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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

PEOPLE

By Alexandra A. Seno


Young Man in a Hurry

A little extra exposure never does any harm in the movie business. And Japanese heartthrob KANESHIRO TAKESHI got plenty of that in 1998. Proving himself in mode well beyond the region, the 25-year-old starred in an international print campaign for Prada, the Italian fashion house. The art house crowd also got to see him in Too Tired to Die, a Korean-American production in which he co-starred with Oscar winner Mira Sorvino. In Tokyo though, the half-Japanese, half-Chinese Kaneshiro proved to be a hot item all on his own. Companies that used him to endorse their products were swamped with requests for ads featuring his pretty-boy features. Less patient fans took to getting their hands on them any way they could - including stealing railway station billboards. For years, the Chungking Express actor has been a top idol among the teenage set in Hong Kong (where he is known as GUM SING-MO) and in Taiwan, where he grew up.

Chaebol Boss-Waiter: No Point Wining About the Past

How the tables have turned for many of South Korea's rich and powerful like SUH SANG ROK. The Sammi Group vice-chairman lost his job when debts forced his firm, once the country's 26th-largest, to go bust. The result: Suh, 61, took to the wine bottle - and to bussing tables and polishing silverware at Seoul's Hotel Lotte. Says the trainee-waiter: "I feel very guilty. People like me caused the economic crisis." Suh, who wants to open his own restaurant, seems to have come to terms with his new life. "I can't apply for a high-level job again," he said. But his extensive experience in executive dining has already come in handy. He is now an instructor in the hotel's recently launched - and immensely popular - table-manners class.

Striking a Chord with the Masses

When not standing for elections and wrangling with his political opponents, what else did HUN SEN do this year? For a start, he wrote the words for more songs. "Sometimes when I hop into a helicopter, I compose [lyrics]," he said. "I don't sing or play any instruments, but I know how to write songs." Many of his works draw inspiration from his own life. The Cambodian premier had a lot to write about in 1998. He dealt with the grief of losing his mother and the joy of winning the national polls. In all, over a dozen new songs were added to his repertoire, bringing to about 100 the total of musical pieces he has given words to. "A song has to be concise, meaningful and in accordance with the rhythm," said the 46-year-old strongman. Hun Sen has released several cassette compilations of his soulful folk ballads over the years, but acknowledges he finds writing lyrics more challenging than political speeches. It's a good thing he's keeping his day job.

Glen Goei Gets Grooving

"Forever Fever has heart," said Miramax boss Harvey Weinstein of Singaporean GLEN GOEI's directorial debut. The independent film distributor liked the movie so much he bought the U.S., Canadian and British exhibition rights. And he is sure there is more good stuff to come. Weinstein offered the 35-year-old a three-picture deal in Hollywood. "It's a dream come true," said Goei, best remembered for playing the title character opposite Anthony Hopkins in London's M. Butterfly stage production. Goei is now developing several scripts - all to do with Asians. His Singapore-in-the-disco-years Forever Fever was a hit when it played in the Lion City. It is now due to show at Sundance in January 1999, as the first ASEAN movie to be accepted in the film festival's world-cinema category. Fever just might catch on.

Time to Rhyme for the Budding Fatima Bhutto

FATIMA BHUTTO managed quite a lot for a 16-year-old. Amid much public hoopla, ex-prime minister Benazir's niece published her first volume of poetry, got her name mentioned as a possible heir to the family's political dynasty and survived a bitter custody battle that pitched her mother against her dad's second wife (Fatima stayed with step-mom Ghinwa). "My aim in life is to make a difference," the Karachi high school student told Asiaweek. But for now, she completes her yet-untitled second book of poems as a break from homework.

Rupert Murdoch's STAR Attraction

Tabloids contribute a good deal to RUPERT MURDOCH's fortune - so the media mogul is no stranger to tales of torrid love affairs, sneers about old men taking Viagra and snaps of attractive young women. In 1998, though, the gossip was all about him after publications (none of them his own, of course) ran this photo. It shows the 67-year-old tycoon holidaying with WENDI DENG, 31, who until recently was vice president at his Hong Kong-based STAR TV. The two have been romantically involved since the spring, one of her friends told us. What does it take to capture the heart of a man who has everything, including a (soon-to-be-ex-) wife and four children? One acquaintance remembers Deng as being "as sweet as can be" while another called her "pure greed and ambition." As for the intense press coverage, Murdoch said: "It goes with the territory. I don't have any complaints."

Model Court Case - And the Body of Evidence

Sexy pin-up calendars are fine by Philippine beauty ANJANETTE ABAYARI - as long as they show what they are supposed to show. Yes, she was paid $250,000 by a liquor company to pose for one. But, no, she says, it was not her body that ended up on the printed poster. Claiming the offending photos were digitally doctored (the one here is not an example), she sued the firm for $900,000 in what became a landmark case. Said her incensed manager, Boy Abunda: "First, it's not her body. Second, it's not a very nice body. Third, they're not very nice pictures." The 27-year-old starlet is wary of doing poster projects while the court case continues, but expect an art photo calendar to be among her body of works for 1999.


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