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Mar 7, 2011

As actor joins Marines, tears of thousands flow



When a wildly popular actor showed up for Marine Corps training yesterday, he encountered an invasion. Not a military one, but a decidedly female one, and a very emotional one at that. Tears were shed. One sign read, “We can’t live without you.”

Thousands of fans and reporters gathered in front of the Marine Corps Training Camp in Pohang, North Gyeongsang, yesterday, as actor Hyun Bin, 28 - who became the heartthrob of millions of Asian women by playing a leading role in the popular SBS drama “Secret Garden” - entered the Marine Corps, along with 600 other would-be marines. Although other male celebrities have joined the country’s compulsory military service, and some like Hyun Bin volunteered for the marines, yesterday’s frenzy was unprecedented.

Beginning early in the day, areas around Pohang drew a flood of visitors desperate to see their idol in the flesh before he heads into the Marines for the next two years. A flight from Gimpo Airport to Pohang at 10 a.m. was packed and other morning flights were almost full. Japanese fans were especially zealous. They arranged chartered buses at Gimhae so they could get to Pohang as quickly as possible. Japanese media joined in the frenzy. According to the Marine Corps, seven broadcasting companies, including NHK, requested access inside the camp.

But Hyun Bin, whose real name is Kim Tae-pyung, was modest about all the attention. “I heard fans from not only Korea, but Japan and Hong Kong came as well, using up their precious time ... I will make sure to come out as a better man,” said Hyun Bin at a press conference, which was held in front of the training camp.

When the actor took off a baseball cap while at the podium, revealing his short-cut hair, the fans cheered, some bursting into tears. He, too, shed tears. “Ever since last year, I’ve received a vast amount of love and support that I can’t handle on my own. I don’t know how to repay it all back. I’ll make sure to spend my two years wisely to repay all the love that I am receiving right now,” said Hyun Bin in a quavering voice.

As he stepped down from the podium after making a deep bow, middle-aged female fans wept and waved signs that read: “Please come back healthy and safely to our arms because we cannot live without you.” Banners were hoisted everywhere and a crush of cars was restricted from parking near the entrance. Due to the large crowd, other would-be Marines entered through a different entrance.

Hyun Bin will receive basic training for seven weeks before beginning 21 months of service. His date of discharge has been set for Dec. 16, 2012.

The actor passed the physical exam with outstanding results. Out of 30 points, he earned a total of 29, 15 of which were for pushups and 14 for sit-ups. His score ranked in the top 5 percent among 200 applicants. Moreover, he is the oldest applicant since 2008. The competitiveness for the Marine Corps has increased dramatically following North Korea’s shelling last November of Yeongpyeong Island, which has a Marine Corps base.

According to the Military Manpower Administration, 4,553 hopefuls applied for 1,011 openings in January, pushing the competition to a record high. The competition rate soared to as high as 4.5 to 1, double the ratio of July 2008, when it was only 2.1 to 1. The Marine Corps is considered the toughest service branch. Hyun Bin’s decision to join the corps received tremendous support and gave him even more fame than ever.

Meanwhile, singer Lee Jeong, 30, who was discharged from the corps five months ago, has gained more popularity since joining the corps.

Why are these vigorous Korean men in their 20s so fanatical about the Marines?

Marine Corps members are known to have one of the strongest bonding spirits in Korea. Many universities have Marine Corps associations, where they get together regularly, remembering the “Marine spirit.”

“Marine Corps members have self-respect because it is the most elite troop. People who think they have a lack of confidence can come out full of confidence,” said Lee Seong-soo, 31, who is a member of the Marine Corps Comrades Association of Seoul National University. “I am the type of person who looks for challenges. My whole life was a challenge. I was a doctoral candidate [when I applied], and it wasn’t a good time to join the corps because the studying itself was a tough job. But I wanted to challenge myself and I think I have done it quite all right.

“ The fact that I survived the hard training at the corps gives me courage to do other things. I tell myself, ‘Hey, I survived the Marine Corps. What can’t I do?’ ” he said. Lee was discharged from the corps in 2003.

Kim Ho-ki, a sociology professor at Yonsei University, said the “Marine Corps is a symbol of strength and masculinity.”

By Yim Seung-hye, Jeong Seon-eon [enational@joongang.co.kr]

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Guest cofioca

March 4, 2011

Kim Tae Hee Signs with ‘Sweet Power’ Agency in Japan


Star actress Kim Tae Hee has signed an agency contract with Japanese agency Sweet Power, her Korean agency Luah Entertainment said on March 3. A spokesperson for her agency said, "Kim Tae Hee signed the contract at the end of last year regarding her activities in Japan, and she plans to hold various activities in Japan. Now she is enthusiastically studying Japanese for her future activities."

Many famous Japanese actresses such as Maki Horikita, Uchiyama Rina, and Kuroki Meisa belong to Sweet Power, which specializes in managing actresses. Kim Tae Hee has been acknowledged in Japan with her appearances in dramas such as “Stairway to Heaven,” ”Love Story in Harvard,” and “IRIS,” and the recent drama “My Princess,” in which she appears with Hallyu star Song Seung Hun, has been drawing significant attention in Japan. Kim left for Japan immediately after finishing “My Princess” on February 28, and she has meetings with related people in the Japanese entertainment business.


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March 11, 2011

Park Yong-ha's Mother Releases Memoir of Her Son

Source: englishnews@chosun.com


The late actor and singer Park Yong-ha's mother has published a memoir about her son. Published through a contract with a Japanese publisher, Park's mother Oh Young-ran's 260-page book details the family's close relationships and love for Park, Japan's Sankei Sports reported.

The book covers his life ranging from his childhood to his debut in show business and stardom in Japan. It also includes behind-the-scenes stories on his relationships with close celebrity friends as well as previously unreleased photos and his last interview.

Oh said she published the book to record her family's story and remember the good days they shared together.

Park debuted with the TV drama "Theme Theater" in 1994 and became popular in Japan and Southeast Asia with his appearance in the hit TV drama "Winter Sonata" in 2002 along with Bae Yong-joon and Choi Ji-woo.

He released several albums in Japan and received the Golden Disk award for four consecutive years from 2005. He committed suicide last June at the age of 33.

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South Korea sweeps Asian Film Awards




South Korea's finest celebrated after they blitzed the annual Asian Film Awards on Monday, bolstering the country's growing reputation as the pre-eminent force in the region.

South Korean movie stars and filmmakers dominated the glitzy ceremony in Hong Kong, now in its fifth year, snapping up awards for best director, best screenplay, best actor, best supporting actress and best editing.

Lee Chang-Dong clinched best director for the feature film "Poetry", which also won best screenplay. The film portrays an elderly woman who falls in love with poetry after taking literature lessons but discovers some dark facts about her grandson along the way.

Lee, who previously won best director and best film for his movie "Secret Sunshine" in 2008, told reporters after the ceremony he did not expect to be crowned best director again.

"This is a complete surprise to me, I did not expect it at all," he said. "I am very happy and excited to receive it."

Thai film "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives", which grabbed the top Palme d'Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year, won best film. It portrays a dying man who reflects on his past days and the history of Thailand.

Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul told reporters afterwards: "I feel like I'm dreaming -- it's wonderful."

"It's so special to win this award in Asia. For me, it is an accomplishment finishing this film on such a low budget," he added.

"A lot of films I make have an experimental slant. But I think that's exactly what we need -- we need diversity and variety in the way that we tell stories. I'm happy that this film relates to people in the West and in Asia."

South Korea's Ha Jung-Woo took the best actor gong for starring in "The Yellow Sea", beating Hong Kong action movie star Chow Yun-fat and mainland Chinese actor Ge You.

China's Xu Fan beat Japan's Matsu Takako and South Korea's Jeon Do-Yeon to the best actress award.

She said: "I was very emotional. All I could think of when I was up there receiving the award was how difficult it was shooting this movie. It was a gruelling process. I am grateful my hard work paid off."

Veteran Hong Kong actor Sammo Hung was crowned best supporting actor for his role in the smash hit "Ip Man 2".

Best supporting actress went to Youn Yuh-Jung for her role in the South Korean movie "The Housemaid", while the award for best newcomer went to Mark Chao of the Taiwanese film "Monga".

Best cinematography went to Japan's "Norwegian Wood" while best production design went to "13 assassins".

Hong Kong veteran producer Raymond Chow, whose movie creations include "Enter the Dragon" and "The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", received this year's Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Asian Film Festival, held annually since 2007, is aimed at showcasing the region's movie talent.

Twenty-nine films from nine territories vied for 14 prizes this year.


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Guest Amtullah

The most frustrating development for Korean filmmakers involved "City of Damn Nation," a gangster-oriented comedy that relies heavily on Jeoung Jun-ho, a leading Korean actor behind the huge success of "My Boss, My Hero" in 2002. The failure of "City of Damn Nation" illustrates the steady decline of gangster-themed comic films at the box office. Although Jeoung represents the heyday of Korean gangster comedy, local audiences seemed to be tired of the same old comical tricks.

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