"Somehow, it looked like it would rain today". (Kimiko Matsumoto, 41, from Shizuoka, Japan)
"Since it is Yong-ha's day, it rained without fail". (Kim Jae-hyeong
, executive at Yona Entertainment)
It rained Thursday just like the same day a year ago, when Korean actor-singer Park Yong-ha
committed suicide at home. His fans in Japan called him "Ame Otoko (Rain Man)" because it always rained on the days he appeared at public events.
A memorial service for Park was held at the Buddhist temple Yakcheon in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, to mark the first anniversary of his death. Amid heavy rain that began early in the morning, some 1,500 Japanese fans appeared at the ceremony, paying 872 to 1,121 U.S. dollars each to visit Korea.
Debuting in 1994, Park vaulted to stardom in Japan through the Korean TV drama "Winter Sonata
". He eventually worked mostly as a singer, releasing albums and holding concerts.
By 8 a.m., all 1,350 seats arranged on a blue waterproof cloth were occupied. Around 200 people who could not find seats sat on floor cushions inside the temple's main hall.
A 1.5-meter-high picture of Park and an incense-burning altar were laid in front of the golden Buddha statue. Clips of scenes from his films and dramas were played on a screen.
About 30 rental buses and dozens of taxis taken by members of his Japanese fan club lined up near the temple.
"I first knew about Yong-ha when watching 'Winter Sonata
'," said Hiroko Takeyuchi, 38, from Yokohama, Japan. "From the way he sang and acted, I could tell he was a nice person. I get breathless even now when I think of him".
She wiped tears from her eyes occasionally as she listened to Park's songs "One Love" and "Stars".
Around 9:20 a.m., Park's family burned incense and was followed by his fans. Those in white raincoats silently lined up in front of the stairway.
Fans kept waiting in line despite the rain coming down harder, sharing umbrellas or partially opening them to cover their heads. After burning incense and praying with joined hands, they burst into tears or returned to their seats and closed their eyes.
Some came to the altar in wheelchairs. "Burning the incense, I said in my mind that Japanese people miss him very much", said Katsuko Youi from Gifu Prefecture, Japan. "Yong-ha gave me joy. I've come to Korea to express my gratitude to him".
In front of the altar were an array of floral wreaths sent by Japanese fans. Messages expressing their love for the late actor were written on the wreath ribbons in Korean.
When the rain stopped for a while after the incense burning, Park Kwang-hyun
, an actor and friend of the deceased, read a mourning letter. "Are you doing well, Yong-ha? Aren't you sick? Aren't you cold? Unbelievable days keep going onů Sharing joy and sorrow with you was the biggest blessing in my life. Thank you, and I love you", he said.
After he finished reading the letter, it rained again and some fans were heard sobbing.
The ceremony ended at 2 p.m. with a flower-laying ceremony at a memorial park in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, where Park Yong-ha
's remains are kept. Japanese fans also joined after having boxed lunches offered by the organizers.
Japan will keep remembering the late actor as Park Yong-ha
FILMS 2004-2010 concerts were held or are scheduled to take place in nine Japanese cities, including Tokyo and Niigata, from March to July 7. Videos of his performances will be shown.