Jung Dong-ha: Revisited in L.A.

May 15, 2014
Jung Dong-ha

Jung Dong-ha had the honor of singing the Korean national anthem at the Hollywood Bowl. (Korea Times file)

jung

Jung, who left Boohwal in early January, is undergoing a period of transition after nine years as the vocalist of the legendary rock band. (Yonhap)

By Tae Hong

Jung Dong-ha went downstairs to grab food inside his downtown Los Angeles hotel when a stranger — an American — handed him a card.

He looked down to see a yellow ribbon and, in Korean, the words “Hope for a miracle in Korea.”

The ferry sinking.

The 34-year-old vocalist had flown into town for a concert and instead received what he says was a bigger sense of unity than he’d imagined from the international community.

“In some ways, people here may be far away from us but our Korea is one Korea, and when big things happen, we are one,” he says. “That’s what I felt.”

Jung, who left Boohwal in early January, is undergoing a period of transition after nine years as the vocalist of the legendary rock band that has produced noted singers in the likes of Lee Seung-chul and Park Wan-gyu.

He doesn’t see himself being restricted to the rock genre, he says.

“What I care about isn’t so much the genre as it is how a particular genre can most perfectly deliver a song’s message and feeling,” Jung says. “When I want to deliver a certain feeling, then I can see myself trying the colors of R&B or even trot.”

Given his successful years as a winning guest on KBS’s “Immortal Songs 2,” from which he gained much of his name recognition, his readiness to explore other genres makes sense. The show, in which performers cover noted Korean music, has given him a platform on which he can sing his heart out with a classic ballad one week and dance around the stage with a traditional folk song the next.

The ballad rocker has found another passion, too — musical theater.

The musical theater scene in Korea expands each year as more and more stars are attracted to the stage. Big names in the Korean entertainment industry — actors like Jo Seung-woo, Hwang Jung-min and Joo-won and singers like Super Junior’s Kyu-hyun, BEAST’s Yo-seob, Bada and Ock Ju-hyun — have gained a following among musical aficionados.

Jung has kept himself busy with a string of Korean productions since last year, starring in “Jack the Ripper,” “Notre Dame de Paris” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” He is slated to appear in “A Tale of Two Cities” in June.

“I’m feeling the charm of acting in a big way,” he says. “I initially wanted to learn how to further immerse myself in singing through acting, but I’ve fallen for acting, and that’s why I’m having so much fun doing it.”

Although he has visited the U.S. many times — this marks his fourth trip to the U.S. — he hasn’t had a chance to perform at his very own concert yet.

He says he would like to have a solo concert of some scale one day. Every time he comes here to perform, there’s a warm feeling that makes him want to meet audiences here as often as he can, he says.

“The thing that strikes me about coming here is that, sometimes, it feels more like Korea here than it does in Korea, like when I pass by grinding mills,” Jung says. “I get the feeling that Koreans who immigrated here have an appreciation and a sense of preciousness about Korea. I think, ‘This is Korea, too.’”

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