Sep 062013

Just call her Soomin.

“It means ‘extraordinary beauty’ in English,” smiled Soomin, her eyes sparkling like the cold drink in front of her, speaking through her interpreter, fellow Korean Brian Lee who is marketing and international director of Starbliss Entertainment with which Soomin is under contract.

We’re having late dinner at Mario’s restaurant on Tomas Morato Avenue, Quezon City, Thursday night, approximately one hour ride away from Crowne Plaza where Soomin and the other K-Pop artists (including SHInee, EXO-K and Dal*Shabet) were billeted. They flew in from Seoul Thursday morning for the K-Pop Republic mounted by All Access Production tonight at the Smart Araneta Coliseum (for tickets, call Ticketnet at 911-5555). Also with us was Vic de Vera, Brian’s friend who arranged the interview. Vic is the managing director of Widescope Advertising Agency.

I became a bit apprehensive when Brian told me that he and Soomin took a cab to Mario’s (their service car was bringing the other artists to a money-exchange outlet and then to a spa) and I was relieved to know that Soomin, so fragile-looking like a Dresden Doll (you could mistake her for Carmina Villarroel), is a Taekwondo black-belter. Well, you know…

The name is perfect for the K-Pop singer who has the drop-dead looks and the figure to justify it, after all she’s also a supermodel and, soon, an actress ready for her movie debut, a true-life thriller called Target which will be partly shot in Cebu. She stands 5’9”, weighs 107 lbs. and measures 34-23-35. She’s in her early 20s but told that she could pass for 17 or 18, Soomin blushed and, bowing in the Korean tradition, thanked the interviewer profusely. She’s a darling.

Born in Seoul on Dec. 2, 1988, Soomin Chae has an older brother who is also a model, towering at 6’4” and equally good-looking — “Like my grandfather,” Soomin laughed. She described her childhood and family as “ordinary.” She graduated from the Dongduk University with a degree in Communication (major in Broadcasting).

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Soomin used to be the leader of the all-female group Aprilkiss which disbanded when the other members decided to quit showbiz. Soomin is here solo, with the rapper duo Crispy Crunch as co-performer. Offstage, she was reserved in a regal way, and the interviewer wondered how she was onstage.

“You want to find out?” she asked, still through her interpreter. “Watch the show and you might not be able to recognize me. I look different onstage.”

She could have concentrated on modeling but Soomin said she loved singing and acting, more.

“But I started a bit late,” she frowned. Her singing career was kicked off when she won in a singing contest.

Asked which singers she admires, Soomin mentioned Nina (yes, the Filipino singer). In tonight’s show, she will sing the Nina song If I Should Love Again.

“Actually,” explained Brian who is a frequent Philippine visitor in his capacity as Starbliss executive, “it was I who introduced Nina to Soomin. I like Nina’s music so I let Soomin listen to it. She instantly liked Nina’s songs, too, especially If I Should Love Again.”

“And Someday,” Soomin hastened to add and proceeded to sing the first stanza. Nina is invited to the show. “I’m looking forward to meeting her,” said Soomin.

Any other Filipino singer that she likes?

“Yes, Charice Pempengco,” smiled Soomin, her tongue twisted a bit as she pronounced the surname. “She’s very famous in Korea. I am interested in Filipino music.”

Told that Charice is a controversial singer because of her recent “coming out,” Soomin’s eyes widened, her jaw dropping a bit in disbelief. “Oh really!?!” Soomin gasped. “Never mind, it’s okay. I still love her music. Her song Note To God is my favorite.” Again, she sang the song’s first few lines. “Among foreign singers, I like Beyoncé and Bruno Mars.”

Does she also like Psy?

Soomin broke into a wide smile.

“Oh, Psy! Of course, I like him. I will do Gangnam Style on the show tonight.”

Not many Filipino fans probably didn’t know that, according to Brian, there are more than a hundred K-Pop groups, one of them the all-female 2NE1 with Sandara Park as member, the Star Circle Quest winner who coined the word krung-krung (as in crazy).

So what makes the K-Pop sound, which is sweeping not only Asia but other parts of the world, different from the rest? The K-Pop popularity comes on the crest of the mass appeal of Koreanovela which counts millions of fans worldwide, in the Philippines easing out the Latin-originated telenovela and the Chinovela.

Answering for Soomin, Brian said, “Maybe one of the reasons is how K-Pop combines distinctly Korean/Asian music with western electronic music.”

How does Soomin maintain her well-sculpted body?

“Oh, I exercise a lot…two to three hours every day. I love to eat but not a lot.”

Her knowledge of martial arts certainly helps keep her fit and fabulous.

“I am a Taekwondo black-belter,” volunteered Soomin who, knock on wood, has so far never been provoked by a bad guy. Or else…

No wonder then that anywhere she goes, even on a first visit to any country, she is confident.

By the way, does she have a boyfriend?

“None,” she blushed. “But so many admirers, hahahaha! So many friends,” adding what type of guys she finds attractive, “somebody who can communicate with me. I don‘t really care about how he looks. And he has to have a bit of a tummy.”

Then, she laughed and laughed as she finished the chocolate cake that she shared with Brian.

“If you ask me,” said Brian, “I like Filipino women and I would be happy to marry one.”

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