[KKONNECT FIELD TRIP] U-KISS: The First US Tour @ Club Nokia, Los Angeles (01/14/14)

Over the span of five years, K-Pop group U-KISS has become one of the top acts to come out of the Hallyu scene. Despite various changes in line-up, the boys have enjoyed success both within and outside of Korea, with sub-units, solo efforts, and songs recorded in Korean, Japanese, and English. Members have appeared in various Korean movies and dramas, and more recently, even sported silly suits in their cameo for popular balladeer Lim Chang-jung’s comedic “Open The Door” music video. Needless to say, when K-Konnect found out U-Kiss was coming to Los Angeles on the final night of their first US tour, we weren’t exactly “Standing Still”. (Sorry, that was hard to resist.)

The evening began with a solid stream of popular U-KISS songs – ranging from the R&B-inspired “Stop Girl” to latest single “She’s Mine”. The high energy of attending ‘KissMe’ fans was clearly reflected in the group’s opening performance, the six members quickly moving through some of their most popular choreography as the audience clapped and – not-so-surprisingly – screamed along. Just by looking around the venue, it was evident there were quite a number of diehard fans in attendance, having seemingly waited for the group’s US arrival for some time. Several of which brought along large posters written out in Hangul in support of their favorite U-KISS member. Some fans sitting on the second level even hung streamers over the balcony far before the show started, adding to the welcoming spirit of the crowd.

After a brief introduction by all, Eli and AJ took the stage as sub-unit uBEAT, accompanied by group vocalist Kevin. Their single “Should Have Treated You Better” was the title track on a sub-unit mini album released last year and showcased the lyrical strength of the two rappers. Following uBeat was an impressive duet by two of the group’s main vocalists, Soohyun and Hoon. The live singing was both powerful and controlled as they moved through the song “More Painful Than Pain”, making the news revealed later in the show of an eventual ballad sub-unit worth the anticipation. Wrapping up the segment was “Obsession”, an electro-dance track performed by AJ and Kiseop. Bringing the audience back up to their feet after the previous song, the two even made their way through the crowd to dance along with audience members standing closer to the stage.

Prior to the event, those who purchased select seats to the concert were given the opportunity to submit a question for U-KISS to read and answer on stage during the show. These questions, written out on Post-It notes, were rolled out on a large chalkboard to allow members a chance to review them all before deciding which one they would choose. Some Post-Its – namely “Eli, can you twerk for us?” and “Please give us your abs.” – were quickly disregarded, while others were happily responded to. Within the segment, fans were given a preview of AJ’s latest rap (tentatively titled “She’s Mine”), a brief dance performance of “DoraDora” from Kiseop, and Eli’s exaggerated impression of Kiseop’s choreography made popular during their Japanese tour. Lucky fans were even serenaded by their favorite members, with Soohyun and Kevin singing a capella versions of their solo songs “Snowman” and “My Reason”, respectively.

UKISSStage

Following the Q&A session, U-KISS then went into a performance of their Japanese singles, “Tick Tack” and “Forbidden Love”, before announcing another fan contest planned prior to the show. Fans were invited to submit essays to the group’s label about why they should be chosen as a ‘KissMe’ Super Fan. The winner, one for each stop of the tour, would be able to meet U-KISS on stage and be serenaded by them directly. Excerpts from the Los Angeles winner’s entry were read allowed before she was brought on stage. A self-declared ‘KissMe Mom’, Chauntelle was a 40-year-old writer and motivational speaker who suffered a debilitating stroke in 2008. While in convalescence several years later, during what was described as the lowest point of her life, she discovered U-KISS. Instantly becoming a fan of their music and varied personalities, she was given the motivation to continue toward recovery. Only needing slight assistance from her walker, Chauntelle spoke a few words to the group before they serenaded her with the love song “Mysterious Lady” from their most recent release ‘Moments’.

Later in the show, U-KISS took a moment to thank their American fans for supporting them. As two members were raised in the States (Eli in Washington D.C. and Kevin in Danville, Calif.) and another currently enrolled at Columbia University, having the opportunity to hold a successful tour in the United States was an incredible opportunity for them. As each member individually expressed their gratitude, a giant pull-apart cake purchased by local fans was rolled out for Kiseop as an early birthday present. The surprise was well-received, and while U-KISS led the audience in singing Happy Birthday, Kiseop took a big bite of cake for his fans.

UKISSBirthday

The group returned for a charismatic encore of singles “Without You” and “Man Man Ha Ni”, somehow maintaining that same high energy they began with two hours prior. As the crowd danced as wildly, it was evident that both U-KISS and their ‘KissMe’ fans got exactly what they wanted out of the group’s first solo stop to the United States.

“We can’t wait to come back and do this all over again,” Kevin shouted to the screaming crowd as the group took their final bow. “We’ll make you the proudest fan club in the world.” And as fans raved about the show as the crowd filed out, picking pieces of encore confetti off their clothes, it was apparent U-KISS was well on their way to keeping that promise.

Infinite-ly Entertaining: Infinite Makes a Successful American Debut in Los Angeles

infinte tour

 

The general feel of the production of that of a finely tuned theatrical performance with a live band on stage and live music.

Yes folks, you heard me right, the performance was amazingly live.

 

 

November 8, 2013, Nokia Theater L.A. LIVE

“Infinite 1st World Tour – One Great Step” was the title of a cohesively produced performance that included not only the majority of Infinite’s globally popular songs, but solo performances, two showcase songs by the rap duo, Hoya and Dongwoo, and a video drama tie-in that opened the show and continued with segments throughout the evening.

But there were a few things that really set Infinite’s performance apart from the norm in Kpop performances.

production Incredible Production

In a world where perfection is everything, the KPop gurus seem to feel that audiences want to see the stars perform exactly what they see and hear on CD’s and music videos, so lip-syncing is an industry standard. Even when vocals are live, they are usually done over the original track.

If such “cheats” were used at the Infinite concert they were much less apparent as the vocals were truly live, and the band rocked. Gone were the strings and horn section that usually accompany Infinite tracks. The music, while different, was familiar yet subtly changed and exciting. The fans were not disappointed.

In fact, minor changes to the tracks did not stop the largely American demographic from enthusiastically busting out lyrics to all of their favorite songs along with their idols – a fact that was not lost on Infinite, some of whose members were moved to actual tears as they realized these crazy Americans really liked them and avidly followed their music.

IMG_6209Incredible Dancing

There are few Korean pop bands with choreography as clean as Infinite. Their live performance was no exception, and the boys danced their hearts out, not just as the beginning of the performance, but even at the end of a 3-hour show, they danced as if they were fresh on stage. Not all of their moves are incredibly complex, but the dynamic of the seven young men synchronized perfectly is compelling. They dance with gusto. They dance as if they love dancing. They dance with smiles on their faces.

choreo3Incredible Fan Service

Venue issues aside, it seemed every single act took giving the fans extra attention into account. The boys actively engaged the fans at every opportunity. They were not shy about climbing down into the crowd. Even when fans threw themselves at them, they took it with a smile and politely let security peel them off. During one song, each young man was equipped with a basket filled with little stuffed animals they gleefully tossed to the crowed. Two walked through the crowds personally handing out animals to their fans.

Every opportunity was taken to reach out and touch hands, snap selfies with fan phones, pick up fan gifts. In short, they were everything a fan-girl or fan-boy would want in an idol group at every step.

choreo1Incredible Effort to Speak to Fans

Most of the boys spoke English or tried very hard. Perhaps some of the lines were rehearsed, but no one cared. Hearing English, even if it was stilted or a little broken, was eminently charming and endearing. The effort made to try and speak in the native language was much appreciated by American fans that were visible moved by Infinite’s efforts.

Upon leaving the theatre we were greeted by crowd of patiently waiting parents. One couple, whose teenage son and daughter had yet to emerge, had been looking forward to this night. They are big Infinite fans. (OK, they like Big Bang, too! Shhhh.) Mom and dad had a date night while they waited. How do they feel about their kids listening to Korean music? “It has a great beat. If the music is good, it doesn’t matter. And there are some English words thrown in.” (laughs) “My daughter has taken it as an opportunity to learn some Korean.”

Before they left the stage, Infinite was already talking about coming back. I think they were pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic welcome they received. Or perhaps by how American the audience was? Regardless, there is a large crowd that will be waiting for them to 다시 돌아와! (“Come back again!”)

choreo4 production2 choreo2

Exclusive Interview: Actor Kwon Hyun-sang and Director Jae Soh from “Let Me Out!”

HSJ2

Kwan Hyun Sang and Jae Soh sat down for an hour-long interview with Cheryl Dawley and Jini Shim of KKonnect.

 

Here’s what they had to say about their upcoming movie,”Let Me Out” – coming to San Diego for one day one only – and more!

 

Cheryl: Hyun-sang-씨, congratulations on your first leading role! How was it being the main focus of a movie?

Kwon Hyun-sang: This was the first film where I was in over 90% of the scenes and dialog. It was a big responsibility, but it was a great experience.

Cheryl: What was the best part of filming this movie?

Kwon-Hyun-Sang-1Kwon Hyun-sang: The type of film this was – being about film students – was fun, because I have been a film student so it was a concept I knew.

Cheryl: What are your hopes for “Let Me Out” – especially with respect to U.S. audiences?

Jae Soh: I really hope US audiences enjoy this movie. American audiences see to receive indie films better than Korean audiences do. Plus American like Zombies!

Cheryl: Anything funny or interesting happen during filming that you want to share?

Kwon Hyun-sang:  We were actually trying to film, (being film students) but the film crew were actors, so no one really knew what they were doing, so it was interesting trying to get the scenes done!

Cheryl: Do you plan on doing movies in the US?

HSJ7Kwon Hyun-sang: Yes, I’d like to make films in Hollywood.

Cheryl: You’ve now been in horror, comedy, historical, drama. What is your favorite genre?

Kwon Hyun-sang: I don’t have a favorite genre. Since I haven’t had that much experience yet, I am still learning and enjoying all the genres. I can’t really choose. It’s all acting, they’re all good.

Cheryl: You come from a a very well-known theatrical family. Is it hard establishing a name for yourself under the shadow of your parents? Or are they a big help?

Kwon Hyun-sang: Having famous parents is not necessarily as big a help as you might think. In fact, sometimes it can be a hindrance. Because my father has such a successful career and such a good reputation, I am always very conscious of that, and I am careful about what I do. The media always seems very interested, though.

Cheryl: You’ve played really great bad guys and really sweet good guys. What’s your preference?

Kwon Hyun-sang: I like playing the good guys!  (Cheryl’s note: His answer was immediate and unequivocal!)

Hyun-sang and jaeCheryl: 2013 has been a really busy year for you so far: Dramas: Fugitive of Joseon, Queen of Ambition; Movies:  Let Me Out, A City In Blossom, Fists of Legend. Which was your biggest challenge?

Kwon Hyun-sang: The Fugitive of Joseon (천명). It was a historical drama, and the directors had very definite ideas about how they wanted the character portrayed, so I was always working on that. Also, there were a lot of action scenes, lots of swordplay, and I even got injured. 

Cheryl: What are you working on now?

Kwon Hyun-sang: It’s a secret! But I’m taking a short break then I’m working on a movie and a drama.

Cheryl: What are your professional ambitions?

Kwon Hyun-sang: I want to do many more films and dramas. Eventually, I want to work in the U.S., too. Hollywood!

Cheryl: Films and dramas are so different. Do you have a preference?

HSJ4Kwon Hyun-sang: They are very different. I like doing movies because there’s more time to build characters and the filming is done at a slower pace. On the drama set, everything is rushed. There’s not as much time to develop a character, no time to build friendships amongst the cast. 

Cheryl: What are your personal ambitions?

Kwon Hyun-sang:  I’m a workaholic. I have no ambitions outside of work!

Cheryl: “Let Me Out” seems to be a movie about making movies. What makes this one stand out?

Jae Soh: Although this type of movie is more common in the U.S. it is quite uncommon in Korea. Also, Zombie movies are not really done in Korea, so this is really unusual. Zombies are pretty popular in the US, so this movie should appeal to American audiences as well, especially since it’s a comedy.

Cheryl: You’ve gone from American cinematographer to Korean writer/director/producer! Big changes. What was the impetus for the change?

Jae Soh: I worked in the US doing a cinematography and working on short films. There were plenty of opportunities to do more work in those areas, but I really wanted to direct. I moved to Korea, thinking that would put me on the fast track, (laughs) and 18 years later I’ve directed a movie. It’s been good, though, reconnecting with my Korean history. I didn’t know much Korean when I moved back here!

Jae & HS
Photo courtesy of Jae Soh

Cheryl: What was the inspiration for “Let Me Out”?

Jae Soh: We were kind of under the gun to produce something fast when the money came through, but I believe that being ready when opportunity knocks is important. The script was easier to write because I have been a film student and professor and have worked in the film industry.

Cheryl: Did you learn anything interesting while directing “Let Me Out”?

Jae Soh: Everything was a new experience. Just directing it was valuable experience. Learning to do things from the director’s point to view, and the production end as well. I was also more involved than usual in many other aspects of the film, such as promotion.

Cheryl: Is there anything you would change or do differently of you had the opportunity?

Jae Soh: Everything! As soon as you’re finished you find things you want to do differently!

Cheryl: Now that you’ve worked in the American film industry and the Korean film industry, can you compare and contrast? Especially with respect to artistic freedom, production, etc.

Jae Soh: On a basic level, the industries are very similar. There are some big differences in production. In the US, you have the Screen Actor’s Guild, unions, etc. There’s nothing like that in Korea. If production time runs over, no one gets paid overtime. Things are starting to change a little, though. Artistically, there is more freedom in Korea, in some ways. In the US, it seems you’re locked into certain formulas when making films. Korea films tend to break out of those molds. Artistically, they are not as set in their way – still experimenting. However, Korean audiences tend to be really picky. In fact, when American movies are released in Asia, they go to Korea first. If Korean audiences like it, it will do well everywhere.

Cheryl: What do you plan to do next? What’s the next project? Movies in Korea? Movies in the U.S.?

Jae Soh: I’m working on documentary about the changing landscape of Seoul. How the historical Seoul is disappearing. I’ve also got another feature film in the works. It will be more commercial. I would like to direct movies in the US, too.

All too soon, the questions were over, the evening was running late and it was time to bid our farewell. We thanked Hyun-sang and Jae for their time and for sharing a few laughs with us. Next – we see them at the movies!

HSJ6

 

Join us for a Movie meet-up:

AMC Fashion Valley Wednesday Night

The movie starts at 7:00pm

After-movie meet-up and discussion review? I want to hear your voices. Let’s have coffee or drinks. Make suggestions below!

KCON Concert Review: A Lone Voice of Dissent – Is G Dragon Coasting on his Fame and Notoriety?

IMG_0290

To say I was underwhelmed is – well – an understatement.

I truly had great expectations from the top-billed artist at KCON 2103, the young man everyone was buzzing about. There were omens during KCON that might have foreshadowed a somewhat less-than-stellar performance: An artist engagement that was supposed to include an autograph session for VIP fans holding special tickets and hand-shakes or ‘high-fives’ with a few more VIP fans with tickets, that was reduced to a 20 minute canned Q & A session with such probing questions as “What is your favorite American food?” (In-N-Out burgers) and “What is your favorite Korean food?” (Mom’s cooking.) He also ditched the press conference held before the concert, (with no explanation) much to the surprise and discomfiture of the hostess managing the conference, who nearly misidentified the blond Henry of Super Junior as he stood behind the curtain.

But then, a big star like GD doesn’t really need to deal with a pesky old press conference anyway, right?

The press was mildly, but not overly surprised at his absence, especially given the debacle at the artist engagement. Most were looking forward to the promised epic performance with Missy Elliot, the much-tweeted-about, highly sensationalized collaboration that was sure to be a show stopper.

The concert opened with well-received opening acts followed by a parade of Korean celebrities, as every act in the star-studded line-up crossed the stage to wave to cheering fans. Except G Dragon and Missy Elliot. At which point I began to wonder if perhaps everything was a marketing ploy, tactics meant to build drama and increase the hype. In some respects, the maneuverings were having an effect, because I was definitely becoming anxious to see G Dragon and hear the music so highly anticipated by all.

IMG_0205So when the man himself was finally lowered, in all his glory, onto the stage amidst a dazzling light show, anticipation in the crowd had reached a fevered pitch. I waited hopefully as the first bars of the highly narcissistic “One of a Kind”1 resounded throughout the stadium. Although the song itself is fine, the choreography and showmanship was a definite step down from the previous acts. Dressed like a little-boy gangster, G Dragon strutted back and forth along the same few feet of stage using the same moves, occasionally jumping in to bust a move with his background dancers for a step or two, and then back to the strutting or standing. I guess if I was a hormonal teenager, madly in love with G Dragon, this might have been more interesting and exciting.

The song with Missy Elliot was equally disappointing, in my humble opinion. Lacking in originality and variety, it employed an uninspired rap rhythm and beat with no variation. If G Dragon and Missy Elliot had not performed it, I seriously doubt this song would be recorded, nor would it receive airtime.

But maybe I’m wrong? Perhaps someone can explain to me what I missed? But I challenge listeners to hear with with a critical ear and judge for yourself.

 

 

1 “One of a Kind”. I double-checked numerous translations to assure myself that I understood the Korean correctly. Egoism is taken to completely new levels in this piece of writing. A very appropriate song for G Dragon’s persona.

Anime Expo Con Recap (Continued): Catching up with the AX KPOP Dance Finalists

KpopCoverComp_zps7fb19d0c

Anime Expo Con Recap: Catching up with the AX KPOP Dance Finalists by Eli Shand

Last year I had the chance of reporting on the 2012 Anime Expo convention held at the Los Angeles Convention Center, and let me say that this installment will be full of Hallyu goodness!   For the first time, Anime Expo has chosen to host a KPOP dance cover competition for all the fans looking to showcase their best moves for a chance at a $700 grand prize.   I had the pleasure of being able to root on two of my friends in the final rounds, as well as meet a new one in the process.

1048744_10151576673553300_1458629427_o

So I’ll start with this year’s champ, the 17 year-old Nikko Durian from LA.

So what exactly brought you into the world of KPOP Dance?

I’ve always been into dance, but the thing that caught my attention was the choreography in kpop. It has a certain flair to it that simply can’t be described in one or two words. I remember watching som2 perform I Wish back in elementary school and I was hooked.

Where did you hear about the contest?

My friend actually signed us up. We were supposed to be a 5 person group, but after a strange turn of events, I ended up performing solo in their place.

How do you feel you did during your performances?

Overall, I felt I did my best at the competition. I know there were places where my nerves got the better of me and I threw my moves, but I think I was able to recover well and come back even stronger.

What was the most memorable event that occurred while participating?

The most memorable event for me personally was walking into the room without my partner. I remember being so afraid because I didn’t know any of the other participants, but they all seemed to know each other. I sat in a corner debating whether or not I should just drop out altogether when one of the girls came up to me and handed me a good-luck Pocky stick. She was really kind and introduced me to the other dancers and that really helped to calm my nerves.

How do you feel the AX Dance event has helped you network with fellow dancers/talent scouts/etc?

AX Dance has definitely helped me connect to different people. I’ve met new dancers, new friends… It’s so easy to make that connection because we all have a common passion. Just being in the presence of so many great dancers and watching them do what they love is in itself inspiring. As for talent scouts… I’m not really sure about that one. I heard there were a few, but I didn’t really get a chance to touch base with them. Maybe next time!

As the winner of the first AX KPOP dance competition, how do you feel about competing in more contests like this in the future?

I would LOVE to come back and compete again. Being able to dance in front of people is what I enjoy the most and if the opportunity arises, you can bet I’ll be there.

Have any special plans in regard to where the prize money is going?

Most of the money will be going towards buying a car, since I’ll be needing that for school soon. But I have a teensy bit set aside for cosplay. And for all of the Mcflurries I promised my friends!

If given the opportunity to perform with any idol group or idol onstage, who would you choose and to what song would you dance?

It would be my greatest honor to perform Suspicious Man with Lee Jung Hyun.

Is there a special reason you chose to perform a girl group dance versus a male group dance?

Well, for starters, I’m not as strong in male group choreography as I am with girl group choreography. My forte lies in my body rolls~ I also felt that my personality was better portrayed with these dances. Ultimately though, I felt that a guy doing a girl song would be fun to watch, since it isn’t something you typically see everyday. I really wanted to surprise everyone!

Oh, and by the way.. what’s the secret to owning those girl group dances the way you do?

I think the secret is all in the attitude. Perform like you own the entire stage, don’t be afraid to throw it all out there because when it’s your moment, you are the stage diva. Embrace it and show everybody that you’re a force to be reckoned with!

942349_714697828556272_1353508772_n

Now moving on we have our runner-up, the 17 year-old Ryan Hsu from San Diego, CA.

 

 So what exactly brought you into the world of KPOP Dance?

I have loved korean music ever since my early childhood (2006) with artists such as BoA, Epik High and Big Bang, but what really skyrocketed my interest in the dancing aspect KPOP was SHINee’s dance for ‘Lucifer’ (2010). The choreography was so unique and mesmerizing. The main dancer from SHINee, Taemin (이태민), is/was my inspiration for dancing and auditioning. His audition video encouraged me to pick up pop and locking and hip hop. These dancing styles (along with kpop choreography) have been my greatest passions since.

How do you feel you did during your performances?

I feel like I did a relatively mediocre job. I practiced multiple hours everyday for a month before the competition. I think the hours of hard work paid off. I still have many flaws in my dance that I need to tweak out. I love to dance so it doesn’t seem like a chore to me.

What was the most memorable event that occurred while participating?

I met a lovely girl named Jane at the competition as we both decided to head to the room early so that we could practice. There, we danced and talked non-stop until I had to leave. I am so lucky and thankful to have met her.

How do you feel the AX Dance event has helped you network with fellow dancers/talent scouts/etc?

Going to dancing events is always fantastic and thrilling for me because I always meet the coolest people. I have met most of my greatest friends through dancing (and KPOP).  Dancing in front of large crowds of people always gives me a rush that makes me want to improve so that I may please the audience even better than before. At AX, I was scouted for the 2nd time by an anonymous Korean Talent Agency. They offered me an audition at their studio. I cried.

I know you’ve received a great response after having danced previously at KCON’12, how do you feel the AX experience was similar/different from that?

Because Anime Expo is a convention that revolves around Japanese Animation, I did not expect the turnout of people to be nearly as large. KCON is a convention that revolves around Korean Pop-Music, so my repertoire of dance choreography was a bit more useful when it came to dancing. Anime Expo is planning on holding another Dance Competition next year and I plan on winning this time.

How do you feel about being known as the “Lay Fanboy”, or any claim to internet fame?

As one of EXO’s greatest fans, I think it is quite the honor to have the amount of popularity that I do. Next to Taemin, Lay, Kai, Se Hun, Lu Han and Xiumin are all fantastic dancers and continue to inspire me to work harder as a dancer. All of EXO’s music speaks to me like no other group can. Many fans of EXO say that I look similar to Lay which is a HUGE compliment. EXO is also my inspiration for style. One thing that everyone should know is that I love ALL KPOP, not just EXO. KPOP is one what motivates me to keep pushing myself in life.

Are you planning any special performances for this upcoming KCON?

KCON is just around the corner and I am planning on performing a few covers (including group/couple covers) including Phoenix, Time Control, Only One, Wolf and more.

If given the chance to perform alongside EXO on stage, what song would you choose to do?

KJHASLDFKHALSDKFJAKLSJDFHLAKSJDHGLAKJSGHSDGLKJAH;SLK. It has always been my dream to perform alongside EXO (I have re-occurring dreams of this). I would be willing to perform any of their songs as I know the blocking for each member, but if I HAD to choose I would choose MAMA because I think that it has the most energy and impact of any of their other songs. The choreography for MAMA sits right next to SHINee’s ‘Lucifer.’

974189_10201518470393437_919788626_n

And last but not least, we have the 19 year-old Emily Tsou hailing from Chula Vista, CA.

So what exactly brought you into the world of KPOP Dance?

My best friend showed me a video of SHINee’s Amigo way back in 2009-ish and I’ve been in love with them since. SHINee has always had some of the best choreography.

How do you feel you did during your performances?

It was my first time performing in such a large crowd by myself, so I’m grateful for not messing up too horrendously out of nerves. That’s pretty much all I could say haha.

How do you feel the AX Dance event has helped you network with fellow dancers/talent scouts/etc?

The AX Dance event was surprisingly a great opportunity for making friends with similar interests and ultimately networking. I originally thought most of the attendees would be the average die hard Kpop fan like me, so I was surprised to meet people from various age groups and influential backgrounds.

I know that you’ve had experience being in school dance teams,so do you think that the experience has helped you along with your personal dancing endeavors?

My dancing experience in high school was a definite leg up in my opinion. Not only did it bring me experience in showmanship, but also comfort in different genres of dance and music.

I heard that you were approached by a YG trainee/scout after your performance, was this something you would’ve expected?

I completely did not expect to be approached by a trainee/scout!! Like I said, I had thought the event would be filled with average joe fans of Kpop so I was incredibly surprised to have gotten opportunities to talk to certain people about my future.

If you could choreograph a dance for any idol or group, who would you choose and why?  

Although I do not feel qualified at the moment, I’d love to choreograph for B.A.P or 2NE1. I’ve always loved powerful and charismatic dances that show a lot of character and are overall amazing to watch.

Also, if given the chance to collaborate with any choreographer, who would it be?

In terms of choreographers, Rino Nakasone is my idol as much as other celebrities. Being on par and choreographing with her would be a humbling experience and is a dream in itself.

How was it being the only girl in the final round?

I was a bit nervous about being the only girl in the finals since there are certain expectations and gender roles that may not have been advantageous for me in the beginning as male idol groups have usually more difficult and varying choreography than females’ (who either fit in cute or sexy). I feel as though the main factor in my advancing to the finals was that I had chosen to perform a very traditionally masculine style of song and dance that no one had expected of me to do therefore having the element of surprise. I mainly wanted to convey in the finals that girls could be powerful and cool and stand (or in this case, dance) as equals to boys. I hope it showed.

 

Updated: An Exclusive Interview with Kim Soo-hyun: Secretly, Greatly (with Podcast)

photosessionI felt bad for the theatre staff. AMC Fashion Valley employees were not aware of the enormous popularity of Kim Soo-hyun.

<중앙일보 샌디에이고 특별기자 셰릴 달리의 김수현 인터뷰>

They had no idea that to Korean movie and drama buffs, having Kim Soo-hyun show up was like having Leonardo Dicaprio or Robert Pattinson walk into the theatre for an English speaker. Yes. He’s that popular.

Tickets to the two premier showings sold out fast, leaving many crying into their computers, wishing they’d known sooner. Many of those left out stood outside the doors hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite Hallyu star as he entered and exited the building. Fortunately, they were not disappointed.

With a poise and humility that belied his young 25 years, Kim Soo-hyun agreed to a brief interview during his fleeting trip through San Diego. Surrounded by a small, competent staff, we sat and spoke. Although he answered in Korean, he understood my English and often began his answers before the translator had to assist.

Cheryl Dawley: So San Diego is very excited to see you! My first question is, which do you like doing better, movies or dramas?

Kim Soo-hyun: I’m still learning about it. I’ve only done 2-3 dramas and 2-3 movies, so I can’t say right now, but I’m in the process of learning.

Cheryl Dawley: But you’re enjoying both?

Kim Soo-hyun: I like the development and the process with my colleagues. I am enjoying the people in this area.

Cheryl Dawley: And are you planning on doing more with your music career as well? I noticed you just released a song.

Kim Soo-hyun: I’m very interested in music, but my priority is acting.

Cheryl Dawley: I know when you worked on Dream High you spent a couple of month with JYP. How was that?

Kim Soo-hyun: During the shooting, I tried to learn dancing and music. At JYP, it was very hard training over there. It was very tough.

Cheryl Dawley: So what’s the hardest part of your job?

Kim Soo-hyun: Self development. It’s a process of growing up. Sometimes I get lonely and people can be very harsh to me.

Cheryl Dawley: What do you love best about being an actor?

Kim Soo-hyun: I respect Christoph Waltz. But I like acting. It’s like singing. It’s what I like best.

Cheryl Dawley: Can you say “Hello KKonnect” for the KKonnect fans?

Kim Soo-hyun: “Hello KKonnect!”

Time ran out and we had to wrap up.

But there were more to come waiting as he made his way into the theatre to greet his cheering fans. Although the meet-and-greet was conducted in Korean, even the English speaking fans were entranced.

crowd surgeThe bridesmaids outside were not disappointed either. They waited patiently for Kim Soo-hyun to emerge, and were greeted with his wide smile as he made his way through the crowd.

 

Note: Audio content coming soon! Check back!

Also check out the KKonnect Facebook page for more photos!

https://www.facebook.com/kkonnectmedia

[BIBIMBEATS] Local Beats: Hanging out with KPOP Star 2’s McKay Kim

This spring, KPOP Star 2, the highly anticipated second season of KPOP Star, brought together rising young talent from around the world. Unlike talent programs here in the United States, the KPOP Star series features performers putting their own twist on both popular Korean and English language songs complete with back-up dancers and pyrotechnics. Making it something of a golden ticket for those trying to make a break in the Korean music industry, KPOP Star is judged by representatives from Korea’s three largest entertainment labels – YG CEO Yang Hyun-suk, JYP CEO Park Jin-young, and SM’s veteran star BoA. Upon winning, the remaining artist gets to choose which label they want to sign with, though all participants can cultivate promising musical careers by simply getting onto the show. In the first season, winner Park Ji-min was brought into JYP Entertainment as a part of pop duo 15&, and her time spent in the competition made runner-up Lee Hi one of YG Entertainment’s strongest debuts. KPOP Star 2 champions, Akdong Musician, have already released their new single “I Love You” for the All About My Romance soundtrack, and YG Entertainment has recently announced their contract with season 2 finalist Bang Ye-dam. Yet despite their elimination in the third round, a strong and loyal fan base remains for season 2 trio, Raccoon Boys. The Raccoon Boys auditioned for KPOP Star 2 separately and were formed by BoA as the rounds progressed. The group consisted of rapper Kim Min-seok of Asan, South Korea and singers Brian Shin from Cupertino, Calif. and San Diego’s own, McKay Kim. KKonnect had the opportunity to interview McKay on one of his first visits back home since the program ended, taking a break before heading back to Korea to continuing working on his budding music career.

Q: What are your career plans for the future?
A: Honestly, I can’t say I have a definite plan so far. In fact, I have no plan – no clue! I haven’t contracted with any company yet, so once I go to Korea, my plans will become more concrete.

Q: What kind of artist do you aspire to be?
A: I want to become a John Mayer or Jason Mraz type of artist. I am into acoustic type songs that I can use my guitar with. Among Korean artists, I would like to sing Zion T types of songs.

Q: If you received an offer to be in an idol group, would you give in?
A: I would be flattered, but I am the stiffest person! I do favor CN Blue types of groups where it is a band rather than an idol group. I sure would love to learn how to dance though!

Q: Why did you choose to expand your music career in Korea?
A: I noticed that most of the music in Korea is pop. I want to start something new – start and become a music layer.

Q: How did you find out about KPOP Star?
A: My mom actually saw a flyer at Convoy Street in San Diego. She and I both did not have high expectations but we thought it would be a good experience.

Q: Did you predict that you would get this far on KPOP Star?
A: No! Every stage was an unexpected yet sweet surprise. The first song that I sang was written by me. I had originally planned to sing Bum Soo-kim’s “I Miss You (보고싶다)”, but I changed it at the last minute. I felt like I was unprepared, so I felt very blessed when I passed.

Q: What drove you choose to sing the song that you wrote?
A: At first I didn’t have the confidence that I could pass with a song that I wrote, but my mom encouraged me and I was glad that others also liked it. I would like to pursue not only singing but songwriting as well. I don’t want to follow by the rules but establish my own color with the music that I write.

Q: If BoA, Yang Hyun-suk, and JYP were to compete in KPOP Star themselves, who do you think would win?
A: I think BoA would win. I think she would be the closest to making it big in America too. She always reminds me of Britney Spears – pretty and talented. While working at the set of KPOP Star, I realized that she is very smart – and she’s good. She has talent, and she’s wise too.

Q: Any shout outs to your friends in San Diego?
A: Though I can’t guarantee a visit soon, hopefully I will be able to see you guys soon. I hope I can come back as a successful artist and make you guys proud!

My Journey to Seoul!

I arrived home after embarking on my 3 week adventure in Seoul and I’m already missing it. Here is a look into what I did, ate and learned during my stay!

Before I went on my trip, I made sure to compose a list of all the touristy things to do and other places of interest to visit. Also during the preparation process, my friends and I contacted someone online to stay with through the website ‘couchsurfing.org’ where you can find people all over the world who have room. Sounds sketchy, but our host was very kind and even made time to show us around. If you don’t have anyone to stay with in Seoul and want to save money, this website is definitely a great way to meet people. After everything was planned and finalized, I was ready to go!

What I did

IMG_0639

After the long and tiring 16 hour flight, I had finally arrived at Incheon Airport. It may have been due to lack of a good sleep, but it felt like a dream actually being in Korea. I hadn’t even left the airport yet and already was starting to see idols everywhere!

Our long journey was not over yet as we had to take about an hour long train ride to Seoul. One of my favorite things was how convenient and affordable the subway system is. It took a couple tries at first to get used to purchasing tickets and figuring out how to get to our destination, but we quickly became pros.

All settled in and rested up, we spent the first few days exploring the traditional temples, shrines and many shopping areas. For just 10,000 won (about less than $10) we bought a ticket booklet for Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changyeonggung, and Deoksugung Palaces, and Jongmyo Shrine. The tickets are also valid a month after purchasing- great deal!

IMG_0678
Gyeongbokgung Palace
IMG_0716

Jongmyo Shrine

IMG_0738

After visiting a couple of the palaces, we proceeded into some of the best places for shopping in Seoul- Namdaemun Market and Myeongdong! Lined with affordable clothing stores blasting Kpop, street food, countless coffee shops, beauty stores, and employees inviting shoppers into their stores (some of them yelling “Hi!” at us), we had ventured into a shopper’s dream.

A popular product Koreans love to indulge in is beauty products because skin care is an important daily regime. The Face Shop, Skin Food, Etude House, Nature Republic, & etc…these stores are almost as frequent as coffee shops! The best part is, the products are really affordable and if you do purchase something, (with the assistance from the very helpful employees), then you usually receive great samples with it.

IMG_0824

Apart from spending much of my time shopping, I found myself at all corners of the city, mostly at the must-see areas for tourists. Within walking distance from Myeongdong is the famous Namsan Tower with a spectacular view at night. Although it became obvious this was a popular spot for couples, it was definitely a highlight. And believe or not, there was actually a “Nature Republic” beauty store at the top of the tower. Just in case you wanted to relax with a face mask up there.

One of my favorite areas which I had to revisit many times was Hongdae, the place to be if you’re a hip, young student who enjoys indie music or is looking for good nightlife. The atmosphere here especially on weekends is lively and free. You can find yourself at a crowded bar or club, or slip inside a café to watch live performances of upcoming indie bands. What Hongdae is most famous for are the many performers you can watch on the street, and it is also popular as a drama filming spot. In fact we even saw filming for a current drama called “Gold, Appear”!

IMG_0920
Street performers in Hongdae

The Food
As a vegetarian (I do eat fish), I actually didn’t find it too difficult finding food I can eat. And that was much to my pleasure as I got to eat a lot of delicious food. While some days I opted for a packet of Chapagetti, here’s some highlights of what I ate.

IMG_0737
The best deokbokki I have ever had from a street stall in Myeongdong. Only 3,000 won.
IMG_0765
“Mr.Pizza.” Pizza in Korea is surprisingly good!
IMG_0855
Jjamppong (Spicy seafood noodle Soup)
IMG_0909
One of many Patbingsoos I indulged in.

What I learned
As a foreigner I felt very welcomed by the people there and never felt too out of place, even if I physically stood out as a young, white female. Even though it is a different country, I didn’t find the culture difference too difficult to get used to, even though I have been exposed to Korean culture and customs before. It seems like Seoul is only recently becoming a more popular destination for travelers and students so I was surprised at how many people were able to speak English. People would even approach us and ask if we needed help! There were of course many differences I noticed but they were more amusing, and even convenient, than shocking.
-Coffee shops are literally everywhere. From chain cafes like Ediya Coffee and Paris Baguette, to small independent ones.
-Couples are also everywhere. The couple culture is huge there and you will often see them wearing matching shirts, charms and even shoes. There are also many bars and cafes I saw where you are seated into your own private room instead of an open one.
-No tipping! This one in particular I enjoyed. The tax is also already included in the price so you don’t have to do the math.
-There is a lack of trash cans. I’m not kidding! We would have to hold on to our accumulated trash for a while before finding an already overflowing trash.
-The drinking age is 20 and it is legal to drink in public.
-Subways are typically quiet and most people seem to be on their smartphones catching up on dramas or kakaotalking.
-Every kind of food you can think of can be delivered anywhere. At Banpo Park along the Han River, delivery motorcycles pass around menus and you can order pizza or chicken there.

Overall, this trip was absolutely amazing. I didn’t expect to love Seoul so much, but what I mostly enjoyed was being surrounded by a culture I’ve been interested in for years and meeting many great people everywhere I went. I would definitely recommend anyone to visit.

Korean-American Carol Kim Making a Bid for San Diego City Council Seat

CarolKim_ProfilePhoto_201305Service Oriented, Long-Time Invested Member in the Community to run in District 6 Race

 

What does it take to make your average Korean-American mother decide to run for office? OK, well maybe not quite average. Carol Kim is decidedly a cut above.

Carol Kim grew up with a strong sense of needing to give back to her community. Citing her Korean-born father as her ‘moral compass’, Ms. Kim was raised to appreciate the benefits of being raised in America. Her first job was for the Los Angeles Unified School District where she chose to work in an area beleaguered by poverty and attended by kids at risk due to socio-economic hardships. She describes the four years as rewarding.

She met and married her husband, following him to upstate New York where there was a hiring freeze on teachers. Not to be deterred, Ms. Kim branched out into another arena of public service, a non-profit organization dedicated to HIV prevention and service to those infected and affected by the disease. There she assisted a diverse and high risk population. Four years later, in 2006, they returned to the West Coast and moved to San Diego.

Here she is employed by WestEd, a not-for-profit that allowed her to wed her educational and health-oriented experience to develop programs giving youth socio-emotional support in such diverse issues as bullying prevention and career and technical education.

When the last Presidential elections rolled around, Ms. Kim realized that her passion for issues should not be confined to the home or her circle of friends and decided to volunteer. Her energy and enthusiasm quickly moved her into a leadership position for OFA, Organizing For America, a grassroots campign to re-elect President Obama. She organized volunteers during the campaign and was called upon to organize again for the National Day of Service on Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, spearheading a project that sent personalized cards and letters to troops overseas.

OFA, now Organizing For Action, currently deals with advocay issues such as gun violence prevention, comprehensive immigration reform, and environmental issues. Ms. Kim is currently the the Chapter Lead for OFA San Diego.

cd6mapSo why run for City Council? Carol Kim cited a number of reasons. She feels it is important to take an active role in civic work rather than sitting back and complaining. There are also few women representing the constituencies although they make up half of the demographic. Through her volunteer work, she also realized that there are almost no Asian Americans participating in the political arena.

Ms. Kim feels that as a long-time member of the community she wants to represent, she understands the needs of the constituents. Her motto, or tag-line, is “Connecting Communities”. Representing areas of Mira Mesa, Kearney Mesa, Miramar, Sorrento Valley and Clairemont Mesa she sees a very diverse set of people with a diverse set of needs. Being a part of the community she is ready to listen to everyone and connect the areas and their needs in an intelligent, thoughtful fashion that makes sense for everyone. Although a member of the Democratic party, she firmly believes that most of the community concerns are non-partisan and should be treated as such.

Carol Kim will be at the Grand Opening celebration of the new Zion Market on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard Saturday, June 29.

IMG_4250
Carol Kim and Jini Shim of Korea Daily