OK, here goes… possibly LKL’s first ever Cliff Richard post.
While searching for vintage Korean vinyl records sold in the UK on the Discogs record collectors website (they do crop up now and then, but if you’re a fan of Songolmae or Lee Mija, forget it: you’re too late!), I found this intriguing item – a 1969 Korea-only release double-album of Cliff’s live concert in Seoul:
It seems Cliff did his bit for Anglo-Korean cultural relations long before anyone had heard of ‘soft power’. Here’s a couple of YouTube clips:
‘Early in The Morning’ live in Seoul 1969
Cliff Richard’s banter with the Korean audience, taken from the vinyl record:
A tad surprising on both these clips is the hysterical screaming from the young Korean fans. Although by this time South Korea had welcomed American crooners like Nat King Cole and Pat Boone, this was the first concert in South Korea by a famous British act, and the first that attracted a Beatlemania-like hysterical response from Korean teenagers. Eat your hearts out, BTS.
This Korea Times piece by Matt VanVolkenburg is an interesting look at Cliff’s concerts in Seoul:
Korean-language newspapers … described how riot police were dispatched to push back the screaming, sobbing, grabbing fans so Richard could leave the airport, shocking onlookers. Tales linger to this day of wayward lasses throwing their panties at Richard. After his escape, his car headed downtown followed by two buses full of singing “girl fans.”
This 2003 Korea JoongAng Daily article by Kim Hyeh-won also looks back at that time, adding the extraordinary historical detail that some high schools in Seoul changed their exam timetables to prevent teenagers being morally corrupted – by Cliff Richard, for heaven’s sake! It’s also a fond look at Sir Cliff’s (as he was by then) return to Seoul 34 years later that year.
Despite efforts by groups to de-emphasize the concerts, Richard’s shows were in fact the first full-scale, live performances of a foreign pop star in Korea. The three sold-out concerts remain in the hearts of many Koreans now in their 40s and 50s, myself included, as unforgettable moments of youth.
The 1969 newspaper report pictured above, with hangul written vertically right-to-left as the Good Lord intended, translates as:
British pop song singer “Cliff Richard” group and six people came to Korea on the afternoon of 15th October at Gimpo Airport. About two hundred short-haired girls came there to meet them. Most of those who came to the airport had skipped school to hold up their placards high. When the “Cliff” party got off the plane they immediately screamed, and some burst into tears. When the “Cliff” party came out of the VIP room, the girls flocked to the Beatles-style people, clamouring and saying in clumsy English, “Look at me!”. Mobile police were dispatched to quell the madness. The airport staff who watched this and the police who sweated out blamed the girls’ madness, saying, “I’m speechless because it’s so pathetic” and lamented, “They trampled on the virtues of Korean women.”