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Japanese fans mob TV star in "Korea fever"
Updated: 2004-11-21 15:08

The South Korean heartthrob at the centre of "Korea fever" in Japan caused pandemonium here when hundreds of Japanese women mobbed him as he launched a photographic exhibition.

A doll company employee displays 'kawaribina' or newsmakers doll of this year, featuring dolls of South Korean movie stars Bae Yong Joon (L) and Choi Ji, 16 November 2004. Bae Yong Joon caused pandemonium in Seoul when hundreds of Japanese women mobbed him as he launched a photographic exhibition. [AFP]
Some 800 Japanese fans, most of them well-dressed women in their 30s and 40s, screamed and scrambled toward Bae Yong-Joon as the boyish star made an appearance at a downtown hotel.

Holding banners saying "We love you, Bae Yong-Joon" in Korean and carrying his portrait, fans crowded the lobby and crammed staircases, waiting for hours to catch a glimpse of the star.

When a beaming, black velvet suit-clad Bae entered the lobby for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the fans cheered wildly and fell over themselves to get close to the 32-year-old.

An embarrassed Bae hurriedly cut the tape, cancelled his planned speech and went back down to the basement where the exhibition, all photographs of Bae, was being held.

The crowd gave chase, toppling wreaths of flowers standing in their way. Some fell over and emerged bruised from the crush.

The photo exhibition will tour five Japanese cities, beginning with Tokyo on November 27.

On Friday some 400 Japanese fans, many of them still carrying their luggage after arriving directly from the airport, went wild, cheering, hugging each other and shedding tears as Bae showed up for a handprinting event.

Bae, honorifically called "Yonsama" in Japan, became wildly popular there after a South Korean TV series, "Winter Sonata," was aired last year, its romantic story striking a chord with many Japanese women.

Yonsama, polled as the most talked-about word in Japan in 2004 according to a leading Japanese paper, has triggered a tourist boom in South Korea.

The number of Japanese tourists visiting the country has more than doubled this year to 150,000 in the first eight months of the year.

Many Japanese travel agencies sell "Winter Sonata" packages which include visits to Bae's favorite restaurant or a lakeside bench in the eastern city of Chuncheon on which Bae had his first screen kiss.

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