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G.Dragon World Tour In Houston 2017.

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The fact that world class star G. Dragon chose Houston as one of the stops for his American Tour both surprised me, and made me incredibly happy. I have seen GD perform once live at a KCon in LA, and then I saw Big Bang at their MADE Newark show, but I really expected to have to travel much further to see him for this tour. Houston is only a 3 1/2 hour drive, but I was lucky that some friends let me tag along with them so the time flew by.

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We arrived in Houston around lunch time and while they headed out to a Baseball Game I went to check out the line. The Gold and Silver VIPs had begun lining up early that morning and a couple had even camped out in their car in order to be at the front of the line. Bronze VIPs had seats assigned so the pressure to line up early wasn’t so intense. Fans withstood the incredibly high humidity and passing rain showers in a cheerful mood as they looked forward to the evening’s performance.

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Fan project organizers roamed the line passing out red bags for the ‘red ocean’ project, while another group collected cans and money for the Houston Food Bank in GD’s name. I believe they raised well over $600 in cash and over a hundred pounds of food. Well done to those who donated and to those who organized the food drive.

Gold ticket holders were allowed in earliest, then Silver and then us Bronze, for the special treat of being able to watch the soundcheck. We were kept in separate lines and waited for quite a while, however since we were inside the air conditioned building and had access to restrooms and could buy things it wasn’t too bad. Everyone else had to wait outside in the oppressive afternoon heat. The waiting did begin to get to us though as we could hear music and noises from inside the auditorium and worried that the soundcheck was starting without us. The staff, on the whole, were very patient and pleasant to us and tried to answer all our questions, unfortunately it seemed that not everyone was on the same page at times and there was some confusion from time to time.

Gold VIPs got to have their group photos taken on the empty stage. Then a few minutes later the actual soundcheck began with the band playing a couple of songs and then a very relaxed GD came on stage and gifted us with three songs, and a few bows and waves. We couldn’t see his face as he kept his face mask on the whole time, but we could see him, and hear him, and bask in his presence. He definitely has charisma even with his face covered, and his voice carried beautifully through the mostly empty arena.

After the soundcheck we all relaxed a little and I headed to the bar to have a drink and eat something before they let everyone else in. I met a really nice couple from Dallas, and chatted with some Kpopjacket fans who stopped by to say hi.

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The soundcheck began, and ended late, meaning that the actual concert also started late. There was a feeling of pent up excitement that rippled through the waiting crowd that eventually gave way to an enormous cheer as GD finally appeared on stage. The stage moved around and he was lifted up into view. He started out strong with the ever popular Heartbreaker, and he wound the crowd up with a powerful rendition of the song. He smoothly changed things up by then performing A Boy and Breathe. Quite a few of the evening’s songs were new arrangements, which on the whole worked well, but as a traditionalist sometimes I just want to hear the original version.

Once again my phone wasn’t up to the challenge of capturing decent photos against the intense lighting and backdrops. The stage and arena were almost always full of movement, lights, shadows, fire, smoke, confetti,  or streamers. The dancers were fantastic and complimented GD without overpowering him by their sheer numbers on stage. There were 6 guy dancers and 4 women who were all excellent in their own right. Just as the band was also loud, wonderful and talented.

There was a lot of symbolism displayed on the backdrops and videos shown throughout the evening, as well as heavy usage of the color red. There was also  a lot of blood, and medical equipment. I found it difficult to tell if this was all about birth and rebirth, duality of nature, or even something to do with plastic surgery as a symbol for changing one’s persona to fit what others have come to expect from him. Definitely intense imagery.

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The songs continued apace, with older hits such as MichiGo. One of a Kind, Who You, and Crayon, as well as more recent ones such as Middle Fingers Up, Bullshit, and Untitled. Between all the songs were quieter times when videos were shown, or when he chatted with the audience and told us how he sometimes felt lonely, but that appearing before a live audience made him feel alive. He also spoke about the duality of being both GD and Kwon Ji Yong. He was cute, sincere, and totally adorable while speaking in his softly accented voice. He looked so much younger than his age and I think we all just wanted to hug him and tell him how great he is and that everything would be ok.

A short recorded interview piece asked his family, friends, and co-workers just what they thought of GD and who was he to them. It then went on to ask the same questions about Kwon Ji Yong. Not surprisingly many of the answers were different. He himself also spoke about this potential inner conflict between his two personas and how at times this proved difficult for him. He seemed somewhat insecure and it was very touching seeing him open up about his inner feelings. During the recording he also seemed to say that he was, and was wanting to continue to appear before us as Ji Yong. One comment stuck with me, ‘someone loves me.’ I so hope this means that he truly has a someone, and that whoever it is can help him feel loved. Genius and love often find it hard to co-exist.

The show wound to a close with an amazingly heartfelt and powerful rendition of Crooked, and then a few moments later we realized he had moved down off the stage to a path next to the audience. He sang Untitled as he slowly worked his way along in front of the Gold VIP section. He’s so small most of us lost him from time to time but we could hear the screams and see the crowd ebb and flow thereby following his route, until finally he came out about 15 to 20 feet in front of me. I could only see his face, but it was cool to be so close.IMG_0799

One surprising omission is that he didn’t perform Coup d’Etat, otherwise I felt he did enough songs from his career as a soloist to please everyone. Of course everyone has their favorites. Unfortunately the venue was not full, whether this was because the Texas Kpop audience was split by having 2 Kpop concerts in the same state on the same night, Monsta X was in Dallas, or whether it was just that the Toyota Center was too big a venue I don’t know. Venue size and location can have a big impact on whether a venue can sell out. Also we’ve been very fortunate to have had so many concerts come to Texas this year, but that also means that many people have already spent their discretionary budget. Texas is huge 6 1/2 times the size of Korea, so going to a concert often means paying for a lot more than just the tickets.IMG_0743

Overall it was a wonderful experience, filled with shared excitement, heightened emotions and an incredible performance by Kwon Ji Yong. If you ever get the chance it is well worth the cost to go see him live.

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Thank you to everyone who drove me, or took time to chat with me, it is a lot more fun at concerts when you can hang out with friends, old and new. Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Monsta X Beautiful In The USA: Chicago,    Wild Kard 2017: The 1st Tour in America, and Party Baby! BAP  2017 World Tour In Dallas.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

Photo credits to original owners.

Monsta X Beautiful In The USA: Chicago.

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As some of you know I live in Texas and mostly go to the ‘local’ shows, if you can call a 5 1/2 hour drive local! But this time I had to travel further to see Monsta X, due to having already bought my ticket for the GDragon concert that was for the same day. (Note to the Korean entertainment companies, I know Kpop is becoming more popular in the US, but scheduling 2 Kpop concerts for the same date in the same State is not smart. Splitting the potential audience means less revenue for you and smaller crowds for your artists.)  I decided on the Chicago stop to see Monsta X so I could be among the first to see them perform in the US.

 

 

My daughter came with me so we had a 3 day mini vacation in Chicago before the day of the concert. We did and saw so many cool things, and ate lots of great food. Kpop concerts are a great excuse to see more places and see different parts of the US and world.

 

 

 

(Side note. We’ve stayed in hostels on 3 continents and the Chicago Parthenon Hostel was one of the worst we’ve ever stayed at, so I can’t recommend it, even though it had decent reviews online.)

 

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After 3 sunny days in Chicago the weather turned dark and stormy on the day of the concert. Flash flood warnings were issued and there were major traffic and airport delays. Fans were encouraged to stay safe and to keep dry. By the time we arrived at our hotel, the Crowne Plaza across the street from the venue, there were about 16 people in line. (I can heartily recommend the Crowne Plaza for anyone attending a concert at the Rosemont Theatre. The manager was wonderful, letting us into our room early and making sure we could overlook the venue, even though he was super busy with a large Godzilla convention that was taking place the next day meaning fans for that were also filling the hotel.)

 

 

After a quick trip to the nearby outlet mall, where we apparently missed a couple of the Monsta X boys by minutes, I headed to the venue to check out some of the fan events and projects. Even with the inclement weather spirits were high and projects were in full swing. Multiple fan projects were ongoing and everyone was super excited to be there. By the time the doors opened the line to get in circled the building. The Rosemont Theatre seats 4,400 so that was a long line. Having lost my place in line some kind local fans let me in back in line. Thank you.

 

 

As per most Kpop concerts everyone was happy and excited to be there and some fans had made postcards and pictures to share with other fans. Others were selling the fanart they had made, while yet others were carrying their merchandize and homemade signs and fanart. Many made new friends and told stories about previous concerts and shared their love for the young men who make up Monsta X.

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There was much sadness that member Hyungwon was not able to be at the concert, but everyone was more concerned about him getting healthy than him not being there. The other members, Shownu, Jooheon, Wonho, Kihyun, Minhyuk, and IM were all the favorites of someone in the crowd , and many fans were heard to say it was just too hard to choose one bias when they were all so amazing.

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Once the door opened, yes only one, the staff directed us through multiple ticket and bag check stations getting people in fairly quickly. We had to wait inside until finally they opened the auditorium doors and everyone excitedly found their seats. I was quite near the front, but far over to one side. Unfortunately my phone had a severe meltdown and I got no usable photos, however thanks to a kind couple I met before the show one of whom, Anthony White has given me permission to share some of his photos.

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The concert was amazing, the guys started out strong and never let up the entire show. They put their all into every dance move and every note they sang. The audience screamed and sang along and Monsta X fed off that high octane energy and gave one of the best concerts I’ve been too. The sets and backdrop were fairly minimal, with occasional smoke, streamers, and confetti, but the boys didn’t need any of that as they commanded the stage with their talent, power and raw energy.

 

 

Not only did they wow everyone with their performances they also engaged the crowd in a relaxed and confident manner, belying them being only a couple of years from their debut, and Chicago being their first tour stop in the USA. Wonho, being the flirt that he is, managed to excite the crowd numerous times. When he took his jacket off Jooheon hearing increasing noise from the audience  suggested we all cheer for Wonho’s muscles, which we of course all did. Kihyun just about died laughing.

 

 

Later Wonho also pleased the crowd by forgetting his shirt somewhere. Wonho, not a particular bias of mine walking in because I thought he’s kinda cocky, ended up quickly redeeming himself in my eyes. Yes, he’s a flirt, but he is a great one. When he looked into my eyes even my old heart beat faster. He prowled the stage at times deliberately focusing on individual members of the audience giving each just enough of a look to let them know he really was looking just at them.  He was funny when he was speaking, and the crowd was too loud he used the music director closed fist to ask us to quiet down a bit, but he worried us too as he slipped and fell at one point. Wonho threw me candy, and during the hi touch actually held my hand and squeezed it while again making direct eye contact. He had incredibly soft hands too.

 

 

Kihyun also had his flirty moments, although he also showed deep passion and emotion during multiple parts of the performance. It was amazing to watch his serious face change into an incredibly wrinkly one as his eye smiles almost connected to his cheesy grin. He also acted the mom from time to time, trying to make sure everything ran smoothly during the parts where they spoke to the audience. He also threw me candy and made eye contact and held my hand during the hi touch.

 

 

Shownu was swagger personified as he patrolled the stage, teasing some audience members as he got close to them. He too was on point for the whole concert and you could see the sweat dripping off all of them throughout the show from the effort they were pouring into their performances.

 

 

Minhyuk was smiley and cheerful and really seemed to glow with happiness at times. The Chicago crowd has to be complimented for really pumping up the atmosphere. The excitement was palpable.

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I.M spoke to us in English in his beautifully accented voice, occasionally also translating for the others. There was an official translator, but he didn’t seem to be able to keep up when the boys were joking around. All the members at some point or other tried their hand at speaking English and they were adorable.

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And one really can’t overlook Jooheon even though at times I got the feeling he’s kinda shy. He definitely wasn’t so during the concert, as during some of the songs he really looked fierce and tough. The concentration was evident on all their faces as they made every effort to showcase their abilities. Every move was crisp and sharp, every step in time with the beat and synchronized with the others. They showed multiple facets of their repertoire going from slow to fast tempo songs with ease.

 

 

They sang about 23 of most of their more popular songs including Beautiful, Shine Forever, Trespass, Rush, and my favorite Hero, but I was so caught up in the concert I can’t give you an accurate set list. Fortunately there are so many fansites and Youtube videos of the concert that I’m sure you can find more about the concert if you want.

 

 

I just tried to give you an idea of how fantastic the whole Monsta X concert experience was for me. I’ll definitely head back to Chicago to experience that feeling again.

After all the excitement it was hard to actually take in that it was over. We all wanted more. But the lights came on and the announcements for all those without hi touch or photo op to leave the auditorium began to echo over the theatre. Photo op people were then herded to one area, and hi touch to another. We had a bit of a wait for the boys to have a brief respite after their exertions on stage, and many chatted about the concert and which bits were the absolute best, others sat quietly reliving the highlights over and over in their minds.

We were, as usual, rushed through the hi touch. However, when possible members tried to hold hands and give them a little squeeze, rather than just the quick hi touch that often happens. I applaud them for that and also for looking at fans during the hi touch as well as showing interest and reactions to fans.

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The two pieces of candy that were thrown to me, one from Wonho and one from Kihyun, have become a quandary, to eat or not to eat?

Thank you Monsta X for an excellent performance, and thank you to the Chicago fans who made me feel welcome.

Have a great day everyone.

You might also like Wild Kard 2017: The 1st Tour in America,    Party Baby! 2017 BAP World Tour In Dallas,    and  SHINee V World Tour In Dallas 2017.

Photo credits to original owners. Pre concert photos to Elizabeth & Debora Marzec. (Exception Hyungwon) All concert photos, with thanks, to Anthony White.

Please do not copy, or use, without permission and accreditation.

The Best Korean Dramas So Far This Year. (2017)

2016 ended with a bang, with some really good Kdramas continuing into 2017.  The two most notable being Goblin, and Weightlifting Fairy, Kim Bok Joo both of which would probably be in the top ten of any given year. So if you haven’t watched them yet I recommend them both wholeheartedly.

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I’ll admit that this has been a discombobulated year for me, so I haven’t watched my usual number of dramas. I’ve tried watching many potentially decent dramas but they just didn’t keep my interest. So what did I end up watching all the way through? Just a dozen or so, a far cry from my usual number, although perhaps a more eclectic list than in some years.

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My top pick is probably Strong Woman Do Bong Soon, a semi fantastical story based on the premise of the heroine having inherited superhuman strength from her female forebears. Do Bong Soon, played by actress Park Bo Young, is short and cute and looks anything but strong, and so has managed to keep her secret hidden for years from almost everyone, including her High School crush Guk Doo, played by Ji Soo.

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Guk Doo is all brooding and serious as a young policeman determined to do his duty. Uptight and intense he has little time for Do Bong Soon’s infatuation, and often talks down to her in a somewhat condescending manner. This changes during the course of the drama and the two male leads end up in competition for Bong Soon’s love.

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The cast is rounded out by Park Hyung Sik playing the role of Ann Min Hyuk who accidentally sees Bong Soon use her super strength against a group of gang members. Being the subject of a blackmailer/stalker he decides to hire Bong Soon as his bodyguard. It doesn’t take long before he succumbs to her charms and falls deeply in love, overlooking the fact that she could hurt him with her super strength.

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The story has humor, suspense, flirting, love, heartbreak, and a great bromance between the two male leads,

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but what made it stand out for me was the way Min Hyuk looked at Bong Soon. He absolutely adored her, even when he was doing his best to pretend he didn’t. Hyung Sik did a fantastic job of showcasing Min Hyuk’s joy and pure happiness when Bong Soon was with him and like many watchers I wondered if the two actors were dating in real life. (they were not) I was very impressed with his acting and hope he continues to get good romantic roles in future dramas.

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All cast members, including those in supporting roles did a great job throughout the drama, and I did enjoy it, however I was disappointed by the final episode. (Spoiler alert.) In my opinion Bong Soon ended up being somewhat of a bully towards Min Hyuk after they got married, just like her mother had bullied her father. It was sad that the two couldn’t end up together as equals, him being the brains, and her the brawn, instead of the role reversal of her going out to ‘work’ and him staying at home with the kids. And yet he still loved her and, for me, ended up being the true hero of the drama.

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A strong contender for top spot was Chicago Typewriter, a drama I almost gave up on after the first episode. Fortunately I stuck with it and it turned out to be one of those rare occurrences where each episode just kept getting better and better  A more serious drama than Strong Woman Do Bong Soon, it delves into the past to the Japanese occupation of Korea in the 1930’s, through each character’s memories of past lives.

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Yoo Ah In plays the main protagonist Han Se Joo a young writer from a difficult background that included being betrayed by a family member. At first prickly and unlikeable, he matures and becomes a worthy person through his love for Jeon Seol,  and by remembering the memories of his past life as a resistance fighter. His past life memories only begin to return after a package containing an old Korean typewriter arrives at his home after which he has great difficulty coping with both the flashback memories and a severe case of writer’s block.

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Jeon Seol, acted by Lim Soo Jung, had memories of her past life while she was a child and worked hard at repressing them as they involved murder and death. In the modern world she was once writer Se Joo’s biggest fan, but becomes his anti fan after meeting him. She works at odd jobs, even though she was a potential national shooter and later trained as a veterinarian, due to her repressed anxiety over her disturbing memories. In the past she was a sniper for the Korean resistance.

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The main trio is rounded out by Yoo Jin O, played by Ko Gyung Pyo, a mysterious figure who shows up at Se Joo’s home in different guises. A ghost somehow trapped within the typewriter, he is the catalyst and glue that helps the other two figure out just what happened in their past life. Jin O loves Seol and hopes that by helping Se Joo write about what happened in the past he can learn the method of his death and perhaps in some way be reunited with Seol.

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And all good dramas need a bad guy, in this case it is Gal Ji Seok played by Kwak Si Yang, who did a good job of being suitable creepy and deranged.

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The writer, Jin Soo Wan, did a great job of connecting the past and present story lines in an understandable way while managing to keep me engaged and interested as to how it would unfold. The supporting cast performed admirably and I would recommend Ghost Writer to anyone who likes a bit of mystery with their romance.

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My third choice would be Man To Man, which I found on Netflix. It only did ok in Korea and wasn’t really a hit, partially I believe because many viewers didn’t like the female lead Cha Do Ha. ( Kim Min Jung.) Not your usual Kdrama beauty in looks and with a slightly annoying personality in the first couple of episodes it was difficult to like her to begin with, but she ended up being the perfect partner for the secret agent hero of the drama.

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Filmed partly in Budapest, one of my favorite cities, Man to Man is the story of a secret agent, a superhero movie actor, and a former fan embroiled together in intrigue, betrayal, friendship, love, and lots of action. As a black ops agent, Kim Sul Woo (Park Hae Jin) is forced by circumstance to become the bodyguard to actor Yeo Woon Gwang (Park Sung Woong) while being overseen by former fan and now manager Cha Do Ha. Stoic, rigid and incredibly efficient as a bodyguard Sul Woo eventually becomes a trusted part of the household, and when the chips are down his new ‘family’ step up to help him right wrongs.

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One of the most important themes running through the drama was the value of true friends and the lengths you would go to protect them. There were multiple friendships in the drama with perhaps the bromance/friendship between Sul Woo and Woon Gwang being the one that most changes the future of all those around it. Sul Woo learns to be more human and caring, Do Ha matures into an understanding and capable woman, and even Woon Gwang grows up a little. Woon Gwang, immature, selfish, and annoying turns out to be a deep and thoughtful person helping the love between Sul Woo and Do Ha grow and develop while also being a large part of the plan to take down the bad guy corrupt politicians and chaebol heirs.

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The large cast of great actors, who added to both the comic relief and the intensity of the plot, were rounded out by cameo appearances by Song Joong Ki and Namgung Min.

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And yes, in this drama we see far more than the usual 2 expressions from Park Hae Jin, in fact he smiles quite a few times. Having said that somewhat tongue in cheek, all the main actors played their roles well and I got caught up in the drama and thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Other dramas that were ok for what they were were My Secret Romance, which started off with a bang but unfortunately got bogged down at times and couldn’t maintain the momentum. Still ok for a lightweight romance.

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My Shy Boss was perhaps a slightly better romance, although I had some issues with the female lead for the first few episodes. It seems that in order to try and establish the female lead as being confident, empowered, and professional, many dramas are having them start out brash, insensitive, and pushy. I have had a problem with watching My Sassy Girl, and  Lookout just because I really don’t like the attitudes of the female leads. Yes I know they are meant to change over the course of the drama, but if I start out not liking them I might not watch any more after a couple of episodes. Lookout is worth a try though as the rest of the ensemble cast are quite good.

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Lastly Circle: Two Worlds Connected  is definitely  worth watching if you are a fan of sci fi, mystery, or crime dramas. With aspects of all three it intertwines the present and the future lives of the protagonists. Told in two halves for each episode it relies on the viewer’s memory to join the two into a whole, which is clever as the main theme of the drama is memory control and access. Less confusing than constant flashbacks the story speeds along each week asking as many questions as it answers about the importance of memory, consent, the power of repentance, and how much should governments and businesses be allowed to control the people.

So that’s it folks, my personal suggestions for the best Kdramas for the first half of 2017. I may edit or add to this as I catch up on some of the popular dramas I’ve missed. I believe that so far this year there have been about 90 dramas which were, or are currently airing so far this year. Do you have a favorite? Please feel free to let me know in the comments section below.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also like Korean Actors Who Were Athletes First,  Kdramas: My Picks For 2016,  Easy On The Eyes: Korean Models Turned Actors, and  My Favorite Parks, (Actors Not Green Spaces.)

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

All photo credits to original owners.

Korean Variety Show Games: Lose And Face The Punishment. Part 2.

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Running Man, one of the most challenging of Korean variety shows, is also known for some fairly intense punishments, although sometimes the actual games themselves turn out to be far more grueling than the actual penalties and punishments. Any time the games are played in mud the contestants end up exhausted.

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Some penalties play a recurring role and will show up with a certain regularity. One such penalty is forced air being blown at a contestants face if they answer a question incorrectly.

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Whenever there’s an episode with a pool location there’s a chance of the penalty being the ‘catapult dunk’. This one looks a little bit scary as you have no control.

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Another type of punishment is something hitting your head, like a metal tray, or even water or flour.

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The forehead slap seems like it would really hurt.

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And the walking in public or riding the subway dressed in crazy outfits is embarrassing, although I’m not sure all the Running Man members can even feel embarrassed any more.

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Poor Kwangsoo even had to wear hot pants to work while he was filming a movie.

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While Weekly Idol likes butt slapping as a punishment, Running Man has taken that one step forward and used the historic form of that punishment method and used a large paddle.

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All the Running Man members enjoy punishing each other, as well as just making fun of each other, and they seem to take quite a bit of delight in making each other ugly by drawing on each other’s faces.

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There are a lot more penalties and punishments that take place on Running Man, do you have a favorite? You can let me know in the comments section below.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Part 1,  The Humor In Mud,  Six Degrees of Yoo Jae Suk,  and Korean Variety Show Games.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

All photos to original owners. In this case probably SBS.

Korean Public And Street Art: In Photos.

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Koreans have a heritage of creating art that dates back thousands of years, so it is not surprising that they are still doing so. Art museums and galleries showcase some outstanding collections, but art also needs to be accessible in the daily routine of life and street and public art fills that need.

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Like most major world cities Seoul has a thriving tradition of public art along with street art, which may or may not be city sanctioned. And of course the line between art and graffiti is a very fluid one. Longtime fans of easily accessible outdoor art of all kinds we made no attempt to seek it out, we just allowed ourselves the pleasure of discovering it along the way.

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On our first visit we obviously headed for some of the must see sights and public monuments such as this statue of King Sejong the Great, one of the most important monarchs in Korean history, which is public art on a grand scale. However, being fans of somewhat more unique and quirky art we kept our eyes open to see what we could spot.

And sure enough we found some a little while later.

Public parks and large open areas are often perfect places to find all sorts of art.

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This ‘monster’ from the movie The Host would randomly make noises and freak out the little kids while the parents stood around laughing. In that sense it also became performance and interactive art. (We didn’t even know this existed or we would have made a point to see it, fortunately we just came across it while walking in one of the Han River parks.)

Seoul Forest had a sculpture garden, and then some fantastic random art pieces such as this giant wire man that you could actually climb inside.

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Most parks had art, some on quite a large scale to complement the space.

It turned that almost everywhere we went there was street art as well as the large public installations.

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Sometimes it cropped up in heavily trafficked tourist areas or formed the backdrop for public performances.

Some art pieces showed their colors better after dark.

And of course there was Kpop art.

We saw art every day and unfortunately sometimes neglected to take photographs, but Seoul is so filled with art, not to mention the amazing architecture of buildings both ancient and modern that are artworks in their own right, we became a little blase. I’ll do a future post on Busan, and one on Jeju Island, both places also chock full of street and public art.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Foodies Delight: The Street Food Of Korea,   Seoul Forest Park: In Photos,   and  The National Treasures Of Korea.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. Photo credits to Elle and Debora Marzec.

Korean Variety Show Games: Lose And Face The Punishment.

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I think one of the reasons so many people enjoy watching Korean Variety Shows is that hosts and guests play the games to win. There’s no just going through the motions, they are in it to win and their competitive spirit is obvious.

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However, an underlying reason may be that in most games the losers are punished. Punishments can range from causing mild embarrassment to painful physical penalties.

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Three of the most well know variety shows for penalties and punishments are perhaps, 2 Days, 1 Night,  Running Man, and Weekly Idol although these by no means are the only ones.

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Weekly Idol takes place in a sub basement against blank walls, and with no audience except the production crew. In this way everything is focused on the idol guests and their interaction with the hosts and each other. It is up to the idols to show themselves to advantage. Challenges are accepted and games are played with gusto, while failure is met with harsh punishments, sometimes metered out by the losing idols very own group mates.

The most intense self punishment by an idol group was Teen Top. In fact on their next appearance they found out that weren’t allowed to play random play dance like that anymore and a new punishment for failure was chosen.

One of the most popular punishments in general life as well as on variety shows is the takkbam or forehead flick. Most idol groups have played it amongst themselves and kinda know where they stand within their group. Often it is the member you least expect who will be a powerful ‘flicker’. Here we see Kihyun from MonstaX earn the respect of host  Jeong Hyeong Don.

Onew, from SHINee is said to be one of the most powerful players and there’s a long list of celebrities who can attest to the strength of his hit.

 

Another punishment is the wrist slap, which I’m pretty sure some of us have done to our friends on school playgrounds around the world. Here BTS gets punished for failure in the random play dance. Notice that it is often their own group who mete out the penalties.

 

Along with the kicking we saw earlier from Teen Top, slapping of butts is also quite popular.

The most iconic punishment on weekly idol however, may be the squeaky toy hammer. Often used by the hosts on guests as well as guests on each other it illicites some strange reactions. IU, and then later GD just couldn’t stop laughing. I think they actually may have been in shock.

Even the biggest names in Kpop are not exempt from the toy hammer, Big Bang, Twice, Hyuna, APink, Beast, SHINee, Sechs Kies, Winner, Black Pink and many others have succumbed to the crash of the hammer on their heads.

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A favorite show of many fans, Weekly Idol is a master at handing out punishments for losing, particularly the almost un-winnable Random Play Dance.

I’ll cover other penalties and punishments in Part 2.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Korean Variety Show Games,   Happy Anniversary Weekly Idol,  and Best Of Weekly Idol Random Play Dances.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

Photo and video credits to original owners.

 

Korean Actors Who Were Athletes First.

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The idea of casting athletes in movies goes back almost to the beginnings of cinema. Johnny Weissmuller who was one of the top competitive swimmers in the 1920’s gained even more fame for being one of the early film Tarzans. Esther Williams, another swimmer who had won 3 national level championships by the age of 16, was a famous movie star of her day. And most of us are familiar with Arnold Schwarzenegger, bodybuilding, and Dwayne Johnson, American football and professional wrestling, who created successful movie careers for themselves after their athletic careers wound down, so it should come as no surprise that quite a few Korean actors were quite athletic before they became famous for acting.

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Song Joong Ki was a promising short track speed skater during his middle school years (typically older than in US, up to age 16) and represented his home town 3 times at the National Games, as well as winning at regional meets. Unfortunately he suffered an injury during his first year of High School which ended his athletic career. On the up side it allowed him to focus on acting classes and schoolwork. His parents had encouraged the acting classes because of his shyness.  He scored well on his college entrance exam and attended the prestigious Sungkyunkwan University.

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He had small acting roles, modeling gigs, and appearances on TV in entertainment shows, before his big break in 2010 in the Kdrama Sungkyunkwan Scandal and by becoming a regular cast member on Running Man, on which he showed his athleticism as well as his intelligence. It was both of these that really drew him to my attention and he has been one of my favorite actors ever since. Other roles followed with him gaining more critical acclaim with each performance.

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Then in 2013 he began his mandatory military service, returning to acting in 2015 with the leading role in Descendants of the Sun, playing the leader of a UN peacekeeping unit.. Originally some people worried if he could carry off such a masculine role, but now they can’t imagine any other actor in that role.

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From athlete, to variety show cast member, to actor Song Joong Ki has proved himself to be a multitalented celebrity who still seems modest and grounded in the real world. I can’t wait for his next Kdrama.

 

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So Ji Sub trained as a swimmer for 11 years and even won a bronze medal at the Korean National Games. He has said that swimming and hip hop were his interests when he was young and that he had no interest in becoming an actor. Liking hip hop and having an athletic swimmer’s body on a six foot frame he decided to try out for a modeling job that might place him near his hip hop idol Kim Sung Jae. He got the job and discovered he could make money by modeling.

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It wasn’t long before modeling led to small acting parts and the rest is history. So Ji Sub has acted in multiple movies and Kdramas as well as making appearances on variety shows. His most famous works might be his most recent, Master’s Sun, and Oh! My Venus, however he feels that What Happened in Bali was one of his best roles.

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He has continued to exercise and maintain his athletic figure and can be seen regularly as a print model. He also maintains his interest in hip hop and has released multiple albums and singles and has even had a couple of photo essay books published.

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Nearing 40 years old he doesn’t seem to be aging, instead like a fine wine, he seems to be getting better and better. All that athletic training in his youth definitely paid off.

 

Both Song Joong Ki and So Ji Sub filmed Battleship Island in 2016 and I’m looking forward to its upcoming release. Set during the Japanese occupation it looks like a dramatic watch, but with two of my favorite athletic actors starring in it I’ll be sure to do so. Set on Hashima Island during a time of forced labor by the Japanese of Koreans it will showcase an aspect of history that the Japanese don’t necessarily want brought to light. Its expected release date is July 2017.

 

On that somewhat somber note I think I’ll finish today’s post and write part 2 to cover other Korean athletes who became actors.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy  Is It The Kdrama Actor?   Easy On The Eyes:Korean Models Turned Actors,    and My Favorite Parks. (Actors not green spaces.)

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

All photo credits to original owners.

Pets In Korea: And Some Of The Idols Who Own One.

 

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There’s a lot to be said about the pleasure one gets from seeing handsome and attractive young Korean idols and actors interact with their beloved pets. The internet is filled with such photos and many celebrity pets even have their own instagram accounts.

5 Korean Male Celebrities Competing In Cuteness With Adorable Pets

But owning a ‘pet’ was virtually unknown of in Korea until relatively recently. For a long time in Korea all animals had a utilitarian purpose, they were kept because they could do a job, or they were food. This philosophy can still be seen in some Korean people’s reactions to dogs in particular. Many Koreans are intrinsically distrustful of dogs, and some still fear them, particularly those people who were brought up by parents and elders who stressed that dogs are, ‘dirty, carry diseases, and bite.”

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The traditional Korean viewpoint on dogs began to see changes in the 1990’s when people began to have more disposable income and a wider view of the world outside of Korea. At first the idea of ‘pet’ leaned more towards a dog being a fashionable living accessory, with the wealthy and bored dying their dogs all sorts of colors and dressing them up in clothes and jewelry. Although many Asians do still do this to their dogs there now seems to be more of the idea of your pet being your companion rather than an accessory or a toy.

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Key is well known for loving his 3 dogs and dressing them up all the time. And there are many other celebrities who do so too. This happens in the US too, although not to the extent of in some Asian countries.

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Having not grown up around animals as pets many of these idols are learning as they go, which does lead to some cringe worthy actions when seen by those more familiar with cats and dogs. At other times all we can see is the love between owner and dog and vica versa.

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But Korean celebrities are doing the best they can and by showcasing their affections for their pets they are helping to erase the stigma of pet ownership, and perhaps change some long held beliefs within the older community.

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At first entertainment companies weren’t too keen on idols having pets, because of the upkeep and what to do with them when the idol was overseas or busy, but nowadays most idols are allowed pets. Pets have proved to be ’emotionally stabilizing’ and provide unconditional love in times of stress, and the entertainment companies now leave it up to the idols as to what to do with them when they can’t take care of them. This leads to questions from fans when popular puppies grow up and disappear from the scene. In most cases friends or family take in the grown dog but sometimes I’m left to wonder.

In the past few years the number of Koreans owning pets has risen dramatically, from 17.4% of Korean households owning at least one pet, to 22% in 2015. This does, however, still include people who chain their animals up outside, which for many of us reduces the dog to more of an ‘object’ to be owned, rather than a pet even if its living conditions don’t look too bad.

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Some theorize the surge in the number of pets is due to the rise of single family households and the fact that pets are seen as a substitute for children by some people. With the rise in the number of pets there’s also been a large rise in the number of thrown away and abandoned pets, more than 80,000 last year. Cases of pet abuse have also risen.

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The Korean Government has enacted new laws governing the regulation of pet ownership and is trying to enact and enforce pet safety rules. Unfortunately there are estimated to be about 1,000 puppy mills in Korea with 80% of them being illegal. Most puppies in Korea do come from these puppy mills.

 

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Cats were once seen as vermin and bad luck, and were even used as an ingredient in traditional medicine. Nowadays all that is slowly changing and many more Koreans are keeping cats as pets. Perhaps better suited to apartment dwellers, cats are becoming increasingly popular with both idols and the general population.

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There’s a long list of Korean celebrities who own dogs and it would include Kim Sohyun, Roy Kim, Mark & Youngjae, Amber, Suhyun, Jin, Jimin, Zelo, Siwon, , Park Shinhye, Kai, Kang Sora, Seunghoon, GD, Taeyang, Key, Yang Yoseob plus many others. In fact in some cases almost every member of an idol group own dogs, UKiss and Shinwa are just two examples.

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There’s also a long list of celebrities with cats to include Hyorin, Amber, Kim Soeun, Ahn Jaehyun, Kang Minhyuk, Kim Heechul, Myungsoo, Chansung, GD, and of course Jaejoong,

Winner has both a dog and 3 cats and have even had to bring in an animal behaviourist to help Oat who is sometimes bullied by the 3 cats.

A few idols have more exotic pets such as turtles, snakes, a chameleon and hedgehogs, with Yang Hyunsuk head of YG Entertainment owning, among other pets, a chicken. (Actually belongs to his daughter, but he took it on a TV show once as people didn’t believe the stories he told about it.)

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Who is your favorite idol/pet combination?  Let me know in the comments below. Mine is maybe Key as he fusses over his dogs like an old lady, and he obviously loves them.

Edit 05/26/2017 It looks like there might be a push towards more responsible pet ownership gaining ground.

Edit 06/25/2017 tourist facilities for those with pets are being planned by some municipalities.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Six Degrees Of Yoo Jae Suk,  Cats And Dogs: Animal Cafes In Seoul, and  Easy On The Eyes: Korean Models Turned Actors.

Please do not copy and use without permission and accreditation.

All photo credits to original owners.

The National Treasures of S. Korea.

 

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Some countries, such as S. Korea and Japan have designated lists of ‘National Treasures’, to include both physical, or tangible, artifacts like palaces, sculptures and artworks, as well as living, or intangible treasures, such as people and traditional festivals. I have always liked this idea, and often will look at the UNESCO World Heritage List for a country before a visit to help me narrow those really must see places and things. The UNESCO List is obviously on a grander scale, with only some of those items on each country’s’ national lists making it to the UNESCO one. The premise, however, on a very basic level is similar, look at your stuff and see which is the best of that particular thing, from that particular place and time. Then keep it safe, restore it if necessary, and put it on display so your people can see it. This to a certain extent also works with people and festivals, although with people you must also specify that they pass on their knowledge and skill to future generations.

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Kang Sun Young.

Korea is proud to have 12 items on the UNESCO World Heritage List and 19 on the Intangible World Heritage List. For comparison the USA has 23 (mostly natural areas) and 0, while Spain has 46 and 16.

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Juldarigi

These numbers show that Korea takes exceptional joy and pride in the skills of its artist’s and craftspeople, as well as by trying to preserve their cultural heritage through festivals and performances. Designated National Living Treasures, craftspeople, artists and performers, can be seen showcasing their skills and talents at various sites around Korea. For most visitors the easiest place to see some is probably Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul where a few reside and work.

Bukchon Hanok Village (북촌한옥마을)

Although watching and learning from people passing on traditional skills and knowledge is among one of my favorite things to do, seeing the best of the best a country has to ofter is high up there too. The Korean Government has, so far, designated over 300 National Treasures, along with numerous subcategories, and carefully considers items for future inclusion to the list. The list is not ranked, but rather listed when each thing was placed on the list. Sungnyemun, or Namdaemun, Gate was listed as National Treasure number 1. (see top photo.)

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Number 2 on the list is Wongak Temple 10 level stone tower. It is kept safely behind glass in Topgol Park in Seoul. Many famous buildings, gates, pagodas etc are on the list, but the list also has multiple smaller artifacts and artworks that are kept inside museums.

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The National Museum of Korea, one of the top ten largest in the world, has amazing collections of artifacts both indoors and out, which include quite a few National Treasures. My favorite is National Treasure 91 which is a “stoneware vessel in the shape of a warrior on horseback, from the Old Silla period, around 500-600AD. Found in Geumnyeong-chong, Noseo-dong, Gyeongju City, Gyeongsangbuk-do.”

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He is just charming, and extremely well executed. Each of the National Treasures is carefully labeled as such, so if you’re short on time you can see the highlights by focusing just on the National Treasures, although I would encourage you to look at everything you possibly can as there are many more splendid things to see than are just on the National Treasures list.

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Korea is to be commended, as not all countries have taken such steps to protect their cultural heritage. Not all National Treasures are publically owned, some belong to private collectors, such as in the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, but rules and regulations are in place to protect items in private hands.

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Next time you’re in Korea keep your eyes out for the small plaque telling you if the item you are looking at is indeed a National treasure, they are often hidden away in plain sight.

Have a great day everyone.

You might also enjoy Hanji: The Paper of Korea,  Juldarigi:An Extreme Form Of Tug Of War,   Seoul City Gates, and Neolttwigi: A Korean Seesaw Game.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. Photo credits to original owners.