The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Korean-Japanese teen trot duo Lucky PangPang makes ambitious debut

15-, 16-year-old trot singers challenge genres across borders together

By Lee Jung-youn

Published : June 30, 2024 - 15:33

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Sumita Aiko (left) and Kim Da-hyun ( Entertainment) Sumita Aiko (left) and Kim Da-hyun ( Entertainment)

Despite their young ages, Kim Da-hyun (15) from South Korea and Sumita Aiko (16) from Japan are remarkable singers.

Both were selected as the youngest contestants, respectively, on audition programs "The Current King" in Korea and "Trot Girls Japan" in Japan, which aired from November last year to February this year.

The two young singers met on MBN program "Korea-Japan King's Battle" -- which aired from April to May -- where they engaged in friendly competition. This show brought together the Top 7 contestants from each of the previous programs to compete as representative singers of Korea and Japan.

The two girls decided to go a step further by releasing song as a duo, and announced their aspirations to become global stars with the release of their debut song, "Damdadi."

“Our team name, ‘Lucky PangPang,’ means a charm for bringing good fortune. It's a name chosen to convey our bright and refreshing energy to the audience,” explained Kim during an interview with reporters on June 21.

“Aiko is cute off stage, but she transforms completely on stage, becoming charismatic and cool. I had to showcase powerful dances for the first time for our debut song, and I learned a lot from Aiko, who excels at such performances,” Kim said.

Sumita also praised Kim for her hard work. “When I think about how much effort she puts in behind her smiling face, it's truly admirable. Da-hyun also sings Japanese songs very well although she is still in the process of learning Japanese.”

Despite their young age, they know how to infuse deep emotions into their music. “Even when singing old songs, it doesn't feel particularly challenging. When I sing, the emotions flow naturally and I get immersed in the feelings,” said Kim.

Kim shared that when she sings on stage, she sometimes gets so deeply immersed that she can't remember how she performed afterward, demonstrating a level of dedication beyond her years. She mentioned that while appearing on the program, she successfully performed “Tsugaru Strait Winter Scene,” a song released by Japanese singer Ishikawa Sayuri in 1977, and enjoyed singing traditional Japanese pop music as well.

“After trying Japanese songs, I felt that they were similar to Korean ones, and I felt comfortable and happy performing them,” said Kim.

Sumita mentioned that she had been dreaming of becoming a singer since childhood, influenced by her mother, who enjoyed listening to Showa music. Showa music refers to the Japanese music genre that appeared during the Showa era, from 1926 to 1989.

“Showa music and Korean trot share similarities, such as delicate melodies and themes of familial affection. Therefore, singing old Korean songs wasn't difficult for me, as I drew on my experience with Showa music,” said Sumita, adding that she is learning Korean from Kim and Korean staff members.

Their debut song as a duo, “Damdadi,” is a remake of a song originally released by Korean singer Lee Sang-eun in 1992. “We rearranged it into an '80s-style disco song to highlight our lively spirits,” said Sumita.

Kim, who has been performing traditional Korean music since childhood and often uses its techniques and nuances, emphasized that for “Damdadi,” she tried to sing in a more girlish voice, without the traditional Korean music elements. “I worked hard to create a clean and pure sound and minimize the traditional singing techniques.”

The two expressed their dreams of leading cultural exchanges between Korea and Japan, as they are the first Korean-Japanese trot duet.

“Since we are the first Korean-Japanese duo, I hope this will lead to more cultural exchanges and more stages where Korean and Japanese singers perform together,” said Kim.

“We want to deliver performances that touch people's hearts and challenge many genres. I believe we can achieve more together,” Sumita said.