The Hallyu Expo in Asia celebrating the march of Korean pop culture across the continent opened Wednesday at the International Convention Center Jeju at Seogwipo's Jungmun Resort. Tourists from Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong filled more than 2,000 seats, chiefly to catch a glimpse of the actor Bae Yong-joon
. But Bae, a goodwill ambassador for the event, was late for the opening ceremony, which started 30 minutes behind schedule due to his tardiness.
When he finally showed up during Jeju City Mayor Kim Tae-hwan
's opening address, Bae, his hair tied up in a ponytail for the filming of the new drama "Taewangsasingi" ("The Legend", "Four Gods"), waved and smiled. It was his first official appearance since promoting the movie "April Snow
" last year. Chaos ensued. The fans, mostly women between 30 and 80 who had come to Jeju by charter plane, shouted for joy, drowning out the mayor's speech. Bae laid a finger on his lips to quiet down the excited crowd, but it took 10 minutes before Kim was able to wrap up his address.
Fans braved sharp gales in the island to get a glimpse of their idol. Digital camera in one hand, binoculars in the other, they hung on Bae's every little gesture. A 57-year-old Japanese fan who gave her name as Kiyoko said she made the three-night visit to Jeju only to see Bae and was satisfied to get a look at him even from a long distance. Asked why she likes Bae so much, she answered the Korean actor was graceful and gentle, qualities rarely found in Japanese men.
Event organizers said more than 4,000 fans came to the island from Japan, Taiwan and China on Wednesday alone. They expect 50,000 foreigners and 100,000 Korean tourists to visit Jeju during the event's run. Flight tickets to Jeju are sold out, and 90 percent of hotel rooms near the event venue are booked. The expo ends on March 10 and other Korean stars to take part include Lee Young-ae
, Song Seung-heon
, Lee Jung-hyun
, Lee Joon-gi
, TVXQ, Boa
, Super Junior and Kim Hee-sun