Shining attraction, Kim Junsu
The man who made an unheeded choice into the will of God
Three Days in Macau with Kim Junsu.
Macau, which was thought to be clear and humid, was actually cloudy and sometimes raining. We thought that the city would be crowded, but one can experience leisurely slowness walking out of just one alleyway. Signs were lined up on the roads, but turning around faces one with a stone building that resembles Europe. Macau and our expectations were very different.
It was Kim Junsu who selected Macau as the photo shoot location. This photo shoot was work, but it was also a vacation with close staff. “Asia’s Las Vegas, a city in which the sun never sets. As the night sets in, the city instead becomes livelier. I like this kind of atmosphere.” Since elementary school, he imagined life as a singer. To the star who spent his 20s as how he imagined it as a child, Macau was a city that resembled the warm times he has spent.
“Come to think of it, I haven’t been able to rest for a year before coming here.”
A year ago, Kim Junsu was at JYJ’s concert in Tokyo Dome. With three concerts, they filled Tokyo Dome with 150,000 people from across Japan.
After that came the musical that earned him the Best Musical Actor award at the Korea Musical Awards, <Elizabeth>, in 2013, his second solo album, <INCREDIBLE>, which topped iTunes charts in 8 countries, including Singapore and Japan, immediately upon release and was 5th on the Billboard World Album Chart, as well as performances that once again proved his ticket power, his “Ballad & Musical” concert and the original musical production, <December>. It was a year in which he showed us that he knows exactly what he wants and what a talented artist like him can achieve.
10 years since he debuted. The landscape has changed, and a boy has become a young adult. For Kim Junsu, the word ‘growth’ doesn’t suit him, because his desired destination is not simply “going up”. The last 10 years were years of horizontal growth in Kim Junsu’s world.
A three day vacation before he takes footsteps towards another peak. The warmth of <December> that remains in him, we share with our readers the dialogue between him and us.
Q: The musical <December> has ended. What thoughts did you have after finishing the shows?
A: Should I do it, or shouldn’t I do it, it was production that I agonized about. I really like Kim Kwangsuk sunbaenim’s songs but I worried about how they would play out in a musical and there is also a bias against jukebox musicals. I had fears due to memories of hardship from when I performed in an original musical. It’s not a song through, but a musical that requires acting with many spoken lines. However, taking away the worries of whether the musical will do well or not, I came to think that it would be a musical that I can learn many things from. After finishing it, I think that I like musicals more now. Since <December> started, lines continuously changed and there were many tough factors, but interestingly, that process was very enjoyable. Originally, when a musical is about to end, I would think that I am so tired that I can’t appear in another musical for a while, but after <December>, I wanted to enter another production immediately. As a musical actor, I overcame my biases as well.
Q: What kind of biases did you have?
A: I thought that if a musical wasn’t a song through, then it’s not time to take it on yet. There’s definitely acting in musicals, but I do it because of the music. If someone asks me “Why don’t you act in dramas?” I would say that I have the most confidence in music, so musicals are more comfortable for me. I thought that I’d do a musical with an acting focus after I turned 30, but I challenged it earlier than I thought. Unlike my bias, I learned a lot and the development process of an original musical was very interesting.
Q: Specifically, how did you participate in the development process?
A: No matter how many good points there are in a license musicals, it’s hard to get a reaction. Director Jang Jin collected many of the actors/actress’ opinions. For the ending, the original plan was that the show would end simply with Jiwook hugging Yi Yeon but he suggested that Yi Yeon would say “See you again” and Jiwook would say “Let’s meet again.” There were opinions that [the original] is unclear whether it’s a happy or sad ending, so adding these implicative words would’ve been nice. He eagerly accepted people’s opinions and the audience was able to understand the musical easier with that line.
Q: What do you think about your acting in <December>?
A: I was lacking.. I was able to cry with others when I had to cry and could laugh with others when I had to laugh. I see it this way.
Q: Do you think it’s possible that you’ll try drama acting?
A: Ultimately, musical acting and drama acting are different. Being able to act well in musicals doesn’t mean one can surely act well in dramas as well, and vice versa. They are related to an extent, so it can help. I don’t think I can say “I can do dramas” or “I can’t do dramas” through this experience. If a fitting role comes by, then I could try it. It’s not the time just yet.
Q: A large proportion of <December> audience members were in their 40s~50s. What was it that touched their hearts?
A: It could be their longing for Kim Kwangsuk sunbaenim and the fact that the musical talks about their generation. For the first time, I heard laughter from middle-aged men. I’ve always heard laughter of female audience members only. I’ve never heard middle-aged men laughing ‘Heo heo heo’ so broadly. It was really fresh and amazing.
Q: You must’ve had many worries because your voice and style of singing is different from Kim Kwangsuk.
A: Because it was recomposed into a musical style, I thought I could do it. I have some feelings for the 1970s~80s. My mother sings very well and since I was young, I listened to songs by singers like Lee Mija and Patti Kim, so I could sing without any incompatibility. In fact, I can’t really match recent style trends. ‘Machine sounds’, I can’t really do that.
Q: What effect did <December> have on singer Kim Junsu?
A: I felt the emotions of old songs, and once again experienced the feeling of “My father’s generation was like this.” Even though it’s a bit naïve now, sincere love is very beautiful.
Q: Old songs really understand love.
A: That’s right. The younger generation seems more pitiful. In the olden days, there were no cell phones, which was inconvenient, yet on the other hand, people’s emotions were deeper.
Q: Amongst musical fans, there are murmurs like “Kim Junsu’s choices are definitely different”. <Mozart!> <Tears of Heaven> <Elizabeth> and <December>, your choices appear to be challenges, and it shows that you have confidence. Mainly speaking, what kind of musicals do you select?
A: Rash choices? (laughs). To be honest, as a newcomer in my first musical, the songs in <Mozart!> were quite tough. What I can say confidently now, is that of all the musicals that exist, <Mozart!> is the most technically difficult. All musicians agree with this. It was my first time with a musical and I didn’t know things, so I thought I could challenge it. Normally, the lead only carries 50% of the musical, and even that’s a lot, but <Mozart!> was about 80%. If I think about it now, I was really rash. My second musical was an original musical, <Tears of Heaven>, and that was also a ridiculous situation. It was a production that many sunbaenims didn’t take on. ‘Tod’ of <Elizabeth> was a surreal character, and expressing the character of ‘Tod’ was a great challenge. When I said I would take on this character, I heard criticisms saying that “A very sexy man has to act this character, you don’t fit the character.”
Q: Why did you come to make rash decisions?
A: I don’t like making predictable choices. For example, if fans say that I will release an album in May, or if they say I will do a certain type of production next, then I want to do a different production. I have that kind of tendency (laughs).
Q: The spectrum of emotions that you show on stage is always amazing. Where did you get this ability?
A: I just think about the atmosphere and the lyrics. I think about the background and my figure, the music, the lyrics, and the story. I don’t think in a simple manner, but I don’t think in a complex manner either. But, when I was in TVXQ, I would sing sad songs while crying. I thought that was natural. When I appeared in musicals, other actors would tell me that it is an advantage.
Q: You seem to have been an imaginative child who would daydream a lot.
A: That’s right. I did that a lot. I lived through my imagination. In elementary school, I even imagined that I performed in a two-hour concert and then left the stage. When I sang in the washroom, I lived in my imagination. It’s the same now. For this photo shoot, I looked at photos of Macau and imagined the atmosphere.
Q: What is the strongest appeal of musicals?
A: To other actors, it could be the sound of applause from the audience, but that’s not all for me, because I can hear that in concerts as well. The strongest appeal is being able to live in that role, and singing through the emotions of that role. It’s not XIA Junsu singing, but the emotions of that character singing.
Q: Did you ever think that you would continue to do musicals for the rest of your life?
A: I feel that every time. It was musicals that allowed me to stand in front of the world and it was the one place that didn’t treat me with unjustness, so I can’t help but love it. Even giving me the Best Actor award, I think I will be buried doing musicals.
Q: How have you positioned yourself in the musical world?
A: What can I say? If you ask me how I select musicals, I have always said that it’s the music. That was the reality. That’s why I think people believe that “Even if Kim Junsu’s musical is short, the music is great.” They’re confident that aside from the scenario, visuals and production value, the music is good.
Q: Have you developed any occupational diseases since you started appearing in musicals?
A: It’s not as far as an occupational disease, but I make an effort to sleep. Since coming out of TVXQ, I haven’t made an effort to sleep. Even if I have a schedule the next day, I never felt pressured to sleep but now I have a personal rule, which is that I must sleep at least 10 hours the day before a musical show. It’s one of the responsibilities I feel as I am creating a musical with other people.
Q: How are you maintaining your voice and physical strength?
A: For maintaining my voice, I think sleeping well the day before a performance is enough. For my physical strength, I don’t do any of the bad things, like smoking. I think that’s sufficient.
Q: Is it that you want to try it but you haven’t?
A: Half and half. It’s not that I want to. I can’t and I don’t want to as well.
Q: I understand that your views on outer appearance changed after ‘Elizabeth’. What has changed after you’ve opened your eyes to the world of fashion?
A: I now spend a lot of money at clothing stores. Brands like BOON THE SHOP and Corso Como come to ‘find’ me. If new collections come out, I receive text messages (laughs). To be honest, I didn’t know the importance of fashion. I thought that a singer just needs to sing well. “So what if I look handsome or not, so what if my clothes look nice? If I wanted that then I’d become a model.” I had these stubborn views. Rather than ‘opening my eyes to the world of fashion,” I realized that fashion is a part of being an entertainer. It was the first time in years that I dieted, and in the photo shoot that I did at the time, I saw a new me. Fans really liked it. I would greet my fans with my songs, but being able to bring joy to them in this form was interesting, and I felt sorry as well. People who weren’t my fans when I just sang came to like [the new me]. I realized that I have to tend to my appearance.
Q: Because we’re talking about visuals, I’m saying this. Many people who saw you dancing with your hips in <Tarantallegra> became your fans. Were you born with a flexible pelvis, or is it the result of gruelling practices?
A: (Manager: He has a nickname that female reports gave him. “Glamhip Teacher Kim Junsu” which means “Glamorous Hips: Teacher Kim Junsu”) Hahahaha. What are you talking about. I would dance a bit before, but I was really embarrassed. I was good at it in the past, but I was embarrassed so I would only do it a bit. After making ‘Tarantallegra’ and ‘Uncommitted’, I realized it wasn’t so embarrassing. I collaborate with the American dancers often and there’s a lot of “hip dance” that’s involved, so that’s a reason. Because my butt protrudes a bit, it’s more obvious.
Q: Looking at your SNS accounts, you upload many photos of your house. It seems you’re very interested in the interior design.
A: I’m very interested in it. To be honest, I’m more interested in interior design more than clothing recently. I moved a while back and it was the first time I personally did the interior designs. Changing the atmosphere of the house through interior design was really interesting.
Q: You support the ‘House of Love’ project. What does a home or the space mean to you?
A: The space is, at the end of the day, where I will end up returning to. Building houses for those in need was the result of considerations on what I can do with money. Money can’t be responsible for the rest of their lives, so I think teaching them how to live or setting up a base for them is the right way to help. The reason for setting up a school in Cambodia is the same. I hope that the children can attend school and set up the foundation they need to find careers of their own.
Q: Was there a special chance that made you think about the concept of sharing?
A: Since leaving my old agency. In the past, I didn’t have something to be thankful for. If an album comes out then we reach #1, we receive awards, our concerts would be sold out and if we went anywhere, we’d be treated well. Everything was as a matter of course, but that ended up becoming a misfortune. In the uncertain present, I am thankful for everything. You can say that it’s a misfortune that we can’t appear on broadcasts now, but I accomplished things that I didn’t think I could as a singer. I am thankful that I could release a solo album, and I am thankful that I can stand on concert as well as musical stages. Through this chance, the JYJ members now all share financially when needed.
Q: It’s the first time in a while that you’ve gone on vacation. How does “Kim Junsu live joyfully”?
A: Work and rest, then work and rest again. This is how to live joyfully. In the past, it was only work, work, work, and work. Now, I rest as much as I work and when I rest, I try to only encounter positive things. There’s a saying that no matter how much one earns, the happy ones are that person’s children, but the person earning the money isn’t happy. The person can’t have fun, can’t enjoy, and can’t live. I heard that kind of life is the greatest misfortune. I give myself a reward as much as I worked. That’s healing to me, and a reason to live on.
Q: Compared to your old life, how much happier are you now?
A: Being able to express my opinion while doing something. Being able to know what I’m doing before going for a schedule. Fundamentally, there’s a huge difference because in the past, I had to do everything. Now, I feel some personal responsibility as I do activities. Because of this, if there’s a problem then it’s nobody else’s fault, and if things succeed, then I feel a great sense of accomplishment. Just by loving and creating my life as I live, I feel like my heart becomes full.
Q: Up until now, how much of Kim Junsu have you showed us?
A: Let’s say that I’ve shown half of me. I have done everything a man in his 20s can do. A man’s life starts at 30, so I will show everyone my remaining 50% when I turn 30.
Note by Intoxiacation: “Take out with full credit & do not take out in parts”