Sunday, May 01, 2005

K-Pop, The Series, Part 2

This post is continuation (first installement here). As mentioned in part 1, I met a nice man CT who was PD for a weekly live K-Pop TV program. After my first time visiting, I returned home and tried to send him a small gift for his kindness - a bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey, which is made near my home town. Despite the fact that I had done this for another Korean friend a couple of years earlier, it seems that it is nearly impossible to ship whiskey internationally. So I decided to take a different approach - I telephoned the bar where we met, and tried to purchase a bottle for him over the phone. That was not successful, either. Despite the language and phone barrier, I finally found out that they can only swipe a real credit card, and cannot simply take my credit card number over the phone. So... my third and final attempt worked. I called my Korean friend CH and asked him to go to this bar and pay for me, and I arranged to pay him back. That worked like a champ. I sent an email to CT telling him I had a gift waiting for him at the bar.

Well, about a month later I returned to Korea on a business trip, and I happened to be visiting this same bar one Saturday night. To my surprise, in walks CT on his way home from work to pick up my gift - and I happen to be there! We talk briefly, and he invites me to see the next day's program. I also learn that he will soon be changing positions and will be PD of another program. In fact, that trip, I went to his program twice and had a great visit each time. CT moved on to a new position, and I was very happy to have visited the program three times.

Well, over the Fall I spent much time in Korea, and again one evening I was at this same bar, which was almost empty except for me and three men. They kept looking my way, and talking to the bartender. Finally, the bartender comes to me and says, "These men ask if you know them". I studied them carefully, and said no, I didn't know them. Just as a joke, I asked, "Do they know me?" Suddenly one of the men answers, in English, "Yes - we know you - you came three times to our K-pop TV program!" I was surprised - I guess my 6'2" self doesn't blend in with the Koreans very well. Anyway, we spoke some more and these men were all cameramen, and they all remembered me from each of my three visits! The senior cameraman gave me his handphone number, and told me to call anytime I wanted, and he would let me in to see the show. This was unexpected, and I promised myself I would not call unless there was some really big program I wanted to see.

Let me backtrack in time to one of my earlier trips to Korea, when I first discovered that I liked K-Pop music. At the time, one singer in particular was popular with her first album, and I really liked her songs - Chae Yeon. At this time, her "competition" were real big name talents in the K-Pop world, BoA, Hyolee, and others. Despite these other singers, I would always tell my friends I liked Chae Yeon the best. In reply, I was always told "Chae Yeon is a one-time singer. You will never hear from her again". So, fast forward to December 2004, imagine my surprise when I was looking on the internet one day and found that Chae Yeon was having a comeback special, on the same TV program I had visited before. I called my cameraman buddy, and he said he had been transferred to another show! But, he said don't worry - call the old PD man, and he would make my arrangements. I called CT, and sure enough he gave me the name and number of a lady (JY) to call. He said she would let me in.

Now all previous visits I had gone with some Korean friends, but this time everyone I knew was busy and I went by myself. When I arrived at the studio, I called JY, and she could barely speak English. In fact, I was not sure she even understood who I was or why I was calling. Finally, after a few minutes, during which I was about to decide to head home, she came out and met me and let me in. On my previous visits to the show, we simply went into the studio and sat down and waited for the show to begin. But this time, JY took me to a side room and told me to wait - fortunately she had one of her friends also attending this show, and this nice lady could speak English, and served as interpreter. JY came back, and somehow she knew that Chae Yeon was my favorite singer. She said she was going to have her come by and get photos and autographs. While waiting, a fellow came by whom I recognized as the MC of the program. We chatted briefly together, and had a photo made. At the time, I had no idea that he was also singer in one of the hot groups Shinwha. Shortly after that, JY returned with Chae Yeon's manager. He spoke to us, and said she was very busy with make up and getting ready, and couldn't come by for photos. Then JY took us in to see the show. Oh well, no photos, but I was still very happy just to see the show.

Stumbler and Kim Dong Hwan Posted by Hello

The program was great, and I enjoyed all the singers, especially Chae Yeon. After it ended, I expected to head out and go home like all my previous visits. But we were stopped by JY, and she said to follow her. We went up to the top floor of the studio, and waited a minute, then Chae Yeon came out to meet with us!!! I had my photo taken with her, and she signed my CD jacket of her first album. Then she called her manager and had him bring me her new CD, which she also signed for me.

Stumbler and Chae Yeon Posted by Hello

Autographed Copy CD#1 Posted by Hello

Autographed Copy CD#2 Posted by Hello

Now when I told John about this, he concluded that this was the ultimate experience for me in Korea, and there was no reason to stay any longer - I could go home, having reached the peak. However, future events would prove him wrong, but that story will be told in Part 3.

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