Open the secret door and see.
It begins with magic-like wonder.
The glittering world is waiting.
– English translation of “My Brand New Days” by Apink.
Every week for the past 15 years, I’ve sat down in front of my computer and written something I thought you wanted to read, but this week I decided instead to write something I wanted to write.
Usually, before I decide what the column will be on, I ask myself what readers are talking about, what they’re interested in that week, etc. – but this time I’m writing about something that, I’m willing to bet, you’ve never even heard of.
(In fact, if you have ever heard of what I’m writing about, please email me at Scottfromtherhino@yahoo.com because I really want to hear from you.)
The subject this week is something far, far away – in fact, it’s almost exactly on the other side of the world.
Apink is a six-woman South Korean K-pop group formed by A Cube Entertainment (which now goes under the name Plan A Entertainment). Apink debuted on April 19, 2011, with the release of their first album Seven Springs of Apink. They just released their new album – One & Six – and the single “I’m So Sick” – which is now being played on radio stations all over South Korea, the Philippines, Malaysia and other parts of the Far East.
Apink is made up of six of the nicest, most wonderful, talented human beings on the planet: Park Chorong, Yoon Bomi, Jung Eunji, Son Naeun, Kim Namjoo and Oh Hayoung. They are, as far as I can tell, magical in every sense of the word and, basically, indistinguishable from perfect.
Since their debut nearly eight years ago, Apink has earned success and widespread recognition in Asia, if not in North Carolina. Apink has released 10 albums or mini-albums and won more than 30 music awards.
Everywhere they go they spread happiness and love through their music and dance as well as through the way they interact with people. Their songs are in Korean – with a slight bit of English thrown in here and there – but it has never bothered me one bit that most of the time I have no clue what they are saying. Because, even though I can’t understand what they are saying or singing, when I hear their music or see them in a video, I understand what they’re saying.
Here are the members …
Chorong, 27. A daughter of a martial arts master, she holds a third-degree black belt herself. Korean society is a very age-based society and Chorong is the oldest member of Apink, which, by default, makes her the leader of the group. From the YouTube videos, it’s crystal clear that her favorite food is chicken feet. I can’t imagine even eating chicken feet at all, but Chorong sure can.
Naeun, 24. She’s considered the “visual” of the group. In K-pop speak, the visual means the most beautiful one. But it’s so funny to me that the other five talk about how pretty Naeun is, because each and every member of Apink is crazy-beautiful. Naeun does a ton of endorsements for products in South Korea – everything from makeup to drinks – but the problem is that she’ll advertise a product and the commercial will hit the air one night and by noon the next day you can’t buy that product anywhere because whatever she’s promoting is sold out all over the country.
Namjoo, 23. Kim Namjoo was discovered through a YouTube video. I think Namjoo is the best dancer in the group but a lot of people say it’s Bomi and I do admit that it’s a close call. Namjoo is fun, fun, fun. Fun all the time, 24/7. She is never down or exhausted. (She has a nickname that translates into English roughly as “tireless energizer.”) If you could take fun and put it in a bottle, the label would say “Kim Namjoo” on it. I read once that her favorite food is her mother’s kimchi stew. Namjoo and Eunji are the best singers in the group. Did I mention that Namjoo is fun.
Bomi, 27. In some ways Bomi is the heart and soul of the group. She will always surprise you with her talents; for instance, she is a marvelous drummer though you will rarely see her playing drums. Bomi is famous throughout Korea for – and I’m not making this up – her impersonation of a gorilla, which I must say is an unquestionably excellent impersonation. In Korean, “bomi” means “Spring,” and that really fits with her warm personality.
Hayoung, 22. She is the youngest member and, at about 5’ 7” she’s also the tallest. She has big eyes with an expression like a very sweet baby dear caught in headlights. Hayoung is the youngest of the group but of course that makes her the boss whenever Yaja Time rolls around.
Last, and certainly not least, is Eunji. Her nickname is “Happy Virus” because anytime she’s around, you can’t help but be happy, and she spreads joy all around her. She has the singing voice of an angel and is also a brilliant actress. Eunji is soooo talented that it’s quite amazing that not a single one of you have ever heard of her – even if she is on the other side of the planet. Eunji just released a new solo album, Hyehwa, which is named after a section of Seoul.
I got so interested in Apink and Eunji that I wanted to see her act. I found a 16-episode series, Reply 1997, on Netflix. Eunji played the lead character, Sung Shiwong,
The show was about a different culture and was in Korean with English subtitles but, regardless, halfway through the first episode, I was completely absorbed. After each show, I was dying to see the next episode but I forced myself to limit watching to one episode a night. Each night, I’d wait until every thing else was taken care of and it was quiet and I would sit down and turn off my phone and watch.
I can’t remember ever being so caught up in anything. Even though it was a show in an unfamiliar language about people in a place thousands of miles away, it was as though that series was made just for me. It is basically a love story about two people who belong together and I would get so upset watching it that I would shout things at the TV like, “Tell her how you feel – you idiot!” When I was on the 12th episode, I told a friend, “If Sung Shiwong doesn’t end up with the guy she’s supposed to, I’m going to get on a plane and fly to Korea, track down the writers and cuss them out.”
After I finished watching Reply 1997, I wanted to see her other shows so I signed up for some obscure Korean TV show internet provider and watched Trot Lovers, which I loved nearly as much. I’m getting ready to watch Winter the Wind Blows, which also features Eunji.
One time I was thinking about Eunji and I thought: I’ll bet she has never even heard of North Carolina, because, how would she have? But then, not long after that, I was watching an Apink music video and they were in basketball jerseys and, remarkably, out of nowhere, there was Eunji wearing a sky blue North Carolina Tar Heel basketball jersey. It made no sense because the other five members were wearing jerseys from professional teams but there it was: Eunji with the words “North Carolina” printed across her jersey in big letters. I was thrilled to find the Apink-North Carolina connection.
So, anyway, now you know about Apink – the burst of fresh air and love that has blown in this direction. It has gotten me thinking a great deal. It was completely random how I stumbled across them one night while trying to learn to use the YouTube app on my new Apple TV. Otherwise, there’s no way I would have heard about them.
That made me think about all the great things in the world that we don’t even realize are out there and that we might miss and that we probably do miss. What music is there in Botswana that I would absolutely love but that I may never hear unless I search for it? What delicacy in Newfoundland would I find amazingly delicious but may never even know about? What books would I love but never know of because they are rarely read outside of the original Cantonese version? We constantly read the same writers, listen to the same music and we eat at the same four or five restaurants over and over again even though there are hundreds within a short drive.
It is a big wide world and it’s absolutely frightening to me to think about all that I am missing that I would love if I could just find it. But now, at least, I’m much more likely to go out and look for it. I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and escape the trap of locality and look where you have never looked before to see what’s there for you.
The glittering world is waiting.