Devoted followers of Korean popular culture will remember the Rain v Colbert battle in Time magazine last year.
The much smaller population of devoted LKL readers will remember that I did a straw poll of my US co-workers last year: how many out of an unrepresentative sample of US bank regulatory specialists had heard of the famous US comedian Stephen Colbert? The answer was 40%: 6 out of 10 had never heard of him.
So I decided to repeat the exercise out in Hong Kong. At a similar team-building dinner yesterday, I asked the assembled company how many people had never heard of LKL Man of the Year 2006, Rain (above). The nationalities present were: 1 Indonesian, 1 Malaysian, 1 Philippina, 2 Japanese, 1 Korean, 1 French, 3 Hong Kong Chinese. The answer: only two of them had never heard of Rain (The Indonesian and, hardly surprisingly, the French lady). 8 out of 10 had heard of him (which didn’t necessarily mean they liked him, though there were one or two of the female members present who seemed to admire his physique).
So I make that 8-4 to Rain.
Someone else on the table (the Indonesian) did a similar cultural awareness exercise with Simon Cowell. Cowell scored 6, which is a pretty respectable score. He was known to the locals through American Idol, though, rather than the X Factor.
The assembled company were also well versed in Korean TV drama. Inevitably Dae Jang Geum and Winter Sonata were the most well known.
Surprisingly, the two Japanese ladies professed not to fancy Yonsama (Bae Yong-joon, above). But when Lee Byung-hun (below) came up in conversation (in the Japanese film Hero) they were much more enthusiastic.
But before promoters of Korean popular culture sit back and smile too smugly, many people present were also fans of Japanese TV drama (they don’t go on as long). And we were all chatting in a familiar fashion about Hong Kong, Chinese and Taiwanese film stars. And the Indonesian present invited me to visit him in Jakarta where he promised to show me where to buy authentic pirated versions of the Korean soaps, with English subtitles, for next to nothing.
An interesting (to me, at any rate) little case study in the cross border nature of popular culture.
And the evening was capped by a quick trip to the local HMV where I found a copy of a film (which is probably complete rubbish) for which I’ve been searching for ages and never been able to find: Lee Young-ae’s first film, Inshalla. With English subtitles, for under a tenner. And the food at the restaurant was very nice too. Work isn’t all that bad.
And because Lee Young-ae’s come up in conversation, and because I’ve now posted three Valentines Day pin-ups for the lasses, here’s a pic of her for the lads.