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As the K-pop wave sweeps the globe, we meet The Boyz
Sands Style / Interviews & Features

As the K-pop wave sweeps the globe, we meet The Boyz

Korean popular culture has risen from obscurity to become a global phenomenon, and Macao is now one of the prime destinations for touring K-Pop idols and actors. We met rising stars The Boyz before their first appearance at the Asian Film Awards

It is a cloudless spring afternoon at The Parisian Macao, and we’re here to meet K-Pop newcomers The Boyz – the new, 12-member boy band taking South Korea by storm.

Despite the blue skies, there’s tension in the air. The Boyz are preparing for their debut red-carpet appearance, and their first overseas performance, at the 12th Asian Film Awards. When they arrive, all the band’s members take the time to greet everyone in the suite individually. Youthful in their white shirts and burgundy jackets, they could pass for outrageously glamorous schoolboys. 

Having released their debut album The First in December 2017, the group is one of the latest forces in the “Korean Wave”, the South Korean pop culture phenomenon that has swept the globe with Korean TV dramas, pop music and movies. The wave began in the 2000s, spurred by heavy investment from the South Korean Ministry of Culture, and boosted by the arrival of high-speed internet access. Popular Korean TV dramas such as Winter Sonata (2002) and Dae Jang Geum (2003) became smash hits across Asia, and at the same time, K-Pop groups such as TVXQ and Super Junior began to dominate the regional charts.

Rather than subside, the Korean Wave went global by 2010, with recognition in US and Europe. As a result, more Korean stars have toured worldwide to meet their dedicated overseas fans. 

Recognising this phenomenon, Sands China has actively sought rising K-Pop acts to perform in Macao. And that’s why The Boyz are here today. 

Comprising Sangyeon, Ju Haknyeon, Younghoon, Juyeon, Hyunjae, Sunwoo, Hwall, Q, Kevin, Jacob, Eric and New, The Boyz won the Global Rookie Top 5 prize at this year’s Global V Live Awards, and their debut album was nominated for the New Artist of the Year prize at the Gaon Chart Music Awards. In early April, they
released a six-track mini album, The Start. The young entertainers are all aged between 17 and 21, and trained for three years with South Korean entertainment company Cre.ker Entertainment, before they formed as a group last year.

Sangyeon (Lee Sang-yeon) is the first to speak at our interview. “We are very excited to be here in Macao for the first time,” he says. “And we’re very honoured to take part in the Asian Film Awards.”

I ask The Boyz what they are looking forward to doing during their stay in Macao.
“I want to try dim sum and a gondola ride,” says Kevin (Moon Hyung-suh), one of the band’s most talkative members. “I come from Canada; I have some friends who are from Macao as well as Hong Kong, and I heard lots of things about this city from them.” 

He tells me his family moved to Canada when he was just four, and he didn’t return to South Korea until 2016. “All 12 of us have unique personalities and like different things, so when we gather together, we send out a unique kind of energy,” Kevin says. “We hope to try different genres in the performance or
our music, improve every day, and be a group that spreads positive energy.”

The Boyz say they spend up to 15 hours a day practising their dancing, singing and acting, in the hope that within three years they can equal the success of their K-Pop heroes, TVXQ. Indeed, TVXQ star Kim Jae-joong is one of South Korea’s top selling solo artists, and performed at Cotai Arena in March 2017 as part of his Asia tour, having completed almost two years of military service.

Over the years, Cotai Arena has hosted shows by an evergrowing number of the biggest K-Pop stars, including Rain (Jung Ji-hoon), Big Bang, 2NE1, Girls’ Generation, Miss A, Shinee, B.A.P, Infinite and U-Kiss. And they’re usually the hottest ticket in town.

For instance, when Big Bang’s superstar G-Dragon staged his second solo tour <ACT III, M.O.T.T.E> at the venue last year, every seat was snapped up within hours, and an extra show was added, thanks to the overwhelming response from fans.

Korean Wave pioneers Super Junior performed at Cotai Arena on the Macao leg of their sold-out world tour in 2012 and 2013. Formed in 2005, the boy band built their reputation and fan base with their catchy melodies, perfect choreography, good looks and stylish outfits. They returned to the city in May, with their seventh world tour Super Show 7.

Macao and Sands Resorts have proved popular not just as venues for K-Pop – they also provide the perfect backdrop for filming music videos, TV shows and movies. Last year, singer-producer Psy (Park Jae-sang), who shot to fame with his single Gangnam Style in 2012, shot almost all of his music video New Face at Sands Resorts Macao – namely The Parisian and The Venetian.

The popular TV drama Fated to Love You, starring Jang Hyuk and Jang Na-ra, included scenes filmed at Shoppes at Venetian. And Korean model-turned-actor Lee Jung-jin, the student ambassador at the 2018 Asian Film Awards, filmed TV drama series The Fugitive: Plan B (2010), co-starring Rain, in the city.

Following our meeting, The Boyz are one of the highlight acts at the 2018 Asian Film Awards at The Venetian Theatre, and they delight their audience with a mellow ballad, Walkin’ in Time, and the upbeat number Boy, which highlights their dynamic stage presence and crisply synchronised choreography. Like their idols, The Boyz are clearly set to go places.

As the Korean Wave continues to roll, fans can expect to spot more of their favourite stars around the city, and more of the biggest names in K-Pop performing at Sands Resorts.