Paralysis doesn’t stop performing duo

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Paralysis doesn’t stop performing duo

Five years after a motorcycle accident left Korean pop singer and dancer Kang Won-rae’s legs paralyzed, he was on stage again recently with his old singing partner, Koo Jun-yup.
Mr. Kang’s legs did not get better during the long break he had. But his partner also chose to use a wheelchair, and the two performed a new “wheelchair dance” instead of stomping their feet as they used to.
At a press conference last week, the two made a brilliant comeback, sitting on shining wheelchairs and wearing the clothes Mr. Koo had designed for the team.
Mr. Koo demonstrated some of the dance moves they developed for wheelchairs. He spun his wheelchair around in circles and hopped back on it after falling out.
“Now that I think of it, nothing much has changed [compared to five years ago],” Mr. Kang said. “Our friendship, our songs and my love toward my wife ― they were there all along.”
Mr. Kang and Mr. Koo, both 36, formed the singing duo “Clon,” a pop group famous for their mixture of rap and reggae in their songs and powerful dances.
Their debut hit in 1996 ― called “Kung Dari Shabara” ― turned them into a widely known celebrities throughout Asia.
But the music duo was hit by a hard blow when Mr. Kang got into a motorcycle accident in 2000. Doctors then told the press that he was suffering from a cerebral hemorrhage. He also underwent back surgery but never recovered mobility in his legs.
Mr. Kang said he had never imagined himself being on stage again. When some asked him when they would see him on stage again, he responded with a scoff, thinking to himself, “What are you saying? I cannot even go to the toilet by myself.”
His friend, Mr. Koo, also went through a tough time as his friend refused to come out of the house. He refused to sing after Mr. Kang’s accident. He said he felt sorry just because he was still walking and healthy while his best friend could not.
“Clon cannot go on without Won-rae,” Mr. Koo said. “No one can take Won-rae’s place.”
Mr. Koo did not release a solo album until three years later. But soon, he persuaded Mr. Kang that the two should practice new songs again.
Their new album is entitled, “Victory.” The “V” stands for the fifth album they have released together since their debut, and also represents the victory Mr. Kang feels he has accomplished.
“In Korea, many try to avoid people in wheelchairs because they feel uncomfortable when they look at them,” Mr. Kang said. “But if I dance really well, I think I might be able to help break some of the stereotypes people have about the physically handicapped.”
It was not easy for them to practice as they used to. though. Their hands were covered in bruises and cuts from falling out of their wheelchairs so many times.
Mr. Kang said they practiced hard.
“I don’t want to fall down while we are performing live on stage,” he said. “I don’t want people feeling sorry for me.”
The new album hit the stores Sunday. One of the songs, called “My Love, Song-yi,” is dedicated to Mr. Kang’s wife, Song-yi, who has been there for him for the last five years.
Other songs include “Isolated Cry” and “Silent Steps,” which advocates rights for the disabled.

by Lee Kyong-hee, Lee Min-a
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