[FOUNTAIN]Peddling fleshStars are unique. They sell everything related to them. Every star is a business, making money, it sometimes seems, even from used clothes and used chewing gum. Every day, new derivative products turn up.
Recently, thousands of foreign fans visited Jeju Island for the Hallyu Expo, hosted by management companies of the actor Bae Yong-joon and other stars. The programs were nothing more than meetings between stars and their fans. Of course, the fans cheered for Yon-sama, the Japanese nickname for Mr. Bae, as if the $1,700 tour package price was worth every penny.
The meetings between the stars and the foreign fans have become a new lucrative form of the business of selling Korean pop culture. The managers invite foreign fans to Korea or hold big events in Japan, Hong Kong and China. These fan meetings used to be intimate and personal, but they have turned into profit-generating events with high price tags. They are selling the fantasy of meeting a favorite star in person and spending private time together.
The families of the stars are also hit products. The photos of stars’ family members are very popular online. The brother, sister or baby of a star might earn instant fame for being good-looking. The marketing of a star’s family is a more aggressive business in other countries. It has almost become fashionable among A-list celebrities to get married, have babies and boast of happiness, and all the personal moments are translated into money. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt sold the photos of their daughter Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt for $4 million to be donated to a charity in Africa. The couple began their relationship last year while filming a movie and their photos have generated millions of dollars.
The actors Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones received $1 million for exclusive rights to the photos of their wedding. The peak of the star business is the television reality shows that capture the private moments in stars’ lives. The singers Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson made huge money producing reality shows about their newlywed lives. The times have changed; in the past, has-been stars would pose nude, or real stars had to give up their personal lives because of paparazzi.
The French sociologist Edgar Morin wrote in “The Stars” that a star is the prefect product, because even a centimeter of his body, a strand of his soul or a piece of his lifestyle is sold in the market. He also wrote that the public watches stars and persecutes them. But today’s stars seem to embrace the “persecution.” They’ve converted themselves into products with unlimited added value and make big money out of themselves.
*The writer is a culture and sports desk writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Yang Sung-hee