New Hallyu: K-POP Boom by Idol Groups

At a joint interview with members of Kara, 2PM, SHINee, Brown Eyed Girls, and 4Minute, they all said, "We feel kind of a responsibility as Korean representatives overseas".

Hyun Ah (4Minute), On Yoo (SHINee), Wooyoung (2PM), Narsha (Brown Eyed Girls), and Koo Ha Ra (Kara) came one after another for an interview at a cafe. All the guests in the cafe revealed their curiosity by paying full attention to these star members, whom they could rarely see at one place together.

Those members of the star idol groups who attended the interview were all actually the leaders who have created the "new Hallyu" with K-POP in countries such as Japan, the greater China region, South-East Asia, and the USA.

Members belonging to different groups pleasantly exchanged greetings with each other, as they all have not seen each other for a long time due to their busy schedule in overseas. At the joint interview with Yonhap news on the subject of "Hallyu that I have experienced", they did not assert that the core of Hallyu has been changed from dramas to K-POP.

But they delivered their passionate opinions about K-POP, which they had experienced in foreign countries, and at the same time revealed that they felt huge responsibility about it and they also had difficulties due to the fervent interest in K-POP.

Narsha and Hyun Ah, who recently visited Japan for promotional activities, praised the group Kara, who successfully advanced to Japan by being ranked second on the Oricon weekly chart.

Narsha and Hyun Ah said, "We went to the Don Quixote [a discount store chain in Japan] and we could listen to the medley songs of Kara at the store. But more than that, there were posters of Kara at every place we went such as on advertisement billboards on buildings, and on the street. We were really excited to see them".

Koo Ha Ra smiled as if she were shy when all the other members paid attention to her, and said, "Now people can recognize my face on the street and call my name even though I go outside without wearing makeup. A Japanese comedian Hitori Gekidan once said, 'I enthusiastically love Kara' when he appeared on his own program, and I think that we could receive great love thanks to his comment".

They all felt interested in the popularity of Korean girl groups in Japan, which had already been spotlighted by the Japanese media.

Narsha said, "I found out that Japanese people even made a program by having an event of performing the 'abracadabra dance', which was the Brown Eyed Girls' dance. I was surprised to see our fans also doing the 'abracadabra dance' and sang along with our song at the event".

The members of the girl groups who participated in the interview all said with one voice that they had many female fans in Japan, which was totally contrary to Korea. Koo Ha Ra said, "I have many female fans the age of middle school students, and they always come to the fan meetings wearing school uniforms and tell us, 'I love you, sister. You look fantastically pretty'. I like them because it is like I have many young sisters now".

Hyun Ah agreed by saying, "When we had a concert in Japan, I was surprised to see many female fans were shouting and cheering words such as 'You all look awesome', and 'Perfect!'" On Yoo and Wooyoung, who are preparing for activities in Japan, seemed to listen to their comments carefully. The group SHINee will hold its first solo concert at the Tokyo National Yoyogi Stadium with around 10,000 fans in December, and the group 2PM will also release their first DVD in Japan in November and have a showcase at Tokyo's famous Sumo Hall in December. But actually, those two groups have already become the center of tremendous popularity of K-POP in Japan.

SHINee is called the "president for the new generation in Southeast Asian countries" and 2PM is called "beast idol", which has stolen the hearts of Asian women. On Yoo said, "When I went to Thailand for the first time, I was surprised to see fans who were holding placards written in Korean and came after us following our schedules by driving rental cars. Some fans even called out my real name, 'Jin Ki'". Wooyoung could also recall the memory about unexpected cheers when he visited China last year. He explained that fans abroad already knew a significant amount about them by finding out their information on Internet websites such as YouTube. Wooyoung said, "About a million people have watched the music video of our recently released new song 'I'll be back' on YouTube, so we have been chosen as the No. 1 hit list in the category of music video for the day. I could also realize the power of YouTube when I saw many comments written by American and European fans". On Yoo related another incident, saying, "When we went to SM Town World Tour last September in the USA, Spain, France, and Mexico, I could see that more than half of the audience were not Asians". He continued, "A famous choreographer in Japan named Rino Nakasone created the dance for our songs such as 'Replay', 'Love like Oxygen' and 'Juliet'. The choreographer posted a video taken while teaching dancing to his students along to our songs on YouTube, and the French media actually requested to have an interview with us after watching the video".

Star idol members said that they heard praise such as, "You possess good singing and dancing ability". Narsha commented, "As there are many new groups that have been created, they have to compete with each other and their abilities seem to be gradually being upgraded. I think that the nice music, upgraded performances -- which is not just group dances -- and individual members' different talents of vocals, rapping, and dancing have resulted in drawing such an evaluation".

Many music experts agree that idol group members could have their excellent ability thanks to the mixture of systematic training programs and their own efforts. On Yoo said, "I had trained for a comparably shorter period of time before my debut, and my period of training was about two years. There is a time schedule for trainee singers and we received vocal, dancing, rapping, acting and language lessons following the time schedule. We also temporarily evaluated each other's performances among other trainees and supplemented any lack of ability".

Hyun Ah added, "After I finished studying at school, I had to go to another classroom in my agency to participate in other classes consisting of singing, dancing and Chinese. Now I am happy because I can present my abilities gained by training for a long time -- even overseas -- but at the same time, it is true that there were also mental as well as physical difficulties". Koo Ha Ra said, "We have to respond to about 100 interview requests with the media a day. We are distressed about answering those interviews without interpreters, and we have to consider the relationship between Korea and Japan when we make any comment. Among the Kara members, Seung Yeon and Kyu Ri can speak Japanese very well". Narsha said, "I have appeared on Japanese entertainment program, and it was very difficult because they have a different sense of humor than Koreans. It is a very good thing to advance abroad, but we also have to be prepared for understanding different cultures".

Wooyoung commented, "2PM had participated in the Wonder Girls' tour concerts in the USA as a guest singer for 12 days in nine different cities, and the schedule was horrible. After we had finished the concert in one place at night, we had to move to another place by taking an early morning flight the next day. We also had to eat instant food due to the tight schedule and frequent flights, and we ended up very fatigued".

Despite those difficulties, they all agreed that they were patriotic and felt responsibility as representatives of Korea once they arrived in foreign countries.

Wooyoung said, "I automatically came to think that I had to give a good impression of Korea to people abroad. I am not highlighting the fact that I am a Korean, but rather I wanted to make our fans naturally experience Korean language and culture through us. Actually, I want to do many things that many people can be proud of on the stage and behind the curtain as well".

The next moment, they all burst into laughter after comments by On Yoo and Narsha. On Yoo said, "I heard that a Korean singer had left the hotel without cleaning the room, and the local media took photos of the messy room and disclosed them to the public. After hearing about this episode, our members were all very concerned about cleaning the hotel rooms whenever we left". Narsha added, "When we leave tips in our hotel room in foreign countries, we also leave a memo written in Korean to let the clerk know that we were Koreans".

They all had the same thought that the cultures had to interact in both directions to keep the trend of K-POP alive, because if Korean culture was simply transferred unilaterally, hatred of Hallyu and anti-Hallyu sentiment could be aroused as a negative result. On Yoo hinted, "When we first visited China and Taiwan, we only sang Korean songs, but these days, I am practicing singing Chinese songs that I want to sing during performances in China".

The five idol members from the star idol groups all said, "Thanks to the senior singers such as Rain, BoA, and Dong Bang Shin Ki who had pioneered the way abroad, we could receive great love from people abroad. Now it is our duty to keep this Hallyu trend alive for the singers following after us". They all agreed and resolved to put forth their best efforts to keep the K-POP boom going.

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