Top Korean and Korean-American pop stars are combining their talents to help Honolulu’s Korean community raise its profile and establish a cultural center on Oahu.
The “Korean Radio Star Concert” will showcase a variety of stars, from a famous crooner to an up-and-coming Korean-American girl group, with all proceeds going toward establishment of the Hawaii Korean Cultural Center.
“This is the first time for this event,” said David Lim, of Radio Korea Hawaii, the show’s main sponsor. “We’re bringing in singers from Korea and from L.A.”
Byun Jin-sub, the first singer to sell a million albums in Korea, is the headliner. Gloria Woo, also of Radio Korea Hawaii, calls him a “legendary balladeer” in Korea. He’s been spinning out hits since the early 1990s.
“His fan base is very large,” said Woo. “I’m 24 and grew up here, but I know his songs. Even a lot of the older generation, they know him well.”
‘KOREAN RADIO STAR CONCERT’
Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall, 777 Ward Ave.
When: 7 p.m. tonight
Info: 800-745-3000, or visitwww.ticketmaster.com
Bobby Kim, known in Korea as the “Godfather of Soul,” is also on the bill. Kim started in the 1990s as a rapper.
“He’s had a lot of hit songs from Korean drama, which are very popular in Hawaii,” Woo said. “People know him through his voice. He has a very peculiar voice when he sings. So even if he’s part of a group, you’ll know that’s Bobby Kim.”
Kim also works behind the scene to develop other acts, including hip-hop group Buga Kingz, also joining the concert.
Two up-and-coming singers from Los Angeles who are popular in Korea are in on the act: Lola Fair and Baby J. Their 2007 release “Digital Love” was seen as a breakthrough, which they have followed with “K-Town Girl.” According to their website, their songs are like short stories, addressing topics like “letting go of love,” the life of a “K-Town party girl” and homosexuality.
The R&B duo hopes to become the first Asian-Americans to become mainstream stars.
“We can’t have just guys in the (show),” Woo said. “They have a lot of ballads and they have dance songs. They’re very strong vocal singers.”
The artists for the show were chosen to attract a broad range of people, Woo said. “There’s a wide variety of genres (in Korean pop music), so if you have that variety, then everyone should find something they like.”
THE CONCERT is one of many ways that local Koreans renew ties with their ancestral homeland and the rest of the overseas Korean community, Lim said. Those ties date to 1903, when the Koreans first came here to work on plantations, and were strengthened when the immigrant community started sending money back to Korea to fight for independence from Japanese colonialists.
“The first Korean president (Syngman Rhee) was from Hawaii,” Lim said. “He went back to Korea to organize the independence movement.”
The cultural center is an important issue for Koreans. Lim, who is on a committee looking into the center, said the South Korean government has allocated $1 million for the project, though a final budget has yet to be determined. Community leaders launched the project in 2006 and are looking for an appropriate site.
“(The concert is) an annual promotion to let our community know that we’re still in need,” Lim said, adding that it will be videotaped for later broadcast abroad. “The main thing is we want to have this cultural center established as soon as possible, but there are limits to what we can do here.”
—Steven Mark / email@example.com