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Can K-Pop Stars Go Beyond Asia?

2006/02/15 | Permalink | Source

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By Han Eun-jung
Staff Reporter

While Beijing and Tokyo saw Rain, this month it was New York City's turn.

Only this Rain was a kind the city had never seen before. The New York Times reported on the "pan-Asian heartthrob" in the lead story of its culture-leisure section just days before his act was to drop at the Madison Square Garden Theater adding to the media hype back home.

But then came reviews from the local media that made unfavorable remarks regarding the K-pop star's double bill. The New York Times said although Rain seems like a nice guy he was mimicking the costumes and moves of American pop acts and branded the concert as "a nostalgia act".

Not only did it throw cold water on escalating hopes of his U.S. debut performance being a ticket into the American mainstream but went further to create serious doubts of whether the Korean Wave could wash up on shores outside of Asia.

"It was funny how one minute my friends and I were talking about how incredible Rain is and the next laughing how we were worked up about what turns out to be nothing really at all", admits 21-year-old student Lee Seung-hee.

In regards to reviews Rain's label JYP Entertainment says they don't feel the need to be discouraged, especially at this point.

Jung Wook, who handles the company's overseas promotion efforts, explains that the concert was a prelude to Rain's first U.S. release _ a grand showcase that would give music insiders and audiences there an idea of what to expect.

"Making his October release happen is what we see as the real issue", said Jung.

"And interest American record companies are showing is just hot", he said dropping names like Island and Def Jam as labels that's heads gave Rain positive reviews after watching him perform in New York.

Nusrat Durrani, senior vice president and general manager of MTV World, in an interview with the New York Times said that Rain is a huge star in the making, but, at the same time, he is a very indigenous artist and a source of local pride.

"In Rain, Asians might see the spirit of Usher or Timberlake or even Michael Jackson but he makes the music theirs".

Last year, the Yoon Band became the first Korean outfit to tour Europe. The month-long tour took the popular rock band fronted by Yoon Do-hyun to venues in nine cities, which included London's famed Astoria.

Following Loudness, the Japanese band who toured the continent in the early 1980s, they were the second Asian artists to perform at this scale in more than two decades.

Yoo Sun-hee, the band's publicist admits that they can't necessarily look back on it as a success but tour in many ways holds much significance.

"It's just that now we know better that marketing, PR and adjustment of sounds (to better fit the tastes of local audiences) are some things that could have been done better", Yoo said.


Jewelry and The Cross are two other local acts that are eyeing markets outside Asia today.

Ko Oung, the head of the international team at Star Empire Entertainment, says now couldn't be a better time for Korean artists to start making moves into Europe and the U.S.

Ko, having been active in the music scene in Germany for over a decade, was responsible for bringing German rock group Krypteria to Korea recently.

"The markets there are in need of something new. It's no secret that Korea is leading in Asia and there is a reason for that. It's now time to further develop the acts and look toward new markets", he said.

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