180324 Coal Briquette Event Account + 180315 Gimpo Airport

I’ve been wanting to do a write up since I came back home but it’s taken me awhile. I won’t go into details but there were lots of obstacles in seeing Dongwookie this time round in Korea since I was there for something else but it all worked out in the end. Yay!

It’s better to go in chronological order so it makes more sense so I’ll start with seeing him at the airport. It was an interesting one because I wanted to give him a surprise so I didn’t make any mention I was going to Korea beforehand. On the day, he was coming back to Korea after two white day events in Japan. There were more fans than usual that day at the airport.

I stood in the pathway where people pass through when coming out of arrivals and waited for him to appear. To give a bit of background, Eleven9 had just announced that to celebrate his 15th debut anniversary, that a special event where him and Lucky Se7en would deliver coal briquettes to a neighbourhood in Seoul. However, there was a specific note on the notice that it was an event for Korean fans and it would be hard for overseas fans to participate. Anyway, I was going to be in Korea on that date so wanted to ask him if there was some way I could go.

After a bit of waiting, he appears at the arrival gate. He sees me and there was an instant look of surprise on his face. He was like “Why are you here?”, “Did you fly here from Australia?” I told him I was in Korea for a friend’s wedding. Then I asked him about the coal briquette event and he said, “You’re still going to be in Korea then?” I answered yes and asked if there is a way I could participate. At that point, he stopped, turned around to face me and other fans and explained that because there is a limit for the number of people who can go, that Korean fans have priority. He told me to apply first and see. It was nice because he actually stopped to explain instead of continuing to walk and talk.

The other thing was when he first saw me when he walked out, he shook my hand but instead of a normal handshake that lasted 2 seconds, it was a long handshake that lasted 5sec+. It was a warm feeling, like when you see someone you haven’t seen for a long time and you’re happy to see them again!

As we all walked out of the airport and headed towards his van, I asked him to sign my copy of 1109. He said aloud, well if you ask me of course I have to sign it. My friend reckons he said this a bit louder to kind of hint he couldn’t sign for everyone?! I’m not sure… anyhow, when he was trying to sign, the silver marker was playing up so he kept shaking it and saying it’s not coming out. He still managed to sign after some vigorous shaking 🙂

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He then proceeded to shake everyone’s hand before getting into the van. I remember giving his hand a squeeze and it felt soft. LOL. He joked around a bit with everyone and took his sunglasses off. He kept waving until the van left.

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180324 15th Debut Anniversary Coal Briquette Event

Fast forward a week and it’s the coal briquette event! During that week, 1109 released a notice saying that overseas fans could apply now so I applied and got through! Yay!!

To explain the coal briquette event for those who don’t know, in winter, parts of Korea still depend on burning coal for heating (in the poorer areas). There is a coal briquette bank where people can make donations to buy coal for people in need, then people volunteer their time to deliver the briquettes to neighbourhoods in need. The neighbourhood we were delivering to was at No won gu in Seoul.

We were told to meet at 9:30 in front of a convenient store but there were multiple groups who were delivering to other neighbourhoods also meeting at the same time, so there were lots of people. To separate the groups, someone held a sign for each group.

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When time came, staff called out names to check everyone was here. Then we set off for the village where we were going to distribute the coal briquettes. It was a bit of a winding walk uphill but it wasn’t far away. There waiting for us for Dongwookie himself 🙂 Everyone put their belongings into garbage bags and were given a vest, gloves and a wooden crate looking thing to carry on their back. Once we were all set, Dongwookie thanked everyone for coming and pointed out that WAWA his dance team were here as well. As we were going to be doing quite a bit of exercise/labour, he said we needed to warm up so that we wouldn’t hurt ourselves. He asked JaeYong to lead the warm up by teaching us the dance steps to Passion. LOL! Right….

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The music for Passion starts but instead of dancing to Passion, JaeYong does stretching exercises that look more and more like Korea’s citizen’s exercise HAHA. Dongwookie joins him with the stretches and at the end the two of them dance very briefly to Passion. It was really funny 😛

The staff from the Coal briquette bank then briefs everyone on how things are going to work. He picks a few people to be in charge of loading the briquettes onto everyone’s crate, and another few others to be in charge of offloading. He warns everyone to take it easy and that each briquette weighed 3.6kg. Dongwookie started off by helping to load and loaded 4 briquettes for each person. It was quite a weird and surreal feeling because he stood there greeting each person as they came back to reload. He was so close and the atmosphere was so relaxed. He cheered everyone on and would ask from time to time are you ok? It gave people more motivation to come back quickly I think. At one point when he was loading the briquettes on my back, he asked me when I was leaving Korea. I told him tonight, that I stayed extra so I could come. He said, how can you come just for this, you should play more, coming all the way to Korea. I was like I played alot already!

We were all then directed by staff to go different directions from time to time. It was alot of walking up and down and carrying and off loading. It’s good that it was cold because otherwise it would have been really tough. Some people really struggled overtime. I felt ok, just that my thighs felt a bit tired at the end of it but it wasn’t too bad.

Dongwookie himself switched roles after awhile and starting carrying and delivering the briquettes himself. The most I saw him carry at one time was 12! That’s like 43kg! Gosh! Anyway, it looked pretty easy for him. Whenever he passed people by he would greet them and say, Fighting! or Still alright? He also joked around with people alot, I don’t know all the little stories but I did hear about some pretty hilarious conversations. I’ll share a couple (but won’t disclose names XD). A friend who also likes another idol group now was walking along with him and for a short period of time it was just the 2 of them walking. He commented on how she was dressed nicely today (everyone dressed in black or old clothes since your clothes will get dirty) and she said that it’s because she’s going with her mum later in the day to watch a concert of an old singer. Dongwookie then said jokingly, when you are 60 years old, and your kids buy you concert tickets, it will be for ‘name of idol group’ and not for me right? My friend couldn’t believe he knew she likes another group (he clicks on fans’ instagrams I’m telling you!) and didn’t know how to react either because she was in shock. XDDDDDDDDDDDDDD

Later on, Dongwookie told everyone that he really wanted to thank his dancers for coming because they actually had to perform at Shinhwa’s 20th anniversary concert that evening but they came anyway. One girl who was a friend of a fan who came along is a Shinhwa fan, so the fan told him that this friend is a Shinhwa fan, but instead of going to the concert, she can only see the dancers here haha. Dongwookie then says to her, Shinhwa Changjo (Shinhwa’s fanclub name) fighting! Then he turns to my friend and says, I don’t know their name. He was referring to that idol group’s fan club name and wanting to say fighting to that fanclub too. LOL. He is really so funny!!!!!

Anyway, backtrack a bit, it took about 1.5-2 hours before the 2000 briquettes were all delivered. Dongwookie thanked everyone for helping out and pointed to the food truck that he had prepared for everyone. He told everyone to get something to eat and that he would take a selfie with everyone one by one. He said take your time and just come slowly. Some people lined up with take a selfie with him straightaway but many people were getting their belongings or getting food. After awhile, he said jokingly, why are you all so busy eating? I’m standing here waiting for you! HAHA!!!! Everyone took the cue and lined up. I got my photo as well but as usual he’s the only one that looks good in the photo 😛 After one fan took a selfie with him, the wind started blowing the banner away behind her and he reached over to secure it. He jokingly said, ‘Manner man’ (it’s a Korean way of calling someone who looks after people especially women in situations which might be awkward or embarrassing for them, or just being a gentleman), then he asked her “Your heart fluttered right?” O my gosh, no words to describe how funny this was!!

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While he was eating, one of his dancers played his songs from her phone and he was kinda moving to it. It was amusing because everyone was around and fans were either discussing their memories associated with each song or would sing along. You know he was listening to what people said though.

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He roamed around talking to fans and at one stage stood around just chatting. Someone asked him about what he had planned for the rest of year, asking about albums, concerts etc. He talked about how next couple of months was devoted to the musical, then maybe he will do something for Se7en day etc… He tells everyone to only upload good photos of him, someone commented that he looks good all the time but he says sometimes he sees people only uploading weird photos of him. Another fan says he always makes sure he looks good in his selfies, and he smiled and said, is it really obvious? XD After awhile he says he will go first because it seems that people will only go after he leaves. As he heads to his fan, a grandmother from the village is standing up on the hill and she waves at him. He responds by making a big heart with his hands. It was soooo cute and heartwarming. He waves goodbye to everyone and gets into his van.

All in all, a meaningful and fun event! Hope you guys had fun reading!

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BONUS

The night before the event, I went to Eleven9 to drop off a present. I thought it would fit in the mailbox because it wasn’t big but it turned out it didn’t fit. I didn’t know what to do and went upstairs and left it in front of the office door. A few days later, I saw it uploaded on his instagram.

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Although I was a bit sad he was going through some tough times (k netizens are relentless!) but I’m glad that God’s timing meant that my present came as the right time to encourage him!

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Maybe Happy Ending trip: Happenings & wrap up

I’ve been wanting to do a write about this trip to Japan but I’ve been still living in Oliver’s world for the past week. It’s a bit hard to put an end to the trip as it brought back so many memories (I’m still dreaming) and everything seems so surreal.

In the last couple of years, many things have changed and he’s changed as well, especially in the way he carries himself in public. I miss the fun, cute and playful Choi Dong Wook that we used to see all the time and I think through the musical this time, he was able to show that side of him again through Oliver.

In the 4 days I was in Tokyo, I saw him a few times (not including seeing him on stage) and he’s still the same guy – full of warmth, thoughtfulness but still so much fun and full of cuteness XD.

I arrived at Sunshine Theatre a couple of hours early on 25th May (Thursday) just in case I wouldn’t be able to find it. But the place was already teeming with fans and posters of the musical were everywhere (even downstairs in Sunshine city).

There was merchandise for sale – the program, badges, thermos cup, postcards etc. If you got the full set, you could get a making dvd. You could also go into the draw to get the making dvd by getting the special set (full set minus a couple of things) or there was the draw for the whole audience each day (20 dvds per performance given out).

I wont go into details about the performance because I already did that but I saw him for the first time this trip after this performance (25th May) at the scheduled high touch session. I think I was not psychologically prepared to meet him yet and as I watched people exit the theatre one by one (he was waiting outside), I felt myself shaking and getting anxious. I hadn’t thought of what to say (I never know what to say) and still couldn’t think of anything creative up to the last moment.

When it finally came to my turn, I saw that he had one hand out for people to high five him as they walked by him. In the past, he would high five people with both hands so that caught me off guard as I had been waiting with two hands. I walked up to him and was holding two hands up, he didnt quite catch that and kept one hand up. So we did a ‘hand grasp’ (XD) and he said, “Ah you came~” (he was expecting me since I told him before I was coming). I said  I enjoyed the performance and he said something about go back safely (?). I was so out of it because his hands caught me off guard, so instead of looking at his face, I spent most of those few seconds looking at his hand (at least I managed to hand him my letter!) haha

Next day, I liked the performance more than the previous day and I think that made me even more excited haha. There was also a high touch session scheduled for this day and when it came to my turn, I thought I would ask him to do high touch with both hands (lol, i know I should have just given up). So I gave him my letter first and then we high fived with our right hands. Then I said, can we do it with two hands? He paused for a second then he reached out his left hand and high fived my left hand, criss crossing over my right hand. LOL, it’s hard to explain but it was pretty amusing. You know when you play those hand clapping routines when you were a kid, it reminded me of that. That caught me off guard as well (LOL) and I managed to mumble, you were even better today than yesterday! before I walked off.

I had managed to figure out where to wait for him when he leaves the building and started waiting for him at the exit. There were many other fans waiting. It was slightly confusing which door he was going to come out of so people were spread out across a large space. When he finally came out, there was a bit of a mad rush but I did manage to see his face for a few seconds haha (see below)

On Saturday, Kasy from Thailand finally joined me! Yay! The musical was still lots of fun even the 3rd time. Today I noticed more detail that I hadn’t seen from the 2 previous performances. Today was also the last show that Dongwookie did with Kim Bo Kyung. I really love this pairing!!

After the performance ended, we suddenly found out that Dongwookie had decided to have an unscheduled high touch session!! (Well it was more like him standing there to wave goodbye to each person as they walked through, so no high fiving but our lack of Japanese language skills meant we didn’t know that beforehand haha) I had not expected to be able to see him so I had not written a letter. Luckily we were seated more towards the back this time so I had a little bit of time before it was my turn. I hurriedly got out my letter writing paper and wrote a short quick letter (cant remember what I wrote and my handwriting was atrocious lol).

When our turn came to greet him, Wow from Thailand greeted him first and he put his hands together said thank you in Thai to her. Kasy was next and he kind of greeted Wow and her together. But somehow somewhere in between that, he suddenly said thank you and bye in CHINESE!! We looked at him like “????????????” and he quickly realised that he used the wrong language and the look on his face was priceless!! He looked really confused and had questions marks all over his face as well. He quickly switched to English and said thank you. Then I walked up with him, gave him my letter, and said, do you know what language you’re using now?? XD The three of us walked off laughing so hard! (Later that day, he dm’ed us saying goodbye in chinese using hangul, SO FUNNY!!!!!!!)

After that, we headed to the place where he was supposed to come out and started waiting for him. It took a bit longer for him this day because he was taking photos with 30 lucky fans who had been randomly picked. By the time he came out, there were many fans waiting for him. I managed to get a decent spot and when he saw us, he looked at us and did a ‘V’ with his hand before getting into the car.

Next day was my 4th performance and the last day 😦 Time passes so quickly when you’re having fun. The final performance was an emotional one and when Dongwookie came out for the curtain call, he just started crying. After they went backstage again, the audience cheered more loudly and they came back out again. This time they talked a bit since this was Dongwookie’s and Song Sang Eun’s last performance. Dongwookie was very emotional and started crying again. He said that when he was first offered the role, he thought he wouldn’t be able to do it because it was so hard. But the cast and staff helped him alot. He said he realised he was so happy to have been part of this for the last 3 months (then he started crying). He felt he wasn’t perfect but they practised alot. He thanked the audience for helping him to reach this day. Even though it’s his first musical in Japan, so many people came to see them and he feels he could do anything now. He will continue to try hard and asked fans to continue to support him (rough translation by Yuki. Thanks!)

Watching him cry with my own eyes, in front of me, was an emotional experience. My hands started shaking and when his voice broke as he spoke, my tears just started rolling TTTTTTTTTT So precious! I have alot of blurred photos and a shaky video because of it. This musical was very important to him (his parents even came to watch his first performance) and I feel too that with this, many doors have opened up for him. He really worked hard for this and I felt this especially in the last performance, when it hit me that there were really lots of lines and so much to overcome in the short span of a few months.

Afterwards, there was a final high touch with all 3 members of the cast. My turn came and I gave him a letter, and a tight squeeze with my hand. I said, you really worked hard and I could see that his eyes were still red and puffy from the crying. He said thank you and I went. That was the last time I saw him this trip, since he stayed for the last performance and went for an ending party afterwards.

I left Japan the day after. Before I left, I wrote him a long message and sent it to him via dm. He sent me a very warm message back in Korean (longest msg he’s ever sent me in Korean!) that made me cry when I was eating outside. I’m so glad that I was able to give him some strength and be part of something that was so important to him!

I feel that if I wanted to keep going I could spend some more time reflecting and posting more photos etc but I think it’s time to snap back and return to the real world. I was so thankful for the experience, the catch up with friends, and the encouragement that I got from him!

“Maybe Happy Ending” Full English Summary and Review

Where do I even start? It’s been a long time (5 years) since I’ve seen him do anything live, so watching him perform in a musical 4 days in a row is something that will take me quite awhile to digest and reflect upon. But I do really want to introduce this wonderful musical to all of you, and tell you about how significant and amazing of a performance it was by Dongwookie.

To give you a bit of background, “Maybe Happy Ending” is an original Korean production, written by Will Aronson and Hue Park. The original production performed to sold out crowds in Korea with the last performance being in early March, 2017. They decided to bring the musical to Japanese audiences with a totally new cast and with an altered set as well.

I won’t go into the story as I’ve done that in detail down below. This summary got longer and longer as I typed and I found myself translating some dialogue as well. If you could get your hands on all the dialogue it is indeed very funny and entertaining but this will have to do.

This musical explores themes such as longing, fear, hope, and other human emotions – things which are unchanging, within a setting where technology and change has become a way of life. The story is set in the 2nd half of the 21st century and the world is viewed through the eyes of two robots. Love, life, all the beautiful things we experience will disappear in the end. When we realise this, what should we do? That despite this, we should love more? Is it worthwhile to do so even though pain is the result? Knowing all this, will it be a happy ending for us? These are some of the questions which the writers present to the audience.

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SUMMARY & TRANSLATION







I’m a big musical fan but this is the first musical in Korean that I’ve seen so that in itself was a new experience. I didn’t know too much about it before I went in and I deliberately did that so that it wouldn’t ruin my enjoyment of the musical.

As I said, I saw it 4 times, 4 days in a row (that’s a first as well! I’ve watched a musical 4 times but not 4 days in a row!). Double casting for Claire meant that I watched 2 performances with Kim Bo Kyung and 2 performances with Song Sangeun. Personally, I preferred Kim Bo Kyung because she is a stronger actress (I felt she was much more able in complementing Dongwookie’s acting), her voice matched better with him as well and her version of Claire is a much more bubbly character than Song Sangeun’s.

But first impressions first, the 1st performance I watched was with Song Sangeun. Commenting on Dongwookie, I was really blown away by his acting, especially in the first half. As I didn’t see him in Elisabeth, this is really the first time I’ve seen him act since Goong S (haha). I feel bad even making any comparisons between something from 10 years ago to this, because he’s not in the same league anymore. Compared to what I’ve seen of Elisabeth though, this was n times better as well. It’s hard to put in words just how much better his acting is. Like, it was REALLY GOOD. Dongwookie’s Oliver is bright, happy, sensitive, dorky, fun and very very cute. His comedic timing was spot on and he used his body so well. There is hardly any dancing in this, the story is told through singing, acting and lots and lots of dialogue. Not only that, there is no intermission, it goes from beginning to end with no break for 1 hour and 50 minutes. I can understand now why he rejected the offer 3 times, there is so much dialogue! But he pulled it off well and the story just flowed. There were so many times when I was so surprised because I’ve never seen him talk or move that way (that’s the beauty of acting!).

The thing which worried me beforehand was the emotional/sad scenes. He did well though and was convincing (few more tears would have been better?)

Musically, it wasn’t as satisfying for me. I felt there were really no standout songs and nothing particularly came to mind after I watched the 1st performance. By the time I watched it 4 times, some melodies were starting to stick. My favourite numbers were Oliver’s duet with James, and perhaps the song that Oliver and Claire sang just before they reached Jeju Island. I liked them because the harmonies were refreshing and showcased Dongwookie’s voice better than some of his own solo numbers. To be honest, I think the key was a bit too low at times and didn’t sit well with his range.

The other thing which left me a bit unsatisfied was the transition from Oliver finding out about James’ death to him falling in love with Claire. I wish there was more time dedicated to Oliver grieving over James’ death. I wanted to see more of this bond which was so special to Oliver.

Overall this musical was great. It was definitely entertaining, and it’s funny up until the last part. The questions thrown at the audience by the musical might evoke different emotions, thoughts and answers depending on your view of life, your faith or your personality. Many people cried in the end in all 4 performances I watched, although I didn’t myself. As a Christian, I found that it reminded me of True Hope and True Love found only in Christ, so it was a great time of reflection for me.

But whatever your answer or reaction to those deeper questions might be, “Maybe Happy Ending” was a pleasant experience and I’m so glad I watched it!

[Photos][HD] 170528 “Maybe Happy Ending” Last show curtain call

I reuploaded the photos with links to the HD versions. Please click on each photo to enlarge (some can be zoomed in further after enlarging).

As you can see, it was an emotional ending to this journey for him (and for me!). He cried so much and got so emotional TTTT But he did so well, so much better than expected.

I will be back sometime in the near future to write a review of the musical and his magnificent performance! (as well as some happenings XD)