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Fans Follow Stars Into the Military

2005/09/07 | Permalink | Source

Various Events to Give Civilians Glimpse Into Army Experience

By Han Eun-jung
Staff Reporter

Following the career of a celebrity is part of the fun of being a fan. However, one of the consequences of falling for a 20-something celebrity is having to part with him when it comes that time in a Korean man's life to attend mandatory military service.

The chances to keep up with these stars are rare after they are drafted, except in cases when they make the odd public appearance while on leave; celebrities are out of the public eye when serving their country.

So its natural that fans should jump at any chance to hear the latest on these hidden actors and singers.

With the popularity of Korean pop culture still strong abroad, it's not only local fans to whom celebrities say goodbye, but also to fans in Japan, China and wherever K-Pop is popular.

There have been countless numbers of "Winter Sonata" tour packages taking fans to the miniseries' filming locations, but now fans can meet with the stars serving in the military. These tour packages are also viewed as a way of promoting the nation's military culture abroad, or as a way of commercializing a more positive view of the nation's military culture.

Last week there was an advertisement posted of a special tour package on Korean National Tourism Organization's Japanese Internet website that read, "A premium tour giving you the chance to meet Ji Sung and Yoon Kye-sang".

Ji Sung, one of the stars of the drama All In, and Yoon, the former member of boy band g.o.d., who switched over to acting shortly before getting drafted, are the two biggest celebrities in the army today.

It is a great experience for anyone willing to pay 80,000 to 110,000 yen (800,000 to 1.1 million won) to take part in an authentic military experience for two or three days, taking part in various special events.

However the highlight of the event is, of course, being an autograph session followed by a Q & A and photo session with the two stars.

The event was not organized by Japanese travel agencies, but was part of the Korea Ground Forces Festival 2005, an event organized by the Republic of Korea Army, and will be from Oct. 5 to 9 in Taejon, in an effort to let citizens see a strong and positive image of the Korean army through hands-on experience of military training routines, exhibitions and performances.

The tour package is just a sales pitch made by the travel agencies arranging fans to take part in events that feature their favorite stars.

Lieutenant Colonel Nam Sung-whan of the Army's Planning and Management Department says that as merely one of the 30 events readied for the festival and organizers see it as yet just another event to promote the army's image.

"The primary objectives of the festival are and always have been to give people the chance to understand what the army does, familiarize with it and further soften its image", he said.

"Having soldiers that were active in the entertainment business prior to joining is just one way of helping ordinary citizens relate to the army and although the army has nothing to do with the making of such tour packages we believe that foreigners will benefit from participating in them and will also get to know more about South Korean military culture".

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