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Former divas return as Golden Girls

Nov. 29, 2023 - 17:12 By Lee Jung-youn
From left: Golden Girls members Lee Eun-mi, Insooni, Park Mi-kyung and Shin Hyo-beom pose for a photo with producer J.Y. Park at the showcase held Thursday. (Yonhap)

Korean divas of the ’80s and ’90s have embarked on a new journey as a girl group, with a new single to be dropped Friday.

"Golden Girls" on KBS2 follows four divas -- Insooni, Park Mi-kyung, Shin Hyo-beom and Lee Eun-mi -- who debuted as solo vocalists more than 30 to 40 years ago as they "re-debut" as a K-pop girl group named Golden Girls.

Park Jin-young, also known as J.Y. Park, leads JYP Entertainment, one of the country's top three entertainment agencies. Park mapped out a program to transform the legendary divas into a trendy girl band, bringing together their outstanding vocal skills and music favored by the young.

The four singers, who fill the stage with their charismatic presence and powerful voices, face various challenges as they endeavor to learn new rhythms, trends and dances of much younger artists such as Twice, Ive, NewJeans and Chungha. YouTube videos of the four singing recent K-pop songs have hit over 15 million cumulative views, signaling a successful start to their journey.

The program evokes nostalgia for the older viewers, while it brings something "new" to younger viewers who are not familiar with singers from the '80s and the '90s. At the same time, the effort by the middle-aged divas to learn new things by letting go of their pride and ego as if they were rookies has been lauded as inspirational.

"We have already earned our places, and it is upsetting to be evaluated again. We have to be courageous," said Insooni in one episode.

Park, who in charge of producing, recalled that the veteran singers' K-pop challenge did not elicit a good response initially. "Many investors said they didn't think the program would work. The show almost didn't happen," Park said during the program showcase held Thursday.

"Golden Girls" is not the first program to bring top stars from the past back into the limelight.

"Dancing Queens on the Road," which aired on tvN from May to August, cast the limelight on dancing divas Kim Wan-sun, Um Jung-hwa and Lee Hyo-ri, who, with their younger counterparts BoA and Hwasa, brought back memories of Korean pop music from the ’80s to the early 2000s.

However, "Golden Girls" sets itself apart from such shows by bringing in soloists from totally different genres and confronting preconceptions about how a K-pop group should be.

"‘Golden Girls’ is an attempt to change the stereotype that girl groups should be young, sexy or feminine. It definitely expanded the scope of K-pop groups,” pop culture critic Kim Hun-sik told The Korea Herald.

The program also successfully embraced middle-aged viewers who had been neglected by the K-pop fever, offering new options for people across various generations to enjoy the show together, Kim added.

"In order to expand the horizons of K-pop and continue to try new things, rather than being consumed as a one-time group, they must seek a balance between their soloist identity and girl group member identity," said Kim.

Golden Girls will release their debut song, "One Last Time" a fast-tempo dance pop tune, at 6 p.m. Friday.