Monday, September 7, 2009

[NEWS]090906 Filipinos Get Hooked on K-Pop Craze



Fan club members of Cassiopeia Philippines, Super Junior United Philippines and Girls Generation Philippines show their idols’ CDs, DVDs, photo books and other mementos. / Courtesy of Jonathan Hicap

By Jonathan M. Hicap
Korea Times Correspondent

MANILA ― Hallyu, popularly known as the Korean wave, continues to cast its spell in the Philippines. Not only are Korean dramas being embraced by Filipinos but more teens and young adults are becoming ardent fans of K-pop artists as well.

Thanks to the Internet, non-Korean fans in Southeast Asia including the Philippines and as far as North America and Europe can get a daily dose of Korean music, dramas and anything in between.

Filipinos have established their own fan clubs for top K-pop groups like Super Junior, TVXQ, Girls Generation, Wonder Girls, Big Bang and SS501 as a way of showing their adoration to these idol groups.

Not only do they interact in their own forums, on blogs and networking sites, they also meet regularly, hold fan gatherings and dutifully buy their idols' CDs, photo books, T-shirts and other merchandise.

The Korea Times met with representatives of three fan clubs in the Philippines ― Cassiopeia Philippines, Super Junior United Philippines and Girls Generation Philippines ― and found out about their devotion to their idol groups.

Cassiopeia Philippines is the Filipino fan club of Korean boy band TVXQ. The group adopted the name Cassiopeia, which is the name of TVXQ's Korea-based fan club that is said to have about 800,000 members.

Michelle Angela Umali, part of the Cassiopeia Philippines core group, said the growing fan base of TVXQ in the Philippines prompted them to establish the fan club.

The club started five years ago, with the name TVXQ Heaven. It began as a forum and as the fan base grew, organizers decided to make it official.

They held their first gathering in 2006, the same year that members of TVXQ came to the Philippines to shoot an advertisement. The fan club's core members said they spent their own money to buy balloons, snacks and to prepare for an audio-visual presentation just to make the event a success.

From just 40 people that attended the first meeting, Cassiopeia Philippines now has over 1,000 members and is growing as more Filipino teens join the organization.

Every year, the TVXQ fan club holds events to gather all members. They hold parties and programs to pay tribute to TVXQ and give away merchandise as prizes.

Cassiopeia Philippines has its own Web site and accounts on Twitter, Multiply, Friendster, YouTube, Facebook and Yahoo!

Cassiopeia Philippines was instrumental in gathering Filipino K-pop fans to attend the filming of the 1,000th episode of Arirang's ``Pops in Seoul," a TV program which was held in Manila in July last year, an event that proved successful.

Super Junior United Philippines (SJUPH) is the umbrella organization of four Super Junior fan clubs in the Philippines: Super Junior Philippines, SuJu Pinas, Super Junior Sahoe and Super Junior Fanatext Philippines Only, according to Christine Laconico, a member of the organization.

The four fan clubs have been in existence for years and they decided to unite into one organization in September last year.

Laconico said the formation of SJUPH was made in order to strengthen their presence in the Philippines. They now have the Internet and mobile communications tools needed to spread the Super Junior fever through text messaging, networking sites like Multiply and Internet forums, now with more than 1,000 members.

SJUPH will be holding a big event on Sept. 12 to mark its first anniversary, promising to be fun-filled.

Just like other Korean pop groups, Super Junior's popularity is growing in the Philippines. Single ``Sorry, Sorry" from their third album released this year was in the top 10 in the daily countdown in July on music channel Myx Philippines along with the Wonder Girls's ``Nobody."

2NE1's fame among Filipinos was mainly fueled by Sandara Park, who became an actress and a singer in the Philippines before she joined the all-female pop group.

Super Junior's popularity has prompted Universal Records Philippines to officially release the ``Sorry, Sorry" album in the Philippines on Sept. 4, the first time a Korean album was launched in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, So Nyeo Shi Dae or SNSD is also getting support from Filipinos through the Girls Generation Philippines fan club.

Narriel Ceribo said they have decided to form their own fan club after attending Arirang's ``Pops in Seoul" taping held in Manila last year. He said the one-year-old fan club is composed of about 700 girls and boys, all dedicated to supporting Girls Generation.

To make K-pop even more popular in the country, Cassiopeia will be holding the First K-pop Convention in the Philippines on Nov. 21, promising to be the largest gathering of Filipino K-pop fans.

Attendees can expect to see booths featuring K-pop idols and everything Korean.

Outside their own groups, Filipino K-pop fans are also members of international fan clubs and Internet forums.

Soompi (, for instance, is the largest English-language K-pop fan site. Its members come from the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia. Established in 1998, Soompi now has over 547,000 registered members, about 1.2 million unique visitors and 30 million page views monthly.

Approximately 5 percent (about 60,000) of visitors are from the Philippines, but the number is increasing. ``We hope to be able to focus on growth in the Philippines next year,'' said a Soompi representative in a statement.

The growth of K-pop in the Philippines can be described as unique, with no K-pop group ever visiteding the Philippines as part of a concert tour.

In addition, Korean albums are not found in music stores in the Philippines so fans buy their CDs, DVDs, posters, photo books and other merchandise through online stores or ask friends in other countries to help. As some sort of rule, they only buy original copies and shun bootleg merchandises as a way of showing their support.

Some even go to great lengths to attend concerts in other countries to watch their idols in person. For instance, Paola Ebora, Ana Salera Cruz, Hannah Petrache and Umali, members of Cassiopeia Philippines, have attended concerts of TVXQ in South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand.

No doubt, the number of Filipino K-pop fans is growing. When asked why they love K-pop, the fans said Korean pop groups come as a complete package, meaning they can sing, dance act and compere.

In Korea, artists usually undergo years of training to hone their skills in singing and dancing before debuting.

``I really like their music,'' Umali said of TVXQ. ``When I heard them sing, it was totally different. On the other hand, the 13-member Super Junior represents a whole range of talented male singers, actors and DJs, according to Laconico. This is the main reason why they love Super Junior, '' she said.

Filipinos seem not to be concerned about the language barrier. As they say, music is a universal language and they are embracing K-pop as if they are immersing themselves in a new culture.

credits: + tintin@cassph
shared: cass_diamond @ cassph+sweetfig.blogspot