When KIM CHAEWON talked about her hard work and all she’s achieved, she would often start by saying, “It’s just …”—followed by recalling days that were more than “just” a little exhausting. And yet she continued on in a clear and determined, even somewhat lively, voice.

You sure got people talking with that “dododok” moment during your concert.

KIM CHAEWON: When I first got the “join my crew” part, I was pretty embarrassed (laughs) but a lot of people probably got to know both “Fire in the belly” and LE SSERAFIM through that so I’m very honored and grateful.


You also yelled out your “join my crew” line with Yoon Do Hyun from YB at your performance at the Golden Disc Awards in January.

KIM CHAEWON: I was worried it might seem cringey, but Do Hyun just laughed and had fun with it. The whole thing turned out really well. In many ways, that “join my crew” line has become very important to me.


Watching how you keep everything light and fun reminds me of something Lee Tae Kyeong, the director of the ENA show HYE MI LEE YE CHAE PA, said about you: “Everything she does seems effortless,” and, “she’s always herself, and that’s what makes her so charming.”

KIM CHAEWON: I figured out I’m not the kind of person who gets big laughs on variety shows. (laughs) Since I gave up on being funny right from the beginning, I decided to just be myself and have fun. I just went with the flow. I’m really glad that so many people liked it.


You always make things look effortless when you’re on stage as well, like in the “ANTIFRAGILE” performance on Meltin’ FanCam that blew up for the way you were blinking to the beat.

KIM CHAEWON: I prepare everything in meticulous detail right up until the moment I step on stage. And once I’m up there, I try not to think about anything else. Thinking too much keeps me from enjoying it. Sometimes I switch things up once I’m on stage if I feel like it, like in the video you mentioned. I get excited and think maybe I should push it further or try something a little different.

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Doing what you feel like isn’t exactly easy, I’m sure. It makes me think of the slam dunk you did in the “Good Bones” trailer for EASY.

KIM CHAEWON: We do seemingly impossible things in the trailer but make them look easy. I’ve never dunked like that in my life (laughs) but doing things like that easily is what the whole attitude of this album is about, I think. Up to now, it was always like, “I’m working hard. Look how passionate I am! I’m pretty good, right?” But I was hoping this time I’d look cool enough without having to do any of that. But even though the lead single is called “EASY,” neither the dancing nor the singing was in any way easy. It would’ve been okay if we weren’t trying to hide all the effort that goes in—the real hard part was making it look easy. It’s not “EASY”! In no way shape or form. (laughs)


I’m reminded of the phrase “the art of letting go.” I was impressed how you moved your feet so quickly while keeping up with the routine and masterfully adjusting your tempo during the line, “My every step, every second makes history, it’s my way.”

KIM CHAEWON: I saw it as a very important part and for that reason I wanted to do a good job with it, so I practiced really hard for it. I wasn’t used to hip hop moves, and we practiced a lot because we had to move in sync with each other. I had to keep thinking about where I needed to loosen up and where I needed to go all out, but I was still trying to put too much into it and ended up making it overly energetic. It was the first time the performance director ever told me, “Try loosening up a bit. You don’t have to go so hard.” It really caught me by surprise. (laughs) I’m just hoping that part becomes a highlight. I thought a lot about different ways of getting that feeling across. I like listening to and singing R&B on my own time, so I had a lot of fun working on the new single. It was a good fit for me. I think each of our distinct vibes will come across better after we perform it more and more.


“EASY” touches on personal anxieties and worries. Did it feel burdensome at all having to stir up such raw emotions?

KIM CHAEWON: Umm … I wouldn’t say I felt burdened or concerned, really. I mean, it’s all real. When I first heard it, I thought it was so us. We’ve often heard people saying that they are jealous or that we have it easy. I can see why it might look that way to people. But I’ve been pushing myself really hard behind the scenes, and that’s what’s allowed me to get where I am today. I really like the message behind this song. It lets us say, We make it look easy, but there’s nothing easy about it. It might appear all sparkly to you, but there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. No matter what you see on the surface, all of us have our own struggles and issues to deal with. That’s why I felt it was something everyone could relate to. It’s wonderful I can convey such difficult-to-express thoughts and feelings through our music, our performances, and our albums, and I’m really grateful for it. It lets me be more open.

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You helped write the lyrics to “Swan Song.” What did you want to say with that track?

KIM CHAEWON: I tried to be honest about what I’ve been thinking and feeling lately. Everything looks peachy on the outside, but the reason we can climb so high is because of the immense amount of effort we put in underneath it all. Honestly, every single album, it’s tough. New issues come up all the time, so no matter how hard you work, it’s always tough. But I guess that’s life. At one point I realized there’ll always be new things to worry about waiting around the corner. When does this go away?  Ah … No, that’s just the way it is. But then I thought, There’s no other choice.  When the going gets tough, I’ll just keep going. I can do this.


What do you do when the fruits of your labor don’t blossom like you’d hoped for?

KIM CHAEWON: When that happens? I’m not too happy about it, to be honest! (laughs) But after everything I’ve gone through with all those people and everything we’ve put into it, it means too much to just throw it all away because of one thing. It would be such a waste if I came apart at the seams over that. Nobody knows what the future holds, but I believe I can push through any challenge I face—because it would be a pity to lose everything I’ve worked for. Plus, I’m a lot stronger mentally and emotionally than I used to be. Even if there’s a bump in the road, we still have a future ahead of us, so it’ll be okay. Just say, This one was a bit disappointing, so I’ll have to really nail it next time. I can use that bump as motivation to keep working hard.


And what about when things turn out well?

KIM CHAEWON: Even then, it’s the same deal. When all goes well, it’s like, Wow, we’re doing great! Let’s keep it up! And when it’s not quite up to snuff, it’s, We’ve gotta work harder and do better. (laughs) It’s the difference between, “Let’s do this!”—and (sighs) “… we really gotta do this.” The feeling’s a bit different, but the idea’s the same.


So the conclusion is the same either way, then? (laughs)

KIM CHAEWON: Yes. Ah, it’s weird (laughs) but I think I want to keep going regardless of how things turn out. There’s so much more hardship than happiness in the world. But the fleeting moments of happiness are enough to make it all worthwhile. That in itself is fascinating to me. I think there will even come a day when I can enjoy the hard times, too. If I can just hang on and endure what I face now, I’ll be happier later on.

Has there been enough happiness in your life lately to balance out the hard times?
KIM CHAEWON: Well, it turns out happiness doesn’t really come from anything special. (laughs) It’s nothing big, but I bleached my hair for the first time for the music video for our new album, and I loved it. Just that made me happy. And I think I’ll be happy again seeing the fans’ reactions during the comeback. That’s the sort of thing that makes me happy. It’s all about perspective, really. I once had a time where everything was going really well and things were turning out nice, and I just thought, Why don’t I feel happy? I couldn’t find that happy feeling. When I try too hard to be happy, I can’t feel it at all. I can just find happiness by changing the way I think, too. Like this: (picks up cup) I’m really happy just drinking this. (laughs)

Nevertheless, in the “fimkitaka” video you recorded, you said, “feeling sad or down is needed for a person.”
KIM CHAEWON: It’s not wrong to feel down. There are so many emotions in the world; everyone’s going to feel down sometimes. Without sadness, there would be no happiness either. It’s all relative. Obviously it’s not good to hold onto that feeling for too long, but feeling it is part of what you have to go through to grow and learn, I think.

Is there someone you can be open with about those feelings? In a previous Weverse Magazine interview, you said that you’re the type to show it when you’re struggling and that you “don’t usually let people know when I’m having a bad day.”
KIM CHAEWON: All of us got together recently to talk when we were all done shooting the music video. We each talked about what we’d been struggling with lately and what’s been on our minds. All of a sudden, I felt really fortunate that we could talk to each other like that. They can tell how I feel now without me even saying anything and they try to lift away my burden. Once I saw they were doing that, I felt like I should open up more. I’ll only be making it harder for them if I try and keep it all in.

Sometimes when we talk about something that’s really weighing on us, it turns out not to be so bad after all.
KIM CHAEWON: Exactly. If you think you’re alone, you are. Actually, that time I was talking to the members, all the others were opening up about their concerns, but I still wasn’t saying anything. (laughs) Then they sort of teased me, like, “CHAEWON, we know you’ve got worries too. Just tell us.” They were nice enough to get the conversation started. Then I figured I was safe to just open up to them without them feeling weighed down by anything I say. I felt a lot more open about myself from then on.

Maybe that’s why, in the “Do you know us?” video, the other members all agreed that you need “time” before you feel close with others.
KIM CHAEWON: That’s absolutely true. If I spend a lot of time with someone and we get to know each other, it helps put me at ease. If I felt low on energy when on tour, or tired while working on EASY, joking around with the other members a little for a boost was a humongous help. That helps me to endure. I’ve definitely been able to feel us getting a lot more comfortable with each other lately, and we rely on each other more now, too. I felt like, Wow, we made it through because we have each other. I’m really lucky to have met them. It’s an absolute blessing. It’s amazing how all five of us are so committed to what we do and put this much thought into it. I’m just really lucky, I think. (laughs)

In that same interview, you also mentioned that, as a leader, “I don’t think I should let people see when I’m having a hard time.” What about now? What do you think makes someone a good leader?
KIM CHAEWON: When they’re able to be the sturdy core of the group. I think a group needs to have someone stable like that.

At your concert in Seoul last August, you said, “As time goes on, I not only want to become a better artist, but also a good person.” What exactly did you mean by that?

KIM CHAEWON: Well, I’m not quite sure how I can become a good person yet, but I’d like to show people the real me, without any affectations. Sometimes I feel like, no matter what kind of emotional turmoil people face or how they feel about their lives, we’re all thinking and feeling similar things. That’s why I want to show people the real me, and, on top of that, if I show that I’m working hard and I live a good life, I think I can give them courage and hope, too.


You uploaded some everyday photos to Instagram captioned with the song title “the way things go,” as well as a still from the movie The Truman Show where the main character realizes he’s living in a fake world.

KIM CHAEWON: I tried to put myself in his shoes and asked myself if I could step out into a new world if the world I’ve always known turned out to be fake, and I realized it would be harder than I might think. I felt like it would be hard for me to step out into a new world when I don’t know what’s out there.


Despite what you’re saying, it seems like there’s a part of you that always wants to keep moving forward. You made a post on Weverse on January 1 that included the words, “Maybe you weren’t happy every day, but did you still manage to work up the strength to keep moving forward?”

KIM CHAEWON: I’m always moving forward, even when it doesn’t show. Even if things don’t turn out perfect, it doesn’t mean I’m stuck. It helps me learn more about myself and grow. In this line of work, you have to continuously show something new and prove yourself. It’s tough, but it’s also super fun. I keep discovering new things about myself, and when I achieve something through that, the happiness I feel is immeasurable.


Fleeting moments of happiness really do make it all worthwhile.

KIM CHAEWON: I think so, yes. I derive a kind of happiness from this that I’d never find otherwise. And I think I’m very much aware of that. I’ve always loved singing and dancing, and the fact that I can still be this passionate about it even when I’m doing it as a job proves to me just how much I love it. I mean, I guess I just really love what I’m doing. (laughs)

Article. Song Hooryeong
Interview. Song Hooryeong
Visual Director. Jeon Yurim
Coordinator. Yee Siyeon
Visual Creative Team. Nu Kim, Yoon Cho, Soo Lee (SOURCE MUSIC)
Photography. Nikolai Ahn / Assist. Cho Seunghan, Keisuke Yamada
Hair. Oh Yumi, Hamin (BIT&BOOT)
Makeup. Kim Ina, Kim Iseul (WOOSUN)
Stylist. Shun Watanabe / Assist. Seina Tanimoto, Roh Yujin
Nail. Tomoya Nakagawa / Assist. Seoul Kim
Set Design. Leeroy Kim(@leeroykim), Kim Sungtae(@kim_so_young91)
Artist Protocol Team. Kim Hyungeun, Kim Ahri, Kim Hyunho, Park Sihyun, Park Hanwool, Shin Kwangjae, An Eunbi, Hwang Jihoon