Jin is calm and quiet throughout the whole interview. But while his words start out sounding like those in an everyday conversation, they soon begin to tell the story of a protagonist in the intricate drama that is BTS.

You worked on the lyrics for “Stay.”
 The song opens with the words, “Was it a dream?” and I came up with the theme. We used to see our fans and it was great, but now that’s something we can’t do anymore. I thought it all felt like a dream. I wanted to say, “We used to be so happy together, but now I feel like your very existence was a dream.” I came up with the intro and then talked about it with RM. He really helped me a lot.

I’m guessing you came up with the lyrics because of COVID-19.
 It was around two to three months ago that I wrote the lyrics for the song, when it seemed like COVID-19 wasn’t getting any better. I want to put on another concert, and, like I said, it feels like my memories of ARMY were all a dream: Ah, they always used to be there with us, and then they disappeared like a memory—was all that a dream? Will we ever meet again? Those kinds of thoughts.

It sounds like you had a hard time getting used to this new situation.
 Yes. That used to be a part of our life for years, so it felt like a part of my life disappeared. When we had a busy schedule to deal with, sometimes I thought maybe it would be fun to have no job, but when that work was no longer there, no matter what I did, even if I poured myself into it, it all became meaningless very quickly. I felt insecure when I had nothing to do, since I’m so used to being busy, and feeling insecure made me think more about the things I like, and what I should do to make myself happier, besides work. 

Would you say that’s been incorporated into your work on BE? Just from looking at the album photos, we can see each of you expressing your own thoughts through your room designs.
Mine was the jewel room. They asked me what kind of concept I wanted for my room. I thought about what I wanted to do, and I wanted to go with gems. I was imagining myself lying down with gems all around me, but V, who was the visual director, thought I was joking at first. (laughs) “You were supposed to decorate the room, what do you mean gems?” But still, that’s the image I had in mind, so we went with that concept, except it wasn’t full of gems like I imagined. But I really stand out in the picture, so I’m satisfied with the result.

Why did you choose gems?
Well … I have a sort of free, do-whatever-I-want personality, and at the time, I was really intrigued by gems, so that’s what I chose. This year, with the pandemic, I had more time to think about what I want and the things I want to do, and to try some new things, like playing piano, playing games, not playing games, meeting different people. But still, I can’t tell what I really like. I don’t think I ever thought much about myself, other than the work part. The best answer I found was doing whatever I’m interested in at the moment; is being the truest to myself. I’m more of a feeler than a thinker. Some might say I should have a plan for my future, but I don’t have any. (laughs) I thought that I really just do as I please.

So what does it mean to do as you please?
Like I said, I’m someone who literally lives only in the present, so I tend to forget about the past, and I don’t stress over the future. I know I won’t forget important moments or times I spent with other people, but I’ve forgotten all the bad things that happened in the past and the hard times I had, and I’m really satisfied with my life now and happy to be working hard. How can anyone feel happy over and over again from something that happened in the past, no matter how good it was? You can be happier finding 10,000 won on the ground now than earning 100 times that in the past. I think I’m living true to my feelings by living in the now rather than thinking about the future or the past.

Even though you say you do whatever you’d like, aren’t there things you still need to be careful about, being a part of BTS?
There are things that should be followed as a rule, such as not crossing on a red light, for example. Because if you do, there might be an accident. So those things, I set aside as things I shouldn’t do, so I never really thought of wanting to do them.

That sounds more like self-discipline. (laughs)
It’s the same as not crossing at a red light if you don’t want to get hurt. I can keep myself happy living in the present as long as I’m not doing anything I shouldn’t be doing. Some might feel a bit frustrated, but they might also be the kind of people who cross at a red light. (laughs)

The song “Dis-ease” captures each of the BTS members’ thoughts on work. Is it especially difficult for you, in particular, to separate work from your personal life? Your life is influenced by your work.
To me, work makes a lot of things happen in my life. Naturally there are times I feel stressed because of work, but the work I do makes me happy and has led to some spectacular experiences. Sometimes it’s interesting, other times it might be exhausting. I think I feel an entire spectrum of emotions thanks to my work. I lead my life the way I do because of my work, so to speak.

Just as you did, the other members also expressed on BE their feelings of what they’ve been through. Other than “Stay,” what other songs did you relate to?
I didn’t really think about which songs I relate to, but I can tell you which song I like the most: “Blue & Grey,” by V. I liked that song from the very first time I listened to it, so I listened to the demo over and over again.

What was the demo version like?
When V first made it and gave it to me, it didn’t have the rap part yet. There were no lines for the rap but it sounded really unique. Only the instrumental was there for that part and it felt like it was time for thinking by myself. Of course, I like the full version with the rap, too, but still, I liked how there was space that made you think. It’s been a long time since I got that feeling from listening to one of the demos. The first one was “Spring Day,” and the second was “Blue & Grey.”

It sounds like you found the song right when you needed some time to think.
Yes. Before our debut, I had a clear goal: to debut. I chased after that one goal. After we debuted, I was chasing after a number one hit, and after we got number one I was chasing after major awards. And after that there were a lot of other awards, like from Billboard, and performances to put on, but it wasn’t a goal in the sense that it was my goal to debut. I’m just happy to be working. Every moment is wonderful and has become like my whole life. That wasn’t how I felt when I was a trainee because I had a serious goal then. But now, my goal is to live without overthinking anything. Maybe it’s not really a goal but a kind of defense mechanism.

A defense mechanism?
As you get thinking, you might somehow undermine yourself. So, as long as I don’t think too hard, I can work hard right now. Maybe that’s why I called it a defense mechanism: If I stop and think about it, I might have too many ways to put myself down.

But if you imagine someone else were to have accomplished the same things you have, wouldn’t they think they deserve to feel proud?
That’s true, but I’m also one of seven members of BTS. Thinking about what I’ve done as an individual feels like a burden to me. Up until we finished working on Map of the Soul: 7, I wasn’t burdened but felt, “Okay, we all did a good job. I’m happy with this.” But after getting “Dynamite” to the top of the Billboard Top 100 and starting down this new road, I started to wonder if I deserve any of this.

But you experienced a lot of big things before. What made you think that way this time?
I was waiting for the chart position to come out all day, and then right before bed, Namjoon sent a message to our group chat. That’s when I realized we were number one! I was really happy, but something felt different. Maybe it was because we couldn’t see our fans. After “Dynamite,” we got even more love from even more people, and even when I was walking down the street, people would say things like, “I’m a big fan of yours,” or, “Thank you for introducing Korea to the world.” Then I started to think, “Do I deserve all this congratulations and love? That’s not me—I’m not that kind of person.” I got over it a bit, but even until a few days ago, the pressure was so intense that I couldn’t get any work done.

How did you move away from all that pressure?
I just moved on. Like with COVID-19, we all have to wait and stay put until everything gets better. And actually, after “Dynamite” made number one, we got really busy, so I was able to think less about other things and basically avoid them that way, all those questions about life. I think that’s how I endured.

If you had had the fans there with you, maybe you would have felt less pressure or worry. Maybe it makes what you’re doing now seem incomplete compared to the past.
We did so much and we worked so hard, but the result doesn’t hit you the same way, does it? The—excitement, maybe?—isn’t quite there. There’s a big difference between performing for people and performing for the camera. The performance itself is hard, too, of course. I have to keep at it for months once we start. But when we perform for people, I feel alive.

Had you been able to perform “Dynamite” on stage for your fans, you probably would have felt more love and more confident taking first place.
I want to look and do my best in front of the fans no matter what. It’s a lot more fun when our fans are there, right in front of us. I’m not thinking about anything else in another sense, when they’re there with us. For people who don’t perform like we do, when they have fun, they don’t think about much else, and just focus on what they’re doing. I think we’re the same way when our fans are around. I don’t have to think about anything else, because my fans are all right in front of me. I just have fun and forget about everything else.

Hopefully you’ll feel like everything is back to normal once you can see your fans again.
At first I thought I’ll probably cry tears of joy. But would I? I don’t really think so. At first I really thought I would, but now I think it might feel like going back home. It depends on who you ask, but I don’t think most people would cry just because they came back to their hometown after being away. I think that’s how I’ll feel: like I’m back where I should be.

Talking to you, it seems like the sense of being loved by your fans must be important to you, emotionally.
You’re right. Getting love from the fans was my source of happiness—what can I compare this to? Like a kid who’s always showered with love by their parents, but then the parents are suddenly gone on a business trip for like, ten months. It’s kind of like that. I was always trying to make our fans smile, make them feel good, by acting cute, but now my parents have been away on their business trip for, ten months, and I’m trying to be cute over a video call. That’s what it feels like. So please, wrap up your business trip as soon as possible, and hurry up and come home so I can show you how cute I am again! And, to COVID-19: Please get lost. (laughs)
Article. Myungseok Kang
Interview. Myungseok Kang
Visual Director. Yurim Jeon
Visual Creative Team. Sunkyung Lee, Yeonhwa Cha (Big Hit Entertainment)
Photography. Sunhye Shin / Seongjo Baik, Minseok Kim(@co-op.)(Digital camera), Yurim Jeon(Film camera)
Hair. Som Han, Mujin Choi, Daeun Lee
Makeup. Dareum Kim, Sunmin Kim, Yuri Seo
Stylist. Hajeong Lee, Hyesu Kim, Sil Hong