[ENTERTAINMENT]Weekend at Bernie's Place: The Next Wave

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[ENTERTAINMENT]Weekend at Bernie's Place: The Next Wave

Bernie Cho, VJ for Channel V's latest regional affiliate in Korea, is rehearsing his script on the set of "Seoul Sonic." He tries out a line half-slouching in a chair, then gets up and walks around, talking as he goes.

"We're trying to be proactive," Cho said. "It's easy to be reactive; charts shows are reactive. We want to highlight and push the next wave of Korean music." With his goatee, spiky hair, and relaxed but hip wardrobe, Cho is a different kind of VJ.

"Seoul Sonic" is casual and freewheeling. Cho may flub the occasional line, but he never lets it unnerve him, and instead barrels on. It is a mistakes-and-all style that is a refreshing change of pace for Korean television. And even more unconventionally, it is a show recorded in English, giving foreigners an opportunity to learn all about contemporary Korean music.

"Korea is becoming the Ireland of Asia," Cho said. "Something vibrant is going on here and people are picking up on it." Cho attributed this rising popularity to improved production values in both music and videos.

Cho's route to becoming a VJ was unusual. He started out in production, then moved to promotions before moving in front of the camera - the opposite route than most people take. "Since I have so much experience in production, I honestly think I am my own toughest critic," Cho said. "I guess the hardest part is getting used to seeing yourself on camera."

Another VJ, Dave Campbell (better known as "E-won" in Korea) said, "Bernie's been involved in music video broadcasting since its beginnings in Korea, so he really knows the scene. Actually, it's the kind of show I wish we could do more of."

"Seoul Sonic" has a lot of talk about the pop acts that are hot right now - H.O.T, g.o.d, S.E.S, and the like. However, its range is much broader than just pop. It also features older acts, popular with young adults, and even underground and indie artists like Crying Nut and Bol Bbalgan. "I would love "Seoul Sonic" to be like college radio, but I have to be realistic - Korean pop is what sells. But we want to help shape the next wave of Korean music, so we want to feature talent and potential."

Although "Seoul Sonic" is available in Korea, foreigners in Korea are not its major target audience. "Seoul Sonic" is available on the other Channel V stations around Asia, and is designed to be a bridge to help Korean music cross over to all of Asia.

The show is subtitled in Korean for the local audience, creating a fun, if unintended side effect. Many coffee shops and clubs around Korea like to have their TVs on video channels, even if the sound is off. With its broader range of music and unconventional style, "Seoul Sonic" is picking up an unexpected fan base in Korea. "Once people got a taste of something different," said Cho, "they just ate it up."

"Seoul Sonic" is broadcast every Sunday at midnight, then repeated Friday at noon and next Sunday at 3 a.m.

by Mark Russell

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