masterly master lee

a home for forgotten and famous korean pulp, its heroes, its heroines, and its pulpeteers

The Korean Kittens’ miniskirt

The Kim Sisters never had any real competition, but one group that at least had a shot at emulating their success in the 1960s was that of the Korean Kittens. Master Lee always had a soft spot for lead singer Yun Pokhŭi, who was born in Seoul on 9 March 1946. Like Sue Kim of the Kim Sisters, Yun’s parents were famous entertainers. Yun Pugil (?-1959), her father, had graduated from the Seoul Music School with a vocal music degree and had become a popular comedian, while her mother, Sŏng Kyŏngja, worked as a classical ballerina. Yun’s older brother, Yun Hanggi, would later become a member of the group “Key Boys”, one of the most influential rock bands of the 1960s.

It is reported that Pokhŭi debuted at the age of five with the Nangnang Music Troupe at the Chungang Theatre. Three years later she joined the singer Hwang Chŏngja on stage. One year after the death of her mother in 1953, she recorded the song `I Miss You Mother’ (보고 싶은 엄마), which was  written by Son Mogin. An orphan at the age of thirteen, Pokhŭi decided she needed to make the best of her undeniable talent and successfully followed in her older brother’s footsteps.

At the age of seventeen, Yun performed at the opening of the Walker Hill in Seoul,where she performed on the same night as Louis Armstrong. Perhaps due to the success there (she is said to have made the audience laugh with her naughty imitation of Armstrong’s voice), she was asked to perform in the Phillippines and Singapore. In October 1964 the promotor Charles Owe asked her to join the vocal group called the “Korean Kittens”, which according to Sue Kim is likely to have been modelled after the Kim Sisters. Unlike the Sisters, however, the Korean Kittens did not play any instruments, and that is probably why their popularity only lasted a few years. After only one month of rehearsals, she joined the group on a tour to London where they performed on the BBC Tonight Show wearing a hanbok. When in January 1967 she returned to Korea and walked down the airplane’s frozen staircase wearing only a blouse and a mini skirt, the first worn by a public figure in Korea, it was such a noteworthy feat that the Shinsegye department store used the image in an advertisement in 1996. She has commented that she dressed up like that for her then husband, who she was separated from for long periods on end because of her overseas tours, and for that, dear Pokhŭi, Master Lee salutes you.

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5 Comments»

  Master B. wrote @

Rejoice, the Master is back!

  gordsellar wrote @

Indeed! I shall have to start checking my RSS feed a little more often! Wonderful to see new stuff here!

  masterlymasterlee wrote @

Halleluya! (as sung by Yi Nanyông on the Ed Sullivan show in the early 1960s; Yi did not speak a word of English but pulled off a great performance alongside her daughters) 🙂

  namhanman wrote @

Hello Master Lee,

your blog is absolutely amazing, i really appreciate your work. I’ve just found a newly uploaded footage of the Korean Kittens performing live on BBC: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnbtmH95Ncw

  masterlymasterlee wrote @

Dear Namhanman,

Thank you so much: that is a great little snippet!!! Master Lee loves the very busy jazz hands and clearly still is very fond of Yun Pokhŭi; it is one of his very, very few weaknesses… ^^


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