K-pop fans arrive from Russia with love

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K-pop fans arrive from Russia with love

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Russian fans of K-pop band Super Junior gather at Tsaritsyno Park in Moscow on July 22 to celebrate the second anniversary of the band’s top fan Web site in Russia. Female fans gathered wearing blue T-shirts and holding up blue towels, the band’s official color. Provided by the Super Junior Russian Forum


One Sunday afternoon in late August, 23-year-old Russian K-pop fan Irina Belyakova arrived in Seoul to catch a performance of her favorite boy band, Super Junior, only to find she was discriminated against for not being an ELF.

For ELF, disregard notions of vertically challenged creatures helping Santa Claus pack toys before Christmas. Think instead of a fan group with enough clout to get VIP service at concerts, circumvent waiting lines and get first option on tickets - which, for K-pop concerts, are increasingly being viewed as more precious than fairy dust.

As Belyakova was not an official Ever Lasting Fan - the name of the band’s fan club - her vacation got off to a nightmare start when, after waiting in line for two to three hours, she found that all the tickets had been spirited away and she would be lucky to catch the event later on DVD.

“Even if the show is free, it is difficult for us to get in,” she said of the rising demand for K-pop concerts around the world, but especially for Super Junior - which ranks as one of the biggest (by numbers) boy bands in the world with 13 members.

“Even if we stand all night in a queue, if there are a lot of official ELFs we won’t be able to get in,” she lamented. “Official ELFs can go in first and, if there are any leftover seats, nonofficial ELFs can get in.”

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Six Russian K-pop fans pose on Aug. 30 in front of a poster for the musical, “Temptation of Wolves,” which features a member of boy band Super Junior in the lead role. It is running at COEX in southern Seoul. By Yim Seung-hye


In other words, Christmas didn’t come early for this Russian fan, who was hoping - but was denied the chance - to attend the shooting of the “SBS Inkigayo” music show featuring the band at SBS Hall in Deungchon-dong, western Seoul.

It was Belyakova’s love of K-pop that brought her to Korea for the second time in as many years, but she still had two weeks to sample Korean cuisine, visit one of the country’s award-winning theatrical productions and take out her frustration of missing the show in a controlled environment.

Hallyu, a local word for the Korean Wave, began about 10 years ago in Asian countries, but it was only in 2009 that it spread to Russia when people there started to take an interest in Korea-exported pop songs and girl and boy bands.

Belyakova was sufficiently enthused to sign up for (free) Korean classes in Moscow.

“Many people know about Hallyu in Asian countries, and now even in Paris and New York, but I don’t think many are yet aware that there are tens of thousands of K-pop fans in Russia,” said Belyakova.

“Hallyu in Russia is not at the starting point, but it hasn’t gotten to its [zenith] yet, either.”

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She said Russians are attracted to K-pop because it has “a special Asian spice to it.”

As the singers often appear on TV and game shows, it also brings them closer to the audience, she added.

“Korean entertainment is so open to fans. For example, we know many American songs, but we have no idea what kind of person the singer is,” she said.

“But for Korean singers, we are able to know the person by witnessing what they are like in different situations. And we become attracted to not only their singing, but also their attitudes and personalities.”

According to Belyakova, who operates an official Web site for Super Junior in Russia, K-pop is being recognized by thousand of Russians in their 20s.

Her fan-club forum (www.superjunior.ru) started with only several hundred members but has already grown to almost 9,000.

Showing the attention to detail typical of a diehard fan, one of her postings reads, “2009 June 29, Super Junior leader Leeteuk said ‘thank you’ in Russian for the first time on his personal home page.”

“The fan club is actively engaged in fan-type projects for Super Junior, such as using their names to make charitable donations, taking part in international projects and organizing trips overseas to see world tour concerts,” she said, adding that there are at least a dozen more fan sites in Russia for other K-pop groups including TVXQ, SHINee and 2PM.

On Jan. 21, Russian fans from her site visited Bangkok to watch Super Junior’s two-day concert, the “Super Show 3.”

“It wasn’t a usual concert, but more like a show,” said Belyakova, adding that some of the things that attracts her to K-pop shows are the glamorous and often unpredictable performances.

“When I watched the ‘Super Show 3,’ all of the band members were running around the stage and even flying around our heads,” said Belyakova. “It felt amazing. I was holding a blue glowstick in my hand and thousands more fans around me were also waving blue light-sticks.”

She said Russians tend draw the line at fanaticism, however, unlike some Asian fans.

“I noticed that [they] usually like to follow [the bands] everywhere and wait in front of buildings and agencies,” said Belyakova. “But Russian fans never try to get into the personal space of stars. We’ll never try to get an autograph or take a picture secretly upon meeting them in person. I think it is very rude and it is important to protect the privacy of your idol.”

On Aug. 30, she brought one Indonesian and five Russian friends to the COEX center in southern Seoul to watch the musical “Temptation of Wolves.” Super Junior member Ryeo-wook plays a leading character in the musical.

“We studied the etiquette of watching musicals in Korea before coming here,” said Skiba Olga, 28, who arrived a week before Belyakova. “In Russia, it is usual for the audience to go up to the stage and hand flowers to the actors and actresses, but I heard there is no such custom in Korea.”

The five Russian girls will make a birthday present for another Super Junior member, Yesung, as it was his birthday on Aug. 24; or, more accurately, they will make a present for his mom and dad.

“We are going to make a photo album for his parents with pictures of Yesung,” said Belyakova.

Also on the girls’ itinerary is a date with Kim Hee-chul, another member of the same band, who they will help see off when he embarks on his two-year-long military service on Sept. 1.

Anna Savrasova, 27, admits she has a huge crush on Hee-chul. After expressing how proud she felt at learning he was going to serve his country, she said in Korean, “I’ll wait for you, Kim Hee-chul.”

As the music’s global fan base grows, fans recently designated Aug. 13 as WorldWide K-pop Day, when they encourage each other to upload videos on YouTube to show their support for various bands.

Aida Ausum, 18, who lives in Holland, uploaded a video to “tell Korea that there are more countries in the world that love K-pop.”

In her video, she appealed to Korean singers to pay more attention to their fans in other parts of the world.

“My friends and I decided to do something for WorldWide K-pop Day because we’ve been dying to make a statement that we are here,” she said in the recording.

In an e-mail interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily, Ausum said she was “surprised to find other K-pop fans in Holland as it is a fairly small country .?.?. there is a wide range of fans [there] aged 14 to 25.”

“Recently, my friends and I began organizing gatherings for K-pop fans to hang out with [like-minded] people,” she said. “We go to parks and dance to K-pop songs and discuss K-pop artists.

“Right now, people are actually planning a large-scale flash mob [to urge bands to perform in Holland] and we’ve been practicing really hard.”

This hints at foreign fans’ major complaint: a dearth of concerts they can attend without requiring a passport.

Belyakova also bemoaned the difficulty of legally downloading Korean artists’ songs as Web sites require users to have resident registration numbers, which are only available in Korea.

“Some Web sites allow foreign users to register, but the procedure is so difficult and it requires authentication procedures that just never work,” she said. Tickets for concerts and musicals are often only available for people with a Korean credit card, she added.

“That’s why we couldn’t get tickets earlier for the musical,” said Belyakova. “I had to ask my Russian friend living in Korea with her Korean husband to use his credit card to buy us tickets.”

Additionally, she said she received bulk orders for Super Junior albums back in Moscow that she is wondering if she will be able to transport home.

“More than 100 orders were made. I’m going to buy each one separately, with a separate receipt, so they can be counted on Hanteo, which ranks bands according to the sales of artists’ albums,” said Belyakova, loyal to the end. “If we buy all 100 at the same time, it only counts as one sale.”


*The Korea JoongAng Daily launches the first of a five-part series about the status quo and prospects of the Korean Wave.


By Yim Seung-hye [sharon@joongang.co.kr]


한글 관련 기사 [연합뉴스]

K-Pop 커버댄스에 열광한 모스크바

아이돌 그룹 춤 흉내내는 커버댄스 러시아 대회 성황
'프로그램 제작 MBC 무리한 대회 운영에 관객들 불만'

한류의 큰 흐름인 케이팝(K-Pop) 열풍이 클래식 음악의 전통이 뿌리 깊은 러시아로까지 확산하고 있다.

러시아 젊은이들 사이에 한국 아이돌 그룹의 노래와 춤이 빠른 속도로 번지고 있는 것이다.

6일 모스크바에서 열린 '2011 커버댄스 페스티벌'은 이같은 분위기를 한 번에 느낄 수 있는 최고의 자리였다.

◇ "K-Pop에 열광하는 러시아" = '한국방문의 해 위원회'가 주최하고 서울신문사가 주관한 '커버댄스 페스티벌'은 한국 유명 아이돌 그룹의 춤을 흉내내는 커버댄스 국제 대회를 통해 한류 문화 콘텐츠 K-Pop의 국제화를 유도한다는 취지로 기획됐다.

지난 6월~8월 한국을 비롯한 일본, 중국, 유럽, 미주 등지에서 참가를 신청한 팀들을 대상으로 동영상 자료를 토대로 한 1차 예선이 치러졌으며, 뒤이어 이날 러시아를 시작으로 7일 브라질(상파울루), 11일 일본(도쿄)ㆍ미국(LA), 18일 태국(방콕), 19일 스페인(마드리드) 등의 순으로 1차 예선을 통과한 팀들 가운데 국가별 대표를 선발하는 결선 대회가 열린다.

이날 모스크바 시내 '츠베트노이 불바르' 거리에 있는 '미르 극장'에서 인기 코미디언 정형돈의 사회로 저녁 7시 30분부터 12시까지 4시간 30분 동안 진행된 러시아 대표 선발 대회에는 1차 예선을 통과한 18개 팀이 열띤 경쟁을 벌였다.

1명부터 최대 12명까지로 구성된 참가팀들은 저마다 샤이니, 동방신기, 소녀시대, 슈퍼주니어, 라니아, 에프엑스, 시스타 등 한국 아이돌 그룹의 춤에 맞춰 열정적 무대를 선보였다.

춤 동작은 물론 복장과 헤어스타일까지 아이돌 그룹을 흉내 낸 이들의 공연은 대부분 실제 아이돌 그룹의 무대를 방불케 할 정도로 수준급이었다. 이날 심사위원으로 참가한 샤이니 그룹의 대회 마지막 부분 깜짝 공연이 오히려 빛을 잃을 정도였다.

주로 현지 대학생과 고등학생들이 중심이 된 관객들의 호응도 극장 내부를 뜨겁게 달굴 만큼 폭발적이었다. 1천석 좌석이 모자라 통로에까지 자리를 잡은 1천300여 명의 관객들은 참가팀들이 K-Pop 댄스를 펼칠 때마다 연신 몸을 흔들거나 환호성을 지르며 음악에 빠져들었다.

모스크바 인근 모스크바주(州) 도시인 두브나의 국제자연사회인류대학 언어학과 4학년에 재학중이라는 나타샤 추르키나는 "인터넷을 통해 커버댄스 페스티벌이 열린다는 것을 알고 친구들과 함께 왔다"며 "샤이니와 슈퍼주니어, 빅뱅, 2PM 등의 한국 아이돌 그룹을 잘 알고 있으며 이들의 음악을 즐겨 듣는다"고 흥분된 목소리로 말했다.

추르키나는 "K-Pop은 에너지와 감정이 풍부하고 흥을 돋우는 수준 높은 음악"이라며 "K-Pop을 듣고 있으면 저절로 흥이 나고 몸을 움직이지 않을 수 없다"고 평가했다. 그는 "K-Pop에 빠져 독학으로 한국말까지 배우기 시작했다"며 "안녕하세요, 사랑해요, 반갑습니다" 등의 표현을 자랑스레 말하기도 했다.

이날 대회에선 인기그룹 비스트의 쇼크(Shock)와 샤이니의 링딩동 춤을 춘 18~23세 6인조 남성그룹 페브리스 에로티카(Febris Erotica)와 미스에이의‘Breathe’를 춤춘 18~24세 여성 4인조 그룹 레인스 걸스(Rain's Girls)가 러시아 대표로 선발됐다. 이들은 10월 3일 한국 경주에서 열리는 '2011 커버댄스 페스티벌' 최종 결선에 참가한다.

◇ "MBC, K-Pop 열풍에 찬물 끼얹은 꼴" = 한편 미디어 후원 자격으로 이번 페스티벌에 참가해 세계 각국 대회를 8부작 기획물로 제작하고 있는 MBC 제작팀은 이날 모스크바 대회에서 샤이니를 심사위원으로 섭외해 데리고 왔다는 것을 근거로 독점 취재권을 주장하며 러시아 현지 방송과 다른 국내 언론사의 취재를 차단하거나 방해했을 뿐 아니라 방송 제작만을 염두에 두고 무리하게 대회를 운영하는 등의 행태를 보여 물의를 빚었다.

MBC 측과 샤이니 소속사 측의 고압적 태도로 러시아 24시간 연예전문 채널 'MTV'가 취재를 나왔다가 그냥 돌아갔으며, 다른 현지 언론사 기자들도 MBC 측의 독단적 대회 진행에 불만을 터뜨렸다.

러시아 인터넷 통신의 문화담당 기자는 대회 초반 MBC 측이 고용한 통역이 사회 정형돈과 참가팀들간의 대화를 제대로 전하지 못해 답답한 상황이 이어지자 "K-Pop 페스티벌이 아니라 MBC가 세트장에 1천여명의 러시아 관객들을 몰아놓고 한국말로 자체 프로그램을 찍는 꼴"이라며 강하게 불평하기도 했다.

게다가 당초 7시부터 시작될 예정이던 대회가 MBC팀의 자체 취재 스케쥴로 30분이나 늦게 시작된데다 약 3시간으로 예상됐던 대회 시간도 방송물을 염두에 둔 출연팀과의 지나치게 긴 인터뷰 등으로 늘어져 밤 12시가 넘어서야 끝이 나자 일부 관객들이 불만을 표시하며 중간에 대회장을 벗어나는 등 혼란이 빚어지기도 했다.

여기에 계약상의 대회 종료 시간이 지나면서 극장 측이 전기 공급을 끊어 실내에 한동안 정전 사태가 벌어지기도 하는 등 전반적으로 엉성하고 무리한 대회 운영에 많은 관람객이 문제를 제기했다.

페스티벌을 관람한 현지 교민 김모(45)씨는 "한류 확산을 취지로 많은 국가 예산을 투입해 기획된 행사가 MBC 측의 방송 제작만을 염두엔 둔 무리한 대회 운영으로 본래 취지에서 빗나간 느낌을 받았다"며 "이번 행사가 오히려 러시아에 퍼져 나가고 있는 한류 열풍에 찬물을 끼얹는 꼴이 되지 않았나 걱정된다"고 지적했다.

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