Singer Yang Joon-il is being called a time traveler, or a true genius whose artistic works have only started to be recognized by the public some 30 years after his songs were released in the early 1990s.
He enjoyed belated stardom as some of his song have gone viral recently. His past performance videos of some three decades ago are getting hundreds of thousands of YouTube views, some exceeding 1 million.
According to the NoxInfluencer, a YouTube trend analysis site, Yang's name was listed at fourth place as the most-searched keyword on YouTube on Dec. 7 in Korea.
With this surge in his popularity, main broadcasters in Korea, including KBS, MBC and SBS, continue to upload more videos of his past appearances on their old shows to attract more viewers. Those videos are filled with ardent comments by the young generation who confess their infatuation with the singer.
The Korean-American singer, now 50, made his debut in 1991 at the age of 22 with a song titled "Rebecca."
He was Korea's first pop musician who introduced Korean audiences to the new jack swing genre, which enjoyed popularity in the mid-1980s and early 1990s in the U.S.
Emigrated to the U.S. at age nine with his family, Yang grew up in LA and entered the University of Southern California to study business. He decided to become a singer in Korea when he was a sophomore there, after meeting with a Korean pop music composer who persuaded him to do so.
After his debut song "Rebecca," Yang released other hit songs like "Dance with Me Miss" (1992), "GaNaDaRaMaBaSa" (1992).
However he suddenly disappeared from the public scene, going back to the U.S. He made another debut almost 8 years later in 2001 as V2; his new song "Fantasy" enjoyed a brief popularity, but he disappeared again from the public eyes due to lack of popularity.
Over 20 years later, his online popularity started to go viral in the last couple of years, as many performance videos of many decades ago became available to YouTube users of the young generation.
Yang's music and style was considered somewhat bizarre and strayed from the standards of 30 years ago, but listeners in 2019 are fascinated by Yang's unique quality of performance and fresh sound.
Back in the early 1990s, it was rare to see a star oozing gender-neutral beauty like Yang with his lean physique, flamboyant fashion items, long hair and bashful smile ― which are highly appreciated qualities of now.
People in the present, accustomed to watching perfectly calculated dance moves by K-pop bands, also find Yang's freestyle dance and unrefined vocals refreshing and soulful. With retro styles in trend, his fashion is also similar to that of today's trends.
That's why his videos began to be flooded by online comments like: "Why did he have to come too early in time? No one recognized his true genius 30 years ago," "We cannot find him now, because he is now back in the past, time traveling and performing there," or "I am sorry that I could not recognize you back then. Now I can finally see that you were a true artist, way ahead of your time."
Against this backdrop, many wondered about his current whereabouts ― and finally he showed up on TV last Friday.
He appeared on season 3 of JTBC's "Two Yoo Project: Sugar Man," a show focusing on searching for old-time stars, and performed "Rebecca," "Dance with Me Miss," and "Fantasy" on stage.
Still slim in figure and soulful in his performance, he dazzled the audience and show hosts.
Yang performed his debut song "Rebecca" for the first time in some 30 years: "I've never imagined that I could be on stage again. It was my old dream that I buried a long time ago, so I was very nervous to be on stage again but I had so much fun," he said after the performance at the show.
"I had to start all over; I had to memorize the lyrics all again, and learn every move again. I tried to perform as I used to in the past, but it felt different. Thus I recreated the stage based on how I feel now."
About why he had suddenly disappeared from the public, he shared a shocking story. He said he was hated by many for his unusual looks and songs, and some threw rocks during his performance at an open-air stage. While a 10-year visa he held in Korea as a U.S. national had to be recertified every six months, an official at the Immigration Office denied to extend his visa for no reason.
"The official told me, 'I don't want someone like you staying in Korea. I won't grant this extension as long as I keep this post. You will have no choice but to leave Korea.' And (with no extension granted) when I was preparing for a concert in Busan, the Immigration Office officials stopped me and warned me if I perform there, I won't be able to stay in Korea. That's why the concert was canceled on the spot, and I had to return to the U.S."
Eight years later, he returned to showbiz under the pseudonym V2, hiding his true identity, as music producers told him he wouldn't ever make it again with his previous controversial image in Korea. The popularity he enjoyed was short-lived, and he left the stage seemingly forever.
Now he lives in Florida, working as a server at a local restaurant with his family. He said he was bewildered at the sudden popularity and hopes to continue his private, quiet life.
When asked his next plans amid this viral syndrome, he simply said: "I don't make plans; I just focus on fully living every moment. If there's any plans, I hope to live as a humble husband and dad."
When the show hosts asked him to give a message to 20-year-old himself living 30 years ago, Yang said: "I know nothing will happen how you want. But don't worry, everything will come out perfectly in the end."
source: JTBC ENTERTAINMENT & The Korea Times