Yon-sama Draws Media Swarm to NHK

Bae Yong Joon in TokyoJapan’s national broadcaster got a taste of “Yon-sama” fever yesterday. NHK was so overwhelmed by media interest in the press event by the visiting Korean actor Bae Yong Joon (35) that they had to change the venue. Some 300 reporters from 150 Japanese and overseas companies crowded into the NHK studios in Shibuya, Tokyo, far more than turn out when Japan’s music stars announce the lineup for annual New Year’s Eve concert. Bae is in Japan to plug his latest TV drama series: “Taiou Shijinki” is a large-scale historical fantasy series, with Bae playing a king in ancient Korea. During filming, which extended over two years, he received serious neck injuries and a severed finger ligament during a sword-fight scene. The series aired in Korea at the end of 2007 and received very high audience ratings. A subtitled version was shown on NHK’s satellite channel, starting just before before the 24th and final episode aired in Korea. The dubbed version is currently airing on the main terrestrial channel at 11:10pm on Saturday nights. There is clearly still huge fan and media interest here in Bae – thousands turned out to greet his arrival in Japan – but it will be hard for the new series to match the incredible popularity and social phenomenon of “Winter Sonata.” The 2002 drama really ignited the Korean pop culture boom when it was shown here in 2004 and is still a big money spinner. Bae and co-star Choi Ji Woo are to reprise their roles in an upcoming anime version of the drama.

• American R&B star Usher is to perform a concert for just 100 lucky fans on his upcoming trip to Japan. His first visit in more than four years is to promote “Here I Stand,” his fifth studio album which recently entered the U.S. album chart at No.1. In Japan, where it was released on May 28, the album has topped the international chart and sold over 150,000 copies.