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Stars aligning for the Year of the Rat


Apart from being famous worldwide, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Al Gore and Zinedine Zidane have one other thing in common -- they were born in the Year of the Rat, according to the traditional zodiac system still widely used in Korea.

With the first day of the Lunar New Year tomorrow, rats, the first among the 12 animals in the zodiac, symbolize diligence, fecundity and cleverness. Kim Hoon, a top-rated writer, was born in the rat year, and nobody questions his diligence.

Forget dirty, germ-spreading rodents because the zodiac only focuses on the positive traits of each animal. There are plenty of role models for those who identify themselves with the rodent. Mickey Mouse is a fine example. Or Remy of "Ratatouille", a young rat who cooks delicious meals at a French restaurant.

Since there are only 12 animals, it is hardly surprising that Korea has many celebrities who were born in the Year of the Rat. But what's unusual is that many of today's leading stars, now in their mid-30s, were born in 1972, another rat year.

Seo Taiji is a case in point. Seo's 15th anniversary album, released in November last year, instantly sold out, and he is getting ready to release his eigth regular album in March this year. His comeback is deliberately planned for the rat year. He posted a message on his official homepage, saying "I'll take charge in 2008, and the eighth album fits nicely with the year 2008. Moreover, it's the Year of the Rat".

Actor Bae Yong-joon, who achieved fame through "Winter Sonata", also belongs to the rodent-year star group. In 2007, Bae showcased his acting talent by playing King Gwanggaeto of the Goguryeo Kingdom in the period TV drama "Taewangsashingi ("The Legend", The Four Guardian Gods of the King)". In April this year, the hit series will be aired on NHK TV in Japan, almost as if celebrating Bae's zodiac sign.

Singer and producer Park Jin-young produced the blockbuster debut album of the five-girl group Wonder Girls. While the Wonder Girls wowed the nation with their hit song "Tell Me" last year, Park also successfully released his own album in Korea.

Park's 2008 goal is more ambitious. As a music producer, he is aiming to help singers in his company make a debut in the U.S. market.

Jang Dong-gun, who is widely considered Korea's leading heartthrob, is also looking beyond the local market. He is currently shooting a Hollywood flick titled "Laundry Warrior" ("The Warrior's Way") in New Zealand.

Other stars born in 1972 include Yoo Jae-suk, a popular TV host and comedian, Kim Sang-kyung, who plays the leading role in the KBS historical TV series "The Great King Sejong", and Kim Myung-min, who made an impression with his role in the MBC hit series "White Tower".

Leading comedians Yoon Jeong-soo, Suh Kyung-suk and Lee Yoon-seok were also born in 1972.

Among female celebrities born in 1972, Shim Eun-ha stands out. She is still popular despite retiring several years ago. Ko So-young, Kim Won-hee, Jang Seo-hee, Yum Jeong-ah and Jeong E-hyeon are also leading players in the film, TV and literary markets.

The rats in their 30s are said to have benefited from the rich cultural foundations of the 1990s when Korean pop culture witnessed a strong growth, sowing the seeds for the Korean Wave boom throughout Asia in the following years.

Meanwhile, a host of younger actors born in 1984, another Year of the Rat, are riding the alignment of the stars this year. Yoon Eun-hye, famous for her role in "Princess Hours" and "Coffee Prince Shop No. 1", is expanding her fame beyond Korea, while other 1984 rat-year female stars include Han Ji-hye, Ku Hye-sun, Nam Sang-mi, Shin Min-ah and Park Han-byul.

By Yang Sung-jin

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