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Fans go gaga over Kara

K-pop group Kara members (from left) Kang Ji Young, Nicole Jung, Park Gyuri and Goo Ha Ra at Resorts World Sentosa. (ST PHOTO: PANDORA WONG)

Publication Date : 12-07-2012


For a girl band riding on the Hallyu or Korean pop culture wave, Kara attracted a sizeable Japanese fan base on their maiden visit here.

About 1,500 people showed up for their showcase to promote their first fragrance, K5J, at Resorts World Sentosa's Festive Grand Theatre on Tuesday night.

Pockets of fans speaking in Japanese were seen waiting to go into the 1,600-seat venue.

These Japanese supporters, some of whom looked like they arrived straight from the office in formal work attire, were certainly vocal and visible. Lightsticks dotting the theatre were enthusiastically waved when Kara asked about Japanese fans in the audience.

Not surprising, really, given the five-year-old quintet's popularity in the Land of the Rising Sun. The group - Park Gyuri, 24; Han Seung Yeon, 23; Goo Ha Ra, 21; Nicole Jung, 20; and Kang Ji Young, 18 - are only the third K-pop act to sell over a million singles in total in Japan, after top artists BoA and TVXQ, according to South Korean Web portal Nate.

Speaking to Life! before their showcase, Kara's members seemed still stunned by their success.

"It didn't feel real at first when we learnt of it through news reports. Even till today, we still can't believe it and will continue to work hard for amazing results," said Park, the group's leader, in Korean.

Asked to account for their appeal, and Jung - who is Korean-American and the de facto translator for the band - said in fluent English that it is 'Kara's charm'. "We are very professional onstage and off-stage. We come across as very approachable to our fans, sort of like the girl-next-door or younger sister, with a comfortable and friendly image," she added, while Park, Goo and Kang smiled.

Han, who had been hospitalised last Saturday for headaches and dizziness due to acute anaemia, was absent as she is recuperating in Korea.

Despite the group's success in and focus on the Japanese market, Park said: "We run between both places, Korea and Japan, but try not to neglect our Korean fans by having more activities there. We don't have specific promotion plans for Asia at the moment."

On Saturday, they have a spot on MTV's World Stage Live In Malaysia 2012, part of the cable music channel's global series of concerts, at Sunway Lagoon - alongside teen superstar Justin Bieber and Korean-American singer Jay Park.

"It's our first time on the MTV World Stage and we've never been to Malaysia. We're very excited," said Jung. "We want to go to the beach, swim and stuff like that."

At the hour-long gig later, they sang two songs - "I'm... (Ing)" and "With My Heart (Dear Kamilia)" - and interacted with their fans by teaching them dance moves.

Never mind that their Japanese singles, such as "Mister" and "Jumpin'" off their first full-length Japanese album in 2010 "Girl's Talk", were conspicuously missing. The audience never let up on their loud roars and applause.

One lucky Japanese man, wearing a T-shirt with the slogan 'I (heart shape) Kara', was picked to play a dancing game with the girls onstage.

He was holding two stuffed toys from Universal Studios Singapore. He had seen Kang buying stuffed toys of the same design during the group's visit to the theme park on July 9, and had to buy a similar pair.

At the end of the showcase, Jung said with much earnestness: "We're very sorry that Seung Yeon couldn't attend, and we've prepared a special surprise on the way out. Don't forget, please."

The surprise? A 45-ml bottle of K5J for each audience member. Sweet and well-packaged (and we do not just mean the perfume).


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