Wednesday, May 30, 2012

KOREAN MUSIC: MBC’s “I AM a Singer” Season 2 (3)

Naneun Gasuda (나는 가수다) or NAGASU (나가수)

As I was too busy to blog about the third night of MBC's "I Am a Singer" season two (5/20/2012) last week, and as the videos of the recent show are not available on Youtube, I’ll just add my two cents about the third night of the show, which was the elimination round involving the bottom six.

Park Sangmin sang Wax’s Yeojeong (여정, “Journey” or “Itinerary”) and won the round while Baekdusan, Korea’s legendary heavy metal band, sang Clon’s “Kungtari Shabara” and was sent home.  Their elimination wasn’t what I expected in terms of their performance but quite understandable considering the current state of heavy metal music in Korea.

Both Park Mikyung and Lee Younghyun respectively delivered another disappointing performance just like they'd done in the first round.  Park appeared to be quite washed up as a singer and Lee’s over-the-top rendition of Yim SangA’s “Musical” just made me go back and listen to its original version. (Yim SangA or Sang A Im-Propp is a Korean singer/actress-turned-handbag designer/entrepreneur of Sang A.) To me, Jung Yeop gave a truly outstanding performance along with Park Sangmin.  The song Jung sang was one of my all-time favorites by the singer/dancer Kim Wansun, who I think is one of the most underrated singers in Korean music.    

"I Am a Singer" season two doesn't seem as exciting as it was in the first season and as it needs to be at this point to do well in the ratings.  Even though its cast does not thrill me as much as it did, however, I still kind of like it as the singers rarely go over the top and it’s rarely a sing-loud-with-high-pitch competition; it feels like watching the competitive version of KBS’s “Sketchbook.”

Jung Yeop: "Only Mine"
on MBC's NAGASU (aired on 5/21/2012)

Lyrics:  “Only Mine”

Yes, from the beginning, in this world,
There was no such thing that was only mine
I just wanted to believe so
Trying to fool myself
What if I only feel alive when I love?
I gotta let go of my pain
As if passing through a short tunnel
In a part of my heart that sent you,
I place a pot of flowers that I grow with my tears
With my longing that is growing little by little,
I’ll cherish even the parting
My sorrow is only mine
There's no more use in crying
As this world is always the same
And even the reality of me who let you go

Original Version: Kim Wansun
Namane Geot "Only Mine" (1990)

Lyrics:  “Musical”

Leave my life alone
Don’t interfere with it anymore
I’m gonna born again into a world of my own
Where I can live my way

I need nothing else
If there is music and dance
Just as I am, as I please, I’ll open my wings
I’m the one who owns my life

(Refrain) Now I know it gives my life true meaning
When I’m always in thick rhythm
I'll have no regrets
If I choose to live the same life
I’d go anywhere with music

Now I want to take a different path,
Searching for another me inside me
I wonder what’s on the other side of the world
I want to soar higher ’cause no one can live for me

Original Version: Yim SangA
Myujikeol "Musical" (1996)

Park Sangmin: "Journey"
on MBC's NAGASU (aired on 5/21/2012)

Lyrics:  “Journey”

It’s the night when the streetlights are sobbing
Can’t believe I still love you after all these years
I wonder how old I am
I’ve faded like a flower throughout the years
There are tears of loneliness I’ve been holding back

We loved, we loved, we loved like crazy
I miss you, I want to see you so bad
Before my love cools down

Our two shadows that wondered in the starlight
Looked like one
I wonder where you are now
I want to see you so bad

We loved, we loved, we loved like crazy
I miss you, I want to see you so bad
Come back to me just for once
Before my sad tears dry
I miss you, I want to see you so bad
Before my love cools down

Remember this:
If you leave, don’t ever come back

Original Version: Wax
Yeojeong "Journey" (2002)

KOREAN MUSIC: MBC's "I Am a Singer" Season 2 (1)
KOREAN MUSIC: MBC's "I Am a Singer" Season 2 (2)
KOREAN MUSIC: MBC's "I Am a Singer" Season 2 (4)

Monday, May 28, 2012

KOREAN MUSIC: Lee Hayi Updates (4)

이하이 (Lee Hayi, or Lee Ha Yi)

Lee Hayi beams a smile as walking on stage at the Big-Five Concert
for the 2012 Yeosu EXPO-Korea

As follows are the translated excerpts from the Oh My Star article (5/26/2012).

People started screaming as they saw the SuPearls get off the van.  The reporter said he didn't expect to witness such soaring popularity of them.  Today, Park Jimin, not Lee Hayi, performed as one of them, and they sang SNSD's "The Boys" and "Fame," the songs they had performed on K-pop Star.  Then Hayi came next to sing "Love" and "U-Go-Girl," which she had performed on K-pop Star as well.  There was something fresh and green about her singing, which we couldn't see from her performances on TV.

Lee Hayi sings "Love" at the Big-Five Concert for the 2012 Yeosu EXPO-Korea

Lee Hayi sings "U-Go-Girl" at the Big-Five Concert for the 2012 Yeosu EXPO-Korea

Lee Michelle looks stunning!  She reminds me of Beyonce!

Yoon Hyunsang is reportedly going to LOEN, Kim Nayoon had meetings with 3 major labels, Park Jungeun, Gu Joonhoe, and three more K-pop Star contestants are respectively having meetings with other major labels.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

KOREAN MUSIC: 2012 Seoul Jazz Festival Featuring Lee Hayi

2012 Seoul Jazz Festival kicked off today (5/19/2012), and the K-pop Star contestants, Lee Hayi, Park Jimin, Lee Michelle, and Park Jehyung opened the show, performing their K-pop Star competition routines. Hayi is known to have sung "Sway" and "Mercy."

Lee Hayi: "Sway" 
2012 Seoul Jazz Festival (5/19/2012)

Park Jimin with Eric Benét: "Spend My Life with You"
2012 Seoul Jazz Festival (5/19/2012)

Friday, May 18, 2012

KOREAN SHOWS: "The Strong Heart" Lee Hayi Cuts

The following videos contain Lee Hayi cuts from SBS's "The Strong Heart" aired on May 8, 2012.  They all have English subtitles.

Lee Hayi featured on SBS's Strong Heart: 1-2

Lee Hayi featured on SBS's Strong Heart: 2-2
"The Chocolate Candy Song" (5/8/2012)

KOREAN MUSIC: Lee Hayi Updates (3)

이하이 (Lee Hayi, or Lee Ha Yi)

Since last March, Hayi goes to the School of Performing Arts.  Her schoolmates include f(x)'s Sulli, Miss A's Suzy, and Girl’s Day’s Hyeri.  Three days ago on May 15, her school held “K-pop: The Youth Culture Festival” and she was featured on the show.  She sang the songs she had performed on “K-pop Star” including “Bust Your Windows,” “For You,” "Mercy," and “U-Go-Girl.”  You can find all her performances she delivered on that show on Youtube. (This link is to just one of many Hayi channels on Youtube.)

[LIVE] Lee Hayi: "Bust Your Windows" (5/15/2014)

The show was followed by a signing event where you could see K-pop Star’s Park Jungeun as well as Hayi. I’m not quite sure but Jungeun also goes to the SPA?

Previously on May 14, she was featured on SBS’s radio show “Power Time,” together with Park Jimin, Baek Ayeon, and Park Jehyung, and she sang “U-Go-Girl.”  And yesterday (5/17/2012), she was on SBS’s radio show “Cultwo Show,” with Jimin, and sang “Sway.”  Seems like our Hayi is already a huge celebrity!  I think it’s her passion for music that fills her hectic schedule.  

[LIVE] Lee Hayi: "U-Go-Girl" (5/14/2012)
On Choi Hwajeong's "Power Time"

[LIVE] Lee Hayi: "Sway" (5/17/2012)
On Cultwo's "Cultwo Show"

KOREAN MUSIC: Lee Hayi Updates (1)
KOREAN MUSIC: Lee Hayi Updates (2)

KOREAN MUSIC: Tasha Is Coming to America!

Yesterday, on KBS's "Happy Together" (5/17/2012), Rapper Tiger JK revealed the US debut of his wife, Tasha (aka, T or Yoon Mirae), is just around the corner.  According to him, Far East Movement (FEM) asked her to feature on their song.  He half-jokingly said when he asked her if he could join her, she said she wanted to do it for herself and FEM also wanted her only.  He added, "I bet she'll hit the jackpot with her US debut song."

I know Tasha has received quite a few offers from American producers but turned them down to stay in Korea with her family, especially, with her loving husband JK.  But yay!!!  At last!  She sounds quite determined this time and I'm so happy for her!

[LIVE] Tasha: Black Happiness (2007)
On Yoon Dohyun's "Love Letter" (Air Date: 8/24/2007)

Monday, May 14, 2012

KOREAN SHOWS: MBC's "I Am a Singer" Season 2 (2)

Naneun Gasuda (나는 가수다) or NAGASU (나가수)

The second night of MBC's "I Am a Singer" Season Two (5/13/2012) was much expected as it featured the competition among singers in Group B – Group of Death, but its ratings slipped obviously due to the lackluster performances by Group A singers.  Last night, Kim Gunmo, Park Wankyu, and Kim Yunwoo made the top three and moved up to the “Singer of the Month” round; Park Sangmin, Jeong Yeop, and Jeong In ranked the bottom three headed to the elimination round. 

Right before the placement announcement, Kim Younghee, the show’s creator and producer, said the outcome represented an important significance (for the future direction of the show). In live performances, there’s a sense of immediacy and of aliveness that we never get in a family room watching on TV, and powerhouse singers with high notes have advantage to capturing the audience’s heart as their sound projects more strongly than other low-pitched, understated singers.  Thus in the first season, the show had been pestered by criticism that it was a high-pitch contest.  Now in the second season, the weight given to the votes of live studio audience was reduced from 100 percent to 40 and the rest (60 percent) was given to the votes of TV viewers.  According to Kim, the viewers’ votes in fact overturned the live audiences’ choices, which implies Kim Gunmo might have been boosted up to the top three by the viewers. 

I think Kim’s understated rendition of the late Yoo Jaeha’s Nae Maeume Bichin  Nae Moseup ( 마음에 비친 모습, “Myself Reflected in My Heart”) outshone the rest in Group B!  Park Wankyu, the winner of last night’s competition, has been my all-time favorite but I don’t think he deserved the win.  The rearrangement of Park Insu’s soulful Bombi (봄비, “Spring Rain”), written by Shin Junghyun, the legend of all legends, into a strong, powerful metal was not bad but the overall performance was quite sloppy - especially the chorus and the house band were just horrible to my ears.  And about Kim Yunwoo, I’d rather not talk about his performance as I was not, am not, and probably will not be a fan of his singing.  Personally, I'd rather have seen Jeong Yeop in the top three.

[STUDIO VERSION] Kim Gunmo: "Myself Reflected in My Heart"
on MBC's NAGASU (aired on 5/13/2012)

LYRICS:  “Myself Reflected in My Heart”

1. Pieces of my dreams that I can’t hold are disappearing one by one
And now I’m adrift again as if I was endlessly running in a wheel
Knowing that it’s a lie, I pretend not to know it
And spit a word with a sigh as if it contained the truth of my own
2. I’m all alone as I wake up from a long dream, peppered with twists of fate
Without asking questions, I’m heading to a place I know
Struggling to send off the troubled moments
I keep remembering and forgetting the memories I’ve erased
(Refrain) Why try to add my thoughts when it’s too late?
I can just take it casually and look at it from another view
How can I fill the empty space inside myself that I haven’t drawn?
I’d rather fill it with myself reflected in my heart

Original Version: Yoo Jaeha (singer/song writer)
Nae Maeume Bichin Nae Moseup "Myself Reflected in My Heart" (1987)

  Park Wankyu: "Spring Rain"
on MBC's NAGASU (aired on 5/13/2012)

LYRICS:  “Spring Rain”

Walking down the street in the drizzle,
All wet with spring rain,
All by myself, I try to soothe my heart,
Listening to the raindrops
But I can't ease my lonely heart
My eyes overflow without end
Are raindrops turning into tears?
They overflow without end
Spring rain! You’re making me cry.
Spring rain!  When are you gonna stop?
Spring rain!  You’re even making my heart cry.
I can't ease my lonely heart
My eyes overflow without end
Are raindrops turning into tears?
They overflow without end

Park Insu Version: Bombi "Spring Rain" (1970)
Written by Shin Junghyun, legendary guitarist/singer/song-writer

[STUDIO VERSION] Jeong Yeop: "In Dreams"
on MBC's NAGASU (aired on 5/13/2012)

LYRICS:  “In Dreams”

In a dream, last night in a dream, I saw you
I don’t know who you are but can’t forget about you
I’ve never seen you before; I never know your name
Lady, you just grazed me in my dream
As I think of you in the dark, you suddenly seem familiar
And a vivid memory of you comes back to me
You’re the lady I’ve once seen and forgotten
 (Refrain) I saw you on one autumn day
Afraid of waking up if I open my eyes
I see you with my eyes closed
My dream popped like a bubble
My dear, please come back tonight
You vanish as I open my eyes
So I see you with my eyes closed
My dream popped like a bubble
My dear, please come back tonight

Original Version: Ggume "In Dreams" (1986)
Written & Sung by Jo Deokbae

[STUDIO VERSION] Kim Yunwoo: "Standing in the Shade of the Roadside Trees"
on MBC's NAGASU (aired on 5/13/2012)

LYRICS:  “Standing in the Shade of the Roadside Trees”

The fragrance of lilac flowers brought back memories I can’t forget
So I cry with my head leaning against the bus window,
With a sorrowful heart that is dazzling in brilliant sunshine
As I’m standing in the shade of the roadside trees,
I see you who look like floating
When fall comes shattered in the cold rain,
I erase you with the cold morning breeze
It’s such a beautiful world!
I’ll not forget the story of my love
(Refrain) Oh, oh, oh! The fragrance gets thicker in the shade
Of the roadside trees that get thinner
Oh, oh, oh! (It’s a) beautiful world
I know you knew that I loved you
Oh, oh, oh!  The fragrance gets thicker in the shade
Of the sky where the stars are waning

As I’m standing in the shade of the roadside trees,
I see you who look like floating
When fall comes shattered in the cold rain,
I erase you with the cold morning breeze
It’s such a beautiful world!
I’ll not forget the story of my love
Would the you that I loved know?

Original Version: Garosu Geuneul Arae Seomyeon 
"Standing in the Shade of the Roadside Trees" (1988)
Written by the late Lee Younghun/Sung by Lee Munse

KOREAN MUSIC: MBC's "I Am a Singer" Season 2 (1)
KOREAN MUSIC: MBC's "I Am a Singer" Season 2 (3)
KOREAN MUSIC: MBC's "I Am a Singer" Season 2 (4)
KOREAN MUSIC: MBC's "I Am a Singer" Season 2 (5)
KOREAN MUSIC: MBC's "I Am a Singer" Season 2 (6)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

KOREAN CULTURE: Korea’s Incredibly Customer-Friendly Delivery Service (1)

24/7:  Korea Delivers Anywhere, Anytime!

Last night, my family (not me) just happened to have a fried chicken craving close to midnight.  They went, “If we were in Korea right now, we could have it delivered.”  Yes, it’s so true.  In Korea, anything, especially foods, is delivered right into your hand wherever you are, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in the wink of an eye, without costing you another penny.  In Korea, dry cleaners deliver, marts deliver, groceries deliver, restaurants deliver, and in fact, it's easier to name those who don't.  And they deliver even to the beach where you’re sunbathing, to your school, to your picnic site, or even to your sea angling site.  Literally.  That’s why in Korea, even McDonald’s delivers.

If the noodles you order are to be served in hot soup but are not meant to be soggy and swollen, then they even bring a portable gas burner, a pot, spoons & chopsticks, and bowls because in Korea, hot foods gotta be delivered hot, and cold foods cold.  If it’s impossible, then they bring their kitchen to youI’m not kidding.  It’s so common in Korea.  It’s nothing like the American way of ordering food: For example, in the US, you place a takeout order, pick up noodles and soup separately packed in plastic containers, and come home to eat soggy, swollen noodles in lukewarm soup. 

Of course, it has a downside.  Since the lightning fast delivery is a key to maintain the quality of food they deliver, Korean delivery guys are on motorcycles as they are considered more efficient to overcome traffic congestion and faster to reach planned delivery destinations than any other means of transportation. But they are also more dangerous - there have been a number of accidents in which delivery guys died.  On December 12, 2010, a 24-year-old (Korean age) Pizza Hut delivery guy died in motorcycle-taxi crash; and two other Pizza Hut delivery guys died in motorcycle-car crash in the same year.  On February 13, 2011, a 19-year-old Domino’s Pizza delivery guy died in motorcycle-bus crash, which caused a heated debate over the general safety of delivery-bike riders as motorcycles have a higher risk of being hit by another vehicle and also over the pedestrians at risk from being hit by delivery-bikes.  This debate led to the cancellation of Domino’s Pizza’s 20-year-old delivery policy since 1990: “We deliver in 30 minutes or we give you 2,000 won (about 2 US dollars) back; if we don’t deliver in 45 minutes, you’ll get it free.” 

Koreans have called themselves Baedal Minjok (배달민족, 倍達民族) in which Baedal (배달, 倍達) means “the land of light,” and the word originated from the Ancient Korean word Balkdal (밝달, “the mountain of light”).  Combined, the phrase Baedal Minjok means “the people of the land of light.”  Since Baedal (배달, 倍達) is homonymous with Baedal (배달, 配達, “delivery”) and Korea’s delivery service is so heavenly, Koreans jokingly call themselves Baedal Minjok (배달민족, 配達民族) that translates to “the people of delivery.”  When it comes to delivery service, Koreans have the tenacious “fighting” spirit, as shown in the 1998 Korean wireless network commercial:

But please remember:  the above commercial is no exaggeration.  As follows are experimental videos illustrating how far Koreans really deliver; they were never staged, but 100% real.  In the first clip, a man placed two orders of Jjajangmyeon (짜장면, "Korean noodles with  black bean sauce") and an order of Tangsuyuk (탕수육, "Sweet and sour pork") to be delivered to Seongsandaegyo (성산대교, "Seongsandaegyo Bridge"), one of the bridges over Hangang (한강, "The Han River") located in Seoul. At 01:00, a Chinese food delivery man eventually showed up, riding a motorcycle, to complete his mission.

In the second clip, the same man placed an order of Jjajangmyeon to be delivered to the bus he was on.  He said, "Hand it to me when the bus I'm now on stops at the bus stop nearest to your restaurant."  When a delivery-bike rider's first attempt to deliver failed at 01:21, he tenaciously tailgated the bus his customer was on and eventually accomplished his mission at 01:50.  Frankly, it's quite annoying to watch the clip as it looks toooooooo dangerous and I feel awfully sorry for this poor delivery man.

When my sister came to visit me from Korea some years ago, she was surprised, actually shocked, to know we can’t get orders delivered from such sites as Amazon or eBay in a day or two unless we pay the extra charges.  In some cases, Koreans place an order on line in the morning and they get it in their hands the same day in the afternoon in Korea.  Korea’s heavenly delivery service! - no wonder it’s been chosen by CNN as one of 50 reasons why Seoul is the world’s greatest city.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

ZILLY TALKZ: Teen Top Rocks "The Immortal Songs"

I knew they were produced by Andy of SHINHWA.  I knew they rose to stardom about one year and half after their debut, topping all the Korean music charts.  But I didn't know they could sing like this.  I thought they were just another over-celebrated boy group but their first performance ever on KBS's "The Immortal Songs" proved me wrong. They are really talented, well-balanced between singing and dancing.  Yes, their performance was not flawless - Niel flubbed the high note at 1:05, for example, but it's still a feast for the eyes and ears.  Here's Teen Top performing JYP's "Honey."

Teen Top: KBS's "The Immortal Songs"
JYP's "Honey" (aired 5/12/2012)

KOREAN MUSIC: Lee Hayi Updates (2)

이하이 (Lee Hayi, or Lee Ha Yi)

Seoul Jazz Festival 2012 (5/9/2012-5/12/2012) will feature four of the K-pop Star contestants – Lee Hayi, Park Jimin, Lee Michelle, and Park Jehyung.  In the following clip, Michelle said it was not they invited themselves but they were all invited to perform at the festival.  Jimin said she would duet with Eric Benet and also collaborate with LeeSsang (and I’m starting to feel really bitter!).  As you all know, Eric Benet also tweeted about Jimin after he watched her "Rolling" clip.  Hayi said she would duet with Ledisi Anibade Young – actually it’s really hard to understand the part as she spoke too softly and low, but I’m quite sure it’s Ledisi.  Jehyung jokingly said he would perform “alone.”  I think Michelle and Jehyung will just sing solo. 

Hayi, Jimin, Michelle, and Ayeon were also on Park Sohyun's radio show, "Love Game" (5/10/2012). According to the news article, when asked who each of them wanted to duet with, Hayi picked TOP, Jimin, Gary of LeeSang, Michelle, Taeyang, and Ayeon, LYN. On the show, Hayi danced a "Gaedari Chum" (Dog Leg Dance) to fulfill her pledge she'd made before. She pledged she would do that if she made the top three. They also sang on the show live. Hayi sang "Love," Jimin, "I'll Be There," Michelle, "One Night Only," and Ayeon, Bogosipda ("I Miss You").

Hayi sings "Love" on Park Sohyun's "Love Game" (5/10/2012)

Hayi does Gaedari Chum on Park Sohyun's "Love Game" (5/10/2012)

Hayi uploaded her own picture on her fan club site:
The message reads, "Thanks for supporting me!"

Hayi et al. posed for a picture after the radio show, Park Sohyun's "Love Game."

KOREAN MUSIC: Lee Hayi Updates (1)

KOREAN MUSIC: Son Seungyeon of Mnet’s “Voice Korea” (5)

보이스코리아: 손승연 (Son Seungyeon, or Sohn Seungyeon)

I'll let you in on a little secret of mine: I’ve been jinxed.  All through my life, whenever I watch an event live, whoever I root for loses, and more recently, whoever I root for in a singing competition ends up runner-up. And last night, one of my jinxes is over when Son Seungyeon eventually claimed the title of “The Voice of Korea.”  She sang two songs, brought the house down and the audience and the judges to their feet twice in a row, getting her fourth and fifth standing O’s in the competition.  However, it was the most meh performances I've seen from her since the Top Band.

Of course, it was just another day at the office for Seungyeon but her high notes were not pleasant to my ears for the first time as they lacked emotional depth and expressiveness. I understand she had no control over the choices of music since the first song was a new song kinda given to her and the second song was obviously chosen by her coach, Shin Seunghoon. But both of her songs were so predictable and somewhat boring.  Ironically, I didn't know that I would say this but it was Woo Hyemi who caught my eye and ear last night!  As Gil of LeeSsang, her coach, described her, she sure is a talent from outer space.  Anyway, I’m so happy for Seungyeon and hope her musical career also hits some high notes just like the way she hits the high notes!

Seungyeon’s first song, Miun Orisaeggi (미운 오리새끼, “The Ugly Duckling”), is autobiographical; it was written by Hayden Belle, Sarah Lundbäck-Bell, and Ylva Dimberg, and its lyrics were written by Seungyeon herself.  The song was obviously reflective of how her appearance had hindered her dreams of becoming a singer.  And at last, the ugly duckling has become the swan!

Son Seungyeon: Mnet's "The Voice of Korea"
Miun Orisaeggi (The Ugly Duckling) (Aired on 05/11/2012)

Seungyeon’s second song was Yoon Bokhee’s 1979 mega hit, Yeoreobun (여러분, “It’s You”), which was also covered by Yim Jaebeom on MBC’s Naneun Gasuda (나는 가수다, “I Am a Singer”) last year.  Of course, I like Yoon’s and Yim’s renditions of the song much, much better, but I will refrain myself from commenting more on this ‘cause I want you to see them with your own eyes.  FYI, the song’s narrator is a singer herself, thanking her fans for having been there for her, through thick and thin, come rain or shine; but its English lyrics convey a completely different meaning – it’s a Christian gospel song.  Yoon first sang the song (the first half in Korean and the second half in English) to become the winner at the 1979 Seoul International Song Competition.

Son Seungyeon: Mnet's "The Voice of Korea"
Yeoreobun (It's You) (Aired on 05/11/2012)

LYRICS: It's You
When you’re in pain, I’ll comfort you
When you’re in sorrow, I’ll cry for you
When you’re happy, I’ll laugh with you
When you’re walking down a bumpy road in the dark, I’ll be your light
When you’re feeling empty and lonely, I’ll be your friend
I’m your everlasting brother; I’m your friend
I’m your everlasting song; I’m your delight
But who will ever comfort me when I’m lonely? 

– (pointing to the audience) It's you

ORIGINAL VERSION: Yoon Bokhee (1979)
Yeoreobun (It's You)
Written by Yoon Bokhee

Yim Jaebeom: MBC's NAGASU ("I Am a Singer")
Yeoreobun (It's You) (Aired on 05/22/2011)

Last night's highlight for me was Han Youngae making a surprise guest appearance on the show.  At 57 (in Western age, and 58 in Korean age), she looks exactly the same as she looked 20 years ago when I saw her perform live on stage.  With the same charisma, the same bewitching voice, and the same engaging stage manner.  Thank you, God, and please let her stay exactly the same as long as possible.  This special performance consisted of Han’s two songs, Nugu Eopso (누구없소, “Is There Anyone There?”) and Joyul (조율, “Tuning”), written by Han Dol, legendary song writer of Minjung Gayo (민중가요, “Grassroots Activist Music/Songs”).  Look for yourself how these talented final four disappeared into the background in a twinkling when Han emerged onto the stage.

Final Four with Han Youngae: Mnet's "The Voice of Korea"
Nugu Eopso (Is There Anyone There) & Joyul (Tuning)
(Aired on 05/11/2012)

And last but not least, here’s Woo Hyemi whose "weirdness" I once suspected was somewhat artificial turned out to be real last night.  How could she sing with such abandon in the final round?  She was so daring, gutsy, feisty, and care-free when she was singing.  Yes, her performance had flaws here and there and it was hard to understand when she was mumbling the lyrics but I still loved it! And I think Gil of LeeSsang, her coach, is a real genius. 

Woo Hyemi: Mnet's "The Voice of Korea"
Pilseung (Victory) (Aired on 05/11/2012)

Friday, May 11, 2012

KOREAN SHOWS: Dancing with the Stars Korea - Season 2 (2)

Tonight, Actress Choi Yeojin placed first two weeks in a row and I think it's no wonder as she is teamed up with Korea's number one dancer, Park Ji Woo, and she has a background in ballet training.  Maybe it's just me, but I see more chemistry between Choi and Park than Jessica Gomez and him in the first season.  They just danced in perfect harmony.  (Please note that the placement I'm talking about here is solely based on the judges' marks.)

Hyoyeon placed second this time and I think it's well-deserved.  She seems to have been born to jive!  Last week, she struggled to forget about all the popping/hip hop moves she's been doing over a decade.  As we all know, it's always much harder to unlearn old behaviors or ideas than to learn new ones, so I'm so proud of her.

Rhythmic Gymnast and Olympian Shin Sooji danced great and made the top three - she has so natural a way of moving that she makes it look so effortless.  But in fact, as her partner nicknamed her "The Monster," she is the epitome of perspiration, a living example of "Doing well in business is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration."

Can you think of anyone else who is livelier, bubblier, more cheerful, more youthful, and last but not least, more girly than Actress Ye Jiwon (of "Old Miss Diary"), I mean, at the age of 40?  I can't.  Tonight, she just missed the "podium" finishing fourth; I think some of her moves were quite jerky but except that, I really enjoyed watching her dance.

Choi Yeojin & Park Jiwoo (Samba): 
Bbieroneun Uril Bogo Utji ("A Crown Is Laughing At Us")

Hyoyeon & Kim Hyungseok (Jive): "Love Potion No. 9"

Shin Sooji & Kwon Sunbin (Tango): 
Nimeun Meon Gose ("My Love Is Far Away")

Ye Jiwon & Bae Jiho (Jive): 
I Bameul Dasi Hanbeon ("Tonight Once More")

KOREAN SHOWS: Dancing with the Stars Korea - Season 2 (1)
KOREAN SHOWS: Dancing with the Stars Korea - Season 2 (3)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

KOREAN RECIPES: Korean Burdock Root Dishes (4)

4.  Fried Rice with Korean Burdock Roots (Ueong Boggeumbap, 우엉볶음밥)

Fried rice is probably one of the most common and popular rice dishes you can find all around the world.  It’s a known fact that long grain rice is best for making fried rice due to its tendency to remain separate compared to short grain rice that is too sticky and clingy.  However, since cooked short grain rice is a staple food in Korea, Koreans make fried rice using leftover short grain rice cooled overnight in the fridge to get the same effect as using long grain rice.  Actually, fried rice is so ordinary that most of the Korean moms make it with leftover cold rice and whatever ingredients they have handy whenever they cannot think of any dish for lunch, lunch box, or dinner, even without realizing it’s best for fried rice.  Unlike Gimbap, this dish is quick, simple, easy, and cheap to make yet very healthy and nutritious as it uses a variety of vegetables.

Two of the most popular fried rice dishes in Korean cuisine are Gimchi Boggeumbap (김치볶음밥, “Fried Rice with Kimchi”) and Chaeso Boggeumbap (채소볶음밥, “Fried Rice with a Rainbow of Vegetables”).  Today, I’ll introduce you to Ueong Boggeumbap (우엉볶음밥, “Fried Rice with Korean Burdock Roots and Other Vegetables”).  In this recipe, you’ll use burdock roots, carrots, onion, celery sticks, and fresh bacon (삼겹살, Samgyeopsal).1  If you prefer, you may substitute chicken breasts or beef sirloin for fresh bacon; or in vegetarian cooking, you may substitute Dubu (aka, Tofu) and/or Pyogo (aka, Shiitake) mushrooms for meat.

1. Koreans love the taste and flavor of Samgyepsal so much that they eat it on a regular basis. (Click for the picture.)  The food is especially favored in the spring season though when not so pleasant yellow dust storms occur in the Gobi Desert in northern China and southern Mongolia to affect the Korean peninsula.  Due to the industrial pollution in China, these annual yellow dust storms now consist of dangerous heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, copper and aluminum so Koreans consume even more pork, especially Samgyeopsal, during that time.  For according to the traditional Korean herbal medicine, a high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids and some other elements in pork absorb the heavy metals and neutralize carbon dioxide caught in the respiratory organs and remove them from their body.  This is why the food is also consumed regularly by Korean coal miners and metal foundry workers.

Two bowls of Ueong Boggeumbap ("Fried Rice with Korean Burdock Roots")
made for a quick yet nutritious lunch 

INGREDIENTS:  ● 1½ or 2 cups cooked rice, cold*
(2~3 servings)   ● ½ small size onion, diced
                         ● ½ carrot, diced
                         ● 2 celery sticks, diced
                         ● ¼ LB Ueong Jorim (Braised Korean burdock roots)
                            (Click for the recipe.) 
                         ● 2 strips fresh bacon, diced**
                         ● sesame seed oil
                         ● salt to taste
                         ● soy sauce to taste
                         ● 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

                         * You can substitute brown rice if you're a health-conscious cook
                          or long grain rice for better results.
           ** You can find Samgyeopsal or fresh bacon in your local Korean markets
              or some of your local grocery markets.  You can substitute Dubu 
              (aka, Tofu) and/or Pyogo (aka, Shiitake) mushrooms.

1.  In a large skillet, sauté the diced fresh bacon over medium until golden brown. 

2.  Add the diced onion, carrot, celery sticks until tender but still crunchy and crispy.

3.  Add a little oil to the skillet, and then the rice and diced Ueong Jorim (Braised Korean burdock roots).  Mix with a wooden spoon to combine, gently so that the individual rice grain does not get smooshed.

4.  Turn the heat to low and add salt and/or soy sauce to taste.  You might add a little more sesame oil if you prefer.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve while hot.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

KOREAN SHOWS: MBC's "I Am a Singer" Season 2 (1)

Naneun Gasuda (나는 가수다) or NAGASU (나가수)

The first night of MBC's "I Am a Singer" Season 2 (5/6/2012) was expectedly underwhelming to me on the whole compared to that of its first season.  The show’s first season started with the A ~ A+-list singers (or bands) like Lee Sora, YB, Kim Gunmo, Lena Park, Kim Bumsu, Baek Jiyoung, and Jeong Yeop and ended in anticlimax; and last Sunday, its second season took its first step with a new system of competition and elimination totally different from last season. I think only the performances delivered by Lee Eunmi and JK Kim Dongwook were worth watching.  Let’s first watch JK Kim Dongwook’s rendition of Myeongtae (명태, “A Pollock”) and its original version by Kang Sane.

  JK Kim Dongwook: "A Pollack"
on MBC's NAGASU (aired on 5/6/2012)

Original Version: Kang Sane on MBC's "Lalala" (Air Date: Unknown)
"A Pollack" (2002), Song & Lyrics by Kang Sane

The show was originally created by Kim Younghee, legendary entertainment/comedy show producer and its title was conceived by singer Lee Sora, host and competitor of the show in the first season.  Its first season started with a relatively simple rule of competition: Seven singers (or bands) were invited to compete and the bottom with the fewest votes from the live 500-person studio audience was to be eliminated every week; a new singer (or band) was to be invited to compete the following week. The audience could cast only one vote for their favorite performance. In the very first round of the season (3/20/2011), Kim Gunmo ranked at the bottom and was supposed to head home as promised to the viewers. 

The original concept of the show was focused on entertainment, not music, even though Kim Younghee also wanted to launch it to revive other music genres than K-pop.  It was no wonder, considering Kim has only produced entertainment/comedy shows, not (TV) music shows.  And Kim Gunmo, long-time friend of Kim Younghee, understood his intention too well and carried out his performance rather comically, faithful to the show’s concept.  It was, however, ill-received by the studio audience and led him to placing at the bottom of the pack.  One thing Kim Younghee et al. failed to notice was that the studio audience and TV viewers seriously considered it a real singing competition.  So when they chose to keep Kim (Gunmo) longer on the show in the name of “retry,” it was as if they had shot themselves in the foot.  The decision caused a heated controversy among the Korean music fans and eventually dragged Kim Younghee and Kim Gunmo down.

The show returned after approx. one month and a half hiatus (5/1/2011) with a new competition system and also a new producer, Shin Jeongsu, who was forced to quit his so far extremely successful show, Nolleowa (놀러와, “Come to Play”) and replace NAGASU’s previous producer, Kim Younghee.  Since then, Nolleowa, the once-unbeatable Monday night show on MBC has been falling downhill and is now being beaten by the rival shows on KBS and SBS.  Furthermore, Shin became the target of false accusations made by the zealous Korean music fans who had been frustrated by the downfall of NAGASU.  I think these all showcased Kim Jae Chul’s (current MBC CEO) incompetence in management.  Back to the topic, the competition system was revised that the singers (or bands) competed in the first round, then had a week break to prepare for the next round, and competed again.  And the live 500-person audience could cast multiple votes for their three favorite performances in each round.  1,000 votes (500 each per round) were tallied to determine the lowest ranked singer (to be eliminated).  And then, a new singer (or band) was invited to compete the following week.  

After the show ended its controversial first season (2/12/2012), Kim Younghee came back in his producer’s chair and last Sunday, it started its second season with another new competition system.  Firstly, the show broadcasts live.  Secondly, the scoring process for the live performances is weighted 60 percent to the viewers’ votes and 40 percent to the live studio audience’s votes. This means the viewers’ votes have more impact than the live studio audience’s votes.  This scoring process was introduced to resolve the controversy stirred in the first season that it was a high-pitch contest.  Thirdly, 12 singers (or bands) are invited and divided into two groups to compete on the show.  In the first round, 6 singers in Group A compete and the top three advance to the “Singer of the Month” round; and the bottom three head to the elimination round.  In the second round, the top three and the bottom three are sorted out from Group B through the same competition process.  On the third week, six singers (or bands), the bottom three from each group, compete in the third round and the one with the fewest votes is eliminated.  On the fourth week, six singers (or bands), the top three from each group, compete to determine the overall winner, i.e., the singer of the month, who graduates with honor. A total of 10 singers (or bands) ranked in between remain on the show to keep competing and two more new singers (or bands) are invited to compete the following week.

Again, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the first night of the show was quite underwhelming to me on the whole, except for Lee Eunmi’s and JK Kim Dongwook’s stellar performances. However, I'm looking forward to the next round which looks promisingly more fun as it will feature the singers in Group B - Kim Gunmo, Park Wankyu, Kim Yunwoo, Jeong Yeop, and Jeong In.  

(Methinks) Two of the most noteworthy improvements made to the show are: As it broadcasts live, (i) the show is now more entertaining and fun to watch especially as it’s free of “fix” controversy; and (ii) unlike in the first season, none of the performances are cut short and edited or interrupted by fluff pieces or short interviews with singers – the great advantage of live broadcast, oh yay!  Now, here comes Lee Eunmi’s amazing performance that really lived up to her reputation, followed by its original version by Park Hyoshin.

[STUDIO VERSION] Lee Eunmi: "A Good Person"
on MBC's NAGASU (aired on 5/6/2012)

Original Version:
[MV] Park Hyoshin: "A Good Person" (2002)