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Born in the Year of the Rat

2007/12/31 Source

In the Year of the Rat, Korean pop culture is led by those born in another, in 1972. Coincidence or cosmic determination? Readers may decide for themselves. Known as the "president of culture" in the 1990s, Seo Taiji releasef his 15th anniversary album in November in a limited edition of 15,000 copies that sold out in no time. He plans to make a comeback after four quiet years next year.

Actor Bae Yong-joon is so popular in Japan that he was nicknamed "Yonsama" there after he captured the hearts of Japanese women with his role in uber-soap "Winter Sonata. He recently renewed his appeal when he played Great King Gwanggaeto the Great of the Koguryo Kingdom in period drama "Taewangsashingi (The Four Guardian Gods of the King)", which, unusually for a series, is even being shown in theaters in Japan, before it airs on NHK next April. Can we feel another craze coming on?

Singer and producer Park Jin-young not only produced the debut album of five-girl group "Wonder Girls", whose song "Tell Me" became a mega hit, he also successfully released his own new album. His goal for the new year as a producer is to help singers in his stable to make a successful debut in the U.S.

Jang Dong-gun, considered the most handsome man in Korea, is shooting Hollywood movie "Laundry Warrior" ("The Warrior's Way") in New Zealand.

Other stars born in 1972 include actor Kim Sang-kyung, who was cast to play the leading role in upcoming KBS 1TV historical series "The Great King Sejong", Kim Myung-min, who showed an impressive, charismatic side in the MBC hit series "White Tower", and Yoo Jae-suk, the popular presenter who hosts variety show "Extreme Challenge". Among actresses there are Shim Eun-ha, still popular even after her retirement several years ago, Ko So-young, Kim Won-hee, Jang Seo-hee, and Yum Jung-ah.

The reason stars in their late 30s carry such heavy weight in the entertainment industry is that they grew on the rich cultural foundations of the mid- and late 1990s, when pop culture saw an explosive growth and survived fierce competition. It was a time when various new media -- cable, satellite and the Internet emerged and domestic contents outnumbered foreign contents, so they had more opportunities to work and exposure when they began to be recognized as rising actors and actresses in their 20s. Many of them used this advantage wisely to secure their position as an entertainer, creator and even businesspeople when the pop culture market went through industrialization.

"In Korean society, there was a weakening of Puritanism and growing interest in pop culture from the mid 1990s", says Prof. Hwang Yong-suk of Mass Communication Department at Konkuk University. "Stars born in 1972 are beneficiaries of those changes in the social atmosphere".

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