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‘Emperor of Trot’ Na Hoon-a concert proves 73-year-old’s star power

Na Hoon-a performs at “2020 Chuseok Grand Plan Republic of Korea Again Na Hoon-a.” (KBS screenshot)
Na Hoon-a performs at “2020 Chuseok Grand Plan Republic of Korea Again Na Hoon-a.” (KBS screenshot)

Along with eating traditional food and getting together with family, for many, one of the highlights of this year’s Chuseok holidays was watching local broadcaster KBS 2TV’s “2020 Chuseok Grand Plan Republic of Korea Again Na Hoon-a” on Wednesday.

The 2-hour and 40-minute recording of 73-year-old trot singer Na Hoon-a’s first-ever online concert, which took place Sept. 23 and aired Wednesday, got a record-breaking viewership rating of 29 percent, according to market tracker Nielsen Korea.

Although the concert was originally supposed to be held outdoors, the rising number of COVID-19 cases made it impossible to proceed with the initial plan.

“When I first planned this concert, I wanted to perform not in the concert hall, but outside with lots of people. But COVID-19 made the concert unable to have a live audience,” said Na during Saturday’s program, which showed the making of the concert. “I couldn’t lose to COVID-19 and told them I would take care of everything with just a piano and a guitar. It was that difficult.”

It was Na’s first TV appearance in 14 years. The last time he appeared on TV was on MBC’s “Na Hoon-a Special” in 2006.

Anticipation for the concert was unexpectedly high with Na’s fans from all over the world filling out applications on the KBS website in September for a chance to see the concert live on Sept. 23. The heavy traffic temporarily shut down the KBS website.
The fortunate applicants selected to be part of the audience watch the Na Hoon-a concert live. (KBS screenshot)
The fortunate applicants selected to be part of the audience watch the Na Hoon-a concert live. (KBS screenshot)

With over 3,000 songs released since his debut in 1966, Na was the BTS of the 1970s thanks to his unique voice and vocal techniques, along with his eternal rival, singer Nam Jin. Despite his popularity, Na has seldom appeared on TV, preferring instead the excitement of live concerts.

Planning for the concert began six months ago, with the goal of offering comfort to South Koreans suffering from the COVID-19 situation. He decided to perform free of charge, and the concert was shown without any advertisements. The show is not available through replay services.

“I felt that I would regret it if I did nothing because of COVID-19,” said Na.

Singing some 30 songs during the concert, Na showcased his latest songs released just last month. Wearing ripped jeans and performing wire action, Na amply demonstrated why he is called the “Emperor of Trot,” singing his heart out until the very last song.
“2020 Chuseok Grand Plan Republic of Korea Again Na Hoon-a” (KBS)
“2020 Chuseok Grand Plan Republic of Korea Again Na Hoon-a” (KBS)

Na also gave his condolences to Koreans and cheered them on against the pandemic.

“We have heroes. They are the doctors, nurses and all the medical staff that are fighting COVID-19. Without them, we would be unable to go through this,” said Na during the concert. “I will use every ounce of me until the end, so give a round of applause to the medical staff and shout ‘Republic of Korea!’”

Na also mentioned his plans for retirement.

“To be honest, I am looking for the right time and place to step down,” said Na. “I think it’s time to step down, so I am searching for where to step down from and when to put down the microphone. I don’t think that time will be long in the future, but I will do my best to sing.”

Bolstered by the popularity of the concert on Wednesday, KBS showed its “Na Hoon-a Special,” featuring behind-the-scenes footage from the concert, late Saturday night. It ended well past midnight. Despite the late hour, the special racked up an 18.7 percent viewership rating, according to Nielsen Korea.

By Lim Jang-won (ljw@heraldcorp.com)
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