Filled with confidence and love, SUNOO saw changes in every aspect of his life where he had been putting in the effort. Having built up his 2023 that way, this year’s shaping up to be his “turning point.” In our interview, he wished nothing but happiness for ENGENE, who he’s “so thankful for” for having been by his side through all those changes.

​One of your goals for 2023 was to find a new hobby and I heard you’re taking up piano these days.
SUNOO: I’ve always found New Age music relaxes me and I also learned some piano when I was younger. Then, right when I was thinking that I should find a hobby, boom—piano came immediately to mind. That was what got me started, and I loved it as soon as I started learning! I feel at ease and less stressed whenever I hear the sound of a piano. I’m practicing a lot these days and even take lessons on my days off. My teacher keeps saying I’m good and getting better, and it seems that I am not completely talentless in this area. (laughs) Anyway, I’m having a ton of fun learning to play.

It sounds like you found the right hobby for you.
SUNOO: I plan to keep on learning to play! Learning piano really sparked something inside me. (laughs) So someday, when I’m really, really good, I want to play something live for ENGENE. I think it would be great to sing and play piano at the same time someday in concert.

If you practice hard, that day might come sooner than you expect.
SUNOO: I agree. Actually, I ended up discovering so many new things in 2023 already that it feels like I already accomplished all my goals for the year. (laughs)

It’s only May, so it sounds like you’re off to a good start. (laughs)
SUNOO: Right? I feel great that I could accomplish everything already and it’s only May. I think this is turning out to be a very significant year for me. I’m discovering new things and something about this year just makes it feel like it’s going to be my turning point. And my way of thinking has changed a lot, so I think it’s safe to say it’s a turning point. [Note: This interview took place on May 8.]
​What’s changed in the way you think that makes you feel like this year will be a turning point for you?
SUNOO: Before, I was working almost every day, and to be honest, it made me tired and kind of wore me down sometimes. When that happened I couldn’t think positively and at some point I didn’t really like the way I was living. I didn’t want to feel that way anymore so I thought I needed to change something. The result of that effort to change in some way led me to finding my new hobby and just trying some new things, whatever they were. Once I started trying every new thing that came my way, it took my mind off other things.

Didn’t you find it hard challenging yourself to try new things?
SUNOO: Of course. It’s always hard trying something new. But even though it’s hard, the process helped me to have less pessimistic thoughts. For example, when I’m practicing piano, there’s chords and I have to read the sheet music, and because I’m thinking about those things, I’m distracting myself from any negative thoughts. Now that I’ve changed my way of thinking like that, my negative thoughts are slowly disappearing and I end up having more positive thoughts about the future. I feel like everything’s changed for the better, so I recommend everyone try it. As long as everybody has that one thing that works for them to make them feel better, it’s a huge help, honestly. So start with something—anything! If you don’t have anything at all, it’s good for you to try anything you can so that you can find that one thing, I think.

Not only did you challenge yourself personally, but you tried a number of new things on the latest album too. I was really impressed by the intense look in your eyes in the single “Bite Me.”
SUNOO: I thought the way I look at the camera was important so I worked really hard at that. A glance that consumes the viewer! I look at the camera with that enticing look, like, I’m gonna devour you. I’m really looking forward to this album for a variety of reasons! (laughs) 
​You really pour on the love for the track “Bills,” too. (laughs)
SUNOO: Oh, I love that song! When we first listened to all the demo versions of the new songs, of course all of them were good, but I really fell in love with “Bills.” I listened to the demo version so much just all throughout the day.

What made you like “Bills” most?
SUNOO: I liked that refreshing sound. It starts right from the intro and it’s exactly what I’m into. It makes you feel even better when you already feel good and it makes you feel better when you feel bad too. (laughs) I thought I was the only one who felt that way but it turns out all of us love it and I think ENGENE will really like it too!

Your tone of voice in the chorus is amazing too.
SUNOO: There’s some low-register parts in “Bills” and I think I did a better job with the low notes than expected. (laughs) The producer and I were both surprised when I was recording it. I worked really hard to bring out the unique sound and feel of the song.

It sounds like you discovered a whole different side of yourself while making the album.
SUNOO: I think I actually improved my vocal range while practicing the songs on this album. I think I can hit higher notes than before and I widened my spectrum as far as the low notes go. And I paid special attention to things like the sound of my breath this time. I’m really happy that there’s more I can do now. (laughs)

What had you paying attention to those details in particular?
SUNOO: I automatically thought things like, ‘Oh, it would sound better if I sang a little breathier for this part.’ That kind of sound is especially important in songs like “Sacrifice (Eat Me Up)” that are dark but calm. I thought, ‘How can I bring out the feeling of the song better?’ And then I focused on the little details. I really like how it turned out.
​I think the concept photos are a reflection of the quality of the album. You said several times that the Half version is your favorite. (laughs)
SUNOO: Right! I think it really shows exactly the feeling I was going for. It was even better because everybody’s looked great, not just mine. I wanted to try looking a little sad and melancholy in the water and I’m really satisfied with how well that feeling and those shots work together.

Was it hard shooting in the water?
SUNOO: Actually, I’m not that strong a swimmer, and water and I don’t get along that well. I had to lie down with my head almost completely underwater, and it got in my ears. I felt like I’d go completely under if I tensed up even the slightest bit, so it was a little hard to shoot. But I’m glad I got over my fear and that the final product looks so good.

You also mentioned in the Weverse Live at the end of the year that you wanted to challenge yourself to try many new things in 2023. Do you find trying new things more fun than scary?
SUNOO: Honestly, I always have a ton of fun trying new things. It’s like, I’m nervous, but I’m more excited and curious. Doing something I’ve never tried before is always fascinating and brings me closer to new things. I’m really interested in new things like that. I like meeting new people and trying new foods. Even while working on this album, it was really fascinating uncovering new sides of me that I never even knew I had in me whenever I tried something new. And if I’m being honest, I think working so hard on this album in particular made me feel even more ambitious in many ways. (laughs)

It shows just how much passion you have.
SUNOO: I always want to be the best. If something’s not working out, I have to try harder. And it’s always good to aim high with your goals. (laughs) I want to receive recognition all around the world, and then I want to use that to be a good influence.
​I bet meeting ENGENE all around the world during your first world tour made you feel the way even more strongly.
SUNOO: I could really feel how much impact I have on people. I was touched that so many people all around the world liked me and cheered me on. It meant so much to me, too, and thanks to them I could take another look at myself. It helped me work harder so I can be a positive influence on others. I loved the idea that, if I use it properly, I can pass that good influence on to lots of people. I love the way I give ENGENE good energy, then they give me lots of good energy, then they get it from me again.

It sounds like you’re good for each other. Do you think you changed or grew at all during the tour?
SUNOO: I think the more I experience, the more I naturally grow. Your whole world expands as you experience more. And I think this tour made all of us more focused on our performances and see just how important they are. I’m sure every single one of the other members feels the same way.

You chose “the moment when additional shows at Kyocera Dome were announced” as your favorite moment during the first Quarterly Review of 2023. You’re accomplishing a lot of different things at the moment, but are there still other things you’d like to try too?
SUNOO: So many things. I think there’s a lot we’re going to try moving forward and I hope to do as much of it as possible as a group with ENHYPEN. Seriously. I want to try everything. I want to try everything and achieve everything I want to achieve. Because I’m very ambitious like that. (laughs) I believe in myself.

I can tell. (laughs)
SUNOO: I think it’s important to believe in yourself. I think believing in myself like this allows me to do anything. Another thing I want to say is, if you spend all your time trying to look good for other people, you could end up neglecting yourself. I think it’s really important not to lose yourself and to know how to look after the people around you, even in a situation like that.

You seem to be able to empathize with others and care deeply for their feelings while still taking care of yourself just as much.
SUNOO: The one reason I’m able to be that way is because I’m so good at loving myself. If you’re satisfied with yourself and love yourself, the way you see the world around you changes for the better.
​There’s also what you said in “To Myself 1 Year From Now, From 2021” for 2022 ENniversary: “You have your unique charms. I hope you’ll be more confident about sharing that with others. I hope you’re showing the world who you are.” Do you feel like you have confidence in and love for yourself?
SUNOO: Yeah, a ton! (laughs)Seriously—I really, really do, I have to admit. (laughs) I liked myself that much even when I was younger. I was always confident and I think that still influences me today because it’s part of my foundation. I think everything depends on how you think. I have things I don’t like about myself, of course, but I think my good points outweigh the bad ones.

What are your strengths?
SUNOO: I think my main strength is knowing how to love myself. I recommend people try to see the good parts of themselves before they look at the bad. After you’ve seen your good parts, even if you see bad ones, you can quickly forget about them or make sure they have less of an effect on you.

I think that must be what keeps you from losing faith in yourself. You found a good approach.
SUNOO: Yes. And then—and I don’t know if this could be another approach—there’s no way to see yourself with your own eyes, right? You can only see yourself through a mirror or something, and because you can’t really see yourself with just your eyes, as long as you keep that in mind, I think you can live with more confidence and self-assurance. I think I gave a lot of good advice today (laughs) and I hope ENGENE will give some of it a try. You can do it! (laughs) Just think, I like SUNOO, and he does it this way, so I gotta do it too! I can already see lots of ENGENE who’ve undergone a radical transformation. (laughs) And you know how you get all full of anticipation when you’re about to start something? This way you’ll think, “Is this really happening? I can’t wait!” And then you’ll be able to get even more into it.

So it’s a process of good change based on self-confidence and self-love.
SUNOO: I think it’s important to trust yourself when taking action. If you live every day with this mindset, then your next year and the one after that will change, and you will find that you have become a new person. Hard work changes everything.

Just like how all your effort has made 2023 a turning point for you?
SUNOO: Right. This year really is my turning point. (laughs)
Article. Lee Jiyeon
Interview. Lee Jiyeon
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