Recently the "non-Koreans" of hit boy bands were interviewed by Yonhap News. It included Alexander (21, Hong Kong) of U-Kiss, Tomo (22, Japan) and Hai Ming (22, China) from A'ST1, and Nichkhun (21, Thailand & USA) of 2PM. Each one of them has endured a lot to become what they are today, learning more about the Korean culture and traditions over the years.
Nichkhun spoke about his first experiences in Korea, how he got yelled at because he stuck his chopsticks into his rice, only where he later learned that it was some type of ritual practice. He feels as if he's a real Korean now since his favorite foods are samgyeopsal (pork) and dwaenjang jjigae (soy bean curd stew).
A'ST1's Hai Ming says, "I was afraid of coming to Korea since I heard that mannerism was very important. In China there is no formal way of speaking. The formal way of speaking is very hard."
It was difficult for all of them. They all went to Korea to become they idols they are today where they entered the new country between 2005-2007; and up till now, they are all speaking Korean fluently. They’re all capable of Korean speaking in slang, some writing here and there, and can even swear in Korean! The hardest thing for them while learning Korean was learning the pronounciation. As Korean artists who are not of Korean descent, they have to work extra hard to gain popularity not only from the Korean public but all of Asia as well.
Nichkhun was noticed by JYP Entertainment at a Korean Festival that was held in Los Angeles in 2006. He sang and danced at a coffee shop as an audition without having a clue who Park Jin Young was.
Tomo was discovered by Lee Hyori's stylist randomly on the streets when he visited Korea for vacation in 2005. Like many other Korean artists, his parents opposed to the idea of him becoming an idol- but it did not stop him. He ended up dropping out of college and started his days as a trainee the very same year of discovery. Alexander, half Chinese half Korean, was noticed at a hotel fitness club during his visit to Korea in 2007 to see his family.
Inspired by Rain in his hit drama "Full House," Hai Ming knew where he wanted to go from there. He went to Korea in 2006 and enrolled to Chungang University to the department of cinema. He started off by following the footsteps of Rain where he took dancing lessons in Seoul, soon where he was also discovered by Lee Hyori's stylist.
The artists shared their opinion on the military issue. Nichkhun says that the system is the same between Korea and Thailand, where you get chosen by lottery. Hai Ming says that the military service in China is voluntary because of the many benefits received.
Nichkhun spoke about how people always mentioned that he had a small face where prior to going to Korea, no one had ever mentioned such a thing. On the other hand, people say that Hai Ming's face is too big!
The biggest admiration of Korea to the artists is the country's patriotism. They watched the people of Korea stand together at ex-president Roh Moo Hyun's funeral and at the World Cup. They can only admire seeing the country stand so strong.They are all grateful and appreciative for the opportunity that Korea has given them.
Nichkhun, Tomo, Hai Ming, and Alexander all have a dream of their own. Some time in the future Nichkhun would like to act and possibly even make it in Hollywood. Hai Ming wants to perform in China in dedication to his mother, and Alexander wants to make it big and be known back in Hong Kong.
As the interview came to an end, they all laughed and joked that they should get together one day to run their own television program.