September 19, 2011 10:38
Life is tough for young conscripts in Korea's armed forces, but having groups of beautiful young women perform K-pop songs for them helps take the edge off and heightens morale as they guard the nation's defenses.
Although girl groups such as the Brown Eyed Girls, T-ara and Girls' Generation receive the highest fees when performing for soldiers -- they earn an average of W5.5 million per appearance -- a former musical actress has emerged as the most popular chanteuse.
Sexy icon Kim So-ri, whose name means "sound" in Korean, has appeared in more concerts at military bases over the last five years than any other singer.
"We're thrilled. We believe So-ri's effort to be more engaged with soldiers seems to have paid off," said Kim’s agent.
"Soldiers get a huge morale boost from these concerts, so we often say that a visit by a singer or girl group guarantees six accident-free months at their bases," said an official with the Defense Media Agency. "Although we can only pay a fraction of what they get paid elsewhere, singers willingly accept invitations to perform for us."
Since 2007, Kim has appeared 38 times at concerts for soldiers, which are held once a week at military bases around the country, according to data submitted to ruling Grand National Party lawmaker Seo Jong-pyo at the National Assembly's Defense Committee.
Kim is followed by Jinju (31 times), Kim Hyun-jung (28 times) and LPG (27 times).
LPG (Long Pretty Girls) is a popular girl group composed of four former beauty pageant queens. It has made the most money on aggregate by performing for the military in recent years, racking up W54 million (US$1=W1,109) since 2007.
Kim So-ri was the second-highest earner with W49.4 million, followed by dance-pop queen Kim Hyun-jung (W42 million) and Jinju (W31 million).
Kim Hyun-jung, whose father used to be a senior-ranking police officer, tries to participate as often as she can as she understands the challenges of military life.
Lee Jung, who served his compulsory military service in the Marine Corps, has appeared at three of the concerts this year -- making him the only male singer to perform for the military.
"Although male singers tend to get a pretty cold reception at military bases and can kill the merry mood, when Lee appears on stage, soldiers in the front row stand up to salute and cheer him," said Lee's agent. "As he can sympathize with the difficulties that young recruits face, Lee tries to accept invitations from the military as often as possible."
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