"The Korean pop star and actor Rain
is looking to make a name for himself in the United States".
The New York Times, one of the most prestigious newspapers in the United States, carried a two-page story in its Jan. 29 issue featuring Rain
(23, real name: Jung Ji-hoon), who is preparing for upcoming concerts in New York, as well as on the hallyu (Korean Wave) boom.
will give solo concerts at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, New York on Feb. 2 and 3--a first for an Asian entertainer.
Taking up the entire culture-leisure section and another page, the NYT's story focused on Rain
's popularity in Asia and his being the top hallyu star. The NYT said, "Last year, Rain sold out arenas across China and Japan, performing to more than 40,000 in Beijing and 20,000 in the Budokan in Tokyo". The newspaper showed interest in whether he can make a name for himself in the United States as well. The NYT added, "He wants nothing less than to break down barriers, build cultural bridges and become the first Asian pop star to succeed in America".
The NYT also praised him, saying, "He 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 a recent phone interview from Seoul with the NYT, Rain said, "The United States is the dominant music market. I would really like to see an Asian make it there. I would like that Asian to be me". To attain this goal, Rain is currently receiving English language lessons. In the interview, Rain said he was planning to release an album in English sometime in October after learning the language to a greater extent.
The NYT said that Rain, who has achieved high popularity in China and Japan, is now targeting the American market. It added, "America is taking a growing interest in Asian popular culture, from Pokemon to Bollywood".
The American newspaper also introduced a personal story about Rain
, who grew up in poverty. According to the newspaper, Rain
's family was living in a one-room house in Seoul when singer/composer Park Jin-young
and Rain first met. By the time he presented himself for an audition at Park's performing arts academy, Rain was in a state of desperation and his mother was quite ill. As soon as Park signed Rain
, he asked the impresario to help his mother. But his mother reportedly said, "Please spend the money set aside for me on my son". She passed away a year before he debuted. Such a heart-rending background served as the prime motivation for his growth, said the NYT. In the interview, Park chimed in, "That's why Rain
neither entertains himself nor drinks, but only practices several hours every day".
The NYT also gave a detailed account of how Asian pop culture is establishing itself in the United States quickly. According to the newspaper, boys and girls of Asian descent are emerging as the main consumer group of hallyu products. The Internet has allowed them to access music and performances from anywhere around the world. This has attributed to Asian-Americans' enthusiasm about Asian pop stars. The NYT added, "Most of the 10,000 people coming, however, will need no introduction". The organizers of the upcoming concerts said, "We estimate that more than half of those who have bought tickets are Chinese-Americans, and many Japanese-Americans have also bought tickets".
However, 60 percent of those who watch Asian channels of "ImaginAsian Entertainment", an Asian TV network in the United States, are not of Asian ethnicity. At the East 59th Street movie theater in Manhattan, which shows only Asian films, 70 percent of the audience is non-Asian. Thanks to "cultural globalization", non-Asian-Americans are discovering the easily-accessible Asian pop culture, too. This is why Rain's concert schedule was extended by one more day. "We originally planned to hold only one concert on Feb. 2. But we had to extend it to two due to the explosive response. Coveted seats were already sold out in just two to three days", said an official from the program agency.