The Korea Herald


Korean actors turn to singing springboard to Japan

Using existing K-drama fan bases, actors turn to singing to further exploit foreign markets

By Lee Woo-young

Published : May 30, 2013 - 19:50

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Korean actor Kim Nam-gil will become the next actor-turned-singer with the release of a new album in Japan in July, following the footsteps of other Korean actors who released albums to pave the way for expanding their fan bases in Japan.

Kim, who rose to stardom with the hit period drama “Queen Seondeok,” is the latest in a string of Korean actors making singing debuts in the neighboring country. 
Kim Nam-gil. (Yonhap News) Kim Nam-gil. (Yonhap News)

Starting with actor and singer Ryu Si-won and the late Park Yong-ha, who won fame in the early 2000s in Japan, releasing an album there has been the first step for Korean actors to winning even more hearts.

“They already have huge numbers of fans in Japan who like their previous dramas. The next step for them to be more known is releasing a single. It’s the easiest way they can sell themselves in the Japanese entertainment market,” said culture critic Lee Moon-won.

Lee added that actors who have built a solid acting career choose to sing, as language barriers keep them from jumping into acting in Japanese dramas and films.

Kim’s debut album will include a song familiar to many Japanese ― a remake of a song by Tamaki Koji, a member of the famous rock band Anzenchitai ― and two other songs from the period drama in which he starred. Kim is slated to hold a concert tour through Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo in July.

Thanks to the existing large fan base, many Korean actors-turned-singers rose to instant stardom in Japan. Actor Lee Min-ho, who became famous for his role in “Boys over Flowers,” topped the Oricon chart on Wednesday with his first single. It was considered a rare occasion for an actor to secure the top spot on Japan’s prestigious music chart. Other Korean idol groups such as KARA, TVXQ and BoA have topped the chart in the past.

“The popularity of actor Lee Min-ho has been proven by dramas, TV programs and DVD sales in Japan. The release of the album is yet another market being explored as a result. He released the album without promotions or any broadcast appearances. It’s pretty amazing,” an entertainment industry critic was quoted as saying in a local report. 
Lee Min-ho Lee Min-ho

Lee will hold concerts in Osaka and Yokohama in June.

Culture critic Lee attributes Korean actors’ debut as singers in Japan to the Japanese entertainment system.

“It’s the way the Japanese entertainment industry works, to be more specific, their idol group industry system. They create a whole package of their stars. Idol groups start as singers, but then go into acting later, and actors become singers and release albums,” said Lee.

“It happens frequently in countries where the entertainment industry is small. One has to have versatile talents in Japan and in Hong Kong as well,” Lee added.

By Lee Woo-young (