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Kazak, Philippines teams bag grand prize at K-pop festival

Kazakhstan duo JAM performs an encore after winning the performance section grand prize during the 2011 K-pop World Festival on Wednesday. (Yonhap News)
Kazakhstan duo JAM performs an encore after winning the performance section grand prize during the 2011 K-pop World Festival on Wednesday. (Yonhap News)
21 teams from 16 countries compete in Changwon


CHANGWON, South Gyeongsang ― A petite singer from the Philippines and a duo from Kazakhstan won the grand prizes at the 2011 K-pop World Festival Wednesday, where 10 teams from all over the world performed songs by their favorite Korean idols. Karla Carreon from the Philippines and JAM from Kazakhstan bested teams that had flown to the southeastern city of Changwon from Peru, Vietnam, Japan, China, Indonesia, Britain, Russia, the United States and more.

Carreon, who sang “Byeol (Star)” by Korean singer Yumi, said she had “never expected to win.” 
Karla Carreon, the vocal section grand prize winner, performs during the 2011 K-pop World Festival on Wednesday. (Yonhap News)
Karla Carreon, the vocal section grand prize winner, performs during the 2011 K-pop World Festival on Wednesday. (Yonhap News)

“There were so many good teams to hope for something. I’m just so happy,” the 17-year-old said, adding she was holding back her tears so her “makeup won’t be ruined.”

JAM, who won the first prize for performance after singing and dancing to boy band SHINee’s “Ring Ding Dong,” described their win as “shocking.”

“We think we won because we practiced a lot, well into the night,” the two college friends said during the press interview. “We’ll keep on performing around the world.”

The 10 teams that performed on Wednesday night in front an audience of some 9,000 were finalists who passed the semifinals held in Seoul the previous day.

A total of 21 teams from 16 different countries had flown to Korea hoping to bag prizes during the talent contest that showcased the winners from local competitions held by different Korean Cultural Centers in their respective countries.

The competition, supported by Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Korean Culture and Information Service and the Presidential Council on Nation Branding, is expected to be held annually with the increasing popularity of Korean pop music and culture throughout the world.

“This contest is for a good cause. It would be a meaningful event to keep,” said Cho Yeon-gap, deputy director of the Culture Ministry’s public relations bureau.

Cherelle Joy Thompson from Britain, who won the popularity award after singing G.NA’s “Whatever - enjoy your life,” said she felt privileged to be attending the contest.

“Korean songs are very easy to dance along to and refreshing,” she said during a backstage interview. “I especially like Girls’ Generation, SISTAR, SHINee ... all of them actually.”

Thompson was the only performer from Britain to attend the final contest. A total of 79 teams had competed during the June 3 local contest in Thompson’s home country.

Korean singer Eun Ji-won, one of the five-member jury, said he was surprised to hear the performers’ perfect pronunciation when singing and speaking Korean.

“I have no idea how they do it. And Korean is such a difficult language to learn,” he said.

Rocker Kim Jong-seo said all 21 teams were “winners already.”

“I am proud of them and also very proud of Korean music,” he said. “I have never quite realized the power of Korean music until tonight.”

K-pop stars including MBLAQ, T-ara, Infinite, SISTAR, Secret, K.Will, and CNBlue also performed during the festival.

While waiting nervously for their turns backstage, the performers took photographs of their favorite stars, shrieking with delight every now and then.

“We are really happy to be on this stage together with these singers. This is such a big experience for us,” NYE Boys from Indonesia said.

The four-member group won the participation prize after cover-dancing to SHINee’s “Lucifer” and SISTAR’s “So Cool.”

Culture Minister Choe Kwang-sik, who also attended the festival, congratulated the winners and the contenders saying he felt “proud to feel so much affection for Korean pop music.”

All 10 teams danced together to SHINee’s “Ring Ding Dong” as grand prize winner JAM performed an encore.

“I never expected them to be so good. I could just feel how much they loved the Korean singers and how hard they practiced,” said Kim Sae-rom, a 15-year-old who came to the concert with her friends.

KBS World will air the K-pop World Festival for two hours on Dec. 30.

By Shin Hae-in (hayney@heraldcorp.com)
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