CHAEWON looked back on the past year, talking about the ways in which she’s changed—getting to know herself better through LE SSERAFIM and believing in herself thanks to FEARNOT. They helped her confidence take root, then CHAEWON made sure it came into bloom.

​You’re having a comeback just one day short of the group’s first anniversary. You’ve also been the leader for a year now.
KIM CHAEWON: I can’t believe it’s already been a year since our debut. I had to build up a lot of courage to agree to be the leader when the label made the suggestion but now I have no idea what I was so worried about or why I was so hesitant. (laughs) At times I do feel the pressure of being a leader but I think everyone needs a healthy dose of pressure. Being a leader has made me more responsible and more mature.

What makes you feel like you need a little pressure?
KIM CHAEWON: As a leader, you are expected to do certain things to represent the group, which can feel daunting.  But with time, our members really came through and started speaking up more, which lifted some of that pressure for me. It feels like we’re all moving forward together now. We’ve come quite far.

You talked about how you’ve changed in the documentary Fill in the Blank, saying, “Before, I didn't really have deep thoughts or worries about myself. But being part of LE SSERAFIM has helped me discover who I am.” So it seems like you and the others have all grown a lot working together as LE SSERAFIM. 
KIM CHAEWON: I don’t think I ever really thought about why I do what I do, what I was thinking about or how I was feeling before any of this. I’m the kind of person who lives in the moment and accepts everything for what it is. And I was so young back then. Ever since I started preparing to debut with LE SSERAFIM, though, I had to get to know myself better because the group is supposed to be about us. I think that helped me understand who I am as a person, prompting me to reflect and ask what kind of a person I am.

The members’ personal stories are woven into LE SSERAFIM’s albums. Does that also help you to get to know yourself better?
KIM CHAEWON: I think it has a huge influence. I’ve always been more of a listener when I’m with my friends. And it never bothered me. I’m not the type to talk about myself, and often have trouble expressing what I’m feeling at a given moment, so I love that I’m able to express it through songs and performances as part of LE SSERAFIM. I think I’m getting better and better at expressing myself and my emotions.

That makes sense, since it seems like you would have to be really good at expressing yourself for the latest album. I loved the way you went from being tearful to looking increasingly resolute in the nine-shot BLOODY ROSE concept photos, the more your face got cut up.
KIM CHAEWON: I once said that “my will gets stronger when I suffer a setback or someone criticizes me.” My determination gets stronger when someone says something mean. Luckily I was able to show that side of me in those pictures. The more I got hurt, the more resolute my expressions became in the photo.

​People usually become withdrawn when they get hurt, so I’m curious as to how it motivates and fuels you even more.

KIM CHAEWON: I’m really motivated by the people who care about me, but the same goes for people who give me the hard truth. When I hear them speak, it makes me want to break their biases and try even harder. Of course it hurts my pride and upsets me when someone criticizes me, but I also think hearing those things is one way I can grow.  Since our debut, I’m hearing fewer and fewer people giving me advice or telling me what I need to improve on. I realized while I’m grateful for the praises and the recognition, I’m also grateful for people who point out when I make a mistake and help me fix it. They help me grow, so I try to be appreciative.
 

It seems like the single “UNFORGIVEN” (feat. Nile Rodgers) is related to the point you made just now.

KIM CHAEWON: Before this album, we were like, I’m “FEARLESS.” I’m “ANTIFRAGILE.” Now we want to say, Look to us to find courage—take our hand and move forward with us. And I think the lyrics, “Unforgiven yes I was bleeding / I was powerless, used to lose every fight / But I ride,” suit me really well. No matter what I was going through or what people were saying, I kept on looking straight ahead and paved my own path.

 

You can see that in your choreography for that part too, I think. It shows in the way you fall to your knees and crawl forward, and also in your eyes.

KIM CHAEWON: I agree. (laughs) I hope people pay attention to that part where I crawl. I was trying to show on my face how, even if I was too weak to walk after a huge adversity, I would keep moving forward even if it meant crawling all the way. The choreography really highlights our facial expressions so we worked extra hard on getting them right. It would’ve looked awkward and weird if it was even a little off (laughs) so I put a lot of thought and time into perfecting it.

 

How do you train your facial expressions?

KIM CHAEWON: First I try to understand the lyrics fully and then look for facial expressions that are fitting. For me, I like going to the bathroom before bed and practicing in the mirror with the music on rather than doing it in the practice room. It works really well. I get inspired there, I guess. (laughs) It would be too embarrassing to have members watch and coach each other(laughs), not to mention everybody does it well on their own.

 

Teamwork is key for the new choreography. You have to lean against and hold each other up for some of the parts. How did the five of you communicate while practicing it?

KIM CHAEWON: There’s a lot of moves that are impossible to do alone, so we kept saying, “We can’t do this if anyone’s sick or missing, so let’s take good care of our health.” Those moves take a long time to practice but we’re really good at them now thanks to practicing so much. (laughs) Oh! One time, we were practicing for the live performance with our microphones on. There is a part where YUNJIN bends backwards and EUNCHAE and I need to hold her up. And I saw YUNJIN's microphone had slid down a bit. So I just went shoop! -pulled it back up for her and went on like nothing had happened. We all laughed so hard. (laughs) That’s when I knew we were really in sync, no words needed. It was that moment, right then and there.

​I recall the members saying before that “ANTIFRAGILE” is your hardest choreography to date, but the moves for your new album seem super tough too. It must’ve been really hard practicing for it.

KIM CHAEWON: I don’t think we will ever have it easy. (laughs) It’s hard, but in a different way from “ANTIFRAGILE.” It’s like back then it was weight training, and now it’s cardio. (laughs)  Our new album covers many different genres. They’re all really different, but it didn’t make me think, ‘How will I ever get all this down?’ Instead I thought, ‘Which new side of me will this bring out?’ My mindset has changed about vocals, too. When faced with an unfamiliar genre, now I think, ‘How can I bring my own style into this?’ And this album was really fun because there’s a different concept behind each song. I really wanted to show off the power of my vocals this time. That’s why I like “Fire in the belly” so much! (laughs)

 

What about it do you like so much, exactly? (laughs)

KIM CHAEWON: It was an unfamiliar genre. When I was recording it,  I thought, ‘Have I ever sung a song like this before?’ So I’m already super excited to perform it on stage. (laughs) It’s honestly my favorite song out of all of our albums!

 

You have that line in the song: “Join my crew.” (laughs)

KIM CHAEWON: When I saw that line before the parts were assigned, I seriously wondered who was going to say it. And then it ended up being me. (laughs) I think it’s a really key part for getting the message across, and I'm grateful that I got to do it. (laughs)

 

I remember in Fill in the Blank you said, “Just do it.”

KIM CHAEWON: Its hard to work up the motivation to do things at first. Because you know it will be challenging. But once you actually do it, you realize its not all that bad. That's how it always has been, for me. And you actually end up being immersed in it, which leads to good outcomes. There’s been so many times where I had trouble starting something and then it was fine as soon as I did.

 

Do you not feel strained always trying new things in new environments?

KIM CHAEWON: I’m a pretty quick study and adapt easily. It doesn’t do any good debating over something you have to get done anyway, so I just do it. I’m the type of person who gets used to things as they go rather than trying to adjust fully before getting started.

 

The first track on the new album is called “Burn the Bridge” and it opens with you saying, “I have faith in myself.” It feels like you really do have a lot of faith in yourself.

KIM CHAEWON: I’ve always tried my best at everything I do, so now I think I just need to trust myself. I know better than anyone that I’ve always tried my hardest. That’s why I believe in myself and have confidence:  I know I’ll do a good job because of how hard I’ve worked for it. My take is, I have to trust myself first in order for others to rely on me and put trust in me too.

 

So with every new experience you try to feel nervous, but still excited, to borrow your expression?

KIM CHAEWON: Yes. And you need confidence in order to turn your worries into excitement. Another reason I’m able to feel this way is because of our fans. Seeing how much our fans love our performances fills me with more and more confidence.

 

Writing the lyrics to “FEARNOT (Between you, me and the lamppost),” the first song dedicated to your fans, must have felt very meaningful for you, then. There was also a behind-the-scenes video from the last time you were promoting when you decided your goal for this next album would be writing lyrics as a group.

KIM CHAEWON: We all worked really hard on the lyrics since it’s filled with everything we want to say to the fans, and it felt like the right thing to write them as a group. (laughs) FEARNOT is what keeps us going even when we feel tired out. When we were recording the song, I thought about how I feel when I’m going home at the end of the day and reading all the supportive messages from fans on Weverse. Feeling their love is what brightens my day. That’s exactly what it feels like. I think it’s a good song for people to listen to when they’re done for the day. I listen to that song a lot on my way home after practice and it makes me emotional every time.

​You said you’re not very expressive, but I think you do so in a very specific and affectionate way. Like writing lyrics dedicated to your fans and the other members, the things you write in your Weverse posts. They call it the “ISTP-esque kindness.” (laughs)

KIM CHAEWON: It’s true—they really do call it that. (laughs) I still express myself a lot—just in a different way. But I’m thankful that the fans understand, accept and even like the way I express myself. (laughs)

 

Does your method of self-expression help you understand people who are similar to you? You wrote in your letter to SAKURA, “It’s okay to come to us or FEARNOT when you’re feeling tired or down. Let us notice these things.”

KIM CHAEWON: I think you’re right. I don’t usually let people know when I’m having a bad day either, so I can tell when somebody else is like that. So even though I’m not very good at it myself, I wish those people would let it show when they’re having a hard time.

 

And why don’t you usually let people see that in you?

KIM CHAEWON: I think it’s just my personality. Plus I’m a leader now, so I don’t think I should let people see when I’m having a hard time. I feel like it’s my responsibility to make sure I never get worn down.

 

But I bet the other members would still understand.

KIM CHAEWON: Yes. I actually feel reassured just by them being there. They don’t even have to say anything. When I’m tired, just talking with them and having some fun together gives me an energy boost and makes me feel better. It’s those little things that give me lots of strength—just the fact that they’re around.

 

And then there’s your fans, who make you “become a better person.”

KIM CHAEWON: My fans are what keep me going and motivate me to try my hardest. There have been many days when I’m filled with energy, even when I’m tired, and it’s all thanks to the fans being there. That’s why I cherish them as much as I do. They’re the ones who helped me learn more about my strengths. Hearing people say, “I like x about CHAEWON,” helps me know myself better and gives me confidence. I’ve also seen many comments of fans saying that seeing me and the other members make them want to live a more productive life. That makes me want to help them keep going, too, and have a positive impact on them. FEARNOT’s the reason I’m able to keep working so hard, so I hope I can be a positive influence and a source of motivation to them. We can be that for each other.

Credit
Article. Lee Jiyeon
Interview. Lee Jiyeon
Visual Director. Jeon Yurim
Coordinator. Oh Minji
Photography. LESS / Assist. Lee Sujeong, Park Sunseok
Artist Protocal Team. Kim Hyeongeun, Kim Ari, Son Nayeon, Shin Gwangjae, Kim Hyeonho, Park Hanul
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With LE SSERAFIM
2023.05.02