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Ji Chang Wook works up crowd in most engaging fan meet

'Ang saya, di ba?' he asks. For more than two hours, the star proves why he's almost unbeatable in connecting to fans

Ji Chang Wook in Bench’s ‘Reach You’ fan meet: Warm and personal (Photos by TheDiarist.ph)

The magic of South Korean superstar Ji Chang Wook lies in his affection for his fans. Even in a huge venue like the SM Mall of Asia Arena, he was so engaging that everyone felt involved in every moment of the show.

This was what made Ji Chang Wook’s Reach You fan meet distinct and memorable—what must have set it apart from the usual fan meets. Everybody felt part of it. The fan meet was presented by Bench last November 6.

It was remarkable so that when my friend, Ilona, and I were updating each other on Chang Wook last Sunday, we sent the same message at the same time: “He’s very warm!” She watched him in Seoul recently, I was watching him in Manila Sunday.

Chang Wook couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate theme and title for his 2022 fan tour meet. Reach You is sentimental, tugs at the heart strings of fans he has been determined to see in person after so long.  The tour kicked off in Seoul on October 23, which coincidentally was his debut date 14 years ago.

When Chang Wook finally emerged onstage at the SM Mall of Asia Arena last Sunday, more than 7,000 fans welcomed him with the loudest screams—an orchestra of excitement, adoration, support, dedication, and yes, love. Many wore the Ji Chang Wook headbands. They waved their blue light sticks, fan signs. They sent him finger hearts.

Without a doubt, the Philippines is one of Chang Wook’s strongholds in the world.

At the press con the day before, Chang Wook was asked how he felt about having strong fanbases outside of South Korea. With all humility, he said he was “very thankful to have fans all over the world” because he was “only an actor” doing his job in his country.

“It is a drive for me to work harder so that I can try other activities and other events in different countries as well,” he added.

Chang Wook and his team put together a well thought-out show. His fans have been lucky that a Ji Chang Wook fan meet has always been a mini concert because this actor, who devoted his early years to musical theater, is a good singer,.

The 35-year-old actor is self-deprecating when it comes to his singing, but truly, he is a beautiful singer. He has a rich baritone so expressive that when he performed the ballad Even Though I Loved You from his 2014 musical, The Days, my eyes stung, and it wasn’t because of my contact lenses.

Aside from Even Though I Loved You, Chang Wook sang the OSTs from his dramas: Do You Believe in Magic from The Sound of Magic; To the Butterfly from Empress Ki; Kissing You from the promotion web drama, Seven First Kisses; 101 Reasons Why I Love You from Suspicious Partner; and his encore and a song he sings in every fan meet, I Will Protect You from his hit drama and fan favorite, Healer.

It’s still surreal that after waiting for so long for Ji Chang Wook to come to the Philippines, we now find ourselves reliving the memories from his fan meeting. The hangover is real.

I won’t be surprised if fans petition retail giant, Bench, to sign up Chang Wook to be a Global Benchsetter so that he could soon come back. In 2019, the actor endorsed the brand’s eau de toilettes So In Love and Sure Blue that sent fans the world over into a buying frenzy. (In cargo boxes, no exaggerating)

The Manila leg of Reach You was presented by Bench with Glorious Entertainment, Chang Wook’s agency.

The fan meet was 90 minutes of pure fun and entertainment, a testament to Chang Wook’s strong stage presence, talent, charm, and quick wit—that came with strong visual: broad shoulders, long legs, and lean abs.

It was his first time in Manila, and Chang Wook was excited to discover the city. With his team, he set off to BGC and Greenbelt just a few hours after arriving. He went shopping at Bench’s flagship store, bought giveaways for his fans (which he signed), and had desserts at the Bench Café in Bonifacio High Street. He had the calamansi slush ice and pork sisig. His favorites, he said, were the halo-halo and sisig.

He played with a cat that he saw lounging around at Greenbelt and took photos of it. On Saturday morning, he took a swim in the hotel pool and obviously enjoyed the sun, as it is freezing in Seoul.

All these moments were captured in a video that ran in the fan meet. “Sobrang masarap,” he said, while enjoying Bench Café’s halo-halo and ube brownies. His palette didn’t quite adjust to the fried banana ala mode because he said it was a mix of sweet and salty. His baffled look at a favorite Filipino dessert was just adorable.

Chang Wook was quick to pick up Filipino phrases. When asked by host extraordinaire, Sam Oh, what his wake-up call would be for his fans, he asked his interpreter, faced the audience, and said in a sweet voice, “Gising ka na… Good morning.” He said “Salamat po” several times, with endearing warmth.

As fan meets go, segments are anchored on the artist’s different projects. For Chang Wook, Reach You was a look back on the dramas he had done the past 14 years.

The engaging interview with Sam about his different takes on his drama series brought back memories. The audience squealed when his K-2 photo flashed on the screen, his white shirt baring half his torso and  muscled arms. Chang Wook laughed and chided his fans over their reaction.

He said he has been working out lately for his drama The Worst Evil to be released in mid-2023. He thinks, he said, he still got a little of his washboard abs. He might get them back because of his daily workouts. What kind of workout does he usually do, and could he demonstrate it? Sam asked.

Chang Wook did some gorgeous push-ups on stage. I never thought I’d ever describe push-ups as gorgeous, but here we are.

He also did a little magic show which wowed the audience, but perhaps what truly brought the house down were the segments where Chang Wook recreated scenes from some of his dramas with fans and where he granted his fans’ wishes, inspired by his latest drama, If You Wish Upon Me.

The fans whose names Chang Wook picked from a glass bowl were the luckiest that night. Not only were they able to have a close encounter with him, have a picture or even a selfie, but he even gave them a tight hug.

We take our hats off to the lady who was so cool and unflappable onstage as she recreated with Chang Wook a scene from Backstreet Rookie. She got a signed helmet from him.

We all empathized with the fan who was obviously hyperventilating so that she couldn’t even walk up the stage for her selfie with Chang Wook. The actor looked concerned while the staff attended to her.

Anyone in the audience could’ve easily been that fan, overwhelmed by the excitement and disbelief standing face to face with Chang Wook. The audience cheered for her when she recovered finally. We would learn later that the show staff had to help calm her down with a bottle of water.

The audience didn’t want the show to end, hanging on to its final minutes. As Chang Wook prepared for encore, the crowd chanted his name. Singing I Will Protect You, Chang Wook looked like he was holding back his tears.

Reach You will always be a fun night to remember. “Ang saya naman di ba?” Ji Chang Wook told his fans. They screamed in agreement.

Yes, Wookie, it was so much fun!

About author

Articles

Nikko Dizon worked as journalist specializing in security and political issues for nearly two decades. She is doing consultancy work during her time-off from journalism and remains immersed in the Korean Wave, in particular with BTS, actor Ji Chang Wook, and K-drama.

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