The Korean Import with a Difference

12 April, 2012 by

In March, IU made her Japanese debut with the launch of her single, Good Day. At a relatively young age of 18, she has achieved regional (if not worldwide) fame with her poppy dance numbers and soothing voice. With the recent influx of Korean pop artists breaking into the Japanese pop music scene, how does IU compare to the other acts, and what does this young starlet have that the others do not?

Born Lee Ji-eun, IU (pronounced eye-yoo) is derived from I and You, symbolizing the concept of people becoming one through music. While she is in her first year in the Japanese pop industry, she has been active in the Korean pop scene since 2009. With two albums and three EPs under her belt, it’s clear that IU is no newbie to the music industry.

IU looked different when she first debuted.

Groups such as KARA, Afterschool and SNSD are known for their legs and hip-hop inspired dance moves. With her relatively conservative dress, bubblegum lyrics and simple dance moves however, IU does not quite conform to the normal Korean pop export archetype.

Another factor that puts IU ahead of the curve is her Japanese ability. While she plays down her command of the language, it is more than enough to carry a conversation on television without needing to enlist the help of a translator. Given that many of the other groups that are active in Japan still struggle with speaking the language, it’s certainly impressionable that IU does not.

Circa 2nd mini-album, IU...IM

Fans, of course, will tell you that this is par for the course for the Korean starlet, who’s known to be a fan of Japanese animation. She even performed the theme song of anime Natsume Yuujinchou for a live performance she had in Japan to promote Good Day.

Live, IU is unrivaled. Even though just 18, she performs with the skill of a veteran performer. Fans frequently refer to the ending part of Good Day, where she hits three notes consecutively, as testament to IU’s singing prowess. More so than that, however, IU uses both her singing talent and excellent microphone control to make sure mistakes are kept to a bare minimum. In the opinion of this writer, IU is the Korean equivalent of Matsuura Aya.

She went through several image changes.

One caveat is she needs to work on her Japanese enunciation while singing. Some parts of Good Day are indistinguishable from Korean, despite the fact that the lyrics are in Japanese. However, one could easily argue that this is a direct result of it being translated from Korean and needing to keep the many rhythmic nuances to make the song sound the same. Nevertheless, this is barely cause for complaint, and I look forward to further releases from this rising star.

The official Japanese IU site can be found here. Visitors residing in Japan can also register on the site for bonus movies and wallpaper downloads.

Click here to search CDJapan for IU and other related items.


Writer who also doubles as the photographer during event coverage. Mus' interests in Japan lie in the language, literature, popular culture and underground rock bands. Having an academic background in Japan, Mus is also particularly interested in the study of Nihonjinron.