Marking 50 years, pop icon Cho reflects on struggles, Pyongyang concerts

April 11, 2018
Veteran Korean pop singer Cho Yong-pil speaks to reporters at a press conference held at Blue Square in central Seoul on April 11, 2018. (Yonhap)

Veteran Korean pop singer Cho Yong-pil speaks to reporters at a press conference held at Blue Square in central Seoul on April 11, 2018. (Yonhap)

By Chang Dong-woo

SEOUL, April 11 (Yonhap) — South Korean pop legend Cho Yong-pil on Wednesday shared his struggle to stay relevant in today’s fast-changing music industry, as he prepares to celebrate his 50-year career with a series of concerts next month.

Cho is one of South Korea’s foremost pop icons, having sold over 10 million albums since debuting in 1968 as a member of rock band Atkins. He later turned solo, releasing his first single, “Come Back to Busan Port,” which rocketed him to national fame in 1975. He has released 19 studio records.

“I’m so happy to have been born in South Korea. I’ve received so much love in the past half decade. I have no way to repay it,” Cho thanked his fans at a press conference held at Blue Square in central Seoul.

Unlike many of his generational cohorts who have lasted in the industry through the adult-oriented trot genre, Cho’s music has largely been rooted in pop and rock. The 68-year-old is no stranger to experimentation with cutting-edge trends. “Hello,” Cho’s 19th studio album, released in 2013, adopted elements of modern rock and hip hop.

“‘Bounce’ was a product of my internal struggles over what I should pursue in order to continue my career,” Cho said, mentioning the lead track from “Hello.”

Cho added, “If younger listeners can remember me through the song, I thought maybe they will continue to recognize me as they grow older.”

The 68-year-old was part of a South Korean art troupe that recently held two rare concerts in Pyongyang, one of which was attended by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his wife, Ri Sol-ju.

Despite the well-received performances, the singer first and foremost recalled being sick — with a throat infection — during his trip across the border.

“I blamed myself a lot for not managing my condition well. I wasn’t even able to eat due to my condition,” Cho said. “It’d be accurate to say that I did my best in my worst condition,” he added.

The singer previously threw a solo concert in Pyongyang in 2005 in front of a crowd of 7,000.

Cho also mentioned groups such as EXO and BTS while sharing his thoughts on today’s idol-centric music industry landscape.

“I’ve watched concerts by EXO and BTS through YouTube. When pondering why these artists are popular, there are certainly always reasons for their success — such as their singing skills or looks.”

Cho also joked about how he was fortunate to have debuted back in the 60s, as today’s music trends are becoming more and more sensitive to visuals and aesthetics.

“I consider myself truly fortunate. If I was actively promoting today, I probably would have had a hard time … I’m short and today’s young stars are so good looking,” said the singer, chuckling.

Cho plans to kick off his a nationwide tour on May 12 at Jamsil Olympic Stadium in Seoul and will travel to Daegu and Gwangju in the following weeks. The tour sold out in minutes after tickets went on sale online March 20.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>