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[Movie 2010] Heart Is.. / Hearty Paws 2 / 마음이2

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Dal-yi as the lovely Maumi, Song JoongKi, Seong DongIl, Kim JeongTae

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Heart Is.. / Hearty Paws 2 / 마음이2

Lots of great pics & cute posters at CINE21

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July 15, 2010

Canine movie star breaks more hearts in sequel

By Lee Hyo-won

Staff reporter

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A scene from "Maumi (Hearty Paws) 2." The canine film sequel is in theaters

July 21. /Courtesy of Fine Works

Imagine all the spunky tail-wagging, perky woofs and irresistible puppy eyes of "101 Dalmatians" _ but live. Korea’s canine heroine Dal-i, better known by her screen persona Maumi, has returned after four years with three puppies, offering quadruple the "aww" factor in "Maumi (Hearty Paws) 2."

It’s even alright if the film is, like many mainstream family movies, cookie cutter formulaic; sure, it’s programmed to hammer out specific emotions in the viewer to the point of being manipulative, but Maumi will keep you on the edge of your seat. Unlike its Hollywood or other international counterparts, no computer graphics were employed to render the million-dollar facial expressions of the furry protagonist; with such an Oscar-worthy dog, Disney animations no longer hold the monopoly on friendly animal characters.

The first installment was a groundbreaker in Korean cinema’s virtually non-existent animal movie genre, and attracted a sizeable audience with Maumi becoming a recognizable household name. It was thus the only film in the variety with hope for a follow-up story _ "Paws 2," much like its "Tom and Jerry"-esque triumph-of-the-underdog (mind the pun) storyline, symbolizes promise for minor genres in the local entertainment scene.

It is important to note that four years, particularly in dog years, is not a short amount of time. Dal-i had proven her acting skills in her big screen debut, where the drama was centered on her friendship with a boy. The passage of time has made our heroine a mother, both on and off screen (which explains her most natural portrayal of maternal instincts and her "voluptuous" physique) as well as an actress with a greater burden on her shoulders: She dominates much of the film’s running time, being challenged to appear more than cute and domestic like typical pet movies _ appearing solo to express moments of despair and pensive reflection, provide nimble, exhilarating action sequences and even refrain from devouring sumptuous sausages.

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The baby-faced Song Joong-ki has replaced Yoo Seung-ho in the role of Maumi’s beloved owner. But the humans are rather forgettable in the film, which is perhaps most appropriate for a movie in which the dog receives the highest paycheck among the cast members.

Dong-wuk is now a high school senior, but his reputation as a talented fighter always gets him into trouble, resulting in three transfers to different schools. Yet Maumi has stayed by his side as his loyal best friend. Dong-wuk’s mother, however, becomes concerned when he starts cutting classes to spend time with Maumi. The dog and her three pups are thus placed under the temporary foster care of Dong-wuk’s uncle at his video store.

One day Maumi’s three pups are spotted by a couple of jewelry thieves, Hyeok-pil (Seong Dong-il puts a more PG spin on his noted comic villain in the TV series "Slave Hunters") and Du-pil (Kim Jeong-tae plays his first non-R rated film role). The duo are fugitives on the run after the heist and are scheming of ways to export the loot they stole. They think of the most heinous plan since perhaps Cruella de Vil, to kill a cute Labrador retriever pup and make him into a stuffed piece of taxidermy as a foolproof jewelry carrier.

Hyeok-pil and Du-pil manage to kidnap Jang-gun, the youngest of the three puppies. But Maumi is not about to let her child get away, and stages a face-off with the bandits by swallowing the diamonds and making a run for it.

While Maumi’s knack for breaking hearts remains the same, the sequel has gotten more humorous. It features "Home Alone"-style dynamics between Maumi and the "Dumb and Dumber" bandits and will keep both kids and adults laughing out loud this summer, not only in Korea but for slated releases in China in August and Japan in the near future.

Hearty Paws 2 is in theaters from July 21. Distributed by Fine Works.

Source: hyowlee@koreatimes.co.kr

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NG streaming

http://news.nate.com/view/20100718n03152

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Song Joong-ki and dog in the sequel to Heart Is

June 30th, 2010 // by javabeans

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I almost feel like Song Joong-ki‘s new movie Heart Is… 2 (aka Hearty Paws 2 or 마음이2) is totally taking a cheap shot — not only are they throwing the adorable Song at us, we’ve also got one beautiful dog and its ridiculously adorable puppies. Who’s got any brainpower left for thinking after we’ve been assaulted by all that Cute and turned into babbling idiots?

The movie is a sequel to the 2006 boy-and-his-dog movie Heart Is, which starred a young(er) Yoo Seung-ho (and the precocious Kim Hyang-gi). In this movie, Song bonds with the dog Maeumi (which is the literal title of the movie) and her puppies. I feel like there’s a conspicuous absence of plot in this movie, but this is one instance where I don’t really care. It looks silly and fun and will probably have us saying “Awww” all the way through.

Via Segye dramabeans.com

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I saw the first one too.. it was so heartbreaking. :tears: Hope 'Maumi 2' is not as tragic.

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July 22, 2010

Animal actress set for another star turn

Dal-yi returns in the role of a devoted mother dog

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Owner and trainer Kim Zong-kwon poses with Dal-yi, the heroine of the film “Maumi 2.” [YONHAP]

Like other A-list actors, she has her own chair when she’s on set. She has a private black van with cushy red carpet inside. And she was the highest paid actor in “Maumi 2,” which opened yesterday in theaters nationwide.

But this lady is no diva: she isn’t picky about makeup or camera angles, nor is she particular about what she eats. After a tough scene, perhaps one that requires her to run a lot, all she needs is a couple pieces of meat.

Her name is Dal, which means “moon” in Korean, and people call her Dal-yi (the “yi” is a particle that is attached to Korean names). She first played Maumi in the 2006 film “Hearty Paws,” which was also her screen debut. In Maumi 2, the sequel to Hearty Paws, Dal-yi plays a devoted mother dog who embarks on a journey to find her puppy, who is kidnapped by villains.

Dal-yi has great timing on-screen and off, knowing just when to let out a low snarl to express discomfort and when to let loose and bark. The movie was far more demanding for the 10-year-old Labrador Retriever than the previous installment. But Dal-yi, ever the professional actress, handled it with grace - not an easy feat after giving birth to four pups last July.

With Maumi 2, Dal-yi has become the first four-legged actress to star in a sequel. In fact, Maumi 2 is the nation’s first film franchise starring an animal. To find out more about Dal-yi’s experiences on set and off, the JoongAng Daily talked to Kim Zong-kwon, Dal-yi’s owner and trainer.

Kim, who once owned a factory that manufactured cotton gloves, adopted Dal-yi from an acquaintance when she was just 60 days old. The puppy changed Kim’s life. After Kim had to shut down his business because of health problems, he opened an animal acting academy in Gwangju, Gyeonggi, as a tribute to Dal-yi, and it has been a big success for both him and his animal companion.

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Dal-yi plays a devoted mother dog who embarks on a journey to bring back her lost puppy

in “Maumi 2.” Provided by Lotte Entertainment

Q. Did you adopt Dal-yi with the idea of training her for films or did you see her cinematic potential as you were raising her?

A. I love animals. Dal-yi was a gift from a friend, but I soon realized that she had special talent. When she came to live with me she was just 60 days old, but she already understood basic commands such as “sit,” “down” and “stand.” Ordinary dogs understand about 15 words, but Dal-yi understands nearly 80. She’s really smart.

How long was Dal-yi’s day during the production of Maumi 2?

Dal-yi filmed between two to three hours a day on average. With human actors, you get better results if you shoot the same scene over and over again but animals are different. The longer it takes to shoot a scene, the more distracted they become. So everyone on set prepared for scenes before Dal-yi was brought in.

How did you teach her to act?

The director sent me the details of Dal-yi’s scenes so I could start training her. Practice was the only way to prepare Dal-yi for her scenes. And she never refuses training sessions.

Did Dal-yi receive special treatment from the production staff?

Before filming began, director Lee Jung-chul and the camera crew would spend a couple of days with her a week. They felt they needed the time with Dal-yi to ensure a good outcome. And it worked.

By Sung So-young [so@joongang.co.kr] joongangdaily.com

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Now Showing

Maumi (Hearty Paws) 2

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In the sequel Korea’s most famous golden retriever Maumi has returned with a batch of puppies. Two jewelry thieves, Hyeok-pil (Seong Dong-il) and Du-pil (Kim Jeong-tae) kidnap the youngest pup, Jang-gun, and try to use him as a way to export the loot they stole. Maumi, however, tries to save her baby by fighting the bandits, by swallowing the diamonds and running away. In Korean with no English subtitles. All ages admitted. 92 minutes.

CGV Guro (1544-1122) inside AK Plaza near exit 1 of Guro Station on subway line 1

Cinecity (02-540-2500) near exit 3 of Apgujeong Station on subway line 3

Primus Sillim (1544-5522) near exit 7 of Sillim Station on subway line 2

Megabox Mokdong (1544-0600) near exit 3 of Omokkyo Station on subway line 5

Source: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/art/2010/07/141_69951.html

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Captures copied from nate.com

Wang Suk Hyun was also in the movie :lol:

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Random pics from the press conference on July 13, 2010

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up1.gifMaumy 2 opens at #4 upon the movie release in Korea maumy.png

July 26, 2010

Weekend Box Office: July 23-25

Reporter: Lucia Hong

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South Korea's box office estimates for the weekend of July 23-25, 2010 [Korean Box Office Information System (KOBIS)]

Reporter: Lucia Hong luciahong @ <Ⓒ 10Asia All rights reserved> 10Asia

Hollywood action film "Inception" successfully bowed into the Korean box office at No. 1 over the weekend, taking the top spot from Korean thriller "Moss." The Korean Box Office System (KOBIS) revealed on Monday that "Inception," which premiered in local theaters on July 21, brought in 796,854 moviegoers during the weekend of July 23 to 25.

The crime thriller, written, produced and helmed by famed director Christopher Nolan, is about how Dom Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) enters people's dreams to obtain inaccessible information. It also stars actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page and Tom Hardy.

"Moss," based on a popular online comic in Korea, slipped one slot to No. 2 with 493,946 admissions and Disney picture "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," starring Nicolas Cage and Jay Baruchel, entered the chart in third place with 218,865 admits.

Newly released Korean flick "Maumi 2" and animated picture "Detective Conan: The Lost Ship in the Sky" also opened in theaters, coming in at fourth and fifth place selling 154,824 and 145,804 tickets, respectively.

Other movies on the top 10 were "Shrek Forever After," "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse," "Knight & Day," "71 Into the Fire" and "Man of Vendetta."

Reporter: Lucia Hong luciahong @ Editor: Jessica Kim jesskim @ <Ⓒ 10Asia All rights reserved> 10Asia

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Weekend Box Office: July 30-August 1

Reporter: Lucia Hong

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South Korea's box office estimates for the weekend of July 30-August 1, 2010 [Korean Box Office Information System (KOBIS)]Reporter: Lucia Hong luciahong @ <Ⓒ 10Asia All rights reserved>

"Salt" topples "Inception" in local box office

Reporter: Lucia Hong Editor: Jessica Kim

Hollywood film "Salt" made its debut atop the local box office chart over the weekend, taking the crown from last week's winner "Inception."

The Korean Box Office System (KOBIS) indicated that "Salt," which opened in local theaters on July 29, attracted 720,450 moviegoers during the weekend of July 30 to August 1.

"Salt," starring Angelina Jolie and Liev Schreiber, is about a CIA agent named Evelyn Salt (Jolie) who goes rogue after being accused of being a sleeper agent for Russia's intelligence agency KGB. Meanwhile, Hollywood crime pic "Inception," starring Leonardo DiCaprio, went the other way, falling down a spot to second place with 676,043 viewers after taking the No. 1 spot the previous week. Korean thriller "Moss" also dropped a notch to third with 275,201 admissions.

Newly released horror flick "Death Bell 2: Bloody Camp" and ecological French documentary "Oceans" entered the box office in fourth and fifth place, bringing in 263,074 and 148,592 viewers, respectively.

Other movies on the top 10 included "Detective Conan: The Lost Ship in the Sky," "Maumi 2," Eiga Doraemon: Nobita no ningyo daikaisen, "" The Sorcerer's Apprentice "and" Shrek Forever After. "

Reporter: Lucia Hong luciahong @ Editor: Jessica Kim jesskim @ <Ⓒ 10Asia All rights reserved> 10Asia

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August 5, 2010

Maumi Fan Meeting August 6

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Source: http://news.nate.com/view/20100804n21824

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August 9, 2010

Weekend Box Office: August 6-8

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Korean action flick "The Man From Nowhere" made its debut atop local box office charts during the weekend of August 6 to 8, pushing Hollywood pic "Salt" down the charts. According to the Korean Box Office System (KOBIS) on Monday, "Man," which opened in local theaters on August 4, attracted 702,631 moviegoers, which amounts to 5.4 billion won, over the weekend.

"Man," starring Korean actor Won Bin and child actress Kim Sae-ron, is about a reclusive man named Tae-shik (Won Bin), a former special agent who runs a pawn shop and befriends So-mi (Kim), the young girl next door.

Meanwhile, Hollywood thriller "Inception," starring Leonardo DiCaprio, held onto the No. 2 spot on box office charts, selling 610,835 tickets, while previous No. 1 film "Salt" starring Angelina Jolie slipped two spots with 470,392 viewers.

Newly released animated Pixar film "Toy Story 3" and dance flick "Step Up 3-D" entered the charts in fourth and fifth place with 429,983 and 197,801 admissions, respectively.

Other movies on the top 10 included "Moss," "Oceans" "Death Bell 2: Bloody Camp," "Maumi 2" and "Detective Conan: The Lost Ship in the Sky."

Reporter : Lucia Hong luciahong@ Editor : Jessica Kim jesskim@ <ⓒ10Asia All rights reserved> 10Asia 1 l 2

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November 9, 2010

Hearty Paws 2 (2010)

Source: Seen in Jeonju

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I knew I was going to be in trouble when the editor assigned me to write a review for Hearty Paws 2. I knew that it was definitely NOT my style of movie. Now, I have written about several animated films on this site which I have loved. And I fully admit to willingly purchasing and, this past Monday night, watching Sparkman–a Shim Hyeong-rae live-action childrens movie from 1988 which I will probably get around to writing about here at some point. However, those seem different to me. Those are viewed for research purposes, part of a film history that I want to know more about. Maybe, after thirty years, I will be happy to see Hearty Paws 2, but I have might doubts. It is a shame too, because the original Hearty Paws is surprisingly good- with a heart-breaking end. But (as a mention in the below review), given the end, a true sequel is impossible and Hearty Paws 2 deviates far from its predecessor. What I wrote for Asiana Entertainment appears below.The key phrase to keep in mind is that this movie “captures the imagination of preschoolers.”

From Asiana Entertainment vol. 16, no. 11: It is unusual to enjoy a non-animated Korean film that can be enjoyed by the youngest members of a family. Although Korean cinema offers entertaining viewing and beautiful and often tragic stories, rarely are screenplays written with small children in mind. However, Hearty Paws 2, with its loveable dogs and simple action, fills this niche. It is sure to capture the attention and imagination of preschoolers while keeping parents happy knowing that their children are watching a wholesome film wherein a happy end is guaranteed.

The name of the dog in the film is Maeumi, which is also the Korean name of the movie. That, and the fact that the pooch is played by the same animal actor, are the only connections the movie Hearty Paws 2 has with the original 2006 film. The sad ending of the first film left it impossible to make a true sequel. Hearty Paws 2 departs from the heavy drama of the original to a light comic tone which has much more in common with Home Alone than Old Yeller. The story revolves around a clever mother dog, her attentive owner Dong-wook and her litter of fluffy white puppies. When a pair of bumbling jewel thieves steals one of Maeumi’s pups, the courageous canine goes on a frantic chase through the countryside in an effort to reclaim him. Naturally, the robbers are not willing to part with their prize, so Maeumi ensures that she will get their attention focused on her by devouring their stash of diamonds. This leads the dim-witted burglars chasing the precocious dog into the woods where a lively game of hide-and-seek ensues and where encounters with a wild pig and a poisonous snake help alter the course of the game.

As mentioned earlier, this film is certainly suitable for children. Even though the dognappers speak threateningly about what they will do if they catch Maeumi, there is never any sense of real danger and most children will not be frightened. Even the CGI snake is rendered in such a way that it does not seem realistic enough to be dangerous and only the youngest children may be scared. Any violence in the film, such as when the asp bites one of the four-legged characters, is implied. We never see the actions that might be too scary for kids, only the aftermath–much of which is handled comically.

Most of the human characters play second fiddle to the cleverness of Maeumi and the cute antics of her adorable puppies. Not enough can be said about just how cute the young puppies in this film are. Their inquisitive looks, pudgy little bodies and charming smiles will make everyone want to own one of these dogs. As in Lassie, the animals do not talk, however they act in such a way that they appear human and what they are trying to say is easily understood. Hearty Paws 2 is a fun, action-filled romp–a family film that will leave you with a smile on your face.

End magazine review: Huh.. reading that, the movie doesn’t sound half-bad. BUT it is definitely NOT for adults. If I had little kids, I might buy the DVD to put on for them to watch, but adults will be left slightly dazed by all the cuteness and child-oriented slapstick in this film.

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November 12, 2010

Founder of largest English K-pop site 'Soompi'

Korean-American web developer creates first global online community devoted to K-pop, Asian entertainment

By Cathy Rose A. Garcia cathy@koreatimes.co.kr

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Main page of the ultimate K-pop site “Soompi”

If you’re looking for news about a SuperJunior concert, reviews for a 2NE1 album, recaps of Korean drama "Sungkyunkwan Scandal" or simply anything about Korean entertainment, chances are you’ll find it on Soompi.com.

Soompi.com is the oldest and currently the largest English-language online community devoted to Korean and Asian entertainment, with a million unique visitors every month.

Soompi has come a long way from its early days as a personal online shrine devoted to K-pop started by Korean-American Susan Kang in 1998.

"I had recently graduated from college with nothing much to do. As a recent fan of both K-pop and the Internet (AOL was all the rage), I noticed that there weren't any English-language sites devoted to Korean pop music or TV dramas, so I purchased a book called `Make Your Own Website with Microsoft Word '97’, and the rest, as they say, is history," Kang said, now a 35-year-old mother living in Irvine, Calif., in an email interview with The Korea Times.

Kang’s original site, Soompitown, was fairly simple. She would just upload photos of her favorite K-pop acts like H.O.T., S.E.S., Shinhwa and FinKL and English translations of Korean magazine articles, as well as post CD audio samples and her own album reviews. Basically, Kang ran the website out of "love" for K-pop.

(If you’re wondering about the meaning of Soompi, it simply refers to a nickname that a roommate’s family gave Kang in college.)

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In the early 2000s, hallyu or the Korean wave began spreading around Asia and international fans discovered Soompi, the first website that actually provided English-language information about their favorite Korean stars.

Soon Soompi became more and more popular, requiring more servers and more technical expertise. A team of volunteers helped moderate the forums and post content on the website, but Kang, who also worked full-time as a web developer, was running the website on her own as a hobby and it was starting to feel burdensome.

For one, it was getting expensive to pay for the server fees out of her own pocket, although it was partially funded by member donations and small ad buys.

Then came the fateful day, Oct. 5, 2005, when the entire Soompi website crashed. Its entire database of 80,000 members and millions of forum posts was gone. "I seriously thought of just making that the end of Soompi, as I'd been running the site as a hobby for seven years at that point, and was paying for the servers completely out of my own pocket," she said.

"The turning point was when we re-opened an empty forum with 0 members and 0 posts, and within 5 days, we already had 40,000 members. That's when I knew that Soompi was bigger and more important than just one person's hobby."

Soon, it became apparent that a more serious, business-oriented approach to Soompi was needed.

In 2006, Joyce Lan Kim, a lawyer then working for technology firms in Silicon Valley, joined Soompi to handle the business side, albeit on a part-time basis.

"I joined the company, working on advertising and thinking of ways the company can break even. Susan never started this with business in mind. It was always just about fun. It was about bringing K-pop to the people. But how we make this sustainable is our job," Kim told The Korea Times at a coffee shop in downtown Seoul, last week.

Last year, Kang and Kim both decided to leave their full-time jobs and focus on Soompi.

The 33 year old Kim, who studied at Cornell and Harvard universities and received a law degree from Columbia University, had no second thoughts giving up a law career. She sees Soompi as a good business opportunity with K-pop’s potential to expand around the world.

Soompi is may not yet be profitable, but there is no doubt it is an Internet success with 500,000 registered members, and attracts over one million unique visitors every month (``That's like a small city,'' Kim quipped.) Revenues are currently generated from ads, premium membership and affiliate programs, but not enough for the company to break even.

There may be other K-pop websites that attract more hits, but Soompi has the most activity among community members, such as posting content and comments on the site. "Our success comes from covering such a wide variety of topics - not only the latest K-pop news, but Korean dramas and variety shows, original fan fiction, our own member-run shops, beauty & fashion, among so much more," Kang said.

Aside from sections on entertainment news, fan clubs and beauty & fashion, Soompi also has its own weekly music chart and annual contests, such as Soompi Idol, Soompi Dance Idol, Soompi Ulzzang, fan fiction writing and graphics contests.

All contests were originally started by Soompi members themselves. This year, Soompi Ulzzang Contest, a modeling competition for Soompi members, has become an official event and sponsored by Korean entertainment company Sidus HQ.

Member feedback is invaluable to keeping Soompi relevant. Whenever new features are launched, Soompi looks at the comments from members and makes the appropriate tweaks. Members can also vote for which Soompi fan clubs should be created next, as well as recommend new forums and sub-forums.

Soompi is working to make the site more user-friendly. "It's not a hobby anymore. We have to do it for real. Functionality is very important for us. We are definitely working on making it easier to use, and on getting great content," Kim said.

In terms of technical innovations, the Soompi Street Teams Twitter application is being launched. This will make it easier for fans to get their favorite K-pop idols on Twitter’s top trending topics.

"We wanted to make it easier for everybody to join together and tweet in support of their celebs. Twitter is not just for K-pop, because it's for everyone... Each time a K-pop celebrity ends up as a Twitter topic, people go, `who is this guy?’ Like when (SuperJunior member) Kim Hee-chul was trending on Twitter, everyone was talking about him... We can expose more people to the world of K-pop," Kim said.

An Asian website

Soompi is no longer just devoted to Korean pop music, but Asian pop and entertainment in general. It is also very much a global community, with most members from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Singapore, Philippines and Indonesia.

The majority or 81 percent of Soompi members are Asian, while 8 percent are white, 5 percent are multi-ethnic and the rest are African-American, Hispanic and other ethnicities. The most surprising fact was 60 to 80 percent of the non-Asian groups said they "know some Korean."

"It’s mostly non-Koreans, as opposed to 7 or 8 years ago when majority were Korean-Americans. Now Korean Americans are a minority on the site. We have ever growing number of people who are not even Asian. We have Caucasians, African-Americans, Middle East, Latin American, South East Asians," Kim said.

Soompi stands out because of its tight-knit community and its members. "Soompi is very community-focused, not just information or gossip-focused. It feels like home to many, and there are many members who have literally grown up on the site ― from Junior High to High School to College to getting married and having children," Kang said.

Noticeably, the Soompi forums are relatively free from the anti-fans and trolls who frequent K-pop websites to post vitriolic comments that rile up fans.

"I think our biggest defining feature is our members. Our members are the ones who do the subtitles, episode recaps and organize fan meetings," Kim said. "We have good members."

Future of Kpop & Soompi

Perhaps it is not an exaggeration to say that Soompi has helped give a boost to K-pop and Korean entertainment’s popularity among English speakers.

But while K-pop is undeniably big in Asia, there is yet to be a real K-pop breakthrough in the U.S., despite attempts by Rain, Wonder Girls and Se7en. "Honestly, I'm not sure if the U.S. is ready to accept Asians as idols, as Asians are still widely portrayed as awkward geeks or kung fu masters on TV and film, but I do believe it's just a matter of 'when', not 'if'. I hope it's sooner than later," Kang said.

Looking back, Kang admitted being constantly amazed and inspired by the level of commitment and amount of time people will willingly volunteer to support their favorite idols. "Passion will drive people to do crazy and wonderful things," she said.

In the future, Soompi hopes to leverage its brand value as the oldest K-pop online resource, and to continue fanning the flames of K-pop and Asian pop fever around the world.

"In 10 years, I'll be 45 years old. I hope by then, the Soompi community will still be going strong, with the love for Korean and Asian pop being passed to a much wider audience. We'll still be providing the best place for people to express their fandom and meet others who share their passion," Kang said.

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January 2, 2011

Soompi.com shows Hallyu where to go

By Yang Sung-jin (insight@heraldm.com) koreaherald.com

Soompi.com is the world’s biggest English-language online community dedicated to Korean pop culture. It boasts some 1.4 million visitors daily. More importantly, 90 percent of its members are non-Koreans.

The website is widely regarded as a promising social network venture that has secured a solid user base on the strength of Korean cultural content. Softbank of Japan has already invested in Soompi.com and other investors are lining up amid the outlook that the website will emerge as a key gateway to Asian pop culture for English-speaking audiences.

Soompi.com CEO Joyce Kim, who lives in San Francisco, said in an interview that Hallyu is still in the early stages of growth internationally and the website would help foster its development online as “the central online activity hub for all fans of Hallyu and Asian pop.”

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Joyce Kim

As for Hallyu, Kim noted that the near absence of a legitimate distribution of Korean pop content is a serious problem that is often neglected by Koreans.

The following are excerpts from the e-mail interview with Kim.

Korea Herald: How did Soompi.com start, and how did you get involved in the site?

Joyce Kim: Soompi was started by my co-founder Susan Kang in 1998 as her own personal website dedicated to her interest in Korean dramas and music. During the initial first few years, Susan would scan Korean entertainment magazine articles, translate them into English and post them on the site. Slowly, a community began to grow around the site and Susan soon had people volunteering to help with the site. As the first Hallyu wave began to grow, the site also began to grow. Soon, there were hundreds of thousands of visitors each month.

I met Susan because she is the older sister of my best friend from law school. We initially started to work together on Soompi in 2006 when the site growth was really taking off which meant server expenses were also taking off. I was helping Susan set up the advertising system on the site and eventually we decided to officially create a company and work on Soompi together. At first, we both kept our full-time jobs (Susan as a coder and me as a lawyer) and worked on Soompi during our nights and weekends. But by the end of 2008, the site was so active that it was obvious that the site needed more support. We made the decision to leave our jobs in 2009 and work on Soompi full-time.

KH: If you define Soompi.com, what is it?

Kim: Soompi is an online fan community for Hallyu. Soompi’s greatest strength lies in our members. Ninety-nine percent of the content on Soompi is user-generated content so our members are the ones who find the information to share and discuss. They spend a great deal of time online answering each other’s questions. No amount of money or marketing can create the organic community that sites like Soompi have.

KH: Who are Soompi members?

Kim: Soompi members are mostly young Americans of many different backgrounds (Asian, Caucasian, black and Latino) followed by people in their teens and 20s in South East Asia (Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, etc). They are typically very fashionable and up on the latest trends since they follow entertainment so closely. When they come to Soompi, they are often looking for the latest news about Hallyu and to meet other passionate fans. Hallyu fans love to work together to do events and share their love for their idols.

KH: What aspect of Hallyu appeals to Soompi members?

Kim: Soompi members love the celebrities ― their personalities, their visuals, their songs ― all of it. In fact, many of our members (90 percent of whom are not Korean) have started to learn Korean to better understand the music and dramas. Hallyu has definitely started to grow beyond its typical Asian boundaries. I think we will see Hallyu spread to the U.S., Latin America and Europe in 2011. However, for Hallyu to be truly successful abroad, Korean entertainment companies need to better understand international fans better ― this is important for creating new fans and reaching out to new markets.

KH: What can Korean websites and firms interested in Hallyu learn from Soompi?

Kim: I would say two differences between Soompi and Korean sites are 1) we really take into consideration the community’s desires when we build new products ― meaning oftentimes we look at community feedback first when thinking about new features and 2) we push out features before they are 100 percent perfect ― sometimes it means it has bugs, but it also means we can get our full community reaction quickly and fix or change things as needed.

For entertainment firms working in the Hallyu industry, it is important to make the music and drama content easily available for international fans. People in Korea do not realize how hard it is for international fans to buy the music and dramas legally ― there are not good options available. If entertainment firms made their content for easily available for international purchase, then more international fans would buy the content. But at the moment, we cannot even easily register on Korean websites.

KH: To create new and successful services based on social network service, what should and shouldn’t Korean venture startups do?

Kim: I see many Korean startups that are testing or half-heartedly targeting the global market. The decision whether to go global should be made early as it significantly impacts the kind of team that needs to be built and the product. If you are building an SNS service targeting the international market, then you should create your team abroad.

KH: What was the purpose of your latest visit to Seoul, and what did you feel when you were in Seoul?

Kim: I visit Seoul at least once a year to meet with Korean entertainment companies and Korean Internet startups. On the entertainment front, there is strong interest in online and social media strategy from the entertainment companies. This is one of the big growth opportunities for Hallyu. But I think Korean entertainment companies will need to hire people with international Internet experience to really open that opportunity.

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August 26, 2011

Adorable scene stealers nose their way onto screen

By Sung So-young, Song Yoon-soo [so@joongang.co.kr] joongangdaily.com

Animal actors don’t need much to make them happy - a simple snack and a penchant for play will do.

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Stills of films with furry actors, from left: “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” and “Champ”

As the scene stealers that everybody loves to lavish with attention, animal actors don’t need much to make them happy - a simple snack and a penchant for play will do. And although they were long relegated to supporting roles as household pets, animal actors are now figuring more prominently in films that cast them as heros, underdogs and mystical diviners of the future.

One such film is “Champ,” slated for release on Sept. 7. Based on a true story, the film depicts the relationship between a recently injured racehorse named Woo-bak and the jockey (Cha Tae-hyun) who is gradually losing his eyesight that tries to tame him. Gang Eun-gyo at Film Soup, the film’s promotion company, says Cha spent time with the horse before and during filming, luring his four-legged partner with a combination of carrots and sugar cubes.

Meanwhile, a film from overseas has bucked the convention of casting household pets in favor of a group of flightless birds. In “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” six waddling Gentoo penguins trade tricks with comedy legend Jim Carrey. The comedy follows a businessman (Carrey) whose life begins to change after he inherits six penguins from his father. It is set to be released in Korea on Sept. 8.

The film’s human lead courted his co-stars with a similar combination of friendship and food.

“Penguins are not easy to train, but Jim Carrey tried to get them to warm up to him by stuffing his pockets with raw fish throughout the filming process,” said Gang of Film Soup, which is also promoting this film. As the film’s co-stars, the penguins received the royal treatment with their own houses and clean pools with fresh fish in Brooklyn, the main location of the film, Gang said.

According to Gang, the penguins acted in almost every scene except for a few that required more complex stunts that were later completed with computer graphics.

But not all films featuring animal actors are cute and fuzzy.

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“Blind” and “The Cat” Provided by the distribution companies

A couple of recently released thrillers have also relied on domesticated pets.

“Blind” is a thriller that revolves around the conflicting accounts of two people - one who is blind and the other sighted - who witness the same hit-and-run accident.

Actress Kim Ha-neul received rave reviews for her portrayal of Min Soo-ah, who lost her sight after a car accident, but it was Kim’s partner Dal-yi, who plays Soo-ah’s guide dog, that steals the show.

Dal-yi is, in fact, a professional who has appeared in several hit family films including “Heart Is” (2006) and “Maumi 2” (2010). Though she is 10 years old, or 70 in human age, she is still enthusiastic about her work, according to her owner and trainer Kim Jong-kwon. “She has the strength of a dog who is half her age,” said Kim.

Her salary has almost certainly helped keep her in good health. Dal-yi earns 50 million won ($45,454) per movie, which is the highest figure among her peers.

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For Dal-yi, “Blind” was special because it allowed her to reunite with her old friend Yu Seung-ho. The two met while working on “Heart Is” (2006) when Yu was 13. Dal-yi’s proud owner said that when the two met, Dal-yi was smart enough to recognize her old friend. “She recognized Yu well,” Kim said with a laugh. “It seems she liked him more than the other actors.”

Felines feature in the recently released horror film “The Cat.” The film revolves around the deaths of several characters who have come into contact with a cat named Bi-dan. Because cats are more difficult to train than dogs, the production team hired six cats with similar looks and director Byun Seung-wook would choose the ones he wanted to use, according to a press release about the film. Computer graphics were used for more dangerous scenes, the release said.

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