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Celebrating 70 years of Korean-Philippine friendship

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OFFICIALS and schoolchildren toss paper planes during the 2019 K-Pop Friendship Concert at the Mall of Asia Arena on March 7. — LEI REYES

THE PHILIPPINES and Korea mark 70 years of diplomatic relations this year and last week celebrated the milestone through a one-of-a-kind “friendship concert.”

Held at the Mall of Asia Arena, the show featured three up-and-coming Korean pop groups — April, Noir and NCT Dream, a local rock band, Silent Sanctuary, and was attended by ranking government officials and members of the diplomatic corps.

Fans of the featured artists came in droves and were ecstatic to witness the free performance.

Ambassador of Korea to the Philippines, Dong-man Han, delivered the welcoming remarks, and surprised the audience by speaking in full Filipino throughout his three-minute speech.

Ang K-pop, Korean telenovelas, K-food ay sikat sa Pilipinas. Isa sa ating mga trabaho ay ang pagpapalaganap ng Korean wave dito sa bansa. (K-pop, Korean telenovelas, and K-food are popular in the Philippines. One of our tasks is to further promote Korean wave in the Philippines),” he said

He also noted that Seoul is one of the biggest sources of tourism for the Philippines, with 1.6 million tourist arrivals. Korea is also the fourth-biggest trading partner of the country.




Sa mga (hindi) fans ng K-pop, inaanyayahan ko kayo (na) suportahan ang paglago at pagtatag ng relasyon ng Pilipinas at Korea (For non-K-pop fans, we invite you to support the growth and strengthening of relations between the Philippines and Korea),” Mr. Han added.

Kim Yong-sam, Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Korea and Victorino M. Manalo, a commissioner of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and executive director of the National Archives of the Philippines, also spoke during the opening ceremonies.

But the crowd at the MOA Arena did not need any convincing. They loudly cheered for April, who visited Manila for the first time since the all-girl group debuted in August 2015. April sang four songs, kicking off with “Oh! My Mistake,” and following it up with “April Story,” “Take My Hand,” and “Tinker Bell.”

During a press conference held before the concert, the six-member band said it was a great honor to be part of the momentous occasion.

“We are thankful (for the opportunity) to perform (at the 70th anniversary concert),” said Rachel, one of April’s members. Another member, Chaekyung, said April is distinct from other girl groups due to its versatility. She said the they can easily pull off “cute” and even the “sexy” concepts.

April members Naeun and Yena said they look forward to more K-drama projects and participating in the popular Korean variety shows. However, their short-term goal is to top any of the K-music countdown programs in their next musical comeback.

For Noir, which was in the Philippines last December to hold a fan meeting, the return performance was a treat to their fans, who they recently christened as “Lumiere.”

The nine-member team, which was launched only in 2018, said that the warm welcome they received from Filipino supporters may result in more events in the Philippines in the future. They dished out “Airplane Mode” and “Gangsta” in their four-song set.

The main act of last week’s concert was NCT Dream, a group of teenage boys put together by Korean talent agency giant, SM Entertainment, and considered as among the most influential teens of 2018. NCT Dream is the third sub-unit of the bigger band, NCT, and, following a systematic admission-and-graduation system, its members are separated from the group upon reaching the age of 19.

Members Renjun, Jeno, Jaemin, Jisung, and Chenle sang some of NCT Dream’s hits including “Chewing Gum,” “Go,” “We Go Up,” and “My First and Last.”

Their intricate and complicated choreography wowed the crowd, and their performance was a fitting close to the showcase, which was hosted by comedian Ryan Bang and Kring Elezano-Kim.

Homegrown group Silent Sanctuary also held its own during its segment, with its members performing “Bumalik Ka Na Sa Akin” and “Sa ’Yo.”

The Philippines and Korea have been friends and allies since the post-World War II era. Given the cultural links and the apparent interest in each other’s way of life, the two countries are expected to continue to foster their close relationship in the coming years, well beyond their platinum anniversary.