Leslie's Success Story In Korea
An article about Leslie's success in the music field in Korea
There was an article being published in October, 1996 in Korea about Leslie's overwhelming success in Korea not only in his movies but in his music as well. It mentioned that Leslie Cheung was the first Chinese singer who had dominated Korean pop music field as a Chinese singer. Many foreign pop singers had dominated the Korean music field but not many of the Chinese singers could have such a success. In the past, the sales record of the Chinese albums in Korea was poor. So, most Korean music associations usually considered that Chinese albums couldn't occupy any important position in the Korean music field. This article indicated that Leslie was the first one to have broken the Korean associations' long-time belief that the Chinese albums could never dominate the Korean music industry. Leslie's albums had proved that Chinese albums could do so.
The introduction of Chinese songs in Korea was dated back to the mid-80s. Leslie's songs in his movies 'A Better Tomorrow' and 'A Chinese Ghost Story' had attracted many Koreans. Before Leslie's songs were being introduced in Korea, not a single Chinese song could gain popularity in the country. As a matter of fact, Leslie's albums were sold in the amount of 300,000 copies which could be described as a phenomenal success in the music field in the history of Korea. Ever since Leslie was able to make a great success, Korean music associations had begun to realize that Chinese albums could also bring huge profit to the music industry. Thats why the Korean music associations have then started to pay attention to the Chinese albums. Besides Leslie's albums, the albums of the Four Heavenly Kings were able to make a good sales record as well. Around 15,00020,000 of their albums were being sold. As for Leslie, 300,000 copies of his first album and 150,000 copies of his second album were being sold. In Korea, the sales figure of Chinese albums was close to 10 times than that of the western albums. It was because the radio stations, which have a great influence in the music industry, hardly played Chinese songs at all. So, 10,000 Chinese albums was considered equivalent to 100,000 western albums being sold. According to this rationale, the sales of Leslie's albums had virtually amounted to 3,000,000 which was a really amazing record in Korea.
I can still recall Leslies overwhelming popularity in Korea at that time. Most of the Korean teenagers could sing his songs though they did not know any Chinese. '...' was being translated into' To You' in English and most of the Koreans could sing this song. During the mid-80s, I began to listen to Chinese songs for the first time only because of Leslie.
Leslie & 'To You' chocolates
Leslie is not only a legend but is also a legend in the advertising history in Korea. In an interview with Mrs. Florence Chan, she remarked that the sales of 'To You' chocolates had gone up to around 300 times after he had starred in its commercial. This was an amazing record, and as far as I can recall, no other commercial could have made such a record. Honestly speaking, the people who had planned the commercial of 'To You' chocolates had never dreamt that it could have gained such an enormous success. In the past, the most prominent and popular brand of chocolate was used to be 'Gana Chocolate'. It had a powerful influence on the consumers and its sales were always no. 1 in Korea. Many other brands had tried to beat the sales of 'Gana' but none of them could do this.
Before the launch of its commercial, the sales record of 'To You' chocolates was very low. After Leslie's appearance in the commercial, the sales of 'To You' had drastically reached the top place till it has finally dominated over 'Gana' for the first time. Many people in the marketing companies were astounded on discovering this so they called the commercial of 'To You' as a legend in the advertising history. The people in the advertising firm thought that the reason of its success was due to the well-planned strategy and brilliant concept in the making of a three subsequent series of the commercial which appeared to be like a drama. They have never dreamt that the success of the commercial was due to Leslie's personal charm and his noble appearance.
A Korean university student majoring in advertising and marketing studies had received a grand award for a survey he has launched in 1998. The survey was titled 'Marketing Strategy of 'To You' chocolates' and this took place ten years after the initial launch of the commercial. The purpose of the survey was to try to bring 'To You' back to the top as the best-seller in chocolates. Teenagers to university students were being interviewed and the question that was raised was what was in their mind when they thought of 'To You' chocolates. Surprisingly, nearly all of the answers were Leslie! The commercial was originally designed to carry a message of 'love'. Instead of being reminded of the message of 'love' however, the interviewees had only thought of Leslie in the end!
Leslie had turned down the proposal to shoot another commercial of 'To You' due to his retirement in 1989. In replacement of him, Andy Lau was being invited to shoot the commercial but the sales record of 'To You' had gradually decreased ever since. As analyzed by the university student who had launched the survey, the main reason of the failure of 'To You' was due to the unsuccessful casting of the star for the commercial, because Leslie's impact was too powerful and strong right from the beginning. He indicated that the advertising people should not have invited a too popular star to shoot the first commercial and should have considered whether an overwhelming success would then affect the result of the subsequent one.
Another interesting thing was that many Korean females had longed to see Leslie appearing in the commercial and they even called the advertising firm to know about the exact schedule of it so that they could record it in a video tape. After having received an incessant number of phone calls, the advertising firm had decided to make an announcement on the schedule in a number of magazines.
I also remembered that my junior high school teacher had told our class not to waste our money buying too many 'To You' chocolates. Moreover, whenever I went to the stores to buy them, I discovered that they were always sold out at an amazing speed. In fact, the only reason why I had purchased many 'To You' chocolates was because I believed that Leslie would visit Korea again to shoot another commercial of the chocolates.
After many years later, the sales of 'To You' had further dropped to the extent that the chocolates can no longer be found in the ordinary shops with exception to large supermarkets or discount stores. One of the marketing executives of 'To You' had written in his article as follows: "Leslie Cheung is gone. One of my close friends at 'To You' is gone and the chocolates are now very difficult to be found. My heart is like empty as I realized what had happened."
Fans' overwhelming enthusiasm
In 1989 when Leslie went to Korea to shoot the commercial of 'To You' chocolates, he had sung the song 'Sleepless Night' in one of the broadcasting stations. A reporter interviewed him after he had finished singing the song but he discovered that his entire face was blushing. Apparently, Leslie was very excited to discover that his popularity in Korea was indeed overwhelming and his fans were all crazy about him. The reporter had made a remark that it was quite interesting to see Leslie's entire face turning red.
When Leslie returned to the show business in 1993 after he had retired from the music scene, he visited Korea to promote his latest film 'All's Well Ends Well'. After having learnt about the piece of news that he would be interviewed in a broadcasting station, over thousands of fans came to gather in front of the place. In the end, the director of the broadcasting station had to cancel the interview in order to avoid unexpected accident due to the number of people crowded outside.
During his stay in Korea, Leslie received a lot of compliments from the media on his pleasant manner and good personality. Furthermore, he had been described by the press and the public as 'The Noble Prince' or 'Gentleman of Hong Kong'. I remember Leslie had once said that he considered the most remarkable country was France whereas the most unforgettable fans amongst his overseas fans were the Koreans. The enthusiasm of the Korean fans was beyond his imagination. On the other hand, he was both excited and frightened by their responses. If I had met Leslie in person at that time, I guess I would faint immediately!
The success of HK stars in Korea
Leslie, Chow Yun Fat and Joey Wong were the first HK stars who had gained popularity in Korea following to the introduction of their movies. Most females love Leslie, whereas most males love Joey and like Chow Yun Fat.
During the late 80s and early 90s, Hong Kong movies were very popular and Hong Kong stars were loved by a lot of Koreans. The situation is now totally changed because the Koreans do not watch Hong Kong movies anymore.
My desire was to meet Leslie
It has been my long-time desire to meet Leslie in person. After Leslie had left for Canada, my parents have promised me that they would send me to Canada if I studied harder. They often persuaded me with such a favourable offer of sending me to Canada to be a neighbour of Leslie; however, Leslie had returned to Hong Kong later on.
Many famous Korean stars are actually Leslie fans. In fact, many of them have mentioned that their desire is only to meet Leslie someday.
Leslies photos in the libraries
During those days, many Korean students used to go to the libraries after school to study for their examinations and I used to do this as well. Sometimes my friends would call me to go out of the library to listen to Leslie's 'To You' being played on air in the radio.
In the libraries, I always saw many photos of Leslie being stuck on the desks. One of the students had painted a portrait of Leslie that looked really like him. I asked her to give me a copy of the painting which she did so in the end. It was such a happy time indeed.
How I miss those good old days
- Kingka from South Korea
many thanks to Kingka and Julie