ASTRO for Harper’s Bazaar (2017 May issue)
I heard that you’re in charge of ‘fatality’ and 'provocation’ in ASTRO?
My confidence level dropped a bit after today’s filming. I thought I was sexy when I was shooting but after looking at the monitor, I was like an angry person. Seems like I’ve to study up a little more… Shall I describe it as a period of self-reflection? (laughs) But even so, it was nice since I was able to try an experimental style that I’ve always wanted to wear. Clothes with sleeves going down all the way to my knees, with holes ripped in places and of loud colours.
Maybe it’s because of your way of speaking that’s mixed with aegyo or maybe it’s because of your eye smile but I actually thought you were the 'sweetest’ member. When is that you feel sexy?
When I’m sweating on stage and not smiling. (Cha Eunwoo who was quietly listening in, added on, “Hyung, you really look like you’re suffering then. Your make-up’s all gone away. You’re sexy when you’re belting out your high notes.”_ I look ugly then though… Okay, it’s when I’m singing but only my neck is sexy and not my face!
Who’s an artist in your age group that has had the greatest amount of influence on you?
Sung Si Kyung sunbae-nim and Highlight sunbae-nims. I especially respect Yang Yoseob sunbae-nim. I enjoy watching videos of idol singers performing live before I go to sleep, I watched DBSK’s concert video yesterday. While being amazed throughout those two hours and going, “Woah, so it’s possible to create a stage this dynamic.”
I heard that up till now you’ve went through four relationships.
I didn’t date any of them for long. I care for them lovingly and listen to everything they say but I couldn’t actually expressing my feelings properly. If there was something that disappointed me, I’m the type to think over it alone and am a little defensive. I don’t think I’ve ever fully given my heart. Because I’m scared I’ll get hurt.
In an interview, you chose 'time travel’ as a super power you’d like to possess. What’s your reason?
It’s because I want to go back to a time where I was younger and have an early start, preparing myself even more but bit by bit. I’d probably have grown a lot taller if I had slept earlier then (laugher).
Moonbin mentioned that while you’re extremely sensible, you don’t trust in that sensibility and are always doubtful.
I worry a lot and am also really shy. But once we get closer, I’m more cheerful and animated than anyone else (you know). In particular, I’m confident that my ability to spread positive energy is the best within the team.
Not singing? You’re the lead vocal though.
It’s hard to say I’m confident in that. Because I’m at a stage where I need to really grit my teeth and work hard.
Who made up the name 'JinJin’ for you?
My face looks like a puppy’s. I was reading a webtoon titled <Jin Jin Evolution*> where a Korean Jindo is the protagonist and then one day Moonbin started calling me like that. Everyone was calling me by my nickname, “JinJin hyung, JinJin hyung,” but it ended up really becoming my stage name (laughs).
You’re the oldest and also the leader in your team but you were chosen as the member who cries the most.
I think I’ve cried at every single concert or fan meeting we’ve held until now. The tears just come to me when I think about my parents. To be honest, my dad had a great influence on how I ended up doing music. He played the drums as his hobby and I started learning with him then. Since my 5th year of elementary school, I played the drums for about 5 years and then as I learnt the guitar and dance, I naturally dreamt of (becoming) who I am now.
I heard that everyone personally writes their own rap, what do you have drafted in your notes lately?
(looking through the notes in his handphone) Can I rap it? (laughs) “A lot of things have happened, being together was fun, you look prettier the more I look at you that I wandered around feeling flustered” (You have to read it rhythmically!) The content is about not wanting to be friends just for that day and wanting the relationship to progress into lovers. It’s not my own story, I’m usually the sort to gain a lot of ideas through movies (laughs).
Who’s a rapper that you like the most?
Big Sean! (On this day, as soon as JinJin heard Big Sean’s Moves loudly playing on the filming site, he gave up his sandwich, dashed out from the dressing room and started to move along with the rhythm.) Opposed to a low tone tight rap, I think the style of completely warming up your voice and then being able to easily go into a high tone rap is really cool.
I heard that you collect colognes and shoes.
Rather than liking just one thing, my personality itself tends to look out for new things. Hairstyle, clothes, colognes, I’m the type to quickly get sick of something so I like to gather this and that. Even with my shoes, I collect one model in different colours. With my rapidly growing interest in fashion, I’m daringly challenging myself to try fancy things and what stands out. Lately I like matching my dress code to my shoes.
Now that you mention it, you’re wearing black trainers and a black shirt today too.
It’s a pair of trainers that I really wanted to own and the fans gifted it to me. I’m really thankful. I’m always wiping them with tissues and being careful when I wear them (laughs).
*Not the official English title
Listening from start to finish your EPs which you released throughout last year in time for Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, you naturally imagine an innocent boy wearing his school uniform. Can we see a developed image through your new mini album that you’re busily preparing for now?
Carefully envisioning it, I think it’s more of growing from a middle schooler to a high schooler rather than becoming a straight up adult. ASTRO’s characteristic zesty energy is similar to how we really are now so I think that it’s right we slowly change while maintaining that vibe.
The concept for today’s pictorial is a little different compared to the past and current ASTRO.
I’ve always wanted to try filming with this kind of feel. But it’s definitely hard. I realised that again as we were filming. “Ah, I’m still far away from being sexy, the company didn’t uselessly push for a cute concept (laughs).”
Your straight-laced model student image is strong. Even pointing out that your life’s best escape was 'going out alone to watch a midnight movie’.
I was like that back then. (How are you now?) If I were to talk about that… If I were to confess something of a level higher than midnight movies is us having secretly gone to an internet cafe? During our trainee days, avoiding eye contact with our manager and heading off to somewhere was a really big deal. Like an 007 mission, we’d carefully make our move, hiding round the corners of buildings and assessing our every step.
On the other hand, you’re in charge of the role of 'rebellious top star MJ’ in the variety drama <The Best Hit> which is being directed by PD Yoo Ho Jin in collaboration with actor Cha Tae Hyun.
He’s an extremely cocky and selfish character. He’s someone you’d really hate so I’m practicing with the mindset of, “Let’s act while thinking of someone that you never want to become and who you shouldn’t become.” Before I went for the script reading, I was practicing my lines with my manager and there were tons of labels and ways of talking that I’ve never imagined of until now, like, “Hyung! What do you do for a living?” so it was a new feeling. Next week would be the first filming so I’m really excited.
When is your loneliest moment?
When I’ve to go to sleep but can’t. It’s really distressing. I’m the sort to have a lot of thoughts so I’d think, “There wasn’t the need to go that far” but then go deeper into thinking, “What kind of person am I that I would think there was no need?” So I want to quickly promote actively and have no time to think.
Do you not have any thoughts about wanting to date? Not simply (based on) good impressions, but love.
Up till now, I’ve only dated once but I still don’t know what love is! When you read books or watch movies, don’t they say that someone who has never fallen crazy in love would never understand? That you have to experience it in order to become an adult. They say that when you love, your heart gets torn apart and you spill tears but I can’t empathise. I’m usually the style to only develop emotions after a long period of time so I really can’t comprehend falling in love at first sight. I’ll probably experience real love one day.
'A guy ripped out of manhwas’, 'a guy with a sexy brain’ and even 'face genius’, your nicknames are flashy. Today in particular, your members themselves looked at your close up shot and commented, “A top class handsome guy,” they seemed fascinated. If you were to freely boast about yourself?
Someone who’s more reliable than anyone else and who always gives his all to the people he treasures, who’s very hard on himself and there are times where it gets too much but because of that, he’s someone who’s detailed and earnest. (Your visuals?) Then… Cha Eunwoo’s a handsome guy whose face and heart are both pretty (laughs)!
It’s a first that an idol shyly went, “I want to eat bossam and pig’s feet!” Bossam and pig’s feet, even kimbap and a sandwich, you really enjoyed yourself and finished up everything (laughs).
When we went to Singapore, there was an instance where eight of us ate 180k won worth of chilli crab. Right since the start I told the company that I hope they don’t interfere when it comes to food. Going with your gut, eating when it’s time to eat, playing when it’s time to play, being zealous when it’s time to work, I think it’s fair that you lose weight when you need to go on a diet.
Are you the type to be impromptu?
More than anyone else! Eunwoo and I are both B blood types but we’re polar opposites. Eunwoo likes to plan things out one by one but that’s what I hate. There’s never really been an instance where I made plans during the school break and even if I were to write up a chart for my plans, I’ll never keep to it. Being with Eunwoo did teach me that to a certain extent, there needs to be a side of me that’s detailed but there’s no change to my fundamental thoughts or attitude. Above all, seeing how our line of work emphasizes sense, I think that be it in dancing or singing, establishing just the big picture while allowing yourself freedom within it is good.
Of the moments where he was the most grateful to his members, your roommate Cha Eunwoo picked you waking up early to be one of them.
I usually sleep a lot. Our manager comes to wake me up every 5 minutes but I really don’t hear him while light sleeper Eunwoo wakes up. Sometimes I don’t hear “You seriously have to wake up!” but can instead only clearly hear Eunwoo letting out a sigh (laughs). I’d feel sorry then and my eyes naturally open.
Is there a field outside of ASTRO’s promotions that you have a greed for?
I really want to one day try acting in a movie. It’ll be even nicer if it was a movie that centers around a webtoon or novel. I usually like (reading) manhwas and webtoons. I’ve been reading the Naver webtoon <Street Gossip*> and it makes me think that it’ll really be a hit if the webtoon was produced as a movie or drama. As a fusion fantasy historical genre, the story’s unique and there’s a big handful of good lines.
Which line touched your heart?
The girl’s a blue blood but she’s blind while the guy’s an illiterate born in the lowest class. Lines normally have to be read in the story so that they’re properly conveyed but talking about just the meaning, “Even if I can’t see you, even if you’re an illiterate, I like you for who you are and because of that, I’m plenty happy now.” Those words really played out prettily.
Thinking about it, didn’t you point out going to Tokyo Anime Center to be your ideal date? I can sense you’re a huge fan.
For the sake of and <One Piece> and <Tokyo Ghoul>, I really want to go to Tokyo Anime Center even if it’s by myself. I usually like watching YouTube videos like ‘Marvel vs. DC’ and mystery videos about freakish happenings or involving bizarre creatures like Bigfoot, Sasquatch. I’m the type to see it to the end once I get hooked on something. Even yesterday, I ended up sleeping after watching the ending of the game <Battlefield> (laughs).
*Not the official English title
You had red lighting shining all around you today at the filming site and your intense facial expressions you showed off didn’t look an ounce awkward.
To be honest, I was shy and embarrassed but the picture had to come out well so I tried my best to focus. Watching our pre-debut webdrama <To Be Continued> now is still pretty awkward but I realised today that even my 'bad acting’ can become of help (laughs). I think that thanks to the webdrama, I learnt how to focus by creating my own space within the awkwardness. Not that I want to become an actor straight away but I want to give it another try one day.
What kind of role would you like to try then?
I want to challenge myself at the action genre. I was good at taekwondo when I was younger so I was ever Gyeongsangnam-do’s representative. I think I’m able to dance like I do now because I’m athletic. It’s been hitting me lately that your sense of balance is really important if you want to use your body properly. I think that you’re able to be better at what you like doing if your condition’s good.
I heard that you play a pivotal role in your team when it comes to choreography.
I danced since I was 4. I learnt a little bit of Korean dance and even ballet. I do a lot of monitoring on a regular basis to the point that continuously replaying videos of my dancing on stage is my hobby. I’m also always watching choreographies from people who are the top of the class, like worldwide choreographer AJ. I really want to be acknowledged as a choreographer.
Since your debut days, the competition and tests must have been endless so how do you relieve stress?
I wish I could have a good sleep because it’s tough on my body but to be honest, 'stress’ is a rather ambiguous word to me. Since what I’m doing now is fun and I’m happy? (laughs)
Who do you match the best with in the dorms?
(staring into space) I match the best with our television (laughs). I’m on friendly terms with all the members but we don’t play around. In fact I mainly while away my time watching the television. It hasn’t been long since we got one in our dorm and movies that you pay to watch couldn’t be as sweet.
I heard that you still write your rap lyrics in a notebook.
At first there were a lot of notes in my locker that I scribbled down as practice but I can’t look at them now. I’m so bad at writing that it’ll make your stand on its ends. There are lyrics that I wrote starting off with the word 'boy’ but I threw those away (laughs). I think at that time I really put my feelings into writing them but looking at them now, they’re horrible. I can’t write stories about people. Is it because I’m far away from love now… (laughs).
What did you do before coming to the filming site today?
I had my guitar lesson. I used to learn (to play) by myself but I wanted to strengthen my basics so I’ve been taking lessons once per week since not too long ago.
You playing your guitar and singing Kim Kwang Seok’s I’ll Become Dust at an audition pre-debut was memorable.
It’s a song that my father really liked and enjoyed singing. His original dream was to become a singer. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen him singing with a guitar in his hands since so long ago but I think he’s had a great impact on me. 2 years ago, he had my older brother who was leaving to join the army the next day, stand in front of him and he sang 'A Letter From A Private’. Even his favourite song to sing at karaokes is Kim Kwang Seok sunbae-nim’s Around Thirty.
What do you think about the most throughout the day?
Hm… guitar! I’ve recently been practicing with the guitar my fans gifted me and it makes me realise how much precious it is.
You’re the youngest in your team. Aren’t you the only one born in the 2000s?
It’s a truth I found out later on but I actually nearly didn’t make it into ASTRO’s member line-up. During the time when they couldn’t make up their minds because I was too young, I suddenly grew taller and went through a growth spurt. My growth rate suddenly shot up past 10cm during my 3rd year of middle school and I was able to join as ASTRO’s younger member. Even recently I’m continuing to grow little by little. I’ve to stop (growing) now though (laughs).
Do you have a nickname?
4-cut fairy! There’s an app that automatically merges 4 of your selfies. I use that to take pictures and then I’ll often upload them on twitter. It seems like I’m always using the same facial expressions so I’ve been taking pictures while studying up (laughs).
Do you have any personal talents as well?
MJ hyung seriously has a lot. He’s the king of imitation. I really can’t do impersonations. There’s one I practiced by myself. Doraemon?
What are your goals for 2017?
I want to try winning no.1 on a public broadcast. We’ve yet to win even once.
Taking this interview as an opportunity, is there anything that you really want to say?
There’s something I’d like to say to AROHAs. We’ve been on hiatus after wrapping up promotions for our 3rd album but we’re zealously preparing! Please wait just a little longer! Please make sure to tell them that I’ve dyed my hair (laughs).
Translations by @99pmh
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