Youth that Never Returns
Go for it, because you’re young enough
by Jo Eun-ho | email@example.com
“TEN YEARS is longer than you think. You should try everything before you turn 30!” Kim Jun-su said with a smile. As a globally popular singer and actor, Kim has released albums such as …IS YOU and XIGNATURE, held a concert, and performed in musicals including Dracula and Dorian Gray this year. His hard work and careful dedication to his craft has led to huge success in both his albums and musicals. The Yonsei Annals started the interview by congratulating him on winning the popularity award with the character Dorian Gray in Yegreen Musical Awards. Although he is a superstar, his attitude during the interview was sincere, and his answers had powerful messages full of meaning. The interview focused on three aspects: music, musicals and Kim himself.
Annals: What inspired you to become a singer? From when did you dream to be a singer?
Kim: When I was young, I wanted to be a soccer player. My friends liked singers and groups such as Seo Tae-ji, Solid, and DEUX, which I wasn’t really interested in. However, when H.O.T., another famous Korean idol group made a debut a few years later, I thought that being a singer would be attractive. I decided to become a singer and stopped playing soccer. H.O.T. sparked my interest in the entertainment industry. After I found my passion for singing and dancing, I had an audition when I was in 1st grade of middle school and entered an entertainment agency.
Annals: This year, you released two albums: …IS YOU and XIGNATURE. Could you tell us about your philosophy towards music?
Kim: In former days, the public loved individuality. Many singers had their own style, and they made mega hits when the style suited them. Therefore, singers were more open to challenging themselves with various genres, producing diverse songs in the process. However, nowadays, music tends to follow certain trends that make the songs similar. For example, the current trend is hip-hop. In spring and autumn, ballads are a big hit. In other words, many singers tend to follow trends rather than focusing on their own unique style, which I find unfortunate.
I feel cautious saying this, but I consider myself standing on a bridge between individuality and conformity. There are singers who do not bother testing their individuality, but singers from my generation were open to experimenting with both sides. This is quite difficult, but in a sense it’s fun. Sometimes I have a feeling of doubt, but I also feel lucky to be on both sides. Actually in the past, I assigned great importance to my signature and individuality, at the same time communicating with the flow of the contemporary period. Overall, I guess that a singer who has experienced both sides can have rich diversity in music.
Annals: You recently finished the musical Dorian Gray. Performing in a purely domestic original musical was a notable challenge. Was there a special reason behind this challenge?
Kim: I performed in seven musicals, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that over half of them were original ones. This is because although some are licensed musicals, they were modified while being imported to Korea. I made my debut as a musical actor by Mozart, which provided me an opportunity to reveal myself to the world again. I attended several Musical Awards, and was thankful for the fact that I could sing.
At that time, I didn’t know how I could influence the musical field. However, as time passed, I realized that I could contribute largely to this field by performing in original musicals. As people came to watch my performance, I provided support to those musicals by making the field more widely known. Therefore, I decided to challenge myself by starting with Tears of Heaven, although it was hard for a rookie to perform in original musicals. I made a promise, which was that I would perform 50% of my works in original musicals. I regretted saying this at first (smiles), but I found myself working hard as I continued to receive lots of love from the audience.
I gained much from performing in original musicals. Licensed musicals have their own frames that I am forced to follow. Thus, there is a limit to how much I can individualize the character I play. However, there are no such limits in original musicals—I am free to do whatever I want. In addition, if these original musicals later become licensed, then I would be the basis which all subsequent actors would have to follow. The idea makes me thrilled.
Annals: There are many musicals in which you performed. Among the characters you have acted so far, which is the one that appeals to you the most?
Kim: All characters are special to me, which makes it difficult for me to choose one. Mozart is my debut musical, which gives me a huge meaning. Kim Jun-hyung (Tears of heaven) is the character I acted in my life’s first original musical. Tod (Elizabeth) gave me the first huge award, the Male Actor award. Yoon Ji-uk (December) helped me clear the prejudice that I could only work with song-based musicals, since I had to perform long lines as in a play. Dracula (Dracula) was the one for which I got the most favorable comments from the public. L (Death Note) was perhaps the most widely known character I performed, since a lot of people, even those who were not my fans, came to see. I especially liked that there were many male audiences than usual. Dorian Gray finished recently; I really liked the character Dorian Gray, too. I cannot say that one is above the other. However, if I must choose one, I would choose Mozart, since I made a debut with this character. Nevertheless, my love towards the seven characters is equal.
Annals: Since your debut as a musical actor in 2010, you have gathered over 500,000 audiences until now. Is there any specific reason why you decided to perform in musicals and continue doing so for seven years?
Kim: At first, I had a vague thought of wanting to perform in a musical someday. Coincidentally, I was casted as Mozart in the musical Mozart in 2010 and thus began my career as a musical actor. After that, I was so happy to be on stage. I was deeply moved and thankful for the fact that I could sing on stage again. Standing on musical stages gave me a different kind of thrill from performing at music shows. I started to fall in love with not only the musical stage but also with the musical itself. Naturally, I developed a deep interest for musical music, which made me listen to musical tracks more than any other type of music. Now, being a musical actor is my second job. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I am focused more on being a musical actor than being a singer.
Annals: Could you tell us how your career as a musical actor affected your music? Is there any connection between your musicals and your songs?
Kim: It depends, but yes, my album tracks are affected by my musicals. My last title track, “Tarantallegra” was a song that I wrote with the emotions I felt while performing Death, also known as Tod (Kim’s character in Elizabeth). Thus, as you listen to the timpani and string instruments in the track, you will realize that these instruments are most likely the ones that are used in musicals. Yes, indeed my musical and music are related. In my XIGNATURE album, “Tonight,” “…IS YOU,” and “XITIZEN” include musical atmospheres.
Annals: Could you tell us about the hardships and delights during your career? Also, what encourages you to go on?
Kim: There are always hardships, but compared to now, those in the past were much bigger. Now, I am mostly happy so I am trying to be thankful. Everyone has tough moments in life—regardless of what they do and what kind of lives they live. Anyone has likes and dislikes, right and wrong, and happy and tough moments. It is impossible for one to have only favorable times. Wanting that would be greed. Though I am happy with my life, being a celebrity has its own adversities. Still, I am thankful and happy that I can continue my work now. My energy comes from fans and those who fill the whole concert hall when I am on stage. I feel that I never get exhausted when I see them.
Annals: There are a lot of people who admire you because of your prominent challenges and efforts. Do you have any messages for the readers regarding the topic of “challenge”?
Kim: How could I say something about challenge to students who are so smart? (Smiles and considers) As someone who has more experience in society, I want to tell you not to be afraid of failures and to just go for it. Many people stand on the crossroad of dream and reality. I always tell people to do what they want, because “you are young.” There are things you must do when you grow older so you should do what you like when you are still young. While working on something you like, it might even become your future job. Who knows? Working on something you like will not only make you happy but also be extremely efficient as well. It is okay to test your possibilities as much as you want—at least until you turn 30 years old (laughs). You won’t regret it in the future. Challenge yourself to the limit and don’t give up.
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