| South Korean boy band Supernova is a hidden Hallyu (Korean Wave) star. The idol band enjoys high popularity in Japan, with tickets to their concerts at 10,000 to 20,000-seat stadiums sold out in just 10 minutes on the Internet. But the band is not well known in Korea.
"Tadaima! (I`m back!)," shouted Jeong Yoon-hak (called Yunaku in Japan), the band`s leader, as he appeared on stage at a concert at the Yokohama Arena on August 14. Some 12,000 women fans who filled the indoor sporting arena cheered while waving their lanterns. They burst into laughter when Jeong recalled memories of his military service in Korea, saying, "One day, I was sleeping in a tent during a camping exercise on an extremely cold day, minus 20 degrees Celsius. It was so cold that I had to cuddle up with other men." The Supernova members` talk show was filled with stories about Yoon-hak`s military service reminiscence. While many Korean women turn their heads away when men talk about their military service episodes, the Japanese women paid a lot of money to listen to a Korean pop singer`s military stories.
When Yoon-hak had a fan meeting in Tokyo before he joined the military 22 months ago, some 20,000 women fans shed tears for the parting. On the day of joining the army, other Supernova members could not hide their sense of uncertainty about their future, as they feared that at a time when their band had just became popular, they might be forgotten because of their leader`s absence for nearly two years.
However, the fear was unnecessary. On July 24 this year, when Yoon-hak got out of his military service, 45 chartered buses full of his Japanese women fans queued up in front the Third ROK Army Command, where he served. The fans purchased 1.6 million won (1,434 U.S. dollars) two-night tour package to come to Korea to see him. Holding pickets that read, "We have been waiting for you," the fans chanted, "Yunaku."
Among the Japanese fans were Midori and her mother. The 27-year-old fan was a medical student who had just three days left before a national examination for a doctor`s license. Her father was a successful lawyer. Her mother said she had been so worried that Midori always listened to Supernova`s songs while studying. Still, the mother came to Korea with her daughter just three days before the national exam. Like mother, like daughter. Midori received Yoon-hak`s autograph and a cheering message. Perhaps thanks to the cheering, Midori has passed the exam. Her mother said that Yoon-hak`s songs and cheering helped her daughter to maintain peace of mind.
As Yoon-hak was an obscure singer in Korea, he was not selected as an "entertainer soldier." However, he became more honorable after finishing his service because many other entertainer soldiers were involved in various scandals. He served as a member of the Third Army Command`s band, often practicing with other talented singer-turned soldiers such as Min Kyung-hoon and K-Will. Many ordinary soldiers of the Third Army Command had no idea who Yoon-hak was. However, they began to aware of him, as he received more than 100 letters daily from his Japanese fans. They also had the fun of sharing Japanese snacks sent by Yoon-hak`s women fans in Japan. He performed "The Promise," a Korean War-themed musical, at the National Theater of Korea, together with other popular stars. He recalled that the six-month practice for the musical helped him improve his singing skills significantly.
With Yoon-hak`s return, the Supernova`s popularity is soaring in Japan. The bank ranked second on the authoritative Oricon chart and first on Japan`s Tower Records Weekly Single Chart. Yoon-hak threw the first ball at a Japanese professional baseball game and has been cast as a leading actor for a Japanese film.
All of the six members of the Supernova are tall and handsome men and boast powerful dances. Yoon-hak resembles Lee Joon-gi, a handsome and popular Korean actor. Yoon-hak`s witty Japanese-speaking skills helped the Supernova gain explosive popularity in Japan. When he was a high school student in Korea, he was selected for Japan`s state scholarship and graduated from Aichi University in Japan. His Japanese is so good that he once worked as a lecturer on NHK`s Korean-language education program.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso have provoked Koreans with their remarks negating Japan`s war crimes and denying the existence of World War II sex slaves for the Japanese military. Nevertheless, K-Pop remains hot in Japan. At a Supernova concert, there was not a hint of the strained relationship between the two countries. If a Japanese singer performed in front of tens of thousands of women fans in Korea and received a big applause for each song they performed, many Koreans would feel uncomfortable.
The Supernova plans to have a national tour in 11 cities across Japan, with their first concert in Sapporo on Monday next week. The tickets were sold out a long time ago. Channel A will air an interview with Yoon-hak for the first time among Korean broadcasters at 9:00 a.m. this coming Sunday. Korean sports and pop stars are quiet patriots who enhances the value of the country`s national brand.