Winner: Everywhere Tour In Dallas 2019.

It was a cold and rainy day for Winner’s stop in Dallas on their ‘Everywhere’ tour. Grey skies with ever growing black clouds full of cold rain swept over Dallas. But even the rain plus strong winds that turned many an umbrella inside out did not daunt the stalwart fans who had started to line up since early that morning.

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I chose to get out of the rain and hid in Grimaldi’s Restaurant where Tonya, my server, kindly let me take my time over a wonderful antipasto plate. A few other fans had also taken refuge inside and I heard some explaining Kpop to the wait staff.

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The concert was held in The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory a fairly new facility in Las Colinas. A large multi- configuration hall it was perhaps too big for Winner’s concert, especially as another Kpop group was performing in Houston on the same night. Unfortunately that meant Winner did not sell out this stop of their tour, but that is not to say that there wasn’t a large, vocal, and very enthusiastic crowd of fans. Throughout the evening the roars and screams from everyone easily made it feel like a sold out concert. It also meant that there was plenty of room for the fans to dance along to the songs.

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Thanks to the assistance of Nancy Tran we worked out a wonderful option that allowed me to sit at Deck 3 and as well as going into the pit area as I wished. (I ended up being the only one sat with a whole bar and staff just for me, crazy right!) All the staff at the venue were super sweet and very helpful. My thanks to them all.

Once everyone got in and settled the anticipation and excitement of the fans began to grow and grow. When the lights finally dimmed and the venue grew dark the feeling was electric. The stage lights flashed and spotlights roamed over the heads of the audience leading up to the entrance of Winner on a platform high up at the back of the stage.

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photo credit YG Entertainment

They started off by performing what is perhaps their ‘signature’ song  Really, Really to an enthusiastic response from everyone. Followed up by Hello, Air, and Everyday. Almost everyone was singing along. One small criticism was that the heavy use of white spotlights meant that at times we couldn’t see the members clearly as they were wearing white. White on white?

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Photo credit YG Entertainment.

The members, Seungyoon, Seunghoon, Jinwoo, and Mino were dynamic and compelling. It was hard to chose who to focus on as each had their charm. They performed their opening set masterfully and had the crowd entranced. However, rather than just go through their set list, which you can easily find on other sites, I’d rather tell you about a few moments that I particularly enjoyed.

I had a great time the whole evening, the music, singing, and dancing were spot on the whole concert. I was lifted up by their dynamism, consoled by their love of their fans, and mellowed out to their island songs, but I secretly enjoyed their audience interactions the most.

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Photo credit. YG Entertainment.

In the opening introduction when Yoon said ‘you never forget your first love’ and that he will never forget this first tour, I could feel more than my own heart flutter. Jinwoo said that this tour was a ‘dream come true.’

Their interviews with two lucky fans were cute, and being able to listen to Yoon and Jinwoo speak English so well was endearing. One lucky young lady from Saginaw was interviewed by Yoon who asked her how long she had been a fan. To which she replied “six months’. Yoon then very seriously told us how in Korea that is called being a ‘newbie’ and no one had the heart to tell him that newbie is an English word. ( It’s been used since it was invented during the Vietnam War.) He asked her favorite song and then encouraged her to sing it with him. It was such a sweet fan interaction.

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Jinwoo chose a young man who had travelled all the way from Alaska for the concert. His name was Taeyang which caused a bit of confusion at first. He had been a fan for two years and when pressed to name his favorite member he said Jinwoo. I think it was Jinwoo who then started singing Taeyang’s Eyes, Nose, Lips, and the audience quickly joined in. It must have been an incredible experience for that young man from Alaska. Something he will never forget.

At one point they read an incredibly well written and moving  ‘letter’ from a fan which really seemed to touch their hearts.

Another thing I enjoyed was the video they showed between two of their sets. Usually these ‘time filling’ videos are kind just ok stopgaps until we can get back to the real show. But it turned out that Winner made a really cute video in which they poked fun at themselves a little. Yoon’s love for Yakult was played up to perfection and the image of him staring longingly into a refrigerator full of his favorite drink has stayed in my mind. They made fun of Jinwoo, by showing him having bought lots of clothes…..and then they were all the same grey hoodie!

These little breaks that gave us insights into the members of Winner were engaging and helped control the pace of the show. They also played slower songs and solos in the middle so the fans could ride the wave of the explosive first and last set. Each member sang solo sets with each singing a couple of songs. Most impacting for me were Yoon singing I Like Me Better by Lauv except he changed the lyrics from New York to Dallas. Also Seunghoon performed a cover of Taeyang’s Ringa Linga to the delight of the crowd, although some of that may have been love for the song itself. Mino sang Fiance while Jinwoo sang GDragon’s Untitled.

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Photo credit YG Entertainment.

By the time we got to the end of the night all the audience had experienced a huge range of emotions with perhaps happiness and excitement being the strongest. It was both wonderful and sad for everyone as Winner ended the night with an encore of Really Really and then Everyday. A few minutes for a group photo with the audience and that was it.

But it wasn’t, because the excitement could still be seen on the faces of the fans as they braced against the bitter wind and cold as they left the venue. That same wind caught the fans laughter and squeals of joy as each recounted their favorite part of the evening, and spread that happiness to everyone.

Have a great day everyone.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. Photo credits to original owners. Title image to YG Entertainment as well as those labeled as such, all others to me.

You may also enjoy my posts on G.Dragon’s 2017 concert in Houston, Taeyang in Dallas,  and Zion. T in Dallas.

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My Favorite Kdramas of 2018. Part 2.

In the first part I mentioned how 2018 saw the rise of the crime, lawyer, courtroom type drama. Perhaps my favorite from this genre was Prison Playbook, which kinda obviously takes place inside a prison. Filled with flashbacks and with some scenes taking place on the outside the action doesn’t all take place within the confines of  the prison.

Although there is very definitely a lead character and second lead, in many ways this was an ensemble piece. And it was that cast of many players that pulled this show together into one of the best stories of last 2018.

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It was however, one of those shows that you have to be patient with at the beginning. ( I had seen good reviews and when I first started watching I wondered what the reviewers had been taking! ) Without giving too much away, the main lead is a successful baseball player right on the cusp of superstardom.  He is found guilty of a crime.  He is first sent to a detention center and then later a penitentiary.

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This drama follows his incarceration and how he adapts to life behind bars. Fortunately an old friend is a prison guard and he tries to help him as much as he can. Bromance is a wonderful thing. There’s also a bit of a romance, but obviously being a prison drama that takes a back seat to the stories going on behind the bars of Seobu Penitentiary.

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Each cell houses up to 6 inmates and in this drama each person has a completely different character. As the drama progresses we learn some of their backstories though flashbacks, and also perhaps begin to understand what led them to end up there. The question of is it sometimes the wrong person who is behind bars is also addressed and then can anything even be done about it?

Living and working so close to the prisoners the backstories of some of the guards are also explored as the two have in many ways an intimate knowledge of the other. A good guard, or a bad one, can make all the difference in a prisoner’s life.

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The main leads did a good job and their acting was spot on, but it was many of the supporting cast that I grew to love. The interactions between Yoo Hang Yang and almost anyone were cute, funny, and sad. He had a knack of aggravating everyone and his ‘feuds’ with KAIST and Captain Yoo always made me smile.  I also looked forward to learning more about and watching Jailbird, Jean Valjean, Doctor Go and other cellmates and guards. There was humor, and life lessons learned, as well as unlikely friendships and  loyalty. Not all was good in prison and there were plenty of evil people and unpleasant things too. But not wanting to spoil your enjoyment if you watch I’ll just say that some characters do get a happy ending.

If you haven’t watched it already I do suggest you give Prison Playbook a chance.


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I’m not a big enough fan of the crime/law/courtroom genre to have watched them all, but I did like The Ghost Detective enough to watch it until the end. To a certain extent the premise was similar to some other dramas, but there was enough of a difference, along with a few surprises along the way, to keep me interested. It was a little spooky and creepy at times as well as having some quite emotional scenes.

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There were two ‘season 2’ dramas that I started watching in the hope that they would be as good as their first seasons. And they weren’t. Unfortunately I didn’t like either and stopped watching after a few episodes, actually even less than that for Mystery Queen 2. The first season had a quirky charm, in the second the female lead became kinda cocky and irritating.  I stuck with Bad Guys City of Evil for a while, but it never grabbed me like the original Bad Guys which I really enjoyed. In the first Bad Guys I wanted to know the ‘bad’ guys back stories and I had some sympathy for their plight. In season 2 I didn’t care about any of them.

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My Secret Terrius, aka Terrius Behind Me, was a different kettle of fish. To start with it starred So Ji Sub, one of my favorite actors, as a member of Korea’s secret service. Actress Jung In Sun played the female lead.  With So Ji Sub being born in 1977 and Jung In Sun in 1991 there is a large difference in their real life ages, however I don’t think the age difference was meant to be that large between the characters as Jung’s character had 2 children.

Although on the surface a spy story it was also a drama about friendships, healing, and romance. Housewife and mother Go Ae Rin (Jung In Sun) becomes a widow as her husband is murdered for seeing something he shouldn’t have. Kim Bon (So ji Sub), once a top spy, has become a fugitive as he tries to clear his name after a botched mission. The woman he loved dies. Out for justice and revenge he is tracking a killer who turns out to be the same one who killed Go Ae Rin’s husband.

Two worlds collide. The ordinary everyday day life of a struggling mom and that of a renegade spy. The spy story was decent and interesting, but it was the intertwining of the normal life of ordinary people into the world of spies that added humor, loyalty, friendships, and romance. And that set it apart from the usual ‘spy’ drama. I loved the KIS, Kingcastle Information System, which was a little like a cross between a HOA and a Moms network. The KIS was mostly made up of stay at home moms and one stay at home dad played by Kang Ki Young. (He won best supporting actor at the 2018 MBC Drama Awards.) When one of their own was in trouble they pulled out all the stops to help them out.

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Go Ae Rin relies on the KIS to help her after her husband’s death. Following up on the premise that the killer he is after is the same one that killed her husband, Kim Bon moves into the Kingcastle apartment complex so he can monitor her. He ends up becoming the babysitter for her children.

The story evolves from there. If you are looking for a slightly different drama that still has all the action, romance, humor, and suspense you might need then I recommend My Secret Terrius. It won multiple awards at the 2018 MBC Drama Awards, including Best Actor for So Ji Sub.

Well once again I’ve not managed to cover all my favorite Kdramas from 2018, but I promise Part 3 will be the last.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy The Best Kdramas of 2017Korean Actors Who Were Athletes First, and Eyes On The Eyes: Korean Models Turned Actors.

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Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

 

My Favorite Kdramas Of 2018.

Ever year Korea produces between 140 and 150 dramas for TV and Cable. Not all of these are easily accessible to the overseas fan, although the export of Korean content has been improving more and more each year. We did take a hit, however, with the sudden shut down of Drama Fever.

Most years have a mega-hit drama, like Coffee Prince for 2007, Boys Over Flowers for 2009 and Heirs in 2013. More recently who can forget Descendants Of The Sun, or Goblin. Unfortunately I didn’t feel that 2018 had one of those unforgettable, almost iconic dramas. That’s not to say that there weren’t some enjoyable and good dramas, just for me there wasn’t a great one.

For 2018 I only watched 14 dramas all the way through. I did however start watching over 20 others. Some of these I dropped after a couple of episodes, while for others I lasted more than half way through. I’ve been watching Kdramas for almost a decade now and I think that I’ve moved on from the novelty of the genre to being a more discerning viewer, which means if the actors and plot aren’t engaging enough I lose interest. Yes, even if it has a favorite actor or idol bias in it.

So what did I enjoy enough to recommend?

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What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim. ( June 2018 – July 2018 )

I didn’t rush to watch this when it first came out because yet again it contained so many of the old tropes, the rich standoffish chaebol boss, the efficient female assistant, the shared past trauma, and of course the realization they were each others first love. But with the talented cast of Park Seo Joon, Park Min Young, Lee Tae Hwan, and Kang Ki Young it was inevitable that I would watch it anyway. And of course I’m so glad I did.

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I was pleasantly surprised.

Park Seo Joon is a fantastic romantic comedy actor in that I can totally fall for his looks one minute, and be laughing at his goofball actions and expressions the next. He has a fantastic sense of the comedic and it doesn’t look forced as it does with some other romantic actors. He also doesn’t steal the limelight, for example when Kang Ki Young is being funny Park Seo Joon becomes the perfect straight man.

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Park Min Young who plays Secretary Kim proved herself to be perfectly capable, both as her character Kim Mi So, and as the lead actress. She had a charm and inner strength that shone through as Secretary Kim had to deal with her socially clueless boss, as well as the demands of her work and home life. Not a typical female leading character, she had her own thoughts and opinions which she usually kept hidden under a ‘perfect’ secretary image. She was in no way the weaker partner in the romantic relationship. In many ways it ended up showing a much more adult relationship than is seen in many Kdramas.

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There always has to be a third wheel, or a character that tries to spoil the lead character’s plans and love, here it was Lee Young Joon’s unhappy and vindictive older brother played by Lee Tae Hwan. As the disruptive force on the lead’s relationship he was sufficiently manipulative and disarming. At times he even evoked sympathy from the audience, even though we knew his intentions were selfish and hurtful towards his brother.

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To counter the darker aspects there needs to be comedic relief which was admirably performed by Kang Ki Young who played the part of Lee Young Joon’s friend, adviser and confidante.  Kang is one of the most talented and like-able supporting actors around and has a prolific and stellar resume. He adds something to every drama he’s been in.

The supporting cast was made up of some familiar faces and they all added to the high quality of the drama. Their subplots also added some levity and interest to the story and added depth and a counter balance to the development of the main love story.

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The plot was somewhat predictable, but it turned out that really didn’t matter. The story was carried and uplifted by the performances of all the actors. There was sufficient mystery to keep one guessing for just enough time before it was overdone. There were plenty of romantic moments to tug at our hearts and enough comedy to cheer us along. The writers did a good job of keeping the story moving and thankfully refrained from having all the members of the hero’s family dislike the heroine.

Overall it was an entertaining drama that I would recommend. Although many people don’t like the word, it was a pleasant drama in that it gave me a sense of happy satisfaction and enjoyment. It was also one of the highest rated dramas in Korean cable TV history so I obviously was not alone in my enjoyment of What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim.   

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Kdramas stories often go in cycles with certain themes being more prominent for a couple of years before something else takes its place. 2018 started off with the rise of AI in I’m Not A Robot and Are You Human Too. Based off slightly fantastic concepts they showed Korea’s new focus in their real life technology industries. I’m Not A Robot had some funny and touching scenes, but overall I thought it was a little lightweight. It was cute and fun for a quick binge on a rainy weekend, but it didn’t demand all my attention. I never actually finished Are You human Too although I might go back and finish it as it showed some potential, and the first episodes showed some lovely overseas footage. It also seemed set up to have more depth in asking the questions about what makes someone, or something really human.

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There were also a lot more crime, lawyer, courtroom type dramas than is usual. Lawless Lawyer, starring one of my favorite actors Lee Joon Gi, was a little more physical that the usual ‘law’ themed dramas as the writers also focused on the lead character’s martial arts skills. I did enjoy this one but there were a couple of times towards the end when I was tempted to skip an episode or two. I think the plot could have been tightened down to 14 episodes and produced a more impacting story. Still worth a watch though if you like Lee Joon Gi, or an underdog wins the day type drama.

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Miss Hammurabi.

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My favorite ‘law’ drama was story about a newly appointed judge fighting the system. Although taking place in the courtroom in many ways it was a drama about people, how they act, react, how they make mistakes, or even how they can be truly evil. How power can corrupt and how one righteous person can make a difference.

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Starring the talented Go Ara backed up by L, Sung Dong Il and a wonderful supporting cast the drama managed to make me smile, laugh, and cry. Some of the stories outraged me and made me furious, while they also showed how legal rights may not be the same the world over. It seems though that all over the world the rich have an advantage over the average Joe so it was nice to see Go Ara’s character bring them down a peg or two.

There was romance running through the storyline as well as growing up, and learning to be a better person, but none of it was particularly preachy. Well except occasionally the main character was a bit like a steamroller in her righteous indignation at the way the court system actually worked versus how it should work. This drama is quite timely as Korea is going through some issues with its Judicial system.

Not a heavy courtroom drama, it remained watchable throughout and I do recommend it.

There are other Kdramas on my favorites list and will continue in part 2. Please watch out for it. If you want to share your favorite dramas for 2018 in the comments section below I would love to hear from you.

Have a great day everyone.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

All photo credits go to original owners.

You may also enjoy The Unique Faces Of KpopThe Best Kdramas of 2017, and Korean Games.

 

 

Sibijisin: The Twelve Guardian Deities Of Korea.

Korea has a long and ancient history and many of their customs and traditions go back a long way into the past. The twelve animal deities, called Sibijisin, who make up the Korean zodiac that we see today once played a much more active role in the daily lives of Koreans.

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Korea is land built through ages of time on multiple beliefs and traditions. Many of these came from China, but some of the oldest probably came from Mongolia. Animism is the belief that all natural objects are inhabited by individual spirits. This can be seen in modern stories and movies from all over the world as tree ‘sprites’, ‘nymphs’ etc. In Korea even the mountains have spirits, strong spirits which made them holy or even gods. Shamanism also believes in a world of spirits and supernatural beings. With these two ancient beliefs it is easy to see why people felt the need for help against the world around them. To ask for help from your ancestors and the powerful spirits such as those found in mountains would be a natural thing to do. Shamans acted as a messenger to and from the gods trying to ensure that bad luck did not fall on the people.

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But more familiar help was needed and the Sibijisin, or guardian animals seem to have fulfilled that purpose. These 12 animals are the same ones that make up the Korean ‘zodiac’. They are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and boar. These were originally strong representations of each animal, animals able to guard Royal Tombs as well villager’s homes, not the cutesy ones represented nowadays.

Each animal had traits and characteristics that would help them guard even in the darkest times of the night. The rat for example is quick witted and resourceful, while the ox is diligent and steadfast, the sheep has great tenacity and is slow to anger, while the monkey is intelligent and crafty.

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Each day was divided up into 12 two hour periods of time, and each guardian animal was meant to watch over their block of time. So the rat/mouse would be on watch from 11pm until 1 am etc. So not only did they determine your horoscope the Sibijisin also were near you in your everyday life.

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Sometimes in Korean and Chinese historical dramas you can hear characters use this old system. (For official time keeping such as that used by officials a more accurate method was used.)

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But at some point their everyday importance diminished and now it is almost impossible to find out more about them. But once a year at New Year’s the same stories of their creation are brought forth. The first is that Buddha invited all the animals in the world to come and visit him, but only 12 showed up. He decided to honor them by placing them in the zodiac in the order in which they arrived.

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The other popular story is that the 12 animals challenged each other to a race across a river. The Ox would have won, but secretly the rat had climbed up on his head, and just as the Ox was about to reach the other side the rat leaped to shore first thereby winning. But neither of these stories explain why or really how they became guardian or zodiac figures. The Buddha one comes closest to an answer, but why aren’t these animals in the Indian zodiac in that case? I think there’s something missing to their story. House guardians must have played an integral part of people’s lives. If anyone knows more, please feel free to comment below.

 

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Your Horoscope In Korea.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

All photo credits to original owners. Featured image National Museum of Korea, as is last image.  Shaman photo by 대한민국 정부 문화체육관광부 문화재청 – 대한민국 정부 문화체육관광부 문화재청, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37068271  Ram photo E Marzec.  All others Pinterest.

 

South Korea’s Military Conscription Explained.

All Korean males between the ages of 18 and 30 must serve about two years in the Korean military, or longer in some alternate form of approved public service. As of late 2018 the length of service is gradually being lessened. The goal is to gradually reduce the time served for all branches of the military by 2022. Being a political ‘hot potato’ this may change with subsequent governments. ( There is the danger of not having enough troops in uniform if war breaks out.)

Each branch of the Military has a different length of service, with the shortest being 21 months for the Army, Marine Corps, and Auxiliary Police (to be reduced to 18 months). For the Navy it is 23 months (to be reduced to 20 months) and the Air Force is the full 2 years (to be reduced to 22 months). For non active duty the time can vary between 2 and 3 years. Even after finishing your commitment you still have to attend yearly annual training for the next 6 years or so.

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This can play havoc with the lives and careers of not only Kpop stars and actors etc, but of all Korean men. Deciding when to go, for those who can choose, can be a career breaking choice. Deferments are available under certain circumstances, but in the end you still have to go so is it better to go when younger, or to wait until you have a career you can return to? Each Korean man has to make this difficult decision. Choosing unwisely can put you a couple of years behind your peers.

The August 2018 decision to lower the age from 30 to 28 for ‘deferring’ enlistment for such things as graduate school, overseas promotions etc has meant a lot of Kpop idols and actors have rather suddenly found their enlistment dates moved up.

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The amount of time served plus the hardships involved make serving in the military a rite of passage for most Korean men, and while there are casualties due to suicides, and mental breakdowns due to some recruits being ill prepared, or being harshly bullied, most Korean men seem to have some kind of fondness for the experience. It bonds them together as brothers and they all have something in common with all other Korean men. Those who go the ‘easier’ paths or who try to escape their duty are looked down upon and evaders are severely ostracized. Prison time is usually between 1 and 5 years for those caught trying to get out of serving.

There used to be no exemption on religious or moral grounds and conscientious objectors usually got 18 months of jail time. Remember though having a criminal record in Korea cuts you off from a large part of society and future job prospects so a difficult choice. Very recently the Government has been trying to work out a different solution for conscientious objectors and their latest plan is to make them serve 36 months in correctional facilities in staff positions. So they basically would still be in jail, but they wouldn’t get a criminal record.  If implemented it would go into effect in 2020.

In certain fields you can also opt for spending a longer time, but at a research institute or similar institution, rather than the military. So some young men get an original deferment for their education and then once they get a Masters Degree in something like engineering they choose to go into research for 3 years instead of the military for approximately 2. This option can also apply to Doctors and some skilled technicians.

There are also a certain number of ‘better’ jobs which count as military service but aren’t in the regular military. Korean dramas sometimes mention these ‘positions’ within Defense Industry companies as these usually go the sons of the rich or politically connected. The same goes for the limited number of KATSU openings (working with the US military in Korea) for those with good English language skills.

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There are other methods of lessening of time needed to fulfill military service such as being the son of a Vietnam Veteran and/or a person of National Merit. (Kim Young Kwang only served 6 months because of his dad’s service record.)

There are also exemptions, some of which get brought up in Kdramas. You can’t serve if you are physically or mentally disabled, if you have a criminal record, if you are an orphan, or if you are HIV positive or extremely overweight, and you must have at least an elementary school education. You can’t serve if you have been an organ donor. There is also a category of “people who would create disharmony” which covers things like having a large number of tattoos, being gay, or obviously of mixed race. There’s also an exemption for star athletes, such as those winning Olympic medals, or gold medals at the Asian Games. (One reason so many of the Korean medal winners at the 2016 Summer and 2018 Winter Olympic Games were so happy.) Also winners of certain classical music, and dance, competitions, can be exempt. This recently led to one Korean politician asking why classical music competition winners could be exempt but not BTS! (BTS were quick to declare their intent to serve as most Koreans feel every male should serve and are often hostile to those who don’t.)

Not surprisingly many of these exemptions have come under a great deal of scrutiny, particularly as most are not obtainable for the average man. (Or even Kpop star or actor.) Add that to the fact that with the low birth rate in Korea, the Korean Military will have a shortfall in their military of between 20 and 30 thousand men by 2023 and therefore there has been a push for the removal of many if not all of the exemptions. The Government is pushing for them to be phased out over 3 years starting in 2020.

The rules have also recently changed for those who are in the slightly younger age bracket of 25 and upwards. Travel restrictions have been put in place as it seems that some people have used being overseas for their occupation as being an excuse and deferring their enlistment. Now the rules state that they can only get permits to travel for 6 months, used to be one year, and the number of times they can apply has been reduced to 5. So this might have an impact on actors, idols and athletes as they want to travel to film overseas, to hold a concert, or compete in a competition.

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It used to be that certain actors, idols, and comedians served their time in a ‘celebrity soldier unit’ where their assigned goal was public relations, however it was shut done in 2013, after 16 years, due to the backlash from citizens after the RAIN, Seven, Sangchu scandal. ( 7 out of 10 celebrities defer their enlistment for various reasons.) They were not the only culprits, as 8 of the then 16 celebrity soldiers faced punishment for violating military rules. There had also been earlier incidents involving celebrities such as PSY, but the 2013 incidents were the last straw. The unit was scrapped, leaving idols and actors with fewer choices.

Take a look at these handsome policemen!

Now some look to being in the Police, or choose ‘alternative civilian service’ as a preferable route to fulfilling their duty. But soon the Police may no longer be an option as the government has issued a statement that “the conscripted policeman system will be entirely abolished in the year 2023. The system will be put to an end step by step over the years, and the celebrity conscripted policeman will be the first to be abolished.”

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Sometimes idols and actors are allowed to perform morale building concerts for their fellow conscripts and so we get a few photographs of them in uniform. (I miss these guys.)

Quite a lot of musical Kpop idols join various military bands after their 5 weeks basic training, and this sometimes allows fans and family members to catch a glimpse of their loved ones as these bands often perform at public events.

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Due to the often harsh backlash against what is perceived as favorable treatment of celebrities some, wishing to do their constitutional duty, while proving their commitment, choose a harder route. Lee Seung Gi was a member of the Special Forces, (he’s somewhat of an over achiever, he has 2 Masters Degrees) while Yoon Shi Yoon joined the Marines.

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As a point of pride many idols are pushing themselves to join more difficult aspects of the military, while some dual citizens are even giving up their 2nd citizenship in order to serve. Taecyeon of 2PM gave up his US residency and has also received corrective surgeries in order to enable him to serve as an active duty soldier. It does, however, look like army life suits him.

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Not everyone is cut out for military life and idols, actors, and celebrities probably have a tough time in whatever area of service they perform their civic duty, due to culture shock as well as being away from their occupations. Composers and song writers must find it particularly hard and I wonder how many songs never get made. Still they fulfill their duties and many do manage to continue their careers. It is sometimes harder for those young men who entered the military right after High School as they try to find jobs and readjust to civilian life.

Recently there have been calls to make life more livable for military recruits and there are now plans in place to allow better access to phones and time away from the barracks. However the life of a recruit is oftentimes difficult and harsh and suicides still happen. Reforms have been put in place but bullying still happens. So to all those who have served, or will serve, I wish you all the best while serving, and tremendous success when you get out.

Have a great day everyone.

Edit to add age brackets.  While the age limitation used to be until 30 years old in international age, the limit has been amended to 24 years old internationally (for high school graduates), 27 years old internationally (for Bachelor degree holders), and 30 years old internationally (for Master degree holders). ”

Edit 02/12/2019 Mobile phone use update.

Note, this is an update of an earlier article.

You may also enjoy Gyeongju: Why You Should Visit On Your Next Visit To Korea,  and Kpop Idols Who Were Athletes First.

All photo credits go to original owners. Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

 

 

The Unique Faces of Kpop.

How often have we heard the lament “but they all look alike” from those unfamiliar with Kpop?  I’ve heard it a lot and I bet you have too, and I will admit that at first I had some trouble remembering who was who. But for me it was less their looks than placing the correct name to the right idol. Particularly for the big groups.

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So are all Kpop idols ‘cookie cutter’ replicants of each other? I don’t think so, and so today I have chosen a small number of those who I think stand out, or are unique.

Unique can mean, ‘being the only one of its kind’, ‘unlike anything else’, but it can also be used in the sense of ‘special’, ‘notable’, ‘unusual’, and ‘exceptional’, which expands on the definition and allows far more idols to fall within the category of ‘unique’.

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Since I’ve been following Kpop since 2009 probably two of the most unique faces that immediately come to mind are TOP and Daesung from Big Bang. TOP is in all ways an ‘individual’ to the extent that his style has often been recognized and emulated by younger idols. And he’s one of the few idols that still looked like himself in his military training photos. He is definitely unique in the world of Kpop, and just plain overall gorgeous.

Daesung on the other has been called many things, but handsome isn’t what first comes to mind. However, his ‘eye smiles’ and character have made him a favorite of many, including me. His looks are not traditionally handsome, but he himself is attractive, and his voice is phenomenal. He has a silly and charming sense of humor, and is even known for making fun of himself. And being quite unlike any other idol indeed makes him unique.

Key from SHINee is also unique in both looks and character. Is that what makes all my choices super attractive and sets them apart? Do we notice not only that they have a distinct look that draws us to them, but that their personalities are also far from the ordinary.

Or is it that they are not afraid to show us all sides of their character and that’s what attracts us? Eunkwang from BTOB can go from mild to wild in a heartbeat, and his scrunched mischievous face is always recognizable.

Some days a particular idol can be the most handsome man in the world, other days, not so much. This I think is a trait that is common among most of those I’ve chosen for this article. They have interesting, expressive faces which allow them to go from kinda plain to drop dead gorgeous. For me RM of BTS has that kind of face and it is always fun to watch his face change during interviews.

Or could it be the faces that we empathize with, the wtf faces or the resting bitch faces that set some idols apart from the rest? Hyungwon from MonstaX has become so famous for his glares, stares and general attitude that he has even become a popular meme.

Instead of toeing the party line and appearing pleasant and attractive we see their true feelings, whether that is actual distain or just exhaustion. Leo from VIXX never used to smile, he always looked glum, like he didn’t want to be there, but lately he has begun to smile more and show that he actually has a very attractive smile. But his glum face will probably always be my favorite.

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Or can a trait like being goofy make an idol unique? If so it might be a long list, but Bobby from Icon would definitely be up there near the top.

He’s also known for his devil may care attitude and non conformity in an industry and culture that has conformity as one of its core principals. His eye smiles, slightly crooked teeth and smile also set him apart.

A famous goofy smile belongs to Bang Yongguk, formerly of BAP, whose fans judge how happy he his by how ‘gummy’ his smile is. If we see those gums we know he’s really happy. He probably has the widest smile in Kpop and he is unique in other ways too.

And lastly for today I have to include Niel from Teen Top, firstly because he is so recognizable in all the ways we see him in the media and in real life, and secondly there really no mistaking him for anyone else.

As I wrote this it became quite apparent that there are a lot of unique and interesting faces and characters in Kpop so I think a part 2 will be on the agenda for the new year. Who would you add to this list? You can let me know in the comments below.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy  2018 Teen Top Night In TexasBTS: Love Yourself Tour in Texas, and Nighttime Cruise On The Han River.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

Please note all photo credits go to original owners.

2018 Teen Top Night In Texas.

Texas has seen a lot of Kpop acts come here in 2018, in fact November 11th saw Amber Liu in Dallas on the same night as Teen Top was in Houston. This has meant that many fans have had to make some hard choices this year.

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But Teen Top won out for me and many others. I’ve followed them since their debut and was thrilled that they were making a stop in Houston. A friend and I drove from San Antonio and then met up with other fans and friends at HMart to eat and chill before heading to the venue.

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Studio PAV has come up with a strict numbering system for entry for VVIP, and I think VIP, to limit the fans coming ultra early to line up to be first through the doors. This seemed to work well for all the pre concert perks, such as album signing, group photo and snap shot photos, but fell apart a little as people rushed in to get to the front of the stage, and to use the restrooms.  (Restroom access during the pre concert time was non existent which caused quite a few fans some distress.) Not all of those who should have been at the front ended up at the front.

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Getting the perks that Studio PAV, and of course the artists, provide does set their concerts above a lot of the other tours that come to the USA. Being able to get so close to their idols makes the experience a life changing experience for many of the fans.

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Although Teen Top looked a little chilly on the outdoor patio where the pre concert perks were taking place they smiled and spoke with the fans while signing albums and taking photos. The fans were happy, excited, and thrilled to be interacting with their idols in such an informal way. Afterwards many fans shared their personal stories about how they reacted to meeting their bias, with quite a few saying they were extremely nervous, or that they forgot how to speak. Whatever the encounters logistics, all were extremely thrilled with the opportunity to look at Teen Top from such a close distance and exchange a few words with them. I pretty much just showed them where their patches were on my jacket and thanked them for coming to Texas.

 

 

The concert itself was wonderful, it was so nice to see them perform live after spending so many years with them via the internet. A lot of the fans had been ‘Angels’ since Teen Top’s early years and so there was a lot of pre concert discussion on whether they would follow the LA concert set list or not.  Many fans were wishing and hoping for their particular favorite to be performed. (I think there was only one, many two variations from the LA set list.)

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There was very little build up and preamble to the show, it kinda just started and caught a few fans unaware so there was a very slight ‘lag’ before the venue erupted with screams of joy and excitement. Neither Teen Top or the fans let up any any time during the night. Even during the slower songs, solos, and ballads you could feel the intensity of both the performers and the crowd.

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I was fortunate to be right at the front and got to see them all up close. Unfortunately the stage lighting was very poor which made taking good quality photos somewhat problematic. At one point Ricky’s feet were less than 3 feet away from me but his head/face was in total darkness, or if they were further away they were whitened out by the lights. So although I attempted to take some photos, I actually spent most of my time just watching them. (Hopefully some friends took better photos and will allow me to share. Update – You can see my friend Michelle Salazar aka IG@neon_fighter took some absolutely wonderful photos. So many thanks go to her for allowing me to use them.)

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The concert started with Seoul Night, their May 2018 release that was well received and  led to an interview with Billboard at the time. That started the evening off in a bright and energetic way. However, it seemed to me that they were a little more subdued than I expected. They weren’t smiling very much, or joking around with each other for that matter. They just were very focused on their performance. Fortunately as the evening wore on they seemed to relax, with Cap surprisingly being the first one to smile, and then he couldn’t seem to stop. The others also began to feel more at home and interacted with the audience and each other with more humor and playfulness.

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Between each set of songs videos were played on the big screen behind the stage. These all had different themes. In one we got to see their fun side as they played Twister and the Post It game. These brief breaks allowed them some rest time and costume changes.

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The overall arc of the concert was quite measured with the slow down for ballads building back up towards the finale. Even though it had been a long evening with the pre concert activities neither Teen Top nor the ‘Angels’ were ready for the show to end. The audience participation for the last few songs of the night, Crazy, Miss Right, and Rocking was intense. It was an amazing experience being part of such an impassioned and fervent crowd.

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Although the concert itself ended, the night wasn’t over as even more fan service was planned for after the guys got a short break. While you had to have the more expensive tickets for the pre concert perks, for the snapshot photos after the show you could have any level of ticket as long as you bought snapshot tickets. These sold for $10 each and allowed you to have one polaroid photo with the member of your choice. Many fans bought a lot of tickets so they could have multiple photos with their favorites. There was a selection of 5 different poses for each member.

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One of Niel’s poses was a hug so I have no idea how many girls got to hug him, but it was a lot. And Ricky and I seem to be competing for the most awkward pose of the night. Each one of Teen Top’s members was pleasant, and tolerant of all the fans odd behaviors. Some fans were extremely shy, some seemed a little shell shocked, and yet others were just so very happy. Emotions were all over the place.

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It took quite a while for everyone to get all their snapshot photos but eventually even that had to end. Fans slowly left the building and headed home. A few die hard fans braved the cold night air and waited for Teen Top to finally leave the venue so they could show their love and support up until the last possible moment.

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It was a fantastic night, with amazing artists, great perks and fun fans and friends. Thank you to each and every one of you who made the whole experience such a wonderful one.

Have a great day everyone, and maybe I’ll see you at a concert sometime soon.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to original owners. All watermarked photos IG @ neon_fighter belong to Michelle Salazar.

 

 

You may also enjoy BTS Love Yourself Tour, Fort Worth2018 Monsta X 2nd World Tour “The Connect” In Houston and The Kpopjacket: In Photos.

 

 

 

Jogyesa Temple Chrysanthemum Festival: In Photos.

Every year sometime between mid October and mid November the Jogyesa Temple holds its annual Chrysanthemum Festival. Last year we were lucky to catch it as we hadn’t actually planned it into our schedule. It usually lasts a few weeks so some of the events, such as traditional musician performances, are spread out throughout the Festival’s run.

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Arriving just before dusk the flowers were amazing, in the bright sunlight of earlier in the day they very well may have been overwhelming.

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Although the history of Jogyesa Temple goes back a long time, the Temple that sits on the site today is fairly recent. It is also in the middle of Seoul surrounded by modern buildings, but don’t let that put you off visiting particularly if you are in the area visiting other attractions.

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The Jogyesa Temple is the main temple of the Jogye order of Buddhism and holds a number of National Treasures, including a 500 year old Lacebark Pine tree. ( Designated as National Monument no 9. )

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It is also well known for holding TempleStay programs which allow tourists to stay in the Temple and learn about Korean Buddhism.

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The chrysanthemum is a traditional and popular fall flower in many parts of the world and Korea is no different. Chrysanthemums originated in China and may have spread to Korea very early on, definitely no later than the introduction of Buddhism in the 4th century CE.

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There was a touch of whimsy and humor in some of the displays.

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As well as a great deal of skill as this Bunjae (Bonsai) chrysanthemum shows. Just look at those roots and the thickness of the ‘trunk’.

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This “tree” was just beginning to blossom. It would no doubt have been magnificent when fully in flower.

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And of course there was a dragon in all his glory.

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If you find yourself in Seoul I would recommend a visit to Jogyesa Temple, particularly if a festival is taking place.

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Other festivals take place during the year, and one of our other trips we caught them setting up for Buddha’s birthday.

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Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Spirit GardenBongeunsa Temple, and Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All phpto credits to Elizabeth Marzec.

Korean Banchan.

If you’ve been to a Korean restaurant you are no doubt familiar with all the little side dishes that come with your meal. Know as Banchan these side dishes can transform the whole eating experience.

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Korean meals usually have multiple components such as rice, soup, a main dish, kimchi and a selection of other side dishes. Even the plainest meals will have a selection of Banchan.

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The Kimchi can come in a variety of ways using different ingredients. Cabbage, radish and cucumber are popular, but you might also be served kimchi made from Korean chives, or even mustard leaves. Kimchi is usually fermented but can also be served ‘fresh’ particularly in Spring and early Summer.

Namul are vegetables that have been cooked or marinated and then seasoned. Bokkeum is something such as pork, octopus, or mushrooms stir fried with a sauce, while Jorim is something simmered in a broth. A fairly common version is tofu simmered in soy sauce.

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Korean versions of potato salad and pasta salad also show up from time to time among the more traditional Banchan. Jjim are steamed seasoned eggs, or steamed fish, and Japchae are glass noodles.

Jeon are savory pancakes made with green onions, or kimchi, potatoes or even seafood.

 

Danmuji is the yellow pickled radish that comes with many meals, once we even got it with pizza.

Banchan are usually carefully chosen with a variety of sweet, sour, spicy, and salty flavors presented in order to enhance the meal. In some cases just adding an aged kimchi to rice can be wonderful, at other times Japchae can be the perfect cool down companion to a spicy meal.

Banchan are presented on the table for all to share so next time try all of them even if you’re not quite sure what they are and you’ll have fun food adventure.

Our temple food had so many dishes and courses we didn’t know what was the ‘main’ meal and what were Bachan, but everything was interesting with some items being spectacular. These are a very few of the many choices that kept coming in a never ending stream of colors, tastes and textures.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Eating Bibimbap in Jeonju, the Gastronomical Capital of S. Korea,  Green Tea Waffles,   and Korea Without the Chili Pepper.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to original owners, Elizabeth Marzec, Kenneth Kim, and Debora Marzec.

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From a meal last week, we had no room on the table so we had to make do with a Banchan plate!

BTS: Love Yourself Tour, Fort Worth.

BTS, arguably the top Kpop group in the world right now, held 2 shows this past weekend in Fort Worth Texas. I was lucky to get tickets to the Sunday night performance as both concerts sold out in minutes.

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I travelled up to Fort Worth with friends on the Saturday and we headed straight to the large Korean/Japanese/Asian shopping and food area in Carrollton. After shopping, eating* and drinking we drove to our hotel to check in.

We stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown Fort Worth which overlooked the venue. Fortunately I got a room that gave me a perfect view of the line of waiting fans. (My friends weren’t as fortunate.) Saturday’s weather was a mess with heavy downpours which made me feel for everyone out in it. Many fans had umbrellas and plastic ponchos but quite a few looked unprepared for the rain, but obviously they weren’t going to risk losing their place in line to take shelter.

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The City of Fort Worth tried really hard to prepare for the concert and the fans by closing off the street in front of the venue, putting out a lot of porta-potties, having police command center vehicles and increasing their bicycle patrols. On Sunday, with the sun shining, they even had a DJ in the park playing Kpop. The cleanup crew were amazing too and had a trash pick up crew pretty much constantly circling the venue.

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We decided to be lazy on Sunday and didn’t do much more than check out the nearly Water Gardens and see if we wanted to wait in line for merchandize.

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The line doubled back on itself a few times and we decided not to wait. However talking to people later the line apparently moved quite quickly, and after lunch we went back for my friends to buy light sticks and only had to wait in line a few minutes. (Some merch had sold out by then though.)

We had a good lunch at Little Red Wasp, before I settled done in the hotel bar to watch the lines to see when to enter the venue. With seated tickets we weren’t too concerned, and it ended up we only had a dozen or so people in line in front of us to get in. We found our seats easily with plenty of time to spare.

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There was a little surprise for the fans in our area as Matthew McConaughey and his family sat down near us. I don’t think many people really noticed him until the venue staff made a big production of him being there, bringing him drinks and popcorn etc. He only stayed in the seats for about 3 songs before he headed down to the arena floor. He seemed to have a great time at the concert.

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A few more minutes of waiting and the show began with a roar.  Smoke and flames accompanied their arrival. Loud, thunderous, roaring, no words can really describe the decibel level of the crowd’s cheers and screams. Everyone was on their feet in a second and bopping along to the music in 2.

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They started off with Idol, followed by Save Me and then I’m Fine. They performed in their trademark dynamic style, capturing the attention of everyone there. From their appearance, to their singing, choreography and ‘visuals’ everything was on point. They had large screens set up so we could see them close up and catch those fun and cheeky expressions as well as their sultry/ sexy looks that they have perfected for their fans. The screams got louder and louder as the fans of each individual member tried to outdo each other.

In between some songs they spoke to the fans, with some of it being in English and some in Korean, which was then translated into English for us non Korean speaking fans. All of them expressed their happiness and joy at being there and how much the love of their ‘army’ meant to them.

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Along with their group songs there were also solo and sub unit performances. J-Hope was the first and wowed everyone with Trivia: Just Dance. He gave a tremendous performance, compelling everyone’s total and complete attention. There were also solos from Jin, V, Jimin, and Jungkook as well as a performance by all four of them singing The Truth Untold. The solos and sub-units showcased the individual talents of each member, and not a single one of them failed to impress. Their vocal range is really impressive for ‘pop’ singers of any nationality.

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The rap sub-unit of Suga, RM, and J-Hope also got their chance to shine with a highly charged and powerful rendition of Outro: Tear. Their ability to keep the fan’s feelings and emotions wound up and tied to their own is one of their strongest draws. BTS sings and raps from the heart with lyrics that draw from both their own experiences and those of young people all over the world. They express the complexities of growing up in the modern world which resonates with many of their fans. When a new song is released it is very quickly translated into multiple languages. The music is also beautifully composed, which along with the lyrics, exemplifies the feelings and emotions so many people struggle with in their daily lives.

 

Unlike many groups in the past, the BTS fans feel personally connected and intertwined with the members of the group. The use of multiple forms of social media has allowed that interconnectivity to grow and now there seems to be almost a symbiotic relationship between the two. BTS has acknowledged their fans love and support on multiple occasions, and credit them with a greater part of their success. This two way emotional connection was obvious during the concert as it fed the excitement of the crowd, and the energetic and exuberant performances of BTS.

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As the evening progressed there were some songs that just blew me away. Fire has always been one of my favorites and I didn’t think it could be any more explosive than it was in the MV, but boy was I wrong. They killed it. It was powerful, dynamic and ‘totally’ amazing. Sweat had been running fairly freely down their faces all evening, but they continued to put their all into each and every song.

I also have a soft spot for Dope and so was glad to see it was one of their choices, and of course Fake Love and Mic Drop were wonderful. But really if I’m honest every song was amazing and it is only personal feeling that have made me highlight one song more than another. The whole concert was flawless. The stage was set up with a walkway to an ‘island’ stage. Every part of the main stage, island stage and walkway were fully utilized making sure as many fans as possible got to see them up close. Large TV screens helped everyone to see them up close and were perfect for their little intermission ‘shows’. While there was a costume or set change they played what could also be described as ‘teaser’ videos. The boys posed, and acted cute, and sexy, and teased each other and they were ‘squishy’ and handsome, and completely adorable.

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In many ways the evening was cathartic for most of the fans and nobody wanted the concert to end, but end it did. Long after fans left the building I could see groups of fans hanging around outside the venue chatting and reliving the experience. I know it took me a long time before I could even think about going to sleep.

Have a great day everyone.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to original owners. All the good photos are from Kathy and Rick Silvers (the performance ones), the bad ones to me.

My thanks to BTS for coming to Texas, to my friends Kathy and Rick for driving, taking photos, and hanging out with me, to Spencer the barman at Hampton Inn & Suites, the City of Fort Worth and their Police department. Also to a sweet young lady from Infirespins.com who gave me a lovely pin for my jacket and the other fans who took a few moments to chat with me. It was definitely a weekend to remember.

 

*There are two areas for Asian goodies and entertainment in Carrollton, usually I go to the HMart side of the highway, however this time we visited the Daiso side. We ate at Rice Chicken, with dessert at Snowy Village and shopped at Daiso and Kinokuniya.

 

 

 

A Look At Some Of My Favorite Kpop Dance Practice MVs.

Those of you who are on my Facebook page know how much I love dance practice videos, sometimes even more than the official music videos. So today I decided to share some of my favorites. This is by no means a ‘best of’ list, just some of the ones I like and go back to again and again.

Right now I’m really enjoying iKON’s Killing Me.  There’s something about the way they are using their hands and arms as well as their whole bodies. A lot of the moves look simple although I doubt they are, and they fit the music perfectly. I find it slightly hypnotic and been watching it daily since it came out.

NCT is particularly noted for their dancing ability and I could easily choose more than one of their videos to be on this list, but NCT U edges ahead with Boss. Again it has that look at me vibe. I have to watch.

I Like You (Boyfriend version) from Got7 is still my ‘to go to’ MV for if I’ve had a bad day. The are so young and cute, yet trying so hard to be sexy. They make me smile every time.

BTS could also be on the list multiple times, but I keep going back to the iconic Fire. I’ve followed them since their debut ,and there has always been something addictive about their personalities, music and dance. I’m happy to see them succeeding.

Originally dance practice videos were just that, a video of the group practicing. Nowadays most of the videos are of polished performances and while that allows us to watch the choreography without all the distractions of the sets, costumes etc it can occasionally lessen the charm. This old video of 2NE1 & Big Bang is a classic ‘oldie’.

And then There’s Big Bang.

Big Bang has moved with the times and their dance practice video for Bang Bang Bang is still one of my favorites. One of the reasons being that they are not the perfectly synchronized idol group like those we usually see today. They each have their individual character which is especially striking if you watch TOP.

But that uniqueness and individuality in the oftentimes cookie cutter world of Kpop will always make them special to me.

Do you have a favorite dance practice video?  Please let me know in the comments below.

Have a great day everyone.

 

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photos and videos credits to original owners.

You may also enjoy Kpop: The Best Dances Of The Time (around 2009) and Like Dance? Watch Kpop.

 

A Quick Trip To Victoria, British Columbia: In Photos.

Although I usually focus on all things Korean from time to time I take a vacation both figuratively and literally. My last trip was to Alaska and this time I chose Canada. My daughter can only take limited time off so it was a short trip, basically three and a part day in town.

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People travel from all over the world to Victoria, especially during the summer, so there were a lot of tourists in town. As well as the pleasant summer weather most people come for the flowers, food, and fun. We saw, and did, and ate, and drank as much as possible for such a short trip.

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We flew into Seattle and then had a short flight to Victoria. The skies in Seattle were smokey from the forest fires and there were even some flight delays.

Fortunately the skies were a little clearer over Vancouver Island. We caught a bus to downtown Victoria (1 bus change ) which takes over an hour as the bus winds though the countryside. We got to our AirBnB right at check in time and within the hour we were out exploring. We chose a waterfront apartment near Chinatown so we were a little bit away from the main tourist area.

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Since it was so close we headed into Chinatown to explore. It is the oldest Chinatown in Canada and the 2nd oldest in N America. It wasn’t very large but it had a few old alleys to explore and of course a gateway at the entrance, plus a variety of restaurants and shops.

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Fan Tan Alley is the narrowest commercial street in North America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After grabbing a bubble tea we headed out on a trek to find a street market but got sidetracked into a quest to buy art. We stopped in a small gallery which had quite a selection of works by local artists. Most were well out of Elizabeth’s price range but one or two of the smaller pieces caught her eye. The lady in charge suggested we try the main gallery which was housed in an old Victorian mansion. So we walked a few more blocks and found the gallery in a quiet neighborhood. Lots of great art for sale, but we left empty handed.

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The gallery had a lovely Shinto Shrine in the secluded garden.

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Although there were restaurants aplenty we walked back to the Chimac Korean Pub. about a block from where we were staying.

I can’t pass up Chicken and Beer if it is to be found and this was a fantastic find. It was like being back in Korea for a short while. Highly recommend it. Then it was back to our room and a much needed sleep.

 

Friday dawned with clear skies and after breakfast at Jam Cafe, a highly popular breakfast place we headed along Wharf street to the Inner Harbor.

After a stroll around the Inner Harbor area, we walked past the Parliament buildings, the Empress Hotel and onward to find the Bug Museum.

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Although quite small it was packed with bugs, some of which we were allowed to handle. The docents were very informative and knowledgeable. Even without having kids with us it was a fun experience.

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A quick stop at an art gallery focusing on the artwork of the First Nations was enjoyable, but then we had to head back to the Inner Harbor for our Whale Watching trip. Elizabeth is not a fan of boats so a quick drink at a harbor side cafe strengthened us for the voyage ahead.

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We got great seats on the upper deck. Be warned that even though the temperature on land was pleasant once you head out into open water it can get really quite chilly. We had brought jackets but had to borrow hats. It takes a while to find the whales and there are rules on how close you can get to them. (They can come as close as they want to the boat.)

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We were fortunate to see a group of four humpback whales but as they were passing through the area they were swimming and diving so we never really caught up to them. I had brought my binoculars so I got a decent view, but Elizabeth’s phone camera doesn’t do justice to what we saw.

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After our time was up, each boat is only allowed to stay near the whales for a limited amount of time, we set off to see what else we could find. We saw sea lions, seals, and a single sea otter named Ollie.

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Later we stopped by a restaurant called OLO on the off chance we could get a table.          ( reservations are really a necessity. ) However, luck was on our side and we got a table.

39515437_10212579146704164_2445640930523348992_nIf I had to make a list of the best meals I’ve ever had this one would be near the top. The food was excellent and the presentation incredible.

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The next morning we went to another highly recommended breakfast place called Mo:Le.

We then caught the bus towards Butchart Gardens, stopping at the Butterfly Garden on the way.

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There were so many butterflies it was amazing. We even had a few land on us as the walked around.

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Back at the bus stop we had maybe a 2 minute wait before our bus arrived. We were tempted by the vineyard next door which was just opening but the bus arrived before we could make up our minds. Next time.

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Butchart Gardens are probably the most visited place on the whole of Vancouver Island, and it is easy to see why. The flower gardens are incredible. And no photos can really do them justice.

The skies had a slight smokey haze that increased as the day wore on, but the colors were still outstanding. Even the greens were amazing.

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It was as if some of the garden were straight out of a fairy tale.

 

After a long day looking around the gardens we went to the main restaurant for dinner. (Reservations strongly recommended.) We were given the most perfect table.

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Our meal was fantastic too.

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For our last full day in Victoria we had a good breakfast at the Sour Pickle Cafe and walked down Wharf Street to the Inner Harbor and then on to the BC Museum.

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Having got there a little while before they opened we checked out the native plants area, and then the park at the side of the museum with a lot of totem poles for people to look at.

 

Once inside the museum we found the First Peoples gallery to be fascinating, there was so much to see and learn.

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I understand that there are still issues to be sorted out over some of the artifacts, but as a visitor I was overwhelmed by the quality and quantity of the pieces on display.

The Museum’s other galleries were cool and I enjoyed some of their discovery areas, particularly the ‘Jules Verne’ one.

39580650_10212594105558126_9133647674665336832_n After the museum, which we explored top to bottom including the traveling Egyptian exhibit, we returned to Market Square to find a shop that had been closed when we walked by on Thursday evening.

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We then returned to our room before setting out again on one of the little ferry boat/taxis that ply the harbor area. We got off at the Fisherman’s Wharf area and checked out the house boats before talked the harbor side path back to the Inner Harbor.

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On our last night we went on one of Victoria’s Ghost tours which was interesting. We ended the tour just after dark by walking through a park that had once been a graveyard containing over 1500 bodies. And when they turned it into a park they just left all the bodies there…….under us…..right where we were walking.

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We had a fantastic trip to Victoria and were very glad we still went even with the smokey air. The day we left a fire had broken out on the island itself and our flights home were both delayed. So we also had a bit of an adventure.

Have a great day everyone.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to Elizabeth and Debora Marzec.

You may also like Yeomiji Botanic Garden, Huwon: The Secret Garden Of Changdeokgung Palace, and Silla: Korea’s Kingdom Of Gold.