When the photographer asked JUNGWON which side of his face is his good side, he replied “left” immediately and turned to face the camera. That’s how well he knows himself, adding, “I’m happy living the idol life.”
How’s [your dog] Maeum doing?
JUNGWON: My parents just recently sent me a photo of Maeum playing up on the roof in the snow. He was super excited. My sister was using an abandoned dog app for rescue dogs and then brought Maeum home because my grandma used to be alone when my parents went out working and my sister was at school every day. Thankfully, now that she has Maeum there, she’s not so bored.
I bet you miss Maeum sometimes when you’re at home with the other members.
JUNGWON: I miss Maeum every time I see a dog on set. He's bigger every time I visit my family’s home. He’s growing so fast. They say he eats a lot lately, maybe because he’s having a growth spurt.
You revealed in an EN-loG that Maeum is exactly the same age as ENHYPEN.
JUNGWON: It’s really amazing how our group is already a year old. It felt like time flew by especially fast lately while getting ready for the awards ceremonies. I saw the picture I used for my profile when I was a trainee and I look way different than now.
It was clear as well how much the group has grown when you won Best New Male Artist and Worldwide Fans’ Choice TOP 10 at the 2021 Mnet Asian Music Awards [MAMA].
JUNGWON: I was surprised and grateful since it was our first time winning two awards. The performance directing team worked really hard to get everything ready for the year-end awards ceremonies, so I thought I better mention them, but then I left Producer Bang out of the Melon Music Awards [MMA] speech. I was so sorry that I tried to concentrate better on mentioning everyone I was thankful to at MAMA. Actually, it was fun and I was happy just to be able to perform at the awards ceremonies in person—unlike last year—and to be able to give a performance for ENGENE and the rest of the audience.
How did it feel to get the kind of reception you did?
JUNGWON: It felt great. I think we did a pretty good job at MAMA. (laughs) I couldn’t tell when we were practicing, but once we were in front of an audience, it suddenly set off like a bomb. If I just went as hard as I could on stage, the details could’ve fallen by the wayside, but I think we did better than in practice, so I’m happy with it. But some of the moves in the performance were a little off, so I think I should try and work on those a little more.
Your attitude about performing must have changed after doing it in front of an audience, too.
JUNGWON: It’s changed a lot. I decided to show everything I’ve got in that performance. I didn’t realize how much more energetic having an audience there would make me. I was pouring sweat. After that experience, I can’t even imagine how hard it must be right now for the older artists for who in-person performances were routine. We’re used to this situation because we debuted when everything was already remote, but they must have felt so empty. Just seeing an audience face-to-face this year gave me a taste of what it is I’ll be doing. I felt like I had a completely different job. Suddenly I could feel that, wow, I really had this kind of job all along.
Performing in person for an audience was clearly a turning point for you. You even look different in the concept photos: The YET concept photos are reminiscent of when you first debuted, while the NO version is representative of your new album, DIMENSION: ANSWER.
JUNGWON: We shot YET at a sheep farm in Gangwon Province. It was autumn but cold and really windy, so if you look closely, my hair is messed up, but that’s all real. (laughs) I thought it was something the fans would like, so I was able to smile along and pose for the photos. NO was kind of unconventional. To explain our concept to everyone: Up until now, we thought everything we’ve done was a blessing, but then realized that it’s actually a lot of pressure and a form of oppression. The concept behind “Blessed-Cursed” is ignoring that oppression and going our own way. I think it’s the first time we’ve referenced one of our songs directly in the concept photos like this so I’m curious how people will feel. It goes out today [the 26th] at midnight. (laughs)
What was your first impression of “Blessed-Cursed”?
JUNGWON: Well, as soon as I heard it, it made me think the dance would be out of this world. With “Tamed-Dashed,” the first thing I thought was the music was just fantastic because it had a great melody. But I think my mind went to the dancing first with “Blessed-Cursed” because the song’s so powerful. And, no surprise, I was right. Producer Bang suggested we go a bit harder on the chorus, so we added in kicks. That makes the dance tougher, but I think it looks cool.
In addition to the dancing for “Blessed-Cursed,” the vocals are also rough and powerful. How did the recording process go?
JUNGWON: The English demo version was really cool. The producer suggested we not deviate from the vibe of the English demo too much, but the way you shape your mouth is different when you’re vocalizing or pronouncing Korean or English. It was hard and took a lot of takes. I accidentally made my voice rough while recording “Blockbuster,” featuring YEONJUN from TOMORROW X TOGETHER, but it sounded surprisingly good. I ended up putting that to good use on “Blessed-Cursed.” Whereas I was singing in a high range to express cheery emotions on “Tamed-Dashed,” I think here I just used every last drop of my energy.
Another track off the album, “Polaroid Love,” has no choreography at all. I imagine you had to focus on your vocal expression there.
JUNGWON: So, that’s a sweet song about wanting to keep the love you have without changing anything about it. I feel like I sang it as happy as I could. I think the vocals ended up sounding natural because I was being sincere. I also liked that it was perfect for my vocal range. (laughs)
The lyrics to “Polaroid Love” compare the feeling of being in love to polaroid pictures. But what about you? Do you usually express your affections directly?
JUNGWON: Actually, I don’t think I’ve said the words “I love you” too many times in my life. I’m really not that kind of person. Other than when I say it to ENGENE in writing. But I will say when I like something usually. I guess I usually express it through my actions or naturally on my face rather than actually saying “I like you.”
Judging by Weverse, you really value your food. You ask ENGENE for their lunch recommendations and tell them you hope they’re eating well.
JUNGWON: I found out while we were doing an in-person fan signing event that a lot of ENGENE skip meals. They come to the events without eating anything—because of us. But eating is an important part of life. I guess that’s why I say it so often. Also, we’re not very good at choosing what to eat for lunch, so we sometimes do eat what ENGENE recommend when we ask them. Any kind of meat is good. And the food at the HYBE cafeteria is really good. (laughs) I have separate stomachs for meals and for dessert. I really like gummy candies and chocolate, too.
In your previous interview with Weverse Magazine, you said, “If [my emotional distance] becomes a bigger issue in the future, I’ll have to find a solution.” Could dessert be a way to help solve your problems?
JUNGWON: I’m not really sure if I’ve found something helpful. When I think about how the hard times will eventually pass, how other people have it harder or how I’ve never experienced anything so difficult that I couldn’t overcome it, I’m eventually able to move on. I’m not trying to solve something or expecting I have to do anything, just deal with it until it goes away. Oh—I guess that’s my answer. When you’re stressed out, spacing out in bed is the best thing in the world. (laughs) Walking’s good, too. I like the time around early winter, when it’s a little chilly—you can cool down just by putting a padded jacket over a tee and taking a short walk around. I don’t listen to music or think about anything, just walk around.
You’re pretty hard on yourself, but is the same true when you’re acting as leader?
JUNGWON: I’ve heard that I am, actually. I tend to have high standards when we practice as a group, too. That’s probably why SUNGHOON and I get along so well. His standards might be even higher than mine. As the leader, I’m really grateful for the persistence when we practice. When we practice, we usually dance all together in the dance practice studio. We also work on parts we think we need to work on on our own when there’s time. These days I’m mostly practicing my singing in the vocals studio.
Are you also hard on yourself outside of performances?
JUNGWON: Yes. But even if I plan something out meticulously, it’s hard to put it into practice. I bought a book just recently, called Mini Philosophy, but as soon as I opened it up it put me to sleep. (laughs) It was hard. I haven’t read much of it so it’s still in my bag.
That’s very honest of you. (laughs) You seem to prefer keeping things free and easy rather than making things up. You’ve always preferred comfortable clothes, too, to the point that when you first debuted you said you even found jeans uncomfortable.
JUNGWON: Exactly. But anyway, now when I’m in public I try to dress up a bit, and then dress really casually on days I’m only practicing. I bought fur-lined Crocs a little while ago and they’re so comfortable that now they’re my go-to shoes. If I wear the gray cotton pants I wore at MMA and a hoodie, that’s the JUNGWON look. (laughs) That’s what I wear most days, and I have separate clothes for practicing.
Fans talk about how you’re famously a creature of habit for things like the way you pull on your sleeves or tug at your hood. Do you have any kind of ritual you do to put yourself at ease before going on stage?
JUNGWON: I always touch the volume control on my in-ear monitors. Sometimes there’s time to check the volume but other times there’s not. So I keep playing with the volume control, and once I start rehearsal and can hear the sound, I adjust it right away. It doesn’t really have much of an effect, but I feel at ease to a certain degree when I do it. It would be a shame for one small thing to mess up a performance we worked so hard getting ready for.
As you know, competitive athletes usually have rituals like that to help them stay level-headed. You previously said in an interview that your greatest fear is “losing trust in myself.”
JUNGWON: I said it in such a cringey way. (laughs) Maybe I said that to express how I feel like I have to do something I sort of don’t want to do even though I know I have to do it? Right now I do it because it’s really fun and I want to, but I’m sort of worried I really will feel that way someday. Right now the thing that scares me most is getting hurt. I hope no one gets hurt.
You caught COVID-19 this year and received treatment for it, right?
JUNGWON: The scariest part was that I couldn’t do anything. I hated that I couldn’t do the things I was supposed to do—to do for people—and that there was nothing I could do about it. These days, things can change, even if you don’t want them to.
I bet you felt exceptionally sentimental back in November after quarantine when you saw ENGENE at EN-CONNECT: COMPANION for the first time in nine months. At the time, you said, “I see today as a beginning.”
JUNGWON: When we met in person in February, it was our very first in-person event and we didn’t know what to expect. Then, after seeing ENGENE the one time and then doing another fan meeting concert, it felt like I finally had a grasp on things. I remember how flustered I was after I unwittingly used up all my energy right from the first performance. Even when we were practicing I was really excited. “Polaroid Love,” in particular, was originally a performance where we don’t dance, just walk around interacting with the fans, so I think we all really liked that song. Our gestures felt natural, too.
It was great the way you pointed out the fans one by one, catching them in your sights during that “Polaroid Love” performance.
JUNGWON: That was great. (laughs) I still remember that day.
When you saw your August 2020 self in “To Myself 1 Year From Now, From. 2020,” you said there was a slight difference between the resolution you had at the time and the one you have now. Could you tell me how it’s changed?
JUNGWON: I think it changed from “dance and sing my heart out” to “enjoy it.” Before the debut I thought dancing and singing were the only things I had to be good at. But after debuting I realized there’s interviews like this one, lots of photoshoots and videos, communicating with fans and more. It wasn’t like, Why do I have to do this? I just naturally accepted it and enjoyed it, too. I’m an idol, so I do what an idol does—like a bus driver drives their bus. I’m having a good time. So I hope I never forget my resolution to enjoy it without forcing myself to.
About one year ago, you did an interview for our magazine during your debut, where you described the group and ENGENE as your life and your energy, respectively. Did ENHYPEN and ENGENE change similar to how your resolution did?
JUNGWON: I don’t think I knew what I was talking about when I said that. They’re actually the two reasons I can keep doing this job. At this point, I can’t imagine living without the group and the other members. And isn’t ENGENE the whole reason ENHYPEN exists? After all, it’s because they watch us that we’re able to work as hard as we do on our performances.
When you were offered to ask your future self one year from now a question, you said, “I want to know what I’d be doing.”
JUNGWON: First, I’d probably tell my past self, “Right now I’m getting ready for the awards ceremonies and for Weverse Con.” To myself one year from now, even though it’ll be tough getting ready for the awards shows next year too, I want to ask if I’m happy. I mean, I’m happy now. I’m curious if I’ll still feel that way in a year.
So you’re going to be getting ready for the awards shows in a year from now, too. (laughs) Then what would you like to see yourself doing a little further down the road?
JUNGWON: On a personal level, I want to travel with my family and with the other members. Because I thought about it, and I haven’t had a chance to travel once without the cameras since I-LAND. As their leader, I hope all the ENHYPEN members can share one goal. And I hope I can see them all smiling and happy.
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