When JUNGWON speaks, he sounds calm, firm and full of passion all at the same time. He has all the confidence of someone who knows exactly what he wants, where he needs to go and the effort it will take to get him there.

​How’s Maeum doing these days? You said on the EBS radio show Youth Communication Project: Listen that you’re worried because he only seems to like snacks. (laughs)

JUNGWON: I got to see him recently when my parents popped by our group’s home and brought Maeum with them. He keeps getting bigger. (laughs) I don’t have much time these days to visit my family so I get all my updates from the family group chat, but apparently he was looking at me when I was on TV recently. But I have a feeling he doesn’t actually recognize me—just he’s interested in the light coming from the screen. (laughs) As for snacks, he likes beef jerky and dog yogurt, same as last year. He honestly likes anything but kibble. (laughs)

 

It seems like you always emphasize the importance of taking responsibility for pets whenever you talk about Maeum.

JUNGWON: There are so many abandoned dogs these days. As the veterinarian who was on Listen said, if you’re going to raise a dog, you have to be willing to dedicate a part of your everyday life to them. But I think the number of abandoned dogs is going up as people try to raise a dog and still try to do everything they want for themselves.

 

Since you’ve been hosting Listen with SUNOO since February, you must have had a lot of opportunities to meet experts in other fields and have many new experiences. [Note: This interview took place on June 2.]

JUNGWON: The show is meant for teenagers so we have people with a lot of different jobs come on. I learned how hard it is being a veterinarian and a lot of things I never knew. You know, I do a lot to make myself seem more impressive when I’m shooting with ENHYPEN, and that’s good, but sometimes I want to let people hear my natural voice only, and that’s exactly how Listen is. My voice goes really high when I’m excited, but it’s usually pretty low when I talk. I can hear my own voice when I’m on the radio and it sounds relaxing so I like it. (laughs)

When you host radio like that, you have to welcome the guests and show how you can be quick on your feet sometimes. I’m noticing that you’re slowly becoming more relaxed..

JUNGWON: I feel a lot of pressure because there are some people who don’t watch and only listen to the show, so if there’s suddenly an awkward silence, it might sound like something’s gone wrong. Now I throw in the phrase “by the way” and change the topic slightly. (laughs) Then we take a little detour and then eventually get back on track. My heart sinks whenever that happens. My chemistry with SUNOO only gets better the longer we do it. We don’t specifically plan things ahead, but it almost feels worked out in advance sometimes, like who’s going to talk when and who’s going to ad-lib something. I don’t sound very energetic when I’m talking but SUNOO has tons. (laughs) We balance each other out that way.

 

Listeners of the show also send in their own stories. What’s it like commenting on issues people your age are dealing with?

JUNGWON: At first I worried if it was okay since I’m young, too. (laughs) It’s unusual for people to start working when they’re as young as we are, so I thought some people might think we would find it hard to relate. But I still had experience hanging out after school and I saw my sister stressing out about her career path once she entered high school. I’m doing my best to give people advice based on the experiences I do have.

 

The songs on the show are chosen based on those stories, too. Did Listen also have an influence on how you listen to music?

JUNGWON: I don’t even have time to listen to music these days but it’s nice being able to hear songs I haven’t heard before. I remember LUCY’s cover of “Run Away” because of the title. I mainly like R&B but I’m listening to a lot of K-pop lately, too. Part of that is influenced by Listen and I also gave BTS’ albums another listen while on the airplane to and from Germany and loved them, so I ended up getting more into K-pop than before. My sister was also an EXO fan so I listened to them a lot when I was younger, and it brought back a lot of memories when I listened to them again.

 

I imagine it would feel quite different listening to the K-pop you used to listen to when you were young again after debuting. How does it feel different now?

JUNGWON: Back then, it was like, This song’s good. Now it’s like, They’re so talented. It’s impressive how they sound that good even after all this time. It’s the same thing with BTS: I’m sure there’s a reason why certain K-pop artists reach the top. I still have a long way to go, but I hope we can get there someday, too.

​Perhaps that’s the determination we hear from you in MANIFESTO: DAY 1. The album is full of changes. In particular, what was it like to do the opening to “Future Perfect (Pass the MIC)”?
JUNGWON: It was really challenging. (laughs) As far as I remember, I’ve done the intro to songs several times, and while I always feel some pressure, I think I felt more this time because the genre was a first for me. I’ve definitely been building up a foundation since the last album. The producers also said to me, “Your voice is so soft—like a baby,” but “Blockbuster feat. YEONJUN of TOMORROW X TOGETHER” helped to change that somewhat. Once I tried using a hoarse voice and I’ve since been able to make adjustments. I always said “I want to try all kinds of different genres” at our showcases, but I never expected I could do drill, so it was amazing just to be able to take on the challenge.

You did the speaking part of the opening track, “WALK THE LINE.” It seems like all the new things you’ve been trying helped your vocals sound more mature.
JUNGWON: It was our first time recording a speaking part in Korean, Japanese and English, so that was also a challenge. I had to record it several times since, if my Korean is even a little awkward, it ends up sounding really awkward. But the producers said the tone of my voice sounded good, probably because of all my time on the radio, so that made me happy. (laughs) “SHOUT OUT” is a rock song, but the melody’s so soft that it has the vibe of an encore song. It’s my favorite track off the new album. It isn’t easy to picture a whole scene in your head when recording the vocals from the melody alone, but a scene where I’m facing an audience with a microphone in hand came to mind. I’ve been recording so much recently, and each song has a different vibe, so I think my spectrum of expression has widened.

I think your spectrum has widened in terms of your performances as well. The choreography for the new single is fiercer than ever before. What was that like?
JUNGWON: There’s a lot of seriously intense dance moves this time around, but that makes it all the cooler. It’s also the hardest of any of our songs (laughs) and it feels like I’m reaching the limit of my physical abilities when we do it. The first part is no problem because I’m still full of energy, but it’s easy to lose your concentration as you start to lose energy. I have to conserve my energy so I can use it in the chorus after the second verse. Even when we were doing “Blessed-Cursed,” I wondered how I could handle the pre-recordings, but I managed. It almost feels impossible with the latest song, but I think after a month I’ll manage with the pre-recordings again. (laughs)

You did a video for STUDIO CHOOM’s MIX & MAX series with NI-KI while you were preparing for your album. Did that help you to get ready for the album as well?
JUNGWON: I had issues with my stamina during that time because I tend to dance less, but luckily I didn’t have a chance to lose it this time. I was proud that it got such a good response since we worked so hard on it, and I saw a lot of comments saying, “They’re the youngest members?” That was funny. (laughs) I really feel like I learn a lot from NI-KI. He’s well-balanced when it comes to dancing and there’s nothing he can’t do. There’s something NI-KI-like about all his moves. I couldn’t copy him exactly, of course, so I tried to put my own spin on it, but I still tried to imitate the feel and accuracy of his moves.
​The audience was allowed to cheer at the festival you performed at in Germany recently. It must have felt different performing under those circumstances.
JUNGWON: I think I mentioned before that I really felt it at the Seoul Music Awards. Like it made me fully conscious of the work I’m doing. But with 40,000 people at the concert in Germany, I could feel it even more strongly. I took out my earphones and listened with my naked ear and the crowd was cheering so loudly. It was just amazing. I couldn’t believe K-pop is this popular internationally.

Did the experience of that concert change the way you approached getting ready for the comeback?
JUNGWON: We’ll be doing it in-person this time without fail. ENGENE will be able to see every aspect of the performance, including at music shows, since it will all be offline. I was always careful to be in sync with the others but I think now I’ll be paying even more attention. I might flub some things I normally have no trouble with since I’ll be so excited in person. I’m working even harder on things with that in mind.

It was impressive when you said on Listen that you have to not worry about it and keep moving ahead, even if you make a mistake, because there’s always more to come. Is that always helpful for you when preparing for your performances?
JUNGWON: To be honest, it was typical for me to give up trying something after I make a mistake. Then I just ended up regretting things afterwards and I would think things like, I could’ve done better later on—why did I do that? Even now I have trouble fixing that part of my personality. Anyway, I’m trying to change that now. Both me and the members all practice hard so that we don’t make any mistakes to begin with.
​I guess now is the time for you to feel more pressure about performing than ever before. As their leader, what role do you play for the other members of ENHYPEN?
JUNGWON: The choreography is incredibly intense, so I think we’re trying to be a little more animated when we’re practicing. (laughs) Naturally we’re all very passionate, but I used to think we all needed to have the same sense of purpose. But that’s actually not possible. I even asked some of the staff, “Isn’t there any way for us to all think roughly the same thing?” But they told me that’s just my greed talking and to just accept it. That’s when I realized it’s important to listen. Not listening can lead to misunderstanding, but if you put yourself in other people’s shoes when they talk, you can understand they think differently. These days I feel like listening is more important than talking.

It’s difficult to accept thoughts that are different from your own.
JUNGWON: Another thing is that, when I accept that, the other members accept it from me, too. I think we’re good at respecting each other’s values and thoughts now. It feels like we’re all getting better at our designated roles. And I don’t really have anything big to worry about since they all follow my lead. (laughs)

There are times in your line of work when you have to both make an effort with other people and be more strict with yourself at the same time. How do you deal with times like that?
JUNGWON: I’ve always had a big sweet tooth, and the way I eat, once I get started, I eat it all in one go with no leftovers. But even when we were preparing for our album, if there’s something to shoot, I have to be on camera. I know I can make myself look better (laughs) but when I see the way I’ve changed I feel unsatisfied with myself and get stressed out. I don’t like that feeling, so I think that’s why I keep on top of myself. That didn’t really work out at first, but after getting it once, I realized it wasn’t all that hard. (laughs)

You’re living a different life than most teenagers, but you seem to accept it in a very positive light.
JUNGWON: I don’t really have any regrets. I do this job because I want to, and even if I didn’t end up doing this, I wouldn’t have been able to focus on studying very well since I was so busy doing sports back then. I was with the others from morning till night when I was a trainee, so I have more memories spending time with them than with my own family. We still talk about our trainee days and I-LAND days all the time whenever we’re eating dinner or having something before bed since there are so many stories and details we can talk about.
​So much has changed between when you were a trainee and today. How do you feel about how ENHYPEN has grown now that you’ve accumulated so many new experiences and have more coming up?
JUNGWON: Actually, before the return of in-person performances, people talked about whether we’re virtual singers (laughs) and whether we’re real or not. (laughs) But HEESEUNG and JAY went out around the hotel in Germany for a bit and they said people recognized them even with their hats and masks on. I was a trainee just two or three years ago and no one would have recognized me, but people have been showing so much love and support these past few years and they care about us, and now I can really feel that we’ve grown.

Now that you’re about to promote again, what does it mean to you to have your wonderful fans, ENGENE?
JUNGWON: I think ENGENE has meant the exact same thing to me ever since we debuted. I get a lot of support from them and they give me so much strength. Because ENGENE are happy no matter what I do. So I think I need to put on an even better performance for them this time than I did in the videos, so I’m working hard. Because they’re taking the time out to come see us.

You also shower ENGENE with your attention and your affection anytime and anywhere you can.
JUNGWON: The reason I read so many of their comments and use Weverse so much is because they post from wherever they are and express their feelings to us a lot. There’s no way for ENGENE to see we care for them unless we express it, so this is our way of showing that we’ve got our eye on them, too. (laughs)
Credit
Article. Yoon Haein
Interview. Yoon Haein
Visual Director. Jeon Yurim
Project Management. Kim Rieun
Visual Creative Team. Heu Sae Ryeun, Lee Gunhee, Choi Ara, Cha Minsoo(BELIFT LAB)
Photography. JDZ Chung / Assist. Jeong Changheum, Song Junghyeon
Hair. Kim Sohee, Yeo Jingyeong
Makeup. Kwon Sojeong
Stylist. Ji Seyun / Assist. Kim Minseon, Choi Jaeeun
Set Design. Choi Seoyun, Son Yehee, Kim Ayeong(Da;rak)
Artist Protocol Team. Kim Sejin, Oh Gwangtaek, Hong Yuki, Kim Hangil, Kang Mingi, Lee Hyunji
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