Given that I know zilch about what’s happening in Korean entertainment these days, it came as a mild surprise to learn that Park Yoochun (of K-drama & K-pop fame) is off to serve his mandatory two-year military service. Very soon in fact. Like, today. Or yesterday.
I chanced upon this short interview while scanning Korean celeb magazines for quality reading content and – well, normally I’m rather indifferent to Yoochun but sentimentality got the better of me. I’d just resumed reading 셩균관 유생들의 나날 for the umpteenth time, which got me thinking about Sungkyunkwan Scandal, (still one of my favorite dramas to date, by the way), which made me think about JYJ and DBSK and OT5 4ever, etc. etc.
I found this interview pretty funny actually because the interviewer/writer can’t start a single question without talking about how PYC is going to be gone for TWO YEARS – it’s like s/he is so desperate for Yoochun to talk about how crushed he’s going to be to give up the spotlight, but Chunnie’s having none of that. Full translated interview under the cut! And the usual:
(Disclaimer: All copyright belongs to the original source. I am not profiting by this translation and cannot guarantee its accuracy. In fact, I’ve taken a few liberties with my translation this time by prioritizing meaning and written fluency over more literally representing the original text.)
Goodbye, Park Yoochun
Source: Marie Claire
Park Yoochun will be leaving us for some time. We won’t be seeing him for a while.
So about 9 years ago, I interviewed him for another media source. It was the night of some awards ceremony, perhaps one of his brightest and most memorable days: He had just won an award. I remember him as I would any twenty-one year old youth – warm-hearted and fresh-faced. Much has passed since then and after facing increasingly difficult, increasingly joyful moments alike, we come to today. Once an idol that teenagers screamed for, he still continues to sing; and now he acts as well. He’s turned into a rather fine actor, in fact. He won all sorts of newcomer awards for Haemu, which he filmed alongside a number of eminent senior actors. He’s come all this way without taking a moment to rest. And now, for some time, he will drop everything and prepare to turn back into ‘ordinary’ Park Yoochun. It’s not a light-hearted, nor final thing either. Just that the first and second innings of Park Yoochun’s life have come to an end and now it’s time for him to prepare for overtime.
You have about a month left. You’re done with most of your public appearances. Do you feel a bit relieved now that everything is winding down?
You shed tears during your fanmeeting in Japan a while back.
I didn’t cry because of my military service. At the time, I remembered what it was like touring in Japan over 10 years ago and was overcome with emotion. To this day, I’m always surprised and thankful for all the things our fans have done for us, but somehow that day they were especially precious to me. I think that’s why I cried.
Our memories of joy and regret make up the all the moments in our lives. What has been your most joyful memory thus far?
Back when the company that I’m a part of now [C-JeS Entertainment] was just created, we all took a trip to Australia. During that period of time, we didn’t second-guess ourselves, we believed that if we just worked hard, things would work out – that remains a very precious memory. We still live life to the fullest through our work. The members [of JYJ] aren’t able to get together very often but our relationship hasn’t changed. After we debuted, for a long time we had to constantly stick to formalities, appear sophisticated, and our whole day-to-day patterns were arranged. I started to realize that in being like that, I was losing myself bit by bit. Now I’ve found a more ordinary version of myself.
You aren’t scared to discontinue your public activities for the time being?
At one point three or four years ago, I thought about quitting. Taking a break from my activities for the time being will probably be a good thing for me.
Have you imagined dropping everything then?
Of course. Let’s drop everything and go to Ibiza!* (laughter) I’ve had vague thoughts of leaving everything and living an ordinary life. Making rice at home, in a few years, dropping the kids off at school, going to their sports meets, that kind of life. I think as time passes, all of that will come about naturally. *[NOTE: A Mediterranean island off the eastern coast of Spain]
You’ve lived your whole life in the spotlight. Since you won’t be in the public eye for a while, are you worried that you might be forgotten?
I think I’d be okay if people forget me. I debuted as a singer in my teens and then also started acting, so I’ve left my mark on the world, whether that be big or small. It’s rather self-centered to want people to remember you after many years have passed. When it is your time to be forgotten, then it’s only natural to be forgotten.
You’ve won so many accolades and have received so much affection from your fans. In spite of that, do you have any regrets?
Not at all. I’ve never regretted anything for a second. I’ve lived life joyfully, as befits my age. I’ve never been very greedy. My ‘greed’ pretty much amount to wanting more space [to put things in a house]? (laughter) I’ve achieved far beyond what my younger self dreamed of. When I was a kid, I wanted my family’s refrigerator to always be full when I opened it, I wanted to eat meat and banchan [Korean side-dishes] and to buy my mom and younger brother a car – that was my dream. All of that’s been achieved, I’d say.
You debuted in your teens, flew through your twenties, and now you’ve turned 30. What’s changed?
It takes me forever to get over a hangover. (laughter) I drank a lot when I was in my twenties. One time I drank a bottle of soju every night for 46 days or so straight. I just liked alcohol. But I never got drunk. Once when Jaejoong came to visit me during break we’d had a little to drink and he said that because you sleep early during military service, your ears won’t hear anything after 10 PM. I certainly like alcohol, but I also like quietly watching people drink and get rowdy. When I overhear people’s daily conversations like that, I feel strangely comforted. I like feeling like, “Ah, so this is the kind of world that I’m a part of.”
I’m curious about what Park Yoochun might be like at a party.
If something needles me, I talk a lot. If someone does something wrong, I point it out, and if there are two people who don’t like each other, I bring them together.
Is there anything you regret not being able to do till this point?
Lots of things. I should’ve visited my father one last time in his life. I should’ve seen him while he was alive. That type of thing. I really regret that I didn’t have the courage to see him.
This must have been an incredibly dynamic year for Park Yoochun. You received many accolades for last year’s Haemu and the drama The Girl Who Sees Smells was well-received too. In the midst of all that, you’re forced to put a halt to it all. Haemu in particular was a really unforgettable film.
I don’t think I can rewatch Haemu. My acting in it is so strange. I once thought of watching it at home but as soon as I turned it on, I turned it back off. Dongshik, the character I played in Haemu, was an incredibly challenging character to play. Even though he knows in his head precisely what he wants, he’s unable to act accordingly. Living as Dongshik for 6 months definitely extracted some things out of me, but some of aspects of the character were forced into me as well. I had to have 200% concentration while filming Haemu. Even after we finished, I didn’t completely go back to being me. The interesting thing is that I don’t even remember much of what happened during that period of time. Because I lived so thoroughly as Dongshik, it’s like many of my own memories just disappeared.
You wrapped up Lucid Dream recently too.
It was just a special appearance so it was a small role. I think I was even more more anxious because I wasn’t the one steering the show. I wanted to play my part, however small, in contributing to the work and portraying my character as best I could. Nevertheless, I like supporting or small roles like this.
Aren’t you used to being the main character your whole life, though?
I don’t always have to be the main character. I have been many times over thus far, but I’d like to have the experience of not being a main character as well.
On the other hand, The Girl Who Sees Smells completely knocked me off my feet. Who knew you could be so funny!
Almost a year passed between my finishing up Three Days and starting on The Girl Who Sees Smells. I think that’s why when I first started filming, even the cameras were stressing me out. I thought it was because I’d started acting again after a long time. At some point, it started to feel natural again. I didn’t feel strained; I fun acting in The Girl Who Sees Smells. Lots of fun. I actually sent Sekyung a text yesterday – “Saw you on ‘My Little Television.’ Haven’t you been ranking in the search results for a little too long?” (laughter) I like staying in touch with all the actors I’ve worked with, even after filming has ended. Jimin has kept track of what I’ve been doing too. It’s great.
You will be out of the public eye for about two years. Is there you anything about yourself that you want to have reduced during that time?
My popularity. I’ve never really cared about popularity but now I want to be freed from from it. I want to act in the kind of roles I want to act in, sing the kind of music I want to sing. I’m making an effort to live like that now but in a few years, I’ll start thinking more deeply about things and won’t what I want to do change? I want to put aside the things I see now and rise to the top. As if to show people that “rising to the top should be done like this.” I want to rise slowly and finish up at the top, whether that takes 10 years or 20 years. If I don’t goof up, I won’t be able to rise will I? Though if I do cause an accident, I’d be able to ‘rise up’ in two hours flat. (laughter)
What is something you want to do more of?
I want to act better. Even though I’ve tried my hand at both acting and singing, there isn’t anything I’m especially good at. Just that my timing and luck happened to match up and, putting in some extra effort on top of that, I look like I’m doing well. For example, sobbing loudly at a particular moment might make it look like I’m acting well, but I don’t consider that being a ‘good actor.’ One day I want to act in the absence of a character. Like, just an ordinary character.
Now that you’re so close to enlistment day, do you think the first inning of your life is over?
It actually feels like the second inning of my life is over. And it feels like I’m about to face a very long ‘extra inning.’ I think because I was so young when I started working, I’m extremely exhausted now. Of course, when I’m actually working, I’m enjoying every second of it, but then why isn’t there something like that? Like the emptiness you feel after you’ve been in the spotlight? Maybe the reason I’m constantly looking for something ‘ordinary’ is so I can fill up that void.
It’s a bit early for this question but I’ll ask it anyway since I won’t get a chance to interview you again for a while. What sort of year has this been for you?
An eight-time award-winning year? (laughter) I think this is the year of all the strength I squeezed out of my hardworking staff and fans. I’ll remember this as the year of being incredibly grateful to them.
What are you going to do the day before your enlistment?
Probably go home and have something to eat.