[ENTERTAINMENT]Son's Success Has His Father all Fluffed Up

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[ENTERTAINMENT]Son's Success Has His Father all Fluffed Up

One of the busiest movie stars in Korea these days is Cha Tae-hyun, 25, who starred in "Yeopgijeokin Geunyeo" ("My Eccentric Girlfriend"). His super-efficient publicist is also busy rejecting phone calls for dozens of interview requests. The PR man bluntly tells reporters, "Sorry, Mr. Cha needs some rest."

Mr. Cha, who debuted on television in 1995, has gradually established himself as a multi-talented entertainer. In addition to acting, he made a name for himself as a radio DJ and also as a singer in 2001.

"My Eccentric Girlfriend," which opened July 27, already has attracted 2.5 million viewers in Korea, unexpectedly surpassing two big Hollywood films, "Jurassic Park III" and "Shrek." In the Korean movie, Mr. Cha portrays a naive and good-hearted young man who falls for an attractive but rather bizarre woman.

His debut as a singer earlier this year was received with enthusiasm. Though Mr. Cha cannot be a genuine vocalist because what he mostly did on stage was showing his dance moves while lip-syncing, his album, "Accident," has sold 350,000 copies since February.

Mr. Cha is not strikingly handsome like Tom Cruise, nor does he sing or dance like Justine Timberlake of 'NSync. The secret of his success in Korea is not his appearance but his brilliant sense of humor.

And Mr. Cha has a reputation for being amusingly disarming. In a survey of female college students, he was chosen as the most sought-after date.

His energy and talent may have been inherited. His father, Cha Jae-wan, who is in his 50s, works for Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) as an assistant director for special effects, and his mother, Choi Su-min, now retired, once did voice-overs.

Proud of his son, the senior Mr. Cha sought to find a way to express his appreciation. There's a common Asian belief that one should not take success or happiness for granted. Thinking that he should give something back in some small and secret way, the senior Mr. Cha decided on a needed service at his KBS office.

Since last summer, every week day at 9 a.m. employees at KBS find two clean, fluffy cotton towels hanging in the men's room on the third floor of the building.

Since it is rare to find clean fluffy cotton towels in rest rooms in Korea, this small convenience became big news. Determined to learn the identity of the benefactor, KBS employees began a stakeout of the rest room, and in time found that Cha Tae-hyun's father was behind the deed.

Like his son, the elder Mr. Cha refused to meet the reporters, but for reasons of humility.

"I just wanted to express gratitude because I feel so blessed with my son's success," he said on the phone. "I didn't want to show off what I did."

The senior Mr. Cha, who washes the white towels every night, said, "I feel almost embarrassed to hear people mention what I did. It just came from the bottom of my heart."

by Chun Su-jin

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