In anticipation of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games, which get underway Feb. 9 at Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium, the South Korean government has appointed goodwill ambassadors across all disciplines for their international renown and outstanding contributions to Korean society.
These ambassadors have been tasked with promoting the Games during their travels abroad, supporting their home team and showing off South Korea’s natural beauty and incredible talent to the world.
Ten of the 50 ambassadors are musicians, demonstrating the South Korean government's commitment to its performing artists.
Meet the 10 musicians selected by the South Korean government as honorary ambassadors for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
1. Taeyang of Big Bang
If you haven’t heard of Taeyang, you’re in for a nice surprise. The K-pop star rose to fame as a part of boy group Big Bang, and has been maintaining a global solo career. Listen to “Louder,” his latest release, written specially for the upcoming Winter Games.
In 1978, Insooni made her debut with the Hee Sisters, the band that pioneered the Korean girl-group phenomenon still holding the K-pop scene under its spell. She was born in 1957 to a Korean mother and African-American father who was stationed in South Korea by the U.S. military (but who disappeared shortly after her birth). Due to (still) widespread beliefs within the country that Koreans are of “ethnic homogeneity,” many mixed-race children and immigrants continue to face workplace and societal discrimination. Insooni has opened up about her struggle to overcome that hardship and racism. Despite these challenges, she has gone on to release 19 albums, becoming one of the most beloved Korean singers of all time.
3. Sean of Jinusean
Noh Seung-hwan, a.k.a. Sean, is one-half of hip-hop duo Jinusean, which has had a major influence on the popularity of K-hip-hop since becoming active in 1997. Jinusean was only the second group signed by YG Entertainment, which today boasts a superstar roster including PSY, Taeyang, Big Bang and Epik High.
4. Jung Yong-hwa of CNBlue
Rock band CNBlue started out playing on the streets of Tokyo before making its colossal Korean debut in 2010. Of the band's 2017 EP 7CN, which incorporates elements of other popular genres, frontman Jung Yong-hwa told Billboard: “Meshing all these genres is a trend, and we're trying to be at the forefront of that trend.”
5. Sumi Jo
A highly decorated master of the bel canto vocal style, Sumi Jo seems an obvious choice for an honorary ambassador. She has toured the world, collecting a Grammy Award for best opera recording (R. Strauss: Die Frau Ohne Schatten, 1993), and making debuts with opera houses on nearly every continent.
6. Girl’s Day
While Girl’s Day is one of Korea’s hottest K-pop girl groups, the youngest member, Hyeri, has an even larger following on her own. (She's also reported to be a friend of speed skater Park Seung-hi, who will be competing.) “It's an honour to represent the PyeongChang Winter Olympics," said Park So-jin, Girl's Day's leader. "We accepted the role because we wanted to promote the Olympics and encourage all the people working behind the scenes."
7. Ji-Hae Park
Ji-Hae Park (or Ji-Hye Park) is an internationally renowned violinist, TED speaker, and amateur hockey player. Winter sports, which Park discovered while growing up in Germany, have given her some reprieve from life as a professional violinist. Watch her special pre-Olympic performance — on skates — below.
K-pop girl group AOA released its first full-length album in 2017, after a series of single and mini-album releases dating back to 2012. Though the group started out with eight members, it continues with six at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
9. Sejong Soloists
The Sejong Soloists are one of the world’s premier string orchestras, named after 15th-century King Sejong the Great, known for his contribution to the arts. Their legacy includes eight former members who now hold concertmaster positions in North America (including with the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.)
10. Don Spike
Don Spike (a.k.a. Kim Min-Soo) has been named musical director of the Pyeongchang Olympics, for which he’ll compose music played during intermissions, awards ceremonies and more. He's the director of the MBC Academy Music School, and has produced for R&B artists such as Hwayobi, Kim Bum Soo, Naul and Brown Eyed Soul.
Although the actual list of performers for the opening ceremonies has not been announced, Billboard has reported that we can expect a collaborative performance between Bolbbalgan4’s Ahn Ji Young and iconic rock band Deulgookhwa, as well as an appearance by indie band Guckkasten’s frontman, Ha Hyun Woo.
Also, North Korea’s Moranbong (known as Kim Jong-un’s favourite band, feat. Hyon Song-wol) and 140-member Samjiyon art troupe are set to make an appearance during the Games, marking the first show by a North Korean group in South Korea since 2002. The date and time are still to be announced.
Will K-pop megastars BTS make an appearance at the opening ceremony? According to Time, fans are hopeful, but nothing has been confirmed.
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