Korean actor and pop star reaches isles for lawsuit
POSTED: Monday, March 16, 2009
On the first sunny day after weeks of cloudy weather, Rain came to Honolulu. The irony was not lost on local fans of the Korean pop superstar; it's just that they hate it when Rain's name is taken lightly.
The Korean mega pop star "Rain" is being sued by a promoter due to a 2007 show cancellation and will be testifying in a federal civil trial in Honolulu.
"Urrgh. Just don't say 'Rain falls' in a headline," complained Alishaa Asakura, 70. "That's the worst."
You didn't misread that age reference. The demographic of the 75 or so fans gathered at Honolulu Airport yesterday to greet the K-pop idol tended to skew older and female.
Rain's fan clubs are named after clouds. Although Honolulu Cloud President Geri Mehrtens, a bowling coach at Moanalua High School, "kind of liked" Rain—real name Jeong Ji-hoon—in the Korean telenovella "Sang Doo! Let's Go to School," she wasn't bitten by the Rain bug until she saw him perform in Las Vegas.
"His talent is just unbelievable, incredible, unreal," breathed the middle-age Mehrtens. "And his thing is overcoming challenges. See all the gray hair out here? Mothers love him. Sure, he has charisma, but mainly his life story is one of overcoming challenge, from being dirt poor and starving, to a mother who didn't want him to become a professional. He has a really good heart."
As for overcoming challenges, Rain is in Honolulu as a defendant in civil litigation, and scattered among the cheerful true believers at the airport were lawyers in dark suits, including Rain's mainland counsel and manager, Joy Kim.
Rain scuttled a 2007 concert tour just days before a scheduled stop in Honolulu, leaving promoters to pick up the pieces. Hawaii-based Click Entertainment Inc. alleges that Rain and his producers defrauded it of more than $500,000 in licensing fees and is seeking additional damages to cover costs of staging the event.
Asakura—who collects DVDs of Rain, even though they can't be played on American equipment—said the lawsuit is a bump in the road and that Rain's huge natural talent and gigantic empathy will win him new fans.
"From the first time I saw 'Sang Doo,' I knew he'd be big, the biggest ever, and with a big heart"—spreading her arms wide to illustrate—"like Obama is big. He speaks truth. He needs to show parents that there is integrity in the entertainment business. When I saw Rain perform in Las Vegas, I cried because he is so symbolic of what we need in these times."
Fan Gerrie Nakamura said that such devotion is part of a "hallyu wave" of South Korean culture sweeping the land.
"Korean drama fans want to support the movement," said Nakamura. "The music and drama coming out of Korea are the yin and yang, each one dependent on the other. You have to admire Rain's ambition, his aspiration for greatness."
A shriek erupts and grows louder, frantic. A pale young man in a Beatle cut sweeps through the International Arrivals exit and waves his hands at the welcomers, who immediately close in like a vise. Other passengers, pulling luggage, frantically try to duck out of the way. The swirling mob descends toward the street, and then Rain leaps in a limousine driven by former TV reporter and private investigator Matt Levi. Total time elapsed: about 30 seconds.
But the memory will last a lifetime. Asakura, her hands still clasped in wonder, steadied herself against a pillar. "I gave a special gift for him through his manager," she said, "a chi bracelet to give him strength.
"We're from the rock 'n' roll generation, the baby boomers who loved Elvis," she said. "We've been waiting for it to happen to all humanity, breaking the chains of sexuality, freedom and love. When I graduated from high school in 1957, I knew that these kids born today would be star-seeds who don't have our hang-ups, who would be free to pursue creativity. Rain—he should be given golden keys to the city."
The trial resumes today in U.S. District Court.