Where is Jerry Lewis when you need him? A friend of mine invited my wife and me to a charity benefit tonight at the Seoul Grand Hyatt Hotel Grand Ballroom. The benefit honored the many donors who graciously gave to the victims of muscular dystrophy, a debilitating disease. The setting for the event was gorgeous, and we had excellent seats not far from the stage. The atmosphere was very festive with the sights and sounds of Christmas pervading the Grand Ballroom. (It was wonderful to hear all the Christmas songs you never seem to hear in the U.S. anymore. Instead of "Santa Baby," "Jingle Bells," "Rudolph the Red Nosed Raindeer," and "Frosty the Snowman," tonight’s Christmas repetoire included "Silent Night," "Away in a Manager," and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing.") My friend’s mother-in-law helped organize the event, and we were happy that they thoughtfully included us in the affair. Another friend who attended won a new bed in a raffle, and he gave it to my other friend’s mother-in-law. What a nice gesture! It’s a really nice bed.
The entertainers tonight were quite different from Jerry Lewis, who heads the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Telethon. The stars of tonight’s event were the Korean children who are victims of MD, especially one child who read a Christmas carol and a group of children who sang an inspiring song with singer Chui In Hyuk (최인혁). Other artists who performed included pop artist Gang Ta (강타), who cut short his China tour to perform at the charity benefit, crooner Pak Hyo Shin (박효신), female artist Jang Yoon Jeong (장윤정), boy band Oriental New Land (동방신기), Song Il Guk (송일국), Jo Hae Ryeon (조혜련), and Pak Sang Won (박상원). If you don’t know these Korean artists, never fear. I didn’t know most of them either until I heard them perform tonight. I was happy to see Pak Hyo Shin perform a couple of songs, because he is my wife’s favorite Korean singer. I call him the "Michael Bolton of Korea," partly tongue in cheek. He doesn’t look a thing like Michael Bolton, but his deep, raspy voice is reminiscent of Michael Bolton’s (that is either a compliment or a slam, depending on your view of Michael Bolton’s music). Oriental New Land did their best impression of N’sync, although their songs are bit catchier than N’sync’s bubble gummy pop. Jang Yoon Jeong’s tunes were energetic with a hint of ethnic flavor, far different from the young male singers who I thought were much too much like "gotminam," or "flower men" (꽃미남–sometimes referred to in English as "girlymen"). I thought it very interesting that these artists were performing for a decidedly older crowd.
A man and a woman hosted the event tonight, much like the variety shows you often see on Korean television. They improvised and elicited laughter from the crowd, although I couldn’t really follow the dialogue with my meager Korean. I did understand when they poked fun at some big donors, such as hospitals, who donated less than $100 to the cause. Their style was true to Asian form, most akin to the banter that occurs in the U.S. during awards ceremonies such as the Oscars or Grammys. American media rarely feature male-female hosts on television anymore. We were again treated to a succulent dinner, dessert, and wine. I think this will be the first of many dinners and parties during the final weeks before Christmas. The food is scrumptious, but I just hope that my New Year’s resolution next year won’t include shedding weight I rack up during the month of December.