As she answers more questions throughout the interview, CHAEWON’s words quickly move from thoughts, worries and anxiety and onto practice and sincerity. The end result of the changes that grew out of such patient passion and strength is conviction—and her name is KIM CHAEWON.

You performed at Yonsei University’s AKARAKA festival not that long ago. Did you talk with the other members about how it’s the kind of performance where you communicate with the audience?

KIM CHAEWON: We never played a festival or other event while promoting, so I was really eager to do a show in front of a general audience. The energy levels were really intense, for one thing. That was before our comeback and I felt energized from it. The other members said they didn’t know what to say on stage, so I think Kkura and I kind of led them. It was my first time performing for that many people so close up, so I was excited and nervous at the same time. But the rest of them were just nervous, so I remember I said to them, “It’s a festival—let’s just have fun out there.”

 

You say you were all nervous, but it was amazing the way the music suddenly started playing the moment you got on stage and yet you all danced perfectly without skipping a beat.

KIM CHAEWON: I was really proud of that. When I reviewed the footage later, I was so surprised, I said, “No way! We look like robots.” We practice so much that I could dance to that in my sleep. I just hear the intro to “FEARLESS” and my legs pretty much move by themselves. (laughs)

 

It seems like your almost endless practice regimen was pretty well documented in The World Is My Oyster, the documentary that followed your debut.

KIM CHAEWON: I actually got a lot of people reaching out to me after that came out. (laughs) I don’t think they knew how much was going on after I said I was working with a new label. (laughs) I don’t think they realized I started from the very beginning, doing training and all the basics as a trainee. I got a lot of messages saying they were surprised and telling me “you sure worked hard.” And saying they’re proud of me.

A lot of people have been talking about the documentary. What do you think of when you think back to that time?

KIM CHAEWON: All the members have different backgrounds and I thought that would be a unique selling point for our group. We wanted to make sure we were showing people how we all came together as one and practiced as a team, and I was glad people found that so interesting. And I kept seeing how people were saying Kkura and me are so tough. (laughs) They said it must’ve been hard to have been in a popular girl group and then start all over again from the beginning and that it was impressive we did. That’s when I first realized I was doing well—that I was doing great. I could feel all those compliments making me feel better. And looking back now, I think it was a phenomenal opportunity. It was really challenging to go through at the time, but I feel like I had to experience all that.

 

What makes you feel that way?

KIM CHAEWON: I could have taken one of two different life paths but I had to choose just one. When I was practicing, I was really determined to start right from the beginning, but the whole thing with the debut date getting pushed back and the lineup yet to be set in stone made me feel anxious and tired. But I doubt I ever could’ve grown this much if it weren’t for everything back then. I got to know myself a lot better and I think I really leveled up both in my abilities and as a person thanks to that. I became more emotionally mature, too, which was nice.

 

Just like ANTIFRAGILE.

KIM CHAEWON: When I first heard what ANTIFRAGILE was all about, it was just like me. I know I’ve always been the kind of person who works hard when I’m facing some difficulty or obstacle, even something trivial, because I become more ambitious and really feel like I have to do a good job. I try my best to persevere. I thought ANTIFRAGILE was like me in that regard.

 

The lyrics on this album are very straightforward and are all about the group itself. What was it like singing the chorus for “No Celestial”?

KIM CHAEWON: I thought, This is amazing (laughs) when I first got the lyrics. (laughs) I liked the message the lyrics were trying to convey, for one thing. I’m no angel and I’m no goddess. But thanks for loving me anyway. All the songs are things we wanted to say, which is why we were able to practice them with all our hearts. So I tried to sing in a way that I could really emphasize the message behind the lyrics to “ANTIFRAGILE.” I worked really hard on hitting those ad-libbed high notes, too. (laughs) The song is really exciting, too, so I was looking forward to enjoying it even more than our debut song.


It seems like it would be tough to enjoy something as challenging as “ANTIFRAGILE.” (laughs) Was it not hard learning and performing the choreography when it’s so intense?

KIM CHAEWON: There’s a lot of group formation changes in the choreography and the beat is nonstop, so there’s no time to rest. But anyway, I practiced until I developed a muscle memory for it, and tried to have fun doing it, and I think I got better at doing the facial expressions as a result. There’s lots of parts in the choreography where we show off our arm muscles and all the movements are so different from anything I did before. It was fun. I wasn’t really that familiar with that genre of music, so I was curious and excited to see how we would pull it off. Now I know I can pull something like that off.

  • KIM CHAEWON’s shoes by Diesel, black gem ring and heart necklace by SMFK, square charm necklace by MAMA CASAR, silver heart necklace by Hei.

In a FIM-LOG you recorded with YUNJIN, you said you hope this album does well but you sounded like you felt a little pressure for that when you said it. What did you mean when you said that?

KIM CHAEWON: If I’m being perfectly honest, part of it is how well it performs. (laughs) Actually, the whole meaning of this album is how you can become stronger and more resistant no matter what difficulties you come up against. I hope the album stays on message and gets that across well. And I hope people love every song on it. I see this as an opportunity to show off how diverse we can be, so I hope it does well in that regard, too.

 

It seems like there’s a lot you want to convey and that you want to ensure you develop and improve yourself accordingly. What kind of goal did you have going into ANTIFRAGILE?

KIM CHAEWON: I’ve been thinking about that. If you set yourself a goal, make improvements and put in the effort, you end up with another goal after that. So, what is the end goal? Is there even an end? I don’t think there is, actually. I think I’ll keep having new goals. I think that’s the kind of person I am. Still, even though things like improvement and effort are good and all, I think I don’t want to push myself excessively. I’d rather enjoy myself and the world around me a little instead.

 

What made you feel that way?

KIM CHAEWON: It was just a small thing, but I think I felt pressured—like we absolutely had to do well—on M Countdown, the first time we performed live during the FEARLESS promotion. So it’s a shame that I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I had wanted. After that, I realized I want to enjoy myself and feel the moment.

 

I think some of your series like LENIVERSE rather effortlessly show how you’re enjoying yourself. I also get the impression that you put the other members at ease.

KIM CHAEWON: They were awkward when we first started doing variety shows and didn’t really speak much. I remember I was always the first one to speak, or I would act silly, so that they would feel comfortable enough to join in. That way we could hang out as friends. I used to be that way, too—never taking the lead and just following along with whatever the older members were doing. (laughs) I think it’s become a habit now because most of our members are younger than me now and I’m always the one to get things started.

 

You’re pretty unfiltered when you’re on variety shows, aren’t you? As someone who used to take a step back, wasn’t it hard finding how to present the right image on such shows?

KIM CHAEWON: I want to tell people about our group—I want to really promote it. I think I felt a sense of responsibility there that had me keep putting in the effort. It wasn’t really all that hard, and I think that ambition is what made it all possible.

 

Does your ambition trump your personality?

KIM CHAEWON: Yes. Because I want to be successful. (laughs) But I was just pushing that part of myself down and hiding it. It’s not something I made up. I think I’m more comfortable showing my true self now that being an idol has caused my personality to change. Now the energy I have when I’m with people I’m close with has made its way onto the screen as well.

Maybe that explains your method acting as Intern KIM vlogging on LE SSERAFIM Company.

KIM CHAEWON: I watch a lot of vlogs, so I just thought, What’s going on in the minds of vloggers? (laughs) And it came to me naturally. We don’t prepare anything in advance for the show; I think it’s just the chemistry between us in the moment that makes the show so good. I guess it’s because we really know each other and we’re so close. It’s just us being our normal, everyday selves. We had no idea the fans would be so into it.

 

Is it also normal for all the older members to chance feeling embarrassed and take pictures with EUNCHAE in front of Pingfong?

KIM CHAEWON: It’s moments like that that remind me just how young EUNCHAE is. (laughs) She really loves stuff like that. She has so many things she wants to do, so when I see her interested in something, I want to do it with her. I was worried about EUNCHAE at first because of how shy she was, but now she’s super playful and feels like a younger sister to me.

 

As you say, there’s a notable age gap between you and EUNCHAE. One time on LE SSERAFIM Company, you complained that nobody else remembers mini-homepage acorns and said, “I’m the only one here that knows so much!” Do you really think so?

KIM CHAEWON: There’s a lot of times like that. (laughs) EUNCHAE is six years younger than me and all the others are from other countries, so I can’t relate with them on much. When I talk with staff at the label or the hair and makeup artists, I’m the only one who knows what they’re talking about. For example, retro K-pop songs—I found out the other members don’t know much about them. I ask them if they seriously don’t know and can’t believe it … (laughs)

 

Do you have to keep explaining things to them whenever that happens?

KIM CHAEWON: Honestly, I don’t think they would fully understand even if I tried to explain. (laughs) I’m like, I’ll just accept it and move on. It can be sad, but mostly I find that we have fun talking about all kinds of different things because we all come from different backgrounds.


What’s one difference that you found interesting?

KIM CHAEWON: That pat-a-cake is different from country to country. YUNJIN teaches us the American version, the Japanese members teach their version and the two of us teach them the Korean version. Our game’s very global now. (laughs)

 

You must all have a positive influence on the way each other develops seeing as your group is so diverse.

KIM CHAEWON: I tried to help Zuha out when we were filming since the scripts are all in Korean. I learned how to say the things I wanted to say on video calls with fans in English by asking YUNJIN. We rely on each other because we communicate well together. In Kkura’s case, I’m not sure if it’s because we went through the rough parts of debuting together, but we can tell what the other’s feeling without saying a word. Now she’s always so cute and I just want to tease her and goof around together. (laughs) And I mentioned before that EUNCHAE and I play a lot of pranks on each other and we always end up laughing a lot and feeling better whenever we’re together.

 

What does it mean to you to be working together with the other four members as a team like that?

KIM CHAEWON: I feel encouraged and like I have someone to rely on just by being together with them. If anyone did all this by themselves, they’d be taking on all the pressure by themselves, too. Whenever we’re all having a hard time, we can talk together and count on each other. I realized it’s incredibly lucky we ended up with this kind of connection. And we’re all ambitious, so it takes our desire to do well and multiplies it, plus we feel more confident from all the praise we receive from each other. It makes me even more excited for the future.

How does it feel being the leader of that kind of group?

KIM CHAEWON: You can see in the documentary how awkward and shy I get when I act as leader for the first time. (laughs) Now I pretty much know exactly what needs to be done. We haven’t had any differences of opinion or anything so far, so it hasn’t really been that hard. Taking on the role gives me a little pressure to do better, but I think things are good the way they are right now because people need a little fire under them so that they work hard. I feel like I’m becoming a better person, in a way.

 

It seems like you’re experiencing a lot of different changes at this point in time.

KIM CHAEWON: I used to always spend a lot of time alone just chilling at home. I still like being alone now, but I like being active and energetic, too. It depends on the situation. That’s especially true when I get a day off. I don’t get many since I’m so busy, but when I do, I want to spend that time with friends I haven’t seen in a while. And enjoy being outdoors. I guess I have changed.

 

I heard your MBTI type is ISTP, where the “I” stands for “introverted.” Admittedly I’m a little obsessed with MBTI (laughs) but it’s still worth taking the test again, isn’t it?

KIM CHAEWON: Maybe I should. (laughs) Even the people around me say that something about me’s changed. And I feel it in myself, too. People used to just assume I was a shy person, but when I do interviews lately or meet up with people, if I say I’m naturally shy, they all say they have a hard time believing it. That’s when I can tell I changed a lot.

 

Did that all happen after FEARLESS?

KIM CHAEWON: Yes. I think LE SSERAFIM has changed me a lot. In a good way.

 

In your last interview with Weverse Magazine, you said you like it when people say you’re doing a good job. What about now?

KIM CHAEWON: I want to keep hearing people say that. (laughs) I hope people say they can trust that I’ll do the right thing always—like, if I say I’m going to do something, that they never have to be worried whether I can do it well or not. That’s the kind of person I want to be.

 

You said in the documentary that you trust you made the right choice when you chose your path and that you were going to make it happen. Was it a good choice in retrospect?

KIM CHAEWON: It absolutely was a good choice. I made it be a good choice. (laughs) Because, no matter what you choose, all that matters is what you make of it. I think I made the most of it.

Credit
Article. Yoon Haein
Interview. Yoon Haein
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. Mok Jung Wook / Assist. Bang Kyu Hyeong, Jang Jung Woo, Lee Joong Myoung
Hair. Hamin, Oh Yumi (BIT&BOOT)
Makeup. Choi Suji, Kim Minji (BIT&BOOT)
Stylist. Hong Hary / Assist. Jo Subeen, Park Joogyeong (Punksnotdead)
Set Design. Choi Seoyun, Son Yehee, Kim Ayeong (Da;rak)
Artist Protocal Team. Kim Ahri, Son Nayeon, Shin Kwangjae, Lee Eunjoo, Lee Hyoyeol
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