April 13, 2006 18:28
Such is the popularity of Park Yong-ha and K-Pop band Shinhwa in Japan that their plans to fly in via Tokyo's conveniently close Haneda Airport on Friday were scuppered by safety concerns.
Park and the band, together with other top Korean Wave stars, planned to enter Japan for a concert Saturday in a CJ Media series celebrating the founding of Mnet Japan, "M-Countdown in Japan," at Tokyo's Budokan.
But the airport feared hordes of fans would turn up to welcome their idols and denied approval due to safety concerns. Both sides agreed with the assessment and decided to fly instead to the larger Narita International Airport. There was talk afterward that Narita will also put all sorts of security measures into effect, including dispatching 100 bodyguards and police.
This is not the first time that Park Yong-ha has been just too popular to land at Haneda. On Aug. 23 last year, after finishing a solo concert at the Bukodan, he was on his way back home but a crisis looked imminent when fans completely overran Haneda Airport, and he was whisked over to Narita, where he caught a flight to Incheon.
The singers said since they were denied the convenient Gimpo-Haneda option, the distance they have to travel becomes much longer and tiring. They nonetheless vowed to repay their fans' ardor with a passionate performance.
Haneda Airport is just 16 km from the heart of Tokyo and Narita is 60 km. Thus a Gimpo-Haneda flight can cut as much as four hours off the Incheon-Narita route.
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