EUNCHAE sipped on the iced tea she had brought in with her to the interview as she chatted in a quiet voice about plum kelp, planet gummies, Capri Sun and her greatest fear: ghosts. But she laughed slowly and brightly as she said, “FEARNOT is so much more precious to me now than I could’ve imagined and they helped me realize I can be a happy person, too.”

This is your first comeback. 
HONG EUNCHAE: Personally, the amount of time it took to prepare for the debut and to prepare for this comeback were about the same. But while we worked really hard before our debut without knowing anything about what our fans were like, and then got a lot of love performing for fans while promoting FEARLESS, this time we were preparing with just us around and weren’t seeing fans, so it felt like such a long time. It was hard and I missed our fans, so I practiced even harder. And so it hasn’t really hit me yet that we’re finally making our comeback. I’m even more nervous than when we debuted.

The music video came out yesterday. It’s so cool, the way you’re watching an asteroid from the top of a race car. [Note: This interview took place on October 18.]
HONG EUNCHAE: We filmed that without using CGI so it was awkward and I kept laughing. We had to do several takes, so I was really curious how it would turn out, but once I saw the final product, it was so cool. I think I liked the message that we going higher and moving forward while everyone else is running away. There’s also a scene in the video where I eat planet gummies. I liked that since I like those candies. But I heard people are really divided on those.

Like dried plums? SAKURA likes those, but you don’t, right? (laughs)
HONG EUNCHAE: I tried plum kelp last time I was in Japan, though. It’s kelp, but it tastes like a plum. It’s amazing. The food’s so good in Japan that I worry I’ll put on too much weight. This was my second time going there. I had some sushi, which was incredible, and there’s so much good stuff to eat at their convenience stores.

You really love snack food, don’t you?
HONG EUNCHAE: I always keep some in my bag because I love it so much. I like eating dessert more than the meal before it. For the concept photoshoot we just did, they shot us going around the supermarket eating whatever we wanted. So there’s photos of me eating gummies and one where I’m in the middle of eating chips. I was really happy that day. (laughs)

Maybe that’s why, in The World Is My Oyster documentary, you brought Capri Sun with you to give to the other members when you met them for the first time.

HONG EUNCHAE: I went shopping when I left my family’s home to move in with the rest of the group. I like Capri Sun, so I bought some so I could put them in our fridge and pick one up whenever I want, and I bought more so I could share with the members, too. I never told anyone this before, but I even wrote little notes to give to the other members after work, but when the time came, I was so shy that I couldn’t give them to them. So I think I drank them all alone.

What brought you closer to the other members, then?

HONG EUNCHAE: I had a hard time opening up at first, so I would sit alone and didn’t talk much. But we spent all day together in the practice studio, so the dance instructor there told me, “Why don’t you try being a little open about your feelings when you talk to the other members.” So I told the other members honestly that I still wasn’t used to talking when we’re all together and that I was having a hard time adjusting and they all tried hard to understand me, and tried harder with me.

Could you feel the way they felt?

HONG EUNCHAE: I found out that Kkura had gone to that instructor before me and asked privately how she could get closer with me. The other members all wanted to become friends with me already. They just needed me to open up first. Now that I was a part of the group, I was going to be spending every day with them, so I decided I should just be comfortable approaching them. To be honest, some of them had already debuted before and there’s an age difference between us, so I never could’ve imagined we’d become this close. I think now I could close my eyes and know who’s who just by holding their hands.

It seems to me that each of them is a little bit different with you.  

HONG EUNCHAE: I don’t have an older sister, so I don’t know for sure, but YUNJIN treats me just like an older sister would—so much so that our unit name is Sisters. Zuha is like a sister and a friend, and Kkura is like my mom! CHAEWON is more like my goofy best friend. She was actually the most difficult to get close with, to be honest. She’s shy too, and I wondered if we just needed to wait a little before we could open up to each other and become close, and time was indeed the answer. It’s more awkward to keep consciously thinking about trying to get closer with someone, but we spend a ton of time together in the practice studio, so now we mess around with each other all the time and we laugh just by looking at each other.

On FIM-LOG you bought CHAEWON a stuffed animal and then said you feel like you needed to buy another gift for YUNJIN. It might seem trivial, but I was moved by how you went out of your way to make sure that one no one would feel hurt.

HONG EUNCHAE: I’m actually kind of hurt when I get the same gift as someone but it’s smaller, so I said we should buy her more. And since the others usually look after me so well, I think about everything they do for me and end up looking after them more, too.

  • HONG EUNCHAE’s dress by Not your rose.
In The Game Caterers 2 x HYBE, you survived almost to the very end when everyone had to dance to random songs, and the other members all ran out to hug you.
HONG EUNCHAE: There were so many people there and everyone had been an idol longer than me, so having to dance all the way to the end was hard and honestly embarrassing. But I kept dancing because I knew the songs so I figured I should. I thought our group wouldn’t be great at the game and played along without thinking but I ended up knowing all the dances! I discovered another one of my talents that day.

Some of the songs came out before you were born. How did you know the choreography?
HONG EUNCHAE: In case of “Into the New World,” you have to dance to that song so often as a trainee that people say it’s in the constitution, so I knew it well. And I didn’t even know the song “Candy,” but CHAEWON was in front of me and giving me hints, and I copied YEONJUN after that. When CHAEWON showed me the key moves, I was like, Got it! And I copied those. There were also a lot of people when the game started and I could see YEONJUN, so I could copy him or just move out of the way a little. And luckily I knew a bunch of the songs that played toward the end.

You showed off how quick you are at Yonsei University’s AKARAKA festival when the music started unexpectedly and it didn’t throw you off—you just started immediately.
HONG EUNCHAE: AKARAKA’s a school festival, so the music starts playing as soon as the students in charge turn it on. I was already ready to put my legs in the air because I was expecting the music to start without warning. It always makes me nervous since we have to start the dance as soon as the music starts. We practiced really hard before our debut so we would be able to do it even when the music starts right away. So my legs already started moving and the rest of my body had to catch up. (laughs)
It must have taken an incredible amount of practice to be able to do that.
HONG EUNCHAE: I’ve practiced “ANTIFRAGILE” so many times, too, that I think I can get the vibe across anytime, anywhere. (laughs) For example, in “ANTIFRAGILE,” even though it seems like I use the same hip movements for all the different parts, I have to move my hips hard for the part where we sing, “Right now I’m on my way,” and for the “anti ti ti” part, I have to move my hips more subtly, so they all feel different for each part. So I put a lot of thought into which parts need a lot of strength and which I should relax for more while practicing.

In “ANTIFRAGILE,” you sing the part that goes, “Walk like a majestic lion.” It almost felt like a spoiler when you make your majestic first entrance in the documentary and then pull out that squished stuffed Ryan doll. (laughs)
HONG EUNCHAE: I didn’t know anything about “ANTIFRAGILE” at that point! I always slept with that Ryan doll when I lived with my family so of course I brought it with me, but it got all crushed in the luggage. (laughs) It was hard to record the vocals for that part because I had to pretend like I was annoyed and didn’t care, but then for the choreography there’s the lion dance so I tried to put on the most menacing face I could. I practiced the choreography until I was completely synced up with the mood and the lyrics of the song, but I wasn’t making as many facial expressions as I thought, so I practiced them separately while just listening to the song.

I imagine physical strength plays an important part when you practice as much as you do, but on the YouTube channel GYM JONG KOOK, you said you don’t really work out a lot because it’s too tiring.
HONG EUNCHAE: The “ANTIFRAGILE” dance is physically demanding, so when I first started practicing it and I had to move my hips around intensely like that, sometimes it felt like I couldn’t put in all the energy it required. Also, moving more subtly was hard for me, too, at the beginning. We all decided we needed to improve our physical strength, so we worked out together before class, too. But I became a lot stronger and built up a lot of muscle just from practicing the “ANTIFRAGILE” choreography so much, so I haven’t felt any real need to exercise on my own. I do it with them because it’s something we all do together, even though I don’t want to. I don’t go alone or do any exercise at home. The other members say it’s because I’m young. (laughs)

I guess you could say you have your own perspective when it comes to exercise. In The Game Caterers 2 x HYBE, you were the only one to do the moves the right way, and you kept at it even though you were the only one. (laughs)
HONG EUNCHAE: When we were filming The Game Caterers, I noticed that I was the only one dancing in that direction. So I thought they would ask what I’m doing and I told them that I was doing the dance mirrored, but it turned out that I was actually the one who was dancing correctly. (laughs) I don’t let being the youngest hold me back when we’re practicing, either. I’ll say things like, “I think we’re out of step in this part,” or, “You should do it more like this.” The other members and the dance instructor all say it’s good I’m so direct with them.
Maybe that’s why in the documentary and behind-the-scenes footage everyone’s always mentioning how you’re Generation Z.
HONG EUNCHAE: Actually, I don’t really know much about what’s trendy these days, so I think, Am I really Gen Z? But when I talk with the other members or people on staff, they always attribute everything I do to being Gen Z. They say that’s why I’m fearless, too.

You’re fearless, yet you were incredibly scared when you were telling ghost stories with CHAEWON on Weverse LIVE. (laughs)
HONG EUNCHAE: Ghosts scare me more than anything. (laughs) When we go to Japan, Kkura and Zuha usually stay with their families instead of with us, so I was in my own room one time in Japan, and before we went I heard people say there’s lots of ghosts in hotels and the rooms at the end of the hallway are always haunted, so I was super scared being in that unfamiliar place. We play rock paper scissors to decide which of the five of us is going to get a room to themselves when we go to hotels. The winner’s supposed to get their own room, but I don’t play because I don’t want to be alone.

Ghosts are scary! (laughs)
HONG EUNCHAE: When I wash my face and look back up again, I feel like there might be someone there. I think that’s the one and only time my MBTI changes to “N.” (laughs)

You made it to the end of every survival game on LENIVERSE, earning you the nickname the Game Genius. It seems to me you’re really competitive, yet you choose not to play for rooms at hotels.
HONG EUNCHAE: I said, “I’m not going to sleep alone because I’m afraid of ghosts,” and refused to play. (laughs) I was so competitive when I was growing up that I would cry if I lost in any sport. I do it for the shows to make it fun, but somehow I end up getting so serious that when I watch it again later, I think, Why am I so serious there? I tell myself that numbers don’t matter, but I’m always looking at numbers and ratings.
Are you always so competitive?
HONG EUNCHAE: I’m full of pride and really competitive, but it makes me compare myself with other people. But still, after our comeback, I heard lots of people saying, “It’s great that all the members are getting an equal chance to shine,” and that brought me a lot of comfort. And lots of people got to see my charming side in all the content we released between albums. So I’m trying not to compare myself to others anymore and I think I’m getting better at it.

FEARNOT is helping you become a better person, in that sense.
HONG EUNCHAE: I used to imagine what it would be like to have fans before our debut and assumed it would be great, but now that we actually have them, they make me even happier than I imagined. It’s amazing being able to talk face to face with fans at fan sign events and I feel so happy when we’re performing on stage and can hear all of them cheering for us. Even though the process of practicing and getting ready for everything can be hard, one performance on stage reminds me why it’s all worth it. FEARNOT is so much more precious to me now than I could’ve imagined and they helped me realize I can be a happy person, too.

In the documentary, you said, “I’m not worried for the team, but I’m worried about if I’ll be noticeable enough. I want to make myself known too, but as of now, I'm really worried if I can do that. I think that’s my biggest worry right now.” Do you feel more comfortable now than you did back then?
HONG EUNCHAE: I feel way better about it now than before, but it hasn’t totally gone away. When we started out, some of the other members were already so famous, and Zuha had her secret weapon—ballet—so I felt like I had nothing special to offer, and I kept worrying about what to do, but I’ve been putting in a lot of effort. It’s not easy, but now I’m trying to think, This is me—I am me.
Article. Oh Minji
Interview. Oh Minji
Visual Director. Jeon Yurim
Project Management. Lee Yejin
Visual Creative Team. Nu Kim, Gabriel Cho, Yoon Cho, Kim Yujoo, Baek Yoovin, Moon Sungwoong (SOURCE MUSIC)
Photography. Lee Gyuwon / Assist. Lee Gyuwon, Lee Dajeong, Hwang Hyeonsang
Hair. Hamin, Oh Yumi (BIT&BOOT)
Makeup. Choi Suji, Kim Minji (BIT&BOOT)
Stylist. Hong Hary / Assist. Jo Subeen (Punksnotdead)
Set Design. Choi Seoyun, Son Yehee, Kim Ayeong (Da;rak)
Artist Protocal Team. Kim Ahri, Son Nayeon, Shin Kwangjae, Lee Eunjoo, Lee Hyoyeol