“Ready? One! Two! Three! Anyonghaseyo! Welcome to NYC!”
A crowd of nearly 70 young people chorused a thunderous “Hello!” in the Korean language and bowed as two Korean males stepped out of Lincoln Center into the warm sunny air of New York City. The men’s tired expressions transformed rapidly from exhaustion to surprise to happiness as they saw the large group of fangirls and fanboys screaming and waving cardboard signs and CD covers while holding digital cameras and camcorders. To their further amusement, the crowd began chanting, “Dong Bang Shin Ki Saranghaeyo,” their band name and the formal Korean phrase for “I love you” over and over again.
Finally, Yunho Jung and Changmin Shim, who were guests at the Lacoste fashion show at New York Fashion Week, acknowledged their American fans with a bow, appreciative smiles and several waves before leaving Lincoln Center, followed by a mass of paparazzi with flashing cameras.
Yunho and Changmin, members of the Korean band Dong Bang Shin Ki or DBSK, are only two of the countless Korean singers who have captured the hearts of many fans around the world. One fan, 15-year-old Channol Samuel, had never even heard of Korean music, also known as K-Pop, before she discovered a Korean soap opera online.
“I was watching the drama Dream High when I heard Miss A.’s ‘Bad Girl, Good Girl,’” she said. “I loved it and I just started looking up more and more of their songs and got connected to other bands. That was how I found DBSK.”
Asian countries, Japan in particular, are well-known for their numerous advances in scientific and technological research, their impeccable fashion tastes and their dramatic soap operas. But when it comes to music, Korea is beginning to take over not only Asia, but the rest of the globe.
Unlike most American bands and singers, Korean bands like DBSK and Super Junior did not become popular among American K-Pop fans by means of the radio or popular television shows such as “American Idol” or “America’s Got Talent.” Most of their American fans, like Channol, came across their idols purely by accident.
Nineteen-year-old Amanda Audette was simply browsing YouTube for videos of her favorite Japanese anime when she came across a fan-made video that captured her interest.
“The song used was called ‘Déjà vu’ by the K-Pop band SS501,” she said as she held a photo of DBSK that she had printed out the night before. “After that, it was just a matter of being connected to other bands via YouTube. I really started with Super Junior which eventually led to DBSK.”
Meanwhile, K-pop was recommended to 21-year old New Jersey resident Joy Nickens by a friend who showed her DBSK’s song “Rising Sun” back in 2007.
“Then, I listened to Rain, Wonder Girls, SHINee and Super Junior, and that was when it all began,” she said. “Their music reaches out to fans. The beats are catchy and the songs are a bit cutesy, innocent and innovated. And their songs aren’t provocative. They’re not about drugs or sex and such. Some are, but the more popular and well-known ones aren’t, and this is what makes them different from American bands.”
The mass of DBSK fans had planned a small flash mob in dedication to their idols that did not follow through. Joy and another dancer arrived clad in red, DBSK’s signature color, while two other dancers were wearing hand-made, black and white costumes from one of the band’s music videos. She had had to call her fellow anxious fans to order, reminding them that they must behave in order to make a good impression on the visiting Korean stars.
The fashion show’s management, however, refused the group’s request to perform the dance. So instead the excited fans opted to cheer and wave at their idols. Some of them, though, were upset that the planned dance did not go through, Amanda’s younger sister among them.
“I really wanted to see it,” said Alyssa Audette, 16, who was carrying TVXQ’s third album “Balloons” and a black marker, hoping that the singers would give autographs. “But we couldn’t really do anything about it.”
But others seemed all right with the change in plans.
“I didn’t really mind,” Channol said. “But I wanted to see their reaction.”
Although they could not show DBSK their support and dedication through the planned dance, many of the fans were satisfied at simply seeing their idols and letting them know how much they are loved, no matter what part of the world they are in.
“It was a dream come true,” Joy said, a wide smile lighting her face. “For them to come over is groundbreaking, and it’s what scares us and excites us. The only way we usually see them is through the internet, and seeing them physically was very overwhelming.”