We’re excited to bring to you the second issue of our Celebrity Sightings series coming from none other than Softy, who you may better know as the live recapping extraordinare/goddess at Rebel Souls. Currently residing in Seoul, by the time you finish reading this, I think we would be able to all agree that she is the luckiest soul in the world when it comes to accidental K-celebrity sightings. Her celebrity sightings read like a “Who’s Who in the Korean showbiz,” and in fact, so long was her list that it became necessary to split her edition into two parts. It almost seems unfair for one girl to have so much luck, but Softy was kind enough to share her celebrity encounter stories so that we can all experience them vicariously through her. Thank you, Softy! (- Blue)
Korean celebrities are totally wasted on someone like me. I don’t know their names anyway, but more importantly, indifference keeps me from carrying a camera around or pulling out my cell phone to snap any pics. Plus it’s not my style to scream, push and shove to run over and ogle – I like to think I am more reserved than to behave that way – the word decorum is lost on fan girls. I’m more like “silently recognize but keep walking” type. Of course, although there are a select few I might break that rule for, it hasn’t happened yet.
Even though I may hardly know any of their names, one thing about me is I never forget a face. Growing up, I never saw a drama for the full hour much less a full series. When I wanted to spend time with my grandmother when she was visiting, sitting next to her as she watched her dramas was how I ended up seeing actors and actresses. As she watched them on TV, I stared at my grandmother’s face to memorize hers and once in a while she would make me look at the screen to marvel at how good looking some actor was – “fangirling” must run in the family cause my sister has it too, but it skipped right over my mom and me.
Not to sound overly dramatic, but Jang Dong Gun saved my life when I was around 19. I came down with what I thought was a severe case of the flu and had to stay in bed 24/7 and couldn’t even sit up properly. Worst part was I lived alone and only had friends drop by during the day to take care of me. At nights, I couldn’t sleep cause I was racked with coughing fits. While I was laid up thinking maybe this flu would be the death of me, I remember looking out at the stormy night and praying for a miracle cause I wanted the pain from the coughing to go away. My chest was hurting so much from all the non-stop coughing and I couldn’t think of anything else.
That was when I turned on the videos of Jang Dong Gun a friend had given me to kill time so I wouldn’t be so bored. I remember curling up in bed with his face so close to mine and studying his hands and his facial features. I swear the pain from my coughing eased a little every time I heard his voice or heard him sing. Just by watching and examining every feature about him, I was able to distract myself from the real life physical pain I was feeling for seconds at a time. For someone in a lot of pain, even a minute or two of respite meant the world to me. In those moments of desperation, I reached out to him and he reached back metaphorically – his existence mattered. It mattered more than anything cause it gave me some sense of purpose. Then I made myself a promise, an incentive to will my body to get better. I told myself that if I recovered from this I would go and live in Korea for a while and track down Jang Dong Gun and meet him in person to thank him for indirectly helping me through this. It turned out what I had wasn’t the flu. It was bronchitis, which turned into pneumonia, so I was hospitalized right away. Needless to say, I got better and proceeded to forget all about the promise I made to myself.
Years later I ended up in Korea. From time to time I would hear his name and think about what he did for me, but I am no stalker. I was too apathetic to do any chasing or spying, so fate stepped in and gave me a hand. I was taking a cab to my favorite restaurant and Jang Dong Gun was standing outside of it near the Hyatt. There is an adjoining café so I wasn’t sure if he was coming in or leaving. He was talking to someone in a car, but he stood up straight and that’s when I saw his face. He had on a gray cap and a dark colored top with jeans. He looked perfect.
I made my cab driver pull over in the middle of the street and let me out. I just stood there staring at him and cars could have run me over, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t move. He looked at me and smiled. I’m pretty sure I didn’t smile back cause I remember thinking, “Don’t stare at him. He probably wouldn’t like it.” I thought I should try to move my feet so I started to walk away from him, but I kept looking over. I couldn’t help myself. I think he was surprised I didn’t just go over and talk to him and instead kept looking over at him like a shy person. This was the moment I had been waiting for, but I just couldn’t talk to him. He meant too much to me – I had so much to be grateful for so it was too scary to face him. Plus he was married and had a baby so it was more awkward. (My crush ends when that happens.) So I forced myself to walk away from him and the restaurant I was suppose to go into, and walked all the way up the hill and stood up there for a few minutes till I felt safe that he had left before heading back down. Thank goodness he was gone because I don’t think I could have faced him after behaving so strangely. Most women run towards him, not deliberately walk away from him. Guess in that way, I will be memorable to him. To this day, I want to kick myself for not talking to him.
Pretty much everywhere you go around Seoul, you can spot celebrities here and there even on a daily basis cause most of them live in particular areas or at least play in the same neighborhoods. I go where the great food is and the best ones are where celebrities hang out. There is a yummy bubble tea place I frequent and pretty much every boy band, girl group, and other celebrities all go there for their bubble tea fix. The two grandmas that run the place know me and greet me warmly every time I go and tell me which new star has dropped by as they make my usual order – peach “bubble – boba” tea with fresh Korean peaches with extra bobas. Their walls are covered with autographed photos of everyone who has dropped by and there aren’t any empty spots so now they just add the newer ones on top of the older pics. Even Japanese tourists drop by in hopes of seeing someone famous while they are there or take pics next to their favorite celebrities’ autograph.
If you frequently go to places like Apgujeong-dong or Cheongdam-dong, it’s a normal thing to run into them at department stores, on the streets, or just by accident somewhere. I used to see tons of them at my old gym too (California Fitness). So many of these celebrities I see are either pop singers or models – famous enough to have their own shows and stuff, but no one I care to pay much attention. I don’t know any of their names at all so Blue had to add them in based on my descriptions. Like that woman on the cable TV show, Manny – the one who played the tall sister who used to be a model (Byun Jung Soo). I see that woman all the time on a regular basis at cafes like Artisse. She comes with two or three other people, and likes to talk a lot and be the center of attention.
Some are older and I don’t think anyone knows them or would even care, like real-life husband of the woman from Bad Guy, the lead actress who played the married woman Kim Nam Gil’s character seduced. (Oh Yeon Soo) Her husband who used to be an actor and singer, I think (Son Ji Chang) – I saw him and the guy from Athena – the older one who used to be a singer back then around the same time (Kim Min Jong). Both of them were walking in front of the Galleria, but no one cared. They seemed to be lost in conversation as they walked down the street and only ajummas or grandmas gave them a second glance.
Another older actor is the guy from Sandglass who played the lawyer. (Park Sang Won) There was a drama shooting nearby and he was walking over alone. I immediately recognized his face since I was forced to stare at it so much growing up and the brainwashed part of my brain recalled my grandmother’s words telling me that when I grew up, I had to marry someone who looked like him with that voice. After having heard that for the millionth time, I gave it my usual 5% attention and droned, “Yes, grandmother.”
So even though I saw him for a split second, I said, “There goes my grandma’s number one crush,” and my native Korean friend jumped into action. She was his fan and thought I would have a better chance speaking with him since I’m a gyopo (Korean American). So before I knew it, she ran over and said I wanted to meet him. That’s how I ended up having a very awkward conversation in English with him – a man whose face had been ingrained in my brain since I could practically walk, but whose name I did not know. He was very friendly and courteous asking about where I grew up and stuff. Only problem is I didn’t even care that I was talking to him. I told him my grandma was a huge fan of his and he laughed. When I called my grandmother to tell her I met her crush, she thanked me for being born so she could hear every detail for hours. At one point I told her it would be cheaper for me to fly back home and tell her in person cause the phone bill was going to be outrageous, but she wouldn’t let me hang up so I had to describe for her again what he was wearing, how he looked, and how his voice sounded. The woman wanted details and wouldn’t let me sleep. I told her it was all her doing cause she forced me to watch the most boring dramas with her so I knew his face better than my own. Thank goodness I didn’t tell her about the next celebrity I saw. This time I would hear an earful from my sister.
This next actor happens to be one of the few I know by name. I met Lee Jung Jae near Rodeo in Apgujeong in front of a movie theater. He was the first major celebrity I saw and the reason why I don’t talk to celebrities anymore. He leaned against his sports car and just waited expectantly for my friend to go over and ask for his autograph. (I hung back cause I was shy.) She told him I was a gyopo, and suddenly he ignored my friend cause she is a native Korean, but he was sweet and attentive to me. My guess is that he wanted to practice his English with me. He asked me my name, where I was from, what my plans were for the summer, how I liked Korea, etc. We spoke till the person he was waiting on came out and then they left. During our conversation, he signed something, but I don’t even know where it went cause I sort of hate getting autographs. I didn’t even ask for that one, but he gave it to me. He is the reason I was turned off by celebrities. Just the way he carried himself and how he spoke – the tilt of his head and that grin – the way he thought he was bestowing on me and I should feel honored just made what little crush I had left just crumble and disappear. Now thanks to him, I don’t like to give celebrities any more attention than they are already getting and expecting. The man has an ego the size of Texas and he doesn’t try to hide it. I guess he earned the right to be so arrogant in a way since he is considered a big star, but arrogance is a major turnoff for me – big star or not.
When I was walking down the street, I saw a father and son walking towards me. The father was looking down at his son who was at the age where he wanted to walk more than he wanted to be carried. There were gorgeous women walking all around them, some calling out to the dad and saying hello since he is famous. He bowed politely at them, but only had eyes for his son.
The way they looked at each other – so full of love and adoration – made me ache for a minute. I think any single woman who comes upon a moment like that stops and makes a little prayer- “please let me meet a husband like that who will end up being a father like that.” That image of those two is still embedded in my heart. The father’s name is Sean Noh and his wife is Jung Hye Young. People know her as Kim Hyun Joong’s character’s mom in Playful Kiss. Even though I had to look up her name just now, I think of her as one of the luckiest women on earth.
Kim Hee Ae (Midas) lives above my friend’s home – my friend lives on the 11th floor in a condo near Hyundai Department store in Apgujeong. She was coming in and said hello to my friend. I was introduced to her, but I didn’t know her name at the time. (I had to look her name up just now.) I only knew her from one drama I can’t remember the name of, where she played the woman who stole her best friend’s husband (My Man’s Woman), and I knew her face from all those SKII commercials.
Her skin was all shiny like she just came home from getting a facial. She was wearing all black, was very stylish, and carrying a great handbag. She was pleasant enough, but not like over the top sweet. The woman has a tiny face and a super thin body. She definitely looks better in commercials and pics.
There are two Galleria department stores in Cheongdam-dong near Rodeo. One is the mainstream one, and the other carries more exclusive designer brands, like Chanel and Tiffany.
The second one is where I saw Go So Young. It was before her relationship with Jang Dong Gun went public, so she wasn’t married then. I saw that mole from a mile away and knew she was famous, but couldn’t remember her name at all. I never saw her dramas but I knew she was an actress. I saw her shopping with a female friend at Chanel, so I walked over as I was curious to see what our height difference was. She is not tall at all. We both had on heels that day, but she is almost my height. I walked away pleased as punch. Don’t ask me why I was happy about that. Didn’t you ever like to compare yourself to someone more beautiful and win at just about anything silly, like better hair or better figure? Of course she tops me for everything else, but at least height-wise, we are even.
Park Hae Jin is the not so famous guy from East of Eden (I never saw it) who was also on Family Outing for a while before it ended. He was walking along Sinsadong’s Garosu-gil (Gingko tree-lined street), and he looks really good in person. He had on sunglasses and a nice outfit, and for a second I thought he was someone really famous, but my friend said he wasn’t that big of a star.
I saw Kim Min Hee, the tall one with big eyes from the movie Actresses at the Galleria food court area. The thing about celebrities is that no matter what they are wearing, they just look like a celebrity right away. Just from the back, they carry themselves differently. Her figure stands out since she also models a lot of brands.
There was a huge crowd gathered in Myeongdong. I thought someone big like Rain may be there, so I edged a little closer to take a peek. Since he is tall, he was pretty easy to spot over the crowd. As soon as I saw his face, I turned around and kept walking. It was Shin Hyun Joon from Cain and Abel. I already saw him a few years back getting into his car at the Marriot Hotel. Except for his height, there is nothing about his looks or acting that impresses me. Quite the opposite, he has the oddest features –scary eyes, long nose, long face, etc. I definitely didn’t need to run into him twice.
When I was watching Best Love, I kept seeing the guy who played Ae-jung’s brother, Jung Joon Ha. On any given Sunday evening, there is a group of comedians (one is Haha, who happens to be best friends with MC Mong) milling around Onnuri Church in Dongbu-Ichon-dong (East Ichon). Even though these guys have busy schedules, I often see them standing on the corner hanging out, talking and saying hello to every grandma or grandpa who passes by them and shake their hands. They are very friendly and chit chat with their elderly fans. I always think of them as the “Sweet Trio” cause they always have something in their hands to munch on and since they are so nice to people who recognize them.
Please look forward to the upcoming Part 2, where Softy will share her stories of encountering Lee Min Ho, Yoo Ah In, and many others!