Tag Archives: k-pop


Friday’s Link Attack: CancelColbert Campaign; Girls’ Generation Interview; Yuna Kim’s Record Broken

Park unveils proposals to N. Korea to lay groundwork for unification

South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Friday unveiled a package of proposals calling for bolstering exchanges with North Korea as first steps toward building trust between the two sides to lay the groundwork for unification.

Park made the announcement during a speech at the Dresden University of Technology in the former East German city of Dresden. The address was watched closely and televised live amid expectations that she would unveil a new vision for unification of the divided Korean Peninsula.

“Now more than ever, South and North Korea must broaden their exchange and cooperation,” Park said in the address. “What we need is not one-off or promotional events, but the kind of interaction and cooperation that enables ordinary South Koreans and North Koreans to recover a sense of common identity as they help each other out.”


South Korea sends back stray North Korean fishing boat

South Korea on Friday sent back a North Koreanfishing boat that had drifted across a disputed maritime border off the west coast, the defense ministry said, defusing tensions in an area which has been the scene of deadly clashes in recent years.

South Korea’s military had seized the boat after it ignored warnings to retreat, but later confirmed the vessel had experienced engine failure and the three crewmen had no wish to defect to the South, a ministry official said.

The incident came as the North faced renewed pressure from the international community after it fired two mid-range missiles on Wednesday just as the leaders of the South, Japanand the United States pledged to curb its arms ambitions.


South Korea Returns Bodies of Hundreds of Chinese Soldiers
New York Times

South Korea on Friday repatriated the remains of 437 Chinese soldiers killed during the Korean War six decades ago, making a gesture symbolic of warming ties between the two nations.

China sent a flood of soldiers to help its Communist ally North Korea, which invaded South Korea in June 1950. Its intervention saved the North, whose forces had been pushed back toward the country’s northern corner by American-led United Nations forces later that year. The three-year war ended in a cease-fire, leaving the divided Korean Peninsula technically in a state of war.

Over the years, when South Korea discovered the remains of hundreds of Communist soldiers in old battle sites, it kept them tucked away in a little-known temporary burial ground north of Seoul, until recently known as “the enemy cemetery.”

Energy Panel Approves Contentious Nominee Rhea Suh
Wall Street Journal

Newly minted Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Mary Landrieu(D., La.) pushed through a controversial Interior Department nominee Thursday over the united opposition of Republicans.

The committee voted along party lines, 12-10, to approve the nominee, Rhea Suh, to be assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Interior Department. Ms. Suh now advances to the full Senate where she needs 51 votes for confirmation. It was the first nomination meeting presided over by Ms. Landrieu.

“I am sorry we are starting this new era of the Committee on such a troubling note,” Senate Energy and Natural Resources Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) told her usual ally Ms. Landrieu. “I expect that we will be able to work together on many issues that come before us—but this particular nomination is simply not one of them.”

Stephen Colbert vs. the Hashtag Activists

So: On Wednesday night Stephen Colbert made sport of Washington football team owner Dan Snyder and his plan to undercut criticism of the team name by founding an organization for the uplift of “original Americans.” Colbert ran though all the reasons why this was funny, then called back to a skit from one of the show’s first episodes, way back from the fall of 2005—a joke about the host being caught on a “live feed” playing a racist Asian stereotype (Ching Chong Ding Dong, from Guanduong), then not understanding why it was racist. Colbert would make amends with his new “Ching Chong Ding Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.” He’d played versions of the game since then, dressing up in a sombrero for “Hispanic heritage month.” It’s one of the Colbert character’s oldest gags—he “doesn’t see color,” so he can’t ever be blamed if he accidentally does something horribly racist.

Most of a day later, the official Twitter account of The Colbert Report tweeted a short version of the joke: “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.” Bad move. This attracted the ire of a 23-year-old freelance writer and hashtag activist named Suey Park, who gained prominence last year with the #NotYourAsianSidekick micromovement.


Anti-Colbert activist, HuffPost Live host grapple over racism, satire
Washington Post

Josh Zepps is a host on HuffPost Live. He presides over many interesting and civil conversations with guests on a wide variety of topics. Generally they end in a civil manner.

Not so much today, because of the issue: On the other end of the video link was Suey Park, the Korean-American Twitter hashtag activist who drew recognition from her campaign #NotYourAsianSidekick.
This week, she roared again, this time in response to a tweet that came from the account of Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert show:
“I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever”

Like most things that emerge from the Colbert universe, that (as the context of the joke made clear) was satire — satire intended to skewer Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, who recently launched the Original Americans Foundation at a time when the name of his squad is under fire for being racist.

The satire wasn’t working for Park, who launched #CancelColbert, not to mention a massive discussion about how we mix race and humor, and whether we should at all.


Texas executes man who killed food delivery woman with bat

Texas executed convicted murderer Anthony Doyle on Thursday as it kept the pace of executions steady while other states have had to postpone capital punishments because they cannot obtain drugs used in lethal injections.

Doyle, 29, was convicted of beating food delivery woman Hyun Cho, a South Korean native, to death in 2003 with a baseball bat, putting her body in a trash can and stealing her car.

Doyle was pronounced dead at 6:49 p.m. CDT (2349 GMT) at the state’s death chamber in Huntsville after receiving a lethal injection. He did not make a last statement, a Department of Criminal Justice spokesman said.

Knife Threat Failed to Halt Korea’s First Female Bank CEO 

Facing a desperate, knife-brandishing customer, Kwon Seon Joo knew the value of staying cool under pressure more than two decades before being picked to become the first woman to head a South Korean bank.

In 1992, the now 57-year-old chief executive officer of the country’s fourth-largest lender byassets, Industrial Bank of Korea, was deputy manager of trade finance at a branch in an upscale district of Seoul. Kwon said she agreed to meet a customer presenting forged shipping documents who was demanding a loan because he risked financial ruin after exporting artificial flowers that had been rejected by the recipient. When she refused, he lifted his trouser leg to reveal something tucked in his sock: a knife.

“I was shocked at first, but deep down I was confident that I could resolve the situation with conversation,” Kwon said in an interview at IBK’s headquarters in Seoul last month. She spoke calmly with the man for more than an hour before he walked out with his demands unmet and no one harmed, she said.

Help For Working Women, But Will More Storks Come?
Wall Street Journal

South Korea’s announced more incentives for working women to help boost female employment and improve low birth rates, but it’s unclear if the policies will overcome cultural norms in the workplace.

President Park Geun-hye’s been trying to keep her campaign promise of lifting the total employment rate to 70% by 2017 from 65% currently.

A key to this is getting women to stay in the work force after they start families and have children and on Monday, the Labor Ministry announced that women in their first 12 weeks and the last four weeks of pregnancy may work two hours less, fully paid, starting September.


We all know Psy. You’ve probably heard G-Dragon and CL before—on a Diplo or Skrillex beat at the least—and some hundred thousand Lady GaGa fans are about to meet Crayon Pop in stadiums across Middle America and Canada this summer. But there’s no K-pop phenomenon bigger than Girls’ Generation. They remain Korea’s all-time best-selling girl group, their YouTube prowess has trouncedthat of even some of the brightest Western stars, and their tour attendance is astounding. If Korean music is something that’s been brought to your attention sometime in the past half decade, there’s a good chance that had something to do with “Gee,” the undisputed classic of K-pop (watch it above).

After an uncharacteristically long break since their last release—all of two months—and almost a straight year of Japanese records and tours, Girls’ Generation returned late last month with the Mr.Mr. mini-album. We broke bread with all nine (very polite) girls to talk new music, bolstering the flagging confidence of insecure boys, and Korea’s super intense trainee pop regime. Apparently of the 10,000 K-Pop wannabes, only one becomes a star. Steep odds for sure.

2NE1: Crush

Instead of following a tried-and-true formula of slowly rolling out individual songs and their characteristically flashy videos, the all-female Korean pop supergroup 2NE1 went the opposite direction with their new album, Crush. Announced in January—no advance snippets were available—and released digitally in February, 2NE1 dropped two singles simultaneously (the uptempo pair “Come Back Home” and “Gotta Be You”). Though both unsurpisingly lit up the Korean charts, the excitement—as well as an appearance in a January episode of ABC’s The Bachelor—buoyed an entrance into Billboard 200, where 2NE1 sold more copies in the first week than any Korean outfit in history. The only semi-micro-plotted movement in the whole campaign happened when YG Entertainment bumped the digital release three days—meaning that they broke the record in four days, instead of a full seven—so it would come out on the February 27 birthday of CL, 2NE1’s ascendant star. Hold that thought.

Tickets for the Free LA K-Pop Festival Available Online this Saturday

With the LA K-Pop Festival a little more than two weeks away, it has been revealed that tickets will be distributed through Ticketmaster this Saturday at 10am PST on a first come, first serve basis (limit: 2 per person). While the concert is free, a small service fee for Ticketmaster is added.

Physical Ticket Distribution will occur on Saturday March 29 at 10:00am PST at the HwaGae Traditional Market (940 S. Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90006) on a first come first serve basis, with up to 5,000 tickets being distributed that day (limit: 2 per person).

Hosted by KBS America and the Los Angeles Korean Association, the event is set for April 12 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The event will start with a day long festival at 10am, followed by a concert at 5:30pm.

Veteran Choo adjusting to left field at Globe Life Park
Dallas Morning News

Shin-Soo Choo on Thursday started a crash course in the art of playing left field at Globe Life Park.

Choo, entering his first season with the Rangers, tried to familiarize himself with the nuances of his new position during an afternoon workout. He also started in left field in the park for the first time in nearly eight years during the exhibition game against Quintana Roo of the Mexican League.

Choo played center field with Cincinnati last season and has fewer career starts in left

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field (60) than the other outfield spots. Choo can apply his experience as a right fielder in that balls will hook and slice toward the left-field line.

“It’s something I’ll have to get used to,” Choo said. “The more I play out there, the more comfortable I’ll be.”

Japan’s Mao Asada breaks Yuna Kim’s world record in women’s short
Fox Sports

Mao Asada of Japan set a world record on Thursday to finish first in the short program at the World Figure Skating Championships.

Skating to Chopin’s Nocturne, Asada hit her trademark triple axel at the start of her routine and completed all her remaining jumps to finish with 78.66 points, surpassing the previous record of 78.50 set by Yuna Kim at the Vancouver Olympics.

“As the last competition of this season, I am happy to skate the best short program,” said Asada, a two-time world champion. “My mission here is to perform both programs perfect so already half is done and tomorrow I want to focus on showing everything I have practiced.”



Thursday’s Link Attack: SKorea Detains NKorean Boat; Korea-Japan Relations; BigBang Reaches Milestone

Merkel vows support for Korean reunification bid
AFP via Google News

Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged Germany’s support Wednesday during a visit by South Korea’s president for efforts to unify the Korean peninsular, saying its own reunification gave it a “duty” to help others.

“We would like very much to support Korea in this important issue,” Merkel told a joint press conference with President Park Geun Hye, who is on a state visit to Germany.

“Germany was divided for 40 years, Korea is in such a situation in the meantime” as the 1950-53 Korean War concluded with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, which means the two sides technically remain at war.


South Korea captures a North Korean fishing boat

A day after North Korea test-fired two missiles, South Korea captured a fishing boat from the North that had crossed into South Korean waters, officials say.

The boat crossed the sea demarcation line that separates the two Koreas and was captured by the South Korean navy Thursday, the South Korean Ministry of Defense said.

The action comes as tensions between the two Koreas are rising once again. On Wednesday, North Korea tested two medium-range ballistic missiles, firing them into the ocean.

N Korea and the myth of starvation

One of the most commonly cited cliches is that North Korea is a “destitute, starving country”. Once upon a time, such a description was all too sadly correct: In the late 1990s, North Korea suffered a major famine that, according to the most recent research, led to between 500,000 and 600,000 deaths. However, starvation has long since ceased to be a fact of life in North Korea.

Admittedly, until quite recently, many major news outlets worldwide ran stories every autumn that cited international aid agencies saying that the country was on the brink of a massive famine once again. These perennially predicted famines never transpired, but the stories continued to be released at regular intervals, nonetheless.

In the last year or two, though, such predictions have disappeared. This year, North Korea enjoyed an exceptionally good harvest, which for the first time in more than two decades will be sufficient to feed the country’s entire population. Indeed, according to the recent documents of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations), North Korea’s harvest totaled 5.03 million tonnes of grain this year, if converted to the cereal equivalent. To put things in perspective, in the famine years of the late 1990s, the average annual harvest was estimated (by the same FAO) to be below the 3 million tonne level.

Associated Press

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s distinctive hairstyle is the ‘do of the day on the Internet, thanks to a viral report that every male university student in the capital is now under orders to get a buzz just like it. But it appears the barbers of Pyongyang aren’t exactly sharpening their scissors.

Recent visitors to the country say they’ve seen no evidence of any mass haircutting. North Korea watchers smell another imaginative but uncorroborated rumor.

The thinly sourced reports say an order went out a few weeks ago for university students to buzz cut the sides of their heads just like Kim. Washington, D.C.-based Radio Free Asia cited unnamed sources as saying an unwritten directive from somewhere within the ruling Workers’ Party went out early this month, causing consternation among students who didn’t think the new ‘do would suit them.

Video shows N. Korea karaoke salons
Bangkok Post (Thailand)

Rare video footage from North Korea has emerged showing men enjoying a night out in a karaoke salon catering to relatively wealthy North Koreans making money from often illicit cross-border trade.

The content of the hidden-camera footage, which could not be independently verified, was released by a South Korean pastor, Kim Sung-Eun, known for helping North Koreans escape to Seoul.

The grainy video included footage of a group of men and women, speaking with North Korean accents, drinking beer, singing, dancing and kissing in a South Korean-style karaoke “room salon”.

“This is a North Korean equivalent of a room salon, in the form of a restaurant combined with a karaoke where women serve male clients,” Kim told reporters in Seoul.


Breaking the Ice in East Asia [EDITORIAL]
New York Times

President Park Geun-hye of South Korea and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan met, at last, on Tuesday. The meeting — with President Obama on the sideline at the nuclear security summit meeting at The Hague — was the result of intense behind-the-scenes American diplomacy in an effort to mend the seriously deteriorated relations between the American allies in East Asia.

Ms. Park and Mr. Abe had not met since each came to power more than a year ago, breaking a tradition of South Korean and Japanese leaders getting together soon after taking office. Ms. Park refused to see Mr. Abe, saying his government showed a “total absence of sincerity” in addressing the suffering Japan inflicted upon colonized Korea during the first half of the 20th century. Mr. Abe made things worse in December by visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead, including war criminals. There was little chance of the two leaders beginning to mend relations without the American push.


Seoul, Tokyo Must Tackle Their Differences Head-On [OPINION]
Chosun Ilbo

The leaders of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan sat down together on Tuesday on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague. The meeting, which took place at the U.S. Embassy in the Netherlands, came at the urging of U.S. President Barack Obama.

The three leaders vowed to stand together against threats from North Korea. “Over the last five years, close cooperation between the three countries succeeded in changing the game with North Korea,” Obama said. “Our trilateral cooperation has sent a strong signal to Pyongyang that its provocations and threats will be met with a unified response.”

President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe duly echoed the sentiment.

Korean business leader and shopping center owner Sim dies
Montgomery Advertiser (Alabama)

Sys-Con owner and CEO Su Yong Sim, the Korean businessman who helped revitalize East Boulevard, died Thursday morning after a prolonged illness.

Sim’s company built several major facilities, including the $65 million Hyundai Heavy Industries plant in Montgomery and a $48 million plant for Donghee America Inc. in Auburn.

His holding company bought Stratford Square shopping center on East Boulevard and built a $4.5 million bowling center there. It also bought the shuttered Up the Creek restaurant nearby, remodeled it and opened it as Sushi Yama.

Food waste around the world
The Guardian (U.K.)

South Korea
Jeong Ho-jin dons a pair of plastic gloves to show off his most proud achievement as a district official in Seoul, and then uses his keys to unlock a large, rectangular contraption that looks like some kind of futuristic top-loading washing machine. Loaded with bins half-filled with decomposing ginseng, lettuce and other meal remnants, this, it turns out, is South Korea’s high-tech solution to food waste.

Jeong works in one of two districts in Seoul where the high-tech food waste managementprogram is being piloted. The program works by giving each household a card that has a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip embedded in it containing the user’s name and address. They scan their card on a small card-reader on the front of the high-tech bin to get the lid to open, then dump the food waste into the bin and onto the scale at the bottom, which gives a numerical reading of the waste’s weight and disposal cost.

“Before this everyone paid the same flat rate [for disposal] and they would just throw their food waste away without thinking,” said Jeong.

Korean community centre seeks younger crowd
Vancouver Courier (Canada)

Vancouver’s only Korean community centre has undergone a facelift and will officially reopen its doors April 1.The centre, which is located at 1320 East Hastings St. and has housed the Korean Society of B.C. for Fraternity and Culture since 1991, received a grant from the federal government in April 2013 and began renovations the next month. The grant, from the Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund, provided $226,602 toward the project and the Korean Society and Korean Senior Society matched it with support from the Korean government and member donations. Vancouver boasts the highest Korean population in the country at over 50,000 people.

BigBang’s ‘Fantastic Baby’ tops 100 mln YouTube views
Yonhap News

South Korean boy band BigBang saw the video of its 2012 hit song “Fantastic Baby” surpass 100 million views on YouTube Thursday.

The video, which was first uploaded in March 2012, had slightly more than 100 million views as of about 2 p.m., making it the forth South Korean video to hit the milestone, following Girls’ Generation’s “Gee” and Psy’s “Gangnam Style” and “Gentleman.”

BigBang became the first K-pop boy band to do so.


Korean Journalist Seeks To Find Out If Beanballs Hurt

One Korean journalist for KBS worked on a feature on baseball players being hit by pitches, and did some firsthand reporting to find out if it hurts to be hit by a baseball. It does!

The whole video report—which isn’t embeddable—is worth watching, and you don’t need to understand Korean to figure it out: Pitches to the head, whether intentional or not, are causing injuries in baseball. The best part is definitely the high-speed camera footage of baseballs hitting a wash basin and frying pan, set to music that sounds like the Halloween theme.

POT by Roy Choi, a Soulful Ode to Korean Cuisine
Eater LA

As promised, POT is a powerful ode to Korean cuisine by one of the most notable Korean-American chefs in the country. Roy Choi opened POT inside The Line Hotel to the public for lunch yesterday, introducing dishes that seem whimsical and inventive on paper, yet incredibly grounded, flavorful, and intense to a fault on the plate. Think “Boot Knocker” stew, Choi’s take on a dish that Korean mothers make after school’s. Filled with Lil’ smokies, Spam, ramen noodles, and more than a few dollops of red chili flakes, it’s about as rich as the cuisine can get, without getting too serious.

The gently wrapped Kat Man Doo dumplings come dressed in soy, chilies, and scallions for maximum effect, while chewy squid gets tossed with rice cakes, onions, and gochujang. In almost all steps, Choi is taking the cuisine of his motherland and putting an elegant, chefly touch that elevates and refines flavors.

Probably the Worst Diary of Anne Frank Cover Ever

Usually, covers of The Diary of Anne Frank feature black and white photos of its author, Anne Frank. Or, you might see tasteful illustrations. You don’t usually see photos like this!

As recently pointed out by Korean-born Twitter user Che_SYoung, a version of this book was apparently released in South Korea years ago by an unscrupulous publisher:

It looks like a Harlequin romance novel! For the past few years, the image of this cover has been floating around online (as I mentioned, it is supposedly real!), and it even pops up when you Google Image search The Diary of Anne Frank in Korean:

Bojagi workshop offered at LACMA
Korea Times LA

[Korean-born textile artist Lee Young-min] currently holds bojagi workshops and leads a community bojagi project at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). The program will take place on April 12, May 3 and June 7. The reservations of the workshops for April 12 have been already filled.

“Many parents with their children are taking part in the workshops. They are all beginners and not skilled but they return home with satisfaction of their completion of bojagi artworks,” she said.

She has organized numerous workshops, classes and demonstrations on Korean arts and crafts around the Bay Area. Recently she demonstrated her bojagi and “maedeup” or Korean knots in Asian Art Museum in San Francisco as part of the Asia Alive Program. Lee also participated in Oakland Museum’s Lunar New Year celebration with her bojagi and maedeup artworks.



2NE1 in Controversy Over Quran Lyrics

Top K-pop girl group 2NE1 is under fire from Muslim groups after it was revealed that one of their songs uses verses taken out of the Quran.

The Korea Muslim Federation demanded that record label YG Entertainment to “swiftly delete” the lyrics in the song “MTBD” or revise the song and make an apology to all Muslims, according to the Chosun Ilbo.


The questionable content consists of an audio sample of children reciting verses from the Quaran, providing background vocals to CL’s rapping. The 8-second snippet is reportedly from Sura 78, Verses 32-34 of the Quran, which describes heaven.

YG Entertainment said it sampled a track from another song but did not elaborate.

Muslim fans were outraged, and expressed themselves on the YG Entertainment page on Facebook.

“I cant believe that you used our Holy Quran in this song,” one fan wrote. “Quran is not a joke. You need to respect our religion !!!!!! This song must be deleted !!!!”

YG Entertainment removed the live video of the song from YouTube and later uploaded an edited version that cut out the offending portion. It is unclear whether the label will re-release the album, which went on sale in late February.



Lady Gaga Attends ‘K-Pop Night Out’ at SXSW, Headlined by Jay Park, HyunA


K-pop fans were treated to the second manifestation of “K-Pop Night Out” on Tuesday night as part of the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas. One fan just happened to be one of the biggest acts in pop music.

Before the show, KoreAm was watching fans flock to a steadily growing line in front of the Elysium Nightclub that ran down Seventh Street; they could barely contain themselves waiting for the rockstar list of performers hailing from Korea. Despite the obvious disappointment about Kiha and the Faces’ last-minute cancellation due to visa issues, the remaining acts valiantly filled the void.


Jambiani enthralled the crowd with their eclectic blend of haegeum, the piri and the geomungo with electric guitars and electronics. Nell delighted fans and newbies alike with their hit anthem, “Ocean of Light.” Hollow Jan took over for Kiha and the Faces. Designated by the dozen photogs and international press lining the back of the club as “Korea’s only screamo band” — or emotional hardcore punk augmented by screamed lyrics — the band won over a few new fans of their own.

Crying Nut continued the controlled chaos, rocking out with screaming guitars and an accordion occasionally played with a microphone. Yes, Kim Insoo smashed a microphone onto his accordion and used it as brilliantly as a cellist would a bow, just far more punk.

Idiotape followed by moving everyone in all directions with their synthesized dance beats, prompting an inspired electronic fan to scream out, “This is what Daft Punk should have done for Tron: Legacy!”


Suddenly, the crowd went nuts as the “Goddess of Love” herself, Lady Gaga, moved to the front of the room amid a frenzy of reporters and cameras. After security ushered her to a riser behind the ticket booth, social media exploded with pride for Lady Gaga’s support of K-pop. The phones used to capture and record the Gaga experience sprouted like mushrooms and remained there for the rest of the show.

Jay Park, a former Gaga interviewer in 2009, confessed to a slight bout of fatigue following the familiar 14-hour flight to the States, but the Seattle native still managed to  electrify the stage. He danced, sang and rapped with his new AOMG label act, Loco, amid a steady stream of screams with the occasional swoon.

The night concluded with the first solo U.S. performance by 4minute’s HyunA. Only a total of 15 minutes, her four-song set featured the You Tube hit “Bubble Pop” that had Gaga moving a bit. Expect this showcase to monumentally expand K-pop curiosity in Austin and SXSW for many years to come.



Photo via New York Times.


Jackie Chan’s K-Pop Boy Group ‘Double JC’ Set for Debut

We thought that Jackie Chan had thrown his last punch but he has snuck up behind us with an even bigger blow.

The movie star is officially stepping foot into the K-pop spotlight with his own K-pop boy band, who will drop their debut album on March 24 in South Korea.

Initially, you might have some doubts. Jackie Chan, the popular kung-fu goofball, producing K-pop music? But don’t forget that there’s way more than meets the eye with Chan. Among his various professions such as comedian, director, screenwriter, stunt performer, and philanthropist, Chan is also a classically trained vocalist and Cantopop/Mandopop singer, who has set sights on the vast K-pop horizon.


Managed by Chan himself, the group named JJCC, or Double JC, showcases five males in their early 20s, four of whom are South Korean, while the last member is Chinese-Australian. The name, clearly a tribute to Chan, is also a reference to Chan’s desire to “join cultures” in Asia.

The Jackie Chan Group Korea, who manages the band, said, “As JJCC was born through thorough planning under Jackie Chan’s belief that only a merged Asia could conquer the world, you will be able to experience different content from that of existing idols. We have completed all the work for their official debut. As we have sweated and shown passion for many years, we will do our best until the very end in order to have a first stage that will leave an impression on fans’ minds.”

JJCC members SimBa, E.co, EDDY, San-Cheong, and Prince Mak.

Chan, who is very talented on a number of diverse platforms, has hand-selected the members for their equally impressive set of skills. All five performers can sing, dance, rap, and act.

One member has even mastered the art of cooking. Earlier this month, the first member of the group was revealed as Oh Jong Seok, famous from the cooking reality TV show MasterChef Korea. Oh Jong Seok was born in the United States but has lived in Korea for eight years, and aspires to become a chef and restaurateur alongside his K-pop dreams. Only time will tell if the group will find success but Chan’s track record for success bodes well. In the actor’s words, “Jackie always OK.”


Oh Jeong-seok.

Chan with EXO.


2NE1′s New Album Highest Billboard Chart Ever for K-Pop Act

K-pop group 2NE1′s recently released album Crush is at No. 61 on the Billboard 200, surpassing Girls’ Generation-TTS’ “Twinkle” EP to set the all-time highest-selling K-pop album in the United States.

“Crush” also sold over 5,000 copies in just four days and eclipsed BIGBANG’s 2012 album Alive, which started its first week with 4,000.


In Korea, every track of Crush made it into the top 40 slots of the K-pop Hot 100. “Come Back Home” was placed the highest at No. 2 behind “Some” by Junggigo & Soyou.

2NE1 released the video for lead single “Come Back Home” and album track “Happy” on March 2.



SXSW 2014: Korean and Korean American Groups Set to Perform

f(x) performed at last year’s K-pop showcase at SXSW.


A record number of Korean indie acts will have a chance to step into the spotlight at the South By Southwest 2014 Music Festival in Austin, Texas, from March 7 to March 16. But South Korea isn’t really quite known for its moody, alternative side.

In fact, Korea’s musical reputation on an international platform has not been very diverse. Homogenous dolled-up girl groups or idolized boy bands are the faces of South Korean cultural export, K-pop. But this uniformity notwithstanding, K-pop as an out-of-control, international phenomenon (which reached another level after PSY’s “Gangnam Style” in 2012) has benefited the Korean music industry and has paved the way for other Korean artists from various genre backgrounds to share their voice.


The widely popular SXSW festival recognizes the Korean talents of both the K-pop genre as well as indie rock and alternative groups. The festival will showcase 16 distinct and gifted Korean acts, from acoustic to punk rock, from well established to up-and-coming. Punk rock pioneers Crying Nut are making their first appearance at South-By and will be sure to have the crowd moshing in no time. Korean American Big Phony’s sincere sound and velvety voice will melt hearts, while EDM gods Idiotape will keep the party going all night long.

Read below for the rest of the lineup of these trailblazing Korean indie and rock bands, and pencil the names into your SXSW schedule—like their K-pop counterparts, they’re not to be missed.

1. Big Phony

Big Phony is no sham—Korean American singer-songwriter Bobby Choy is the real deal when it comes to soothing acoustic guitar tunes, often intertwined with catchy 80’s inspired sounds, and the kind of Elliot Smith-esque voice that has your heart strings tugging.


2. Glen Check

All U.S. dates have been canceled due to visa issues. Source: Glen Check FB page.

Recognized by MTV K for their boundary-pushing musical and visual experimentation, South Korean indie pop group Glen Check is making their name with electro, synth-rock, pop, and indie sounds that will keep your feet moving.

3. Jambinai

You’ve never heard rock like this before. Taking traditional Korean instruments like the haegum, piri, andgeomungo out of their usual element, Jambinai creates beautifully haunting and ominous melodies that gradually intensify into passionate, goose-bump raising metallic rock sounds.


4. Jang Kiha and the Faces

All U.S. dates have been canceled due to visa issues. Source: Booking company

Self-described as “a life boat of sanity in a sea of cookie-cutter bubblegum pop music,” Jang Kiha and the Faces bring a completely unique and fresh pop sound to the stage. Emphasizing visual aspects and spontaneity in each performance, this indie band will keep you on your toes.

5. Nell

Named after the movie Nell starring Jodie Foster, the band Nell takes eloquently written lyrics and puts it to catchy, psychedelic tunes that are considerably more profound than the typical K-pop song.

6. No Brain

No Brain is, really, a no-brainer. Originally part of Korea’s underground punk movement known as Chosun punk, the band brings raw and uninhibited punk rock vibes that will keep your head banging.

Click here to see the rest of the Korean performers at SXSW.



The One and Only Ailee

With several hit singles and a slew of musical accolades already in tow, the New Jersey-raised K-pop singer reflects on her journey from the object of netizen outrage to respected rising star.


How could this happen? Why is a U.S. citizen going to sing our national anthem? What if she starts singing the American anthem instead? She only came here to make money!

Those were just a few of the jabs South Korean netizens hurled at Ailee, after the young Korean American singer was chosen to perform the Aegukga on opening day of the Korean professional baseball season in April 2012.

Baseball is arguably Korea’s most popular professional sport, and for K-pop artists, singing the country’s national anthem on the season’s first day is considered a high privilege. So, when news of the selection of Ailee—a fresh-faced K-pop singer whom most Koreans at that point only knew from her appearance on the MBC reality show Singer and Trainee—went public, netizens lit up the blogosphere with scathing criticism.

“I was really, really proud to sing the Korean anthem because I’m Korean!” recalled Ailee, 23, during an interview in February at the InterContinental Hotel in Los Angeles. “But I got a lot of unexpected criticism. I was really hurt. I mean … really, really hurt.”

But when the moment of truth came, the singer stepped up to the mike behind home plate and did what she had been doing throughout her young career—she sang from the heart. It may have been the anthem of her parents’ motherland, but it had deep meaning for her as a Korean American, too.

“When I finished the anthem and saw people applauding me, I was so, so thankful,” she said. “That’s when I really learned that music does speak louder than words.”

Although Ailee’s career got off to a rocky start, it seemed the more she performed before Korean audiences, the more they embraced her. Amid a big field of K-pop singers, Ailee stood out for her soul-laden, R&B vocals, as well as her captivating stage presence—she often ad-libbed vocal effects, something uncommon among her overly rehearsed peers.

“There are a lot of talented singers in K-pop, but Ailee has something beyond singing skills that doesn’t make her look awkward on stage,” Cho Hye-ri, a veteran pop singer known by his stage name, Wax, told the Korean website OhmyStar last November. “I had a feeling she’d make it big when I first saw her, and I’m happy to see her do so well now.”


Indeed, Ailee today is a bonafide K-pop star, with three singles that have already hit Billboard Korea’s Hot 100.

Her debut song, “Heaven,” broke into the Hot 100 within days of its release in February 2012, and remained in the top 10 for seven consecutive weeks.  In addition, the smooth R&B hit would help her earn five different Best New Artist awards—at the Mnet Asian Music Awards, Seoul Music Awards, Golden Disk Awards, Melon Music Awards and Gaon Chart K-pop Awards.

Ailee released her mini-album, titled Invitation, last October when the worldwide euphoria of Psy’s “Gangnam Style” was at its peak. Just a month later, her track “I’ll Show You” overtook “Gangnam Style” for the No. 1 spot on Music Bank, Korea’s only chart-driven live music show on terrestrial television, after Psy’s viral hit had been on top for 10 straight weeks.

Coincidentally, KoreAm Journal interviewed Ailee on the day of the one-year anniversary of the release of “Heaven.” She was in Los Angeles in February to accept yet another honor—this time, Mnet America’s Rising Star Award at the network’s first Annual Pre-Grammy Party.

“I just can’t believe all this is happening,” said the young artist, dressed in a leopard-print blazer, with her hair swept up in a bun. “Last year, I could not have imagined that I’d be sitting in this room, having an interview.  “Even after I performed [Korea’s national] anthem, some people were still angry that it had to be me who sang the anthem,” Ailee said, with a grin. “A lot of people think that I came out of nowhere.”

Born in Denver, Colo., and raised in New Jersey, Ailee, then Amy Lee, had harbored a dream since childhood to become a singer. As she tells it, one “boring” day in February 2006, the sophomore at Scotch Plains High School in New Jersey decided to upload a 20-second YouTube video of herself singing “Amazing Grace.” Far from going viral, the video, a few weeks after going up, garnered only three comments—albeit, positive ones.  “Wow,” one person wrote in the comment section. “She’s good.”

But Ailee had already been told several times that she was good. It was just that the curious teenager was skeptical, and wasn’t sure if people around her were being honest.

“I’ve gotten a lot of good comments from people telling me that I can sing,” she said. “But I never believed them because I wasn’t too confident with my singing skills. I guess it’s kind of weird now because, when you say my name, people say, ‘Oh, [she has] so much confidence!’”

Ailee figured YouTube would let her know how good she really was. So, on another boring day at home, she posted a second video of herself, this time singing Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All.” Over the next few months, Ailee posted more covers of other popular songs by Rihanna, Alicia Keys and Jordin Sparks on her YouTube channel. Those videos, which clocked in over 2 million combined views on YouTube, went on to mark the beginning of a string of events so unexpected that Ailee may still wake up one night wondering if all of this is just a dream.

In less than a year, she had taken YouTube by storm and even attracted the attention of a TV producer from Maury, the syndicated tabloid talk show, who randomly left a comment one day on her channel, asking her to perform on the show. A delighted Ailee accepted the offer and performed “Unfaithful” by Rihanna, marking her American national television debut.  Maury is no Oprah, but Ailee said the performance marked a key moment in her career. “It was my first TV appearance, so it helped a lot with exposure because a lot of people didn’t know who I was,” she said. “I’m still proud of it.”

Although the appearance exposed her to a mainstream American audience, Ailee actually was more interested in getting the attention of record labels in Korea. Her dream since childhood was, in fact, to perform on stage in her ancestral motherland. Perhaps it may sound odd that a U.S. native envisioned achieving stardom in a country she had never before called home, but Ailee grew up speaking Korean, and being exposed to Korean TV shows and music during her upbringing in New Jersey.

“I wanted my first break to be in Korea,” Ailee said. “I grew up listening to K-pop. I grew up with S.E.S., G.O.D., and Fin.K.L. Oh—and remember Baby V.O.X.? I remember listening to their songs and copying their dance moves. I always wanted to do K-pop.”

Various Korean record labels did give Ailee offers, but she said she was waiting for the right match. “I like being free,” Ailee said. “I don’t like being so trapped, but all the companies wanted to put pressure on me.”


The right offer finally came from Jin-A Entertainment in 2010, when she was attending Pace University inNew York as a junior communications major.  She was called in for an audition in Seoul, where she sang “If I Got You,” and was signed on the spot.

Jin-A Entertainment CEO Jo Bang-hun, known publicly by his stage name Tae Jin-ah, is a prominent Korean trot artist. The veteran singer-cum-entrepreneur launched a sub-label, YMC Entertainment, in 2011, and handed its operation to his son, Jo Yoo-myung, who grew up in New York. The mission of the sub-label was to promote younger artists, as his name was already so deeply associated with the trot genre, pop music designed to appeal to the older generation.

“My CEO [Jo Yoo-myung], he’s really, really chill. He treats me like a person, before I’m an artist,” said Ailee. “And that’s what got me to sign with him.”

Ailee made her Korean TV debut in September 2011 on MBC’s Singer and Trainee, which features aspiring artists performing various songs and being judged by a panel comprised of veteran singers. She first got the audience’s attention with a duet performed with Korea’s leading R&B singer Wheesung; however, it was her rousing solo performance of Beyonce’s “Halo” in the following episode that enthralled not just the audience, but some of the most recognized figures within K-pop.

“She has the voice to become a star anywhere in the world,” said singer BMK, director of the Soul Train Vocal Academy, who was one of the judges on the show.

Kim Bum-soo, another one of Korea’s respected R&B and soul singers, posted a link to Ailee’s performance of “Halo” via Twitter along with a message that read, “Korea doesn’t seem to be too far away from producing a world-class singer.”

She would win over even more fans when she earned a role on Immortal Song 2: Singing the Legend, a popular TV reality show that features K-pop idols performing remixes of classic hits.

On the show, Ailee performed legendary folk artist Yang Hee-eun’s “Morning Dew,” a tune from the mid-1970s that was considered highly controversial at the time because Korea’s then-military dictatorship interpreted the lyrics as anti-government and banned it. Though Ailee had never before heard the song, the lyrics so moved her that she wasn’t just shedding a few tears while performing it on national TV, she was balling her eyes out.

“Performing ‘Morning Dew’ was an extension of how I felt while I sang the [South Korean national] anthem,” Ailee said. “I learned that this song was essentially an anthem for Korean people who had to suffer. It’s a song about how they had to overcome difficulties.”

Because the singer was still reeling from the criticism from members of the Korean public, she said she could relate to this feeling of trying to overcome hardship. “So when I performed the song, I got really emotional.”


Ailee, during an interview in Los Angeles in February.

Her appearance on Immortal Song would turn out to be a pivotal move for the artist. And in a way, her lack of familiarity with the old Korean songs and the tight schedule of the show, which gave artists about two weeks to learn and reinterpret an assigned song, played to Ailee’s strengths. Unlike many K-pop artists, Ailee isn’t one to rehearse religiously, and it’s not because she’s lazy.

“I don’t like being trapped in a box,” she explained. “That’s why I put in ad-libs and different melodies when I perform. When you practice too much, you get cornered into thinking that you can only perform a song in a certain way.”

What resulted was a growing respect for her commanding stage demeanor and, some might say, her out-and-out swagger.

“I think I’m more accepted because I’m real,” Ailee said. “I don’t try to be a teenybopper. I speak the truth, speak what’s on my mind, and people accepted that.”

Ailee would also make her acting debut in last year’s KBS television series Dream High Season 2, in which she played a member of a fictitious K-pop idol group called HershE.

“I definitely want to get into acting again in the far future,” Ailee said. “It was so much fun. I keep telling my staff members I want to do it again.”

As Ailee sits in the hotel lobby reflecting on a career that is still on the rise, she insists she is still in a state of disbelief. Just a year earlier, after all, she was being attacked for singing Korea’s national anthem at a baseball game. But the journey from there to here, in a way, helped the artist nurture the conviction that she could make it an arguably cookie-cutter industry just by being herself.

Incidentally, Ailee doesn’t see any conflicting loyalty in singing Korea’s national anthem. “Because I’m proud to accept who I am [as Korean American], I would feel just as proud to sing the American anthem, too,” she said.

The singer admits to entertaining the faint dream of bringing her career home to the States one day—and that opportunity may come sooner rather than later. When Ailee walked the red carpet at the pre-Grammy event last February, she did so with world famous record producer Tony Maserati, who incidentally won a Grammy in 2003 for his work on Beyonce’s smash hit, “Crazy In Love.”

“We talked, and he said it’d be really great to [work with] me here one day,” the singer said. “Then I was like, ‘I can’t believe he just said that!’”

But for now, Ailee, who is working on a new album that she hopes to release later this year, is taking it one day at a time.

“I still have a long way to go,” she said. “I’ve only done this for a year, and I’m happy with how I’m living right now. I’m too busy to think about what I want to do later. I know, it’s kind of sad.”

Or maybe, it’s just that the young artist is already living her dream.

“I always wanted to be a singer since I was a little girl,” said Ailee. “I don’t even remember when, or what triggered it, but ever since that became reality, I just want to live every day, and do my best at what I’m doing now.”

This article was published in the May 2013 issue of KoreAmSubscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the May issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).