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The Yon-Sama Phenomena

Jan 15, 2005

Korean soap-opera actor Bae Yong-joon is a mega-stud in Japan (his nickname there is Yon-Sama). The guy’s face is literally everywhere you turn, and his visage is used to hawk every possible purchasable item. In addition, the show that made him famous in Japan, Winter Sonata enjoys a cult following among middle aged and older women; and therein lies the rub. You see, while in Japan Yuki and I were able to critique Yon-Sama’s career-making role of Min-Hyung Lee in the aforementioned soap-opera. Of course, the dialogue was in Korean and the subtitles Japanese, but the story was standard fare (save for a few twists not usually seen in the States). While I certainly didn’t see anything special about his performance, Yuki, with the help of her friend Makko clarified the matter from the Japanese perspective. You see, Japanese middle-aged women (a large population in any case) tend to have a serious lack of romance in their lives. Whether that results from husbands who are too busy or simply ineffectual (or both) is irrelevant to the argument at hand. What has occurred as a result is a fanatical lust for Yon-Sama and his romantic leanings during the course of the show (and boy did it pour it on thick my friends). There were daily news stories of public Yon-Sama appearances occurring in the throngs of screaming Japanese babas. It’s a strange antithesis to the New Kids on the Block phenomenon of days gone by. Seeing the Yon-Sama cult alive and active in Japan, I pondered on the same topic from an American perspective. Try as a might, I struggle to find an equivalent in the States, although I may simply be too far out of touch having watched too many Dark Shadows re-runs. Come to think of it, I remember reading stories of there being a cultish following of Jonathan Frid among middle-aged women at the height of Dark Shadows’ popularity; fueled by his romantic portrayal of a tortured vampire. However, I still struggle to find today’s Frid or today’s Yon-Sama for the United States… and I how I can get that job.

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