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Promoters line up to sue Rain

The singer faces legal action in Honolulu and L.A. after concerts were canceled and his breakout tour fizzled.

March 17, 2009|Chris Lee

It's hardly the triumphant return to the United States that South Korean pop superstar Rain had hoped for.

The popular singer-actor, dubbed the "Justin Timberlake of Asia," arrived in Hawaii on Monday facing two lawsuits stemming from the cancellation of dates on his 2006-07 North American Rain's Coming tour.

Rain's legal troubles follow his attempts to break into the U.S. market and build the kind of loyal fan base here that has eluded other Asian performers.

The soft-spoken Korean heartthrob, 26, appeared in federal court in Honolulu on Monday to answer a civil suit filed after he canceled a concert at Hawaii's Aloha Stadium three days before his scheduled appearance.

On Wednesday, Seung Su Lee, president of Hawaiian concert promoter Click Entertainment, testified that Rain and his former management agency, JYP Entertainment, had breached their contract, defrauded his company and damaged its reputation. The promoter says he lost $1.5 million because of the singer's no-show.

In Los Angeles last week the promoter of Rain's June 2007 concert at Staples Center -- canceled just two hours before curtain time -- filed a complaint in Superior Court suing Rain and his management team for $30 million, plus punitive damages. Promoter Andrew Kim accused Rain; his current management firm, J. Tune; JYP; and the singer's South Korean event coordinator, Star M, of breach of contract and fraud.

"He pretty much put me through hell for the last two years," Kim said. "Rain caused me a lot of harm in the entertainment industry and caused a lot of repercussions from the cancellation. I want vindication."

Kim alleges that Rain and JYP failed to disclose a trademark infringement lawsuit filed against the singer in Nevada in February 2007 over the use of the name Rain (a direct translation of the singer's Korean nickname, "Bi"), which had already been trademarked by a Beatles cover band. The lawsuit threw into question Kim's ability to promote the concert using the singer's stage name.

Sunwoo Lee, the lead attorney for Rain and JYP, called both lawsuits baseless and expressed confidence they would be dismissed.

"These allegations are totally wrong," Lee said. "These people are trying to take advantage of Rain's fame. They're finger-pointing their failures at Rain."

Things weren't always this way. In early 2007, Rain appeared poised to take the U.S. by storm after a successful engagement in Las Vegas. A television superstar in Asia, he had also been cast in a supporting role in the Wachowski brothers' anime-inspired "Speed Racer."

But by any yardstick, the Rain's Coming tour was a fiasco. Performances in San Francisco, New York and Atlanta were also canceled.

According to Kim's company, V2B Global, nearly 80% of Staples Center's 9,429 seats had been sold, with fans having flown in from as far away as Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo. The company offered full refunds to ticket holders.

Rain's attorney disputed the allegation that his client had deliberately sabotaged the Los Angeles performance.

"He was preparing for a concert and did his best," Lee said. "He was in good condition to perform and these other guys weren't ready. They lost money and now they're trying to get the scoop on Rain. I'm confident they don't have any case."

On Monday, process servers and law enforcement personnel delivered Kim's complaint to Rain as he emerged from an elevator during his first day of trial in Honolulu.

"Rain opened the papers and saw it was a lawsuit," said Kim's attorney, Daniel E. Park of the Brentwood firm Lurie & Park. "He chucked it on the floor and stormed out."

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chris.lee@latimes.com

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