Traffic in downtown Seoul snarled last Saturday when legions of fans of heartthrob Hyun Bin swarmed to a department store there. Hyun, star of the recent hit soap "Secret Garden," was due to arrive at Lotte Department Store in Myeong-dong in the afternoon to sign autographs to promote men's cosmetics line Laneige Homme. Even though his arrival was not advertised, his fans caught on somehow and formed a queue that stretched through the lobby of an adjacent hotel and into the subway station down the street.
Some had spent the night in the subway station braving sub-zero temperatures. The event had been scheduled just two weeks before and the store decided not to advertise it due to safety concerns. But posts on Hyun's fan sites about the event set phones at the cosmetics company ringing off the hook.
Rumors spread that only VIP customers would be given autographs or that people had to buy at least W100,000 or even W300,000 worth of makeup to get his autograph.
As the 10:30 a.m. opening approached, more and more people began to gather around the department store, making it difficult for staff to open for business. A separate waiting area for fans was set up. Huge groups of Japanese tourists who had heard about the event and flew all the way over also converged on the store.
The fans were given numbered pieces of paper, but the 110 available tickets ran out almost immediately.
Hyun appeared at 2 p.m. as scheduled. The throngs of fans plus weekend shoppers threw the department store into chaos. The cosmetics company hired 20 bodyguards, five accompanied Hyun, and the department store deployed all of its own security personnel. The event lasted for 55 minutes. A total of 130 people received Hyun's autographs, including around 20 VIP customers.
"I knew Hyun Bin's popularity was skyrocketing, but I didn't think it was this much," said a staffer who was responsible for organizing the event. "It's amazing that we got through the event without major accidents."