'Yonsama' Fever Rages on Amid Korea-Japan Chill

      March 17, 2005 19:55

      Oblivious to the worst crisis in Korea-Japan relations in the 40 years, the curiosity of Japanese tourists in the grip of the Korean wave continues unabated in the small east coast town of Samchok, Gangwon Province.

      Over 100 Japanese tourists have been visiting Samchok a day since last month, when filming of new movie "April Snow" starring Bae Yong-joon got under way in the city. Bae, known to his Japanese fans as "Yonsama," gave his name to the phenomenon with his role in the runaway hit "Winter Sonata".

      More than 100 Japanese reporters swarmed Juksoru pavilion on Thursday, when filming was open to the public, part of a contingent of some 200 local journalists and 130-plus reporters from 65 media organizations in eight countries including China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Malaysia. An interview with Bae was part of the package.

      The Japanese displayed the greatest interest. Covering the events were 20-odd media organizations like NHK, TV Tokyo, NTV, Fuji TV and TBS, and newspapers including the Yomiuri Shimbun.

      UIP Japan, the distributor of the forthcoming film, was accompanied by a separate group of Japanese reporters. "Having no opportunity to meet Bae except for public filming, we've come to Korea for a week-long tour," said Osawa Yoko, a NTV producer. "We plan to cover everything about Bae."

      Over 100 Japanese reporters crowded the set of "April Snow" with top Korean heartthrob Bae Yong-joon in Samcheok city, Gangwon Province.

      The Korean Wave crested in March, with the number of Japanese visitors exceeding 2,000, up from only a couple of Japanese tourists a month in the past. JTB, Japan's biggest tourist agency, is starting tours to Samchok from Saturday.

      Some 80 percent of hotel guests are Japanese. Bae is lodged at the Palace Hotel here. "An enormous number of tourists are on watch in and around the hotel just to encounter Bae in the lobby," said Han Jae-hyun, an employee at the hotel.

      Scenes on the set and during the interview were reminsicent of Hollywood. Guarded by a security firm, only journalists with press cards were allowed to enter the press conference site after strict verification. "We had no option but to take the step because hordes of Japanese tourists are staying in Samchok," explained Lee Jin-sang, an official of Blue Storm, the film producer.

      "April Snow" is a melodrama in which a man rushes to an unknown city upon hearing that his wife has had a car accident but meets and falls in love with a woman, the wife of an unknown man who was riding the car with his wife. The movie is to open simultaneously in 10 Asian countries in September.

      ShowEast has concluded distribution contracts with five Asian countries like Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. Negotiations are underway with Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and China.

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