By Park Chung-a
SHANGHAI ㅡ Lee Joon-ki, who rocketed to stardom in Korea since playing an effeminate court jester in the country’s most viewed film "King and the Clown," was already a popular star in China.
When he arrived at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport on Tuesday to participate as a top model in an Andre Kim fashion show, part of an event for the Korean textiles and apparel trade show "Preview in Shanghai 2006," he was overwhelmed by the heartfelt welcoming of hundreds of Chinese fans who were awaiting his arrival for hours. The fans _ mostly girls _ swooned at just a glance of Lee and passionately screamed "Li Joon-ki Wo I Nee!" meaning "I love you Lee Joon-ki," and reached out hands and gifts as he was waving, surrounded by security guards.
Fans holding a sketch of Lee Joon-ki wait in front of a building in Shanghai on Wednesday, which served as the Korean provisional government during Japanese colonial rule, to catch of glimpse of the actor. /By Park Chung-a
"I never expected such popularity here in China. I feel just like I am in Korea now. I knew that I had some Japanese fans, but China, I never imagined that I was so well known here," said Lee, in an interview with the Korea Times in a make-up room prior to the start of the fashion show on Wednesday.
"I think the major contributor to my fame here is the growing Internet force and active communication between Korean fans and Chinese fans," said Lee. "I was surprised to find that all of my schedule in Shanghai was revealed on the Web site of a Chinese fan club. I heard later that they got the information from Korean fan pages."
Although the movie "King and the Clown" has not yet been screened in China, Lee is not a new face in Shanghai as his recent TV drama "My Girl" has gained great popularity. Against the backdrop of Hallyu, the Korean Wave, numerous Korean TV dramas have been brought to and sold in China in the form of illegal DVDs and "My Girl" is one of them.
Every place he moved in Shanghai, from airport to hotel residence, Shanghai Provisional Government building, to Shanghai Mart _ the venue of the fashion show _ female fans would appear.
Chinese media have compared Lee to Leslie Cheung of "Temptress Moon."
"I should by no means be compared to such a great actor. I loved the movie ‘Temptress Moon’ and I respect the actor so much. Cheung’s role is something that I really want to do in the future," said Lee.
"Knowing that I have eyes on me here in China as well, I feel a great responsibility as an actor. Although I have no particular plan to promote myself as a Hallyu star at the moment, I will try my best to develop myself as a good actor so that I do not tarnish the achievements of other Hallyu stars," he said.
In Andre Kim’s fashion show, he graced the stage with royal costumes. "Walking on the stage as a model is much more difficult for me than acting. So I decided to consider myself an actor on the stage rather than a model," he said. "Andre Kim asked me to focus on strong eye expression." As for his favorite garmet in the show, he said "the black one with yellow decorations, it makes me feel like an emperor."
He is to depart Shanghai for Korea on Thursday.
"I can think no farther than this fall, when I will be shooting the movie ‘Fly Daddy Fly’ and going on promotional tours of ‘King and the Clown’ in foreign countries including Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan," he said.