Posted 01 June 2003 - 12:43 AM
Korean teenybopper sensation BoA (Kwon Bo-a) has caused waves in Japan, the second-largest music market in the world, with her new single "Shine We Are" topping the Japanese Oricon singles chart last week. It is the first time the 16-year-old pop idol topped the Japanese version of the Billboard singles chart, although she already conquered the album chart with "Listen to My Heart" in March 2002 and "VALENTI" in January this year. She was the first singer from outside Japan to reach number one on the album chart. "Did you see me on TV last night? My mom and brother kept talking about it," BoA said. When BoA talked about a performance she had given the night before her interview with The Korea Times, she seemed like any other schoolgirl. There was little about her that hinted at stardom, with the exception of the presence of her bodyguard throughout the interview. However, this teenager has already been widely recognized as an Asian superstar, having outsold Mariah Carey in album sales in Japan, the world¡¯s second largest pop market, for the past two years. She also joined Westlife in a duet for the Asian release of their album `"Unbreakable, the Greatest Hits," released in November 2002. Most recently, BoA became a new Sketchers sneaker model, replacing Britney Spears for the Asian market. BoA was called a "Korean Britney" when she first debuted. There also was talk that her early stage concepts were similar to those used by Spears. At 16, still younger than Spears was when she made her debut, she seems to have established her own identity as singer. "I like Britney, though I like Janet Jackson the most. But I don¡¯t want to get stuck with one genre of music or stage concept. I¡¯m just focusing on what I can do to best satisfy my fans with music," BoA said. BoA has earned over $1 billion in Japan so far through her 15 releases, two regular albums, nine singles and three special albums, a figure that can be compared to the annual sales output of a decent business corporation. The two regular albums sold 1.3 million copies, giving BoA the Japanese Golden Disk Award this March and making her the biggest domestic pop icon ever in a foreign entertainment market. Having debuted in August 2000 at the age of just 14, she has been more popular in Japan than Korea, but her success in that market was not due to luck - she had been prepping herself for her debut for years. "I followed my brother to his audition when I was a sixth-grade kid. There I happened to sing SES¡¯s `Perfect Reason¡¯ standing beside my brother," BoA said. Surprisingly enough, she and not her brother passed the audition. For the next five years or so, BoA was thoroughly prepared for the Japanese market by SM entertainment, which, partially due to her success, is now one of the country¡¯s best-known management companies. After graduating from middle school, she advanced to Korea Kent Foreign School in Seoul, where she gained an advanced level of English and Japanese with her future career in mind. "Japanese fans are rather calm and quite. But I have never had any unpleasant situations in Japan. They are all nice and cool," BoA said. Her enormous success in the two countries even appealed the Western media, with her story introduced in Le Monde and BBC. Recently, BoA featured on a special program aired on the American Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). She was selected from 15 leading figures from Korea as being the only one representative of the nation¡¯s entertainment industry. "I was quite surprised at her fluent English and cool sense of humor. It was the best interview I have ever had," Dennis Wholey, host of PBS¡¯s "This Is America with Dennis Wholey" and author of "The Courage to Change" said after interviewing BoA for the program. Prime Minister Goh Kun and Kim Myong-gon, president of the National Theater of Korea, joined BoA on the program, which commemorates the centennial of Korean immigrants in the United States. Her appearance was broadcast last Saturday. "I got a little nervous at first upon hearing it was U.S. public TV, but it was funny. Mr. Wholey was very nice and kind," the youngest K-pop star said. In a move to enter another part of the entertainment industry, BoA will appear in a Hong Kong action film that will begin production in January next year. "My role is a singer, and I¡¯m glad it¡¯s not a major character," BoA said, smiling. Yesterday, she came back to the local stage with her new Korean album "Atlantis Princess." "I owe so much to local fans for my success, yet there seem to be no other way to repay them but through music," BoA said. She has already accomplished much for her age, but still wants more. Her ambition, zeal and talent may be what is needed to take the currently depressed domestic pop market to the next level.
credits: the kpop vault, the korea times