Yonsama" was ranked as the most popular word of the year in Japan.
"I am touched by his kind and sweet images from `Winter Sonata
', which you can't find in Japanese actors", said Tomizka Eiko, who is a 56-year-old homemaker. "I've got the impression that he always does his best in his work". She visited Seoul to see her favorite star and planned to return to Japan on Nov. 25 when Bae also visits Japan in hope that she may see him on the plane.
Participating in two major events in Seoul _ a handprinting ceremony for a Korean movie award at the Yongsan CGV Multiplex on Friday and the opening ceremony of the exhibition on Saturday, Bae will visit Japan on Nov. 25 to promote the Japanese edition of his photo album and the same exhibition, which will be held in five different cities starting from Tokyo on Nov. 27. After his promotional tour in Japan, he will soon start filming his next feature movie "Wechol (Outing)" by Heo Jin-ho
The exhibition will continue until Nov. 23 with the entrance fee of 10,000 won, and his new book is available at the price of 128,000 won.