Diva Kim transcends racism, still rocks at 51
Korean society wasn’t ready to accept Kim, who had an American father and a Korean mother.
Her dark skin and curly hair fed local prejudice against biracial people.
But times have changed.
Now 51, Kim, better known as Insooni, is now Korea’s diva.
She is celebrating the 30-year anniversary of her debut with a newly released studio album, “Legend, ” and a nationwide tour.
The concerts will start next month at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in central Seoul.
Kim will also perform on Mount Kumgang on May 15.
The name of her latest album indicates Kim’s new dream and vision.
“I always envied those artists known as legends,” Kim said. “The album title doesn’t mean that I am a legend. But I don’t mind being called one.”
Over the years Kim has appreciated the empathy her fans have expressed for her struggle as a biracial performer.
But she doesn’t want to be locked into that image.
“I’m just who I am,” Kim said. “I love myself. I believe my smile is worth 1 million won [$1,000].”
Her self-confidence is reflected in her ballad, “Goose’s Dream.”
“I’m not fond of mid-tempo or slow songs,” Kim said. “I’ve been hurt by prejudice and I thought my songs at least should be bright.”
When Kim was looking for a closing song for her concert two years ago, she sang Goose’s Dream.
She wanted to deliver a hopeful message to other singers and fans that grief and sorrow can be overcome.
“I believe that both young people who are in agony looking for a job and people in their 40s and 50s who are about to give up their dreams can find hope by listening to this song,” Kim said.
“Fans clapped and encouraged me to believe I was qualified to sing this song and felt they, too, can overcome life’s difficulties,” she said. “The song gave hope.”
The lyrics read: “I have a dream. The dark world cannot stop me from heading toward my dreams.”
“My Friend,” produced by singer-song writer Park Geun-tae, was also a big hit.
Kim sang the song with Cho Jung-hun, an R&B singer 20 years her junior.
Kim said Park provided inspirational to Kim’s career.
“Though I was too old to perform a lively and danceable song, I actually forgot how old I was on stage,” Kim said.
She performed wearing shorts and a tank top. She even curled her hair more.
Kim’s young spirit also brought her to the stage at KBS TV’s “Open Concert.”
She had always monitored her stage performances and studied ideas to help her improve her shows.
When offered the chance to perform onstage, she was a big hit, especially with the song “La Bamba.”
Since then, Kim has performed on Open Concert once every two weeks.
“I was lucky,” Kim said.
“I worked hard to keep up my repertoire and stage performances for 10 years.
“I chose my life at an early age. While living with my Korean mother, I decided to live in this country as long as I live,” Kim said.
“I didn’t want to get affected by the restricted environment and prejudice.”
Kim has not regretted her choice.
“I have no reason not to be fair to my destiny,” Kim said.
At her upcoming concert, Kim is ready to rock and roll.
“I have a wide range of fans,” Kim said. “At the concert, I want to be old but not unfashionable. I want to be young but not senseless.”
By Jung Hyun-mok JoongAng Ilbo [firstname.lastname@example.org]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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