Singer ready to spread his wings

By Xu Fan (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-06-24 10:05
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Singer ready to spread his wings
Han shows his dancing skills during a recent press conference in Beijing.
 Photos provided to China Daily

Singer ready to spread his wings
The fans of Han look forward to their idol gaining creative freedom.
Zou Hong / China Daily

Singer ready to spread his wings
Han hopes to restart from the Great Wall.

Singer ready to spread his wings
Han and Zhou Bichang sing in a new song. Zou Hong / China Daily

Han Geng plans to fight a large Korean agency to gain his musical freedom, writes METRO's Xu Fan.

Singer Han Geng (or Han Kyung) wants nothing more than to throw away his mask and show his audience his true identity. The 26-year-old Chinese pop star, who has been developing his career in South Korea since 2001, actually had to wear a mask for a while when performing overseas because of broadcasting restrictions. Now, he is working hard to show his Chinese audience the man behind the mask. He strikes to become more successful on the mainland, even though that has meant embarking on a bitter lawsuit with South Korea's biggest pop music producer and agency, SM Entertainment.

On a sultry Beijing afternoon this week, Han stood on the Mu tianyu section of the Great Wall and declared that he will not give up in his fight to sever ties with the agency and begin to control his own destiny.

"The Great Wall is a miracle in this world and the pride of our nation. I think it's a perfect place to restart from," he said.

Singer ready to spread his wings

Han's lawyer, Li Guangbao, was also on the Wall to issue a statement on behalf of the star and an update on his lawsuit.

Li said the case is still before the courts and a judgment could take some time because South Korea has no restriction on trial length.

But Li said he thinks, ultimately, Han will be able to end his contract with the South Korean agency and begin to manage his own future.

When asked whether the slow-moving case is troubling him, Han replied: "Justice delayed is justice denied."

His agency, meanwhile, is heaping on the pressure and has asked Han for 2 million Korean won for "training fees" and for financial losses it expects as a result of his breach of contract.

Han, who had signed a 13-year contract with the agency, decided to end it last year.

He released his first solo album, The Heart of Geng on Tuesday.

One of the themes of the album is renewal.

And he is following up the new album with plans for a concert that is being supported by entertainment industry friends including Hong Kong kungfu giant Jackie Chan and film director Stanley Tong. The performances are set for July 17 and 18 at Beijing Exhibition Center.

Despite being only 26, Han has been in show business for many years.

Born in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, he moved to Beijing for professional dance training when he was 12, where his talent for folk and ballet dancing turned heads and won him the chance to perform all over China and in other countries, including the United States and Russia.

But Han really broke out at the age of 21 when he beat 3,000 hopefuls in the H.O.T. CHINA competition on the Chinese mainland. Triumph in the competition won him a contract with the Seoul-based SM Entertainment agency from which he is now trying to escape.

Han became hugely successful in Asia after the competition and, in 2005, became part of a hand-picked group of 12 handsome young singers known as Super Junior.

But the chance of a lifetime turned into a nightmare when Han, the only member of the group from the Chinese mainland, learned that South Korean broadcasting laws would not allow his performances to be broadcast on most TV stations.

At one point, he even wore a mask while performing for eight months during 2007, to hide his identity so he could perform without the authorities finding out he was from Chinese mainland.

"When I was wearing the mask, I felt so aggrieved. Why couldn't I be treated the same as local singers?" he said.

"I was so upset and wanted to talk to my mother but when I got connected to her, I said nothing."

He said the band got on a treadmill of frequent performances and he suffered stomach problems as a result because of the irregular hours and erratic mealtimes.

"I felt so tired and under huge pressure," he said. "During that time, whatever I ate, I vomited.

"My mother came to take care of me. She took me to a Chinese hospital and supervised me as I took the medicine each day."

Han has since recovered from his illness and has returned from six months in the United States where he went to improve his dancing and singing skills.

"I learned dancing from a teacher who had been Michael Jackson's choreography coach," he said, adding that Jackson's choreography team is helping him prepare for his upcoming solo concerts.

In addition to carrying on with his music, Han is also nurturing an ambition to break into movie.

"I have always been interested in acting and my dream is to co-star with my idol Jackie Chan in a kungfu movie," he said.

But for the time being it is music that holds his attention and his career is going from strength to strength.

One of his new songs, The Asian Games is Splendid With Me, has topped the charts in more than 30 domestic pop music lists and has had more than 100-million dowloads on the Internet since it was released on June 4.

Han is hoping his future will also be splendid, after he wins his freedom from the agency that has managed his career for the past few years and after he gets to throw away the mask, once and for all.