After K-drama, Malaysians now enjoy a healthy spread of K-pop from the land of kimchi.
K-pop fever is ablaze in Malaysia as South Korean acts graced our shores in rapid succession in the first half of this year. There were Super Junior, U-KISS, BEAST, Brian Joo and Wonder Girls.
Trivia: Coming after so many boybands and male acts, were Wonder Girls – who were part of yesterday’s MTV World Stage Live In Malaysia 2010 shindig in Bandar Sunway, Selangor – the first all-girl Korean group to perform in Malaysia?
The first girl band from South Korea to be here was the three-member Baby Vox who appeared as part of the Korean Stars Asean Tour for the Winning Hearts Mini Concert at Wisma MCA in Kuala Lumpur in 2005. The trio did not perform, but plugged their music videos instead.
The first female Korean artiste to actually perform here was Jang Nara. The famed singer-actress featured in 8TV’s 2006 Summer Live Concert annual show at Danga Bay in Johor Baru.
It’s not hard to see where the K-pop appeal lies, never mind that the bands are being churned out at a relentless rate. All those beautiful youths with immaculately coiffed hair and fashionable dressing are all capable of bringing the house down with their nifty dance moves, polished showmanship, catchy music and slick videos.
It’s obvious how much work has gone into each song-and-dance gig, and fans appreciate the level of commitment and effort that K-pop stars put into showcasing their talents.
Technology plays a big part in fuelling the interest and fanaticism in Korean pop culture. With South Korea’s high Internet broadband speed – one of the world’s best – and high number of Net-savvy citizens, it sure is a breeze to keep abreast of the latest developments in the pop world.
Additionally, the advent of social media has provided artistes a new avenue for creative self-expression and a platform for fans to interact directly with their idols, further increasing their popularity with the masses around the globe.
Newer Korean acts like U-KISS (which debuted in February 2008) and BEAST (which first came out in October 2009) have, no doubt, found that it’s a cinch to keep their fans happy by posting simple yet regular updates and uploading pictures of themselves doing everyday things like eating, sleeping, exercising, cooking, shopping and generally goofing around.
Fans are certainly chuffed to be able to follow their antics on their blogs, microblogs (i.e. Twitter, me2day) and social network sites (i.e. Facebook, Cyworld) closely. And watching their cool music videos via YouTube.
Malaysian organisers for recent K-pop showcases (Geneses Dream Entertainment for U-KISS, Universal Music for BEAST and Rhythmland for Brian Joo) all capitalised on their Facebook pages to gain support for their shows, and even to sell tickets/albums.
Teacher Fizzy Hasan, 27, is the epitome of the new-age IT-savvy K-pop fan who makes use of the social media platform to get her daily fix of K-pop news and updates. Such is her passion that she has picked up the Korean language, maintains active accounts on Korean language social networking sites, blogs and tweets in Hangul (Korean alphabet).
Her love for all things Korean has taken her to South Korea’s capital, Seoul, so she thinks nothing of travelling from Kelantan where she is based to Kuala Lumpur or Petaling Jaya to meet the Korean celebrities.
While waiting to get into the venue at Brian Joo’s recent showcase at The Opera, Sunway Pyramid, in Selangor, Fizzy shared that she got hooked on Korean culture from watching the drama Stairway To Heaven.
“I enjoyed watching Kwon Sang Woo in the series. Then, I listened to K-pop and started liking Fly To The Sky,” said Fizzy, who’s now partial to boybands like Super Junior, Big Bang and C.N. Blue.
Some fans travel in groups and prefer to arrive early at fanmeets and showcases to stake out an ideal spot at the event.
At two showcases given by BEAST and U-KISS recently, I met one such group (who preferred to be known only for their first names) – Hidayah, 28, Winniejj, 22, Fatimah, 18, Efa, 21, and the only male among them, Aminlee, 20. They had waited since 6am for both shows.
“Though foreign, Korean acts are essentially Asian and more to our liking, as compared to Western pop culture. It doesn’t really matter to us which Korean artiste comes, we’ll be around to show our support. We also follow them on Twitter,” they offered amidst the excitement.
Another group, 16-year-olds from Subang Jaya, Selangor – Katherine, Alena, Lim Shin Yi and Po Wan Ting – gamely sang for our multimedia reporter Jacqueline Wong while awaiting for the BEAST showcase to begin.
The girls, who had also been to the U-KISS showcase, prepared gifts for the boys. One of them even wrote love letters to her favourite members!
Though grossly outnumbered by their female counterparts, there were also males among the K-pop worshippers. Like students Alex Lim, Jun Loong and Joshua Lu, all 16.
Alex found it interesting that the boys had different personalities while Jun Loong was impressed with how good they looked when they performed.
Korea Tourism Organisation (KTO) managing director (Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines) Kim Keehun is naturally thrilled with the K-pop craze.
“With 2010 being the 50th year of diplomatic relations between Malaysia and South Korea, we are hoping to stage a major concert at year-end featuring multiple Korean acts,” he said, as his mobile phone rang with an upbeat tune of boyband 2AM.
KTO communications and events manager Valene Tan, whose work also led her to deal with local K-pop fan clubs, said the most active currently are the Super Junior and SHINee fan clubs.
A Korea Wave Contest was held with auditions in April and the finals in May, where the top two teams represented Malaysia and performed in South Korea.
“We decided to give them a platform to perform and express their love for their favourite Korean artistes,” said Tan.
The grand prize winners Progression (a group of six boys) and the first runners-up Epsilon (a group of five girls who were also fanclub members of SHINee World Malaysia) won tour packages to South Korea.
Truly, the K-pop wave looks set to ride high in Malaysia for some time to come. – By SETO KIT YAN