JUNGWON: “I don’t want to lower their expectations”
ENHYPEN DARK BLOOD comeback interview
Throughout his interview, JUNGWON spoke of virtues he considers essential: diligence, passion, persistence—qualities that combine to define who he is as a person.
You trained at a stunt academy to film the concept trailer for DARK BLOOD. It was the first time in a while that you were performing physically in a way different from dancing. What was it like going beyond dancing and performing your specialty, taekwondo kicks, after all this time?
JUNGWON: I talked about taekwondo a lot with my instructor at the academy. There was a group called the K-Tigers I wanted to join when I used to do it and it turns out my teacher was in that group. It was fun asking about all the things I had been wondering about and hearing all about it. Also, even though you use your body for both dance and taekwondo, the kind of stamina required is different. It was fun being physical that way after so long. (laughs)
You must have had a lot to practice since it was so different from previous things you’ve filmed—for example, the action sequence where you fall after being slashed by a sword, or all the closeups on your eyes and face.
JUNGWON: It was so cold and there were lots of people working there and I didn’t want there to be any delays because of me, so I went over the storyboard in more detail than I usually do and thought a lot about what to do during the shoot beforehand. For the part where I get slashed, for example, I thought about scenes from historical dramas.
You’re known for being an introvert. You were really shy when you had your picture taken at your high school graduation, for example. It’s in the nature of your job that you have to act in front of a lot of people and be on camera, so how do you deal with that?
JUNGWON: I’m even surprised at myself. (laughs) I didn’t even realize it until you mentioned that. Have you heard the phrase “selective F”? (laughs) I just naturally become like that when I’m working.
You mean “that side” of you suddenly comes out? (laughs)
JUNGWON: “That side”? (laughs) I’m not usually good at being expressive or conveying a wide range of emotions but I think I can to some extent in my work. Being looked at is not exactly my favorite since I’m usually very shy, but I don’t care that much when I’m working. I simply focus on bringing out good results.
I see. You’re rooted in reality but still express yourself as the job dictates.
JUNGWON: I like my work, and it’s fun, but it’s still work at the end of the day. It takes a lot of investment and the efforts of a lot of people to make an album, you know. The other members and I are only one part of it so I think we have to do our best for our share.
You said on DJ JUNGWON’s Red Night on Weverse Live that you “really worked hard for” this album, and in the Billboard interview, SUNGHOON similarly said, “We gave it our everything.” Did seeing so many ENGENE on your world tour have an impact on that?
JUNGWON: I was so happy on tour and had so much fun—so much so that it made me think I’m going to do this job forever as long as my body holds out. It reminded me how essential ENGENE is to us. That’s all there is to it. What else is there to say? (laughs) I thought this album should be a turning point for the group. The concept trailer, concept photos and lead single all came about from us thinking, Couldn’t we be doing even more?
ENHYPEN has mostly sung about self-actualization and proving yourself, but you’ve started with this album to sing about someone else, beginning with the opening track, “Fate.” I feel like it would’ve been difficult to perform the long spoken-word part you do in Korean since you had to speak in an understated tone while still capturing the dramatic tone and bringing the lines to life.
JUNGWON: It was a little tough getting the emotion across while still making sure I was pronouncing everything clearly. The narration tells a story, so some parts are more subtle while others have heightened tension. I tried to bring it to life by picturing what I would do and how I would feel if it were me while I was reading it. The producer didn’t give me any special directions. We just turned off all the lights in the studio and recorded it in a comfy and drowsy vibe. (laughs)
You tend to be realistic and you even have S in your MBTI, meaning your thoughts are rooted in facts. How did you feel singing dramatic lyrics like, “Consume my flesh and blood,” in “Sacrifice (Eat Me Up)”?
JUNGWON: Umm … We’re actually human. (laughs) So when I sing a conceptual song like that, I actually focus more on my vocals than on what the lyrics say. I’ve been thinking about my vocals a lot lately and trying out new things. When I try and sing in an airy voice I overthink things and then I actually end up tightening my vocal cords. So now I’m focusing on not thinking too much and just singing naturally. I went on, listening to the vocal director sing and copied that, and getting concrete feedback—like, “Make it more sharp,” or, “Space out the space”—I figured it out and sang that way.
You sing in a different way to match the flavor of each track. Some of your standout moments are when you softly sing the “Bite Me” chorus, when you sing the low notes in “Chaconne” with a gritty voice for that hip hop feel, and your poppy vocals in “Bills.”
JUNGWON: I never really sang any of the low parts when we first debuted but nowadays I’m trying it out in a lot of the choruses and verses. The producer said my vocal tone became a lot thicker. I heard some people’s voices change twice. I guess I’m almost at the end of it now. (laughs) So I’ve been trying to sing in all kinds of different vocal styles like when I tried out the low notes in “TFW (That Feeling When)” when we were promoting “Future Perfect.”
You’ve also clearly been working on your dance moves, because it shows. ENGYPEN’s choreography used to mainly place an emphasis on energy but the choreography for the single “Bite Me” is relatively soft and has a complex structure.
JUNGWON: Other than “Given-Taken,” the choreography for our lead singles is pretty much all really physically demanding. I feel like I’d pass out whenever we perform“Future Perfect (Pass the MIC).”. (laughs) But “Bite Me” was actually harder because we had to bring out the details and rely less on pure stamina. K-pop choreography often has set rules so it’s not that hard to understand how or where to move once you get the basics down as a trainee. But NI-KI helped make the choreography this time, and he’s been dancing a long time, so there were a lot of moves I never tried before. So I learned a lot from watching him and practiced a ton by myself.
You play an important part in the performance of “Future Perfect (Pass the MIC),” stepping forward with immense energy to set the scene. You also come forward while singing, “Memory in my veins / My cells in search of you scream,” just as the intro of “Bite Me” transitions into the song proper, and that part’s quite impressive.
JUNGWON: I wanted to make that part of the song look cool right from the beginning. I knew it had to be exciting to watch. Sometimes when I practice, I miss certain details in the moves, and in other cases it feels like the expressions and gestures I did before were better, so I went over my old videos and practiced my facial expressions and movements in the mirror. It’s actually easy to make a dance look relatively good when the beat’s fast just by keeping in time with it, but choreography like that one that makes a lot of use of the body really exposes what you’re personally good at and there’s a wider range of emotions to express, so it was fun working on it.
You really consider the fundamentals, expression and difficulty level of a dance from every angle. Director Kim Seong Kwan has even said, “JUNGWON is like a blank sheet of paper that can take on any color. He’s a textbook case of a good performer no matter what kind of song he’s working on.”
JUNGWON: I think he said that because I consider the fundamentals to be important and tend to build out expressions from there. (laughs) I practiced the fundamentals a lot when I was a trainee too and I still do, although I don’t get as much time to. I think it’s possible to some degree to dance in your own particular way and still make it look good but people who are extremely good at dancing won’t look awkward even if they’re doing a move that might otherwise come across as silly. For that reason, I think the fundamentals are really important if you’re trying to make any of your moves look good—just like they’re important in anything you do.
You uploaded a video on YouTube in October where you do a dance cover of Alexander Chung’s choreography. What were you hoping to show people with that video?
JUNGWON: I’ve loved Alexander Chung ever since my BELIFT LAB trainee days. I took some choreography lessons after we finished promoting “Blessed-Cursed” and it felt like I was all the way back in those trainee times. It was really fun. Then I thought ENGENE would like it if I uploaded a video of me covering that choreography, so I did. Our choreography is usually full of running, jumping and other intensive moves so I was also curious what it’d be like if I tried practicing something with some groove to it like that on my own. But I still wasn’t 100% satisfied with it. (laughs)
Aren’t you being too hard on yourself? (laughs) I can see on TikTok and your Dance JAM Live videos how good your memory for dance moves is. You even remembered the competition song “Dive into you” from I-LAND that you didn’t even perform on the show.
JUNGWON: I feel like I can’t remember any of it with my head, but my body seems to. (laughs) After having seen it so many times. I’m actually not that good at sight-reading choreography perfectly. I can figure out what the moves are like after seeing it, but NI-KI and JAY are actually really fast at learning them. I learn a lot from the other members.
But you do a lot of trending dance challenges on TikTok and Dance JAM Live, like “LAW” (prod. Czaer) from Mnet’s Street Man Fighter, “Rover” by KAI and “New Things” by ZICO.
JUNGWON: I was really determined to be good at dancing since I was a trainee and lately I feel that way again. I’m still at the point where I don’t know what genre I’d be best at or what would suit me so I’m trying all kinds of different things. I try to do it on TikTok and Weverse as much as I can, since ENGENE likes it. Of course I’m busy with a lot of things, but if I try a little harder I can give them a lot with those videos.
You post on Weverse and leave replies on ENGENE’s comments any time you have a moment to spare.
JUNGWON: Well, I really enjoy talking with ENGENE, and I feel a sense of responsibility to keep posting since I started posting a lot. ENGENE’s used to me being on there all the time so they might get worried if I suddenly stop going on. I didn’t want to make them worry like that so going on Weverse kind of became my routine. (laughs) I felt that way especially because of the pandemic. It wouldn’t be easy for me to make others happy if I was just a regular person, but since I’m an idol, I can make ENGENE happy just by posting a single photo. So I think I should do it as much as I possibly can.
Whenever I watch you dance, you always give 100 percent, there isn’t a single moment where you don’t. That includes whether you’re on stage, on TikTok or on Dance JAM Live. I think that defines who you are as a person.
JUNGWON: I think seeing other artists has had a lot of influence on me when it comes to always trying to work hard. If you look at BTS and SEVENTEEN, they’ve been around for a long time now but they put on a fantastic performance every single time without fail. I’ve felt like that’s the kind of artist I should be, ever since I was a trainee. The last thing I want to hear is that I’ve changed. I am not fully satisfied with myself but I try not to forget where I first started. But when you veer off course after displaying such attitude, you will let people down even more. That’s why I don’t want to disappoint them, and I don’t want to lower their expectations. I derive satisfaction from continuously raising my own standards, rising up to them and achieving my goals.
You also refused to give up when you battled SUNGHOON in those bubble suits on EN-O’CLOCK.
JUNGWON: I just think of it as my work ethic. I used to always procrastinate on my work. I was a “just five more minutes” monster. (laughs) But I think status gives you a certain amount of strength. Anyone in my position would do the same thing, I think—just doing what you have to do when you have to do it. Something like that is the least I can do.
You said in “To Myself 1 Year From Now From. 2021” a content of “2022 ENniversary” that, compared to a year earlier, you could better feel how worthwhile your work is, and that meeting ENGENE has made you happier and enjoy it more. What changed over the course of a year?
JUNGWON: Our work’s enjoyable, but more than that, it’s just plain fun. And since we’re still growing, there’re clear goals we can achieve in the future. It means so much to me that I can accomplish my goals one by one like this. HARUA and NICHOLAS from &TEAM came to see our concert and complimented us saying that it was “cool.” Just like how I nurtured my dreams watching BTS perform, I wish someone would do the same watching us.
Given how happy you are right now, are you worried about what might happen once you’ve accomplished all your goals?
JUNGWON: I don’t think about what comes at the end. I’m too happy just living in the moment. But not having goals would scare me. So it makes me wonder how far I can go. If I can, I want to accomplish as much as possible for as long as possible as a group with ENHYPEN.
Article. Kim Rieun
Interview. Kim Rieun
Visual Director. Jeon Yurim
Coordinator. Kim Jieun
Visual Creative Team. Heu Sae Ryeun, Lee Gunhee, Cha Minsoo, Lee Jihoon (BELIFT LAB)
Photography. Nikolai Ahn / Assist. Cho Seunghan, Lee Haeji
Hair. Ahn Chihyun (fleek)
Makeup. Kwon Sojeong
Stylist. Ji Seyun / Assist. Choi Hanbyeol
Set Design. Choi Seoyun, Son Yehee, Kim Ayoung (da;rak)
Artist Management Team. Park Sungjin, Rhee Shindong, Hong Yuki, Kim Hangil, Kang Byoungwook, Woo Soohyeon, Park Jaewon
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