Part 1. First Meeting
1. That Summer that Was So Cold
Without saying much, they awaited the time when people would eventually know what it was they had wanted, and what it was they were trying to say. Although they did not know when that time would come, they were certain that it couldn’t be “like this, right now” forever.
In the end, they went in search of ‘happiness’ and ‘dreams’. Their footsteps were heavy with a fear of the uncertain future. But they felt that they could overcome the heavy footsteps and the fear for true happiness and their dreams.
With that, they became one through the name “JYJ”.
Stories Hidden In Their Hearts
In the summer of 2009, Kim Jaejoong, Park Yoochun and Kim Junsu made the decision to give up everything though they were at the top of their game. In the end, popularity and money were not important. If popularity and money were everything, they would not have been able to take that big step with heavy and fearful hearts. They did not hope for anything other than happiness and their dreams. As long as each of them had the other two by his side, that in itself was the best source of strength and comfort.
At the time, some people in the industry and the public made speculations about JYJ and attacked them. But they couldn’t do anything but stay silent. The flood of criticism and the ridiculous rumors ripped them apart. But they didn’t respond to such rumors. That was because they knew that reacting would be nothing but ‘Spitting on their own faces’ in this situation.
“I’m sure that SM Entertainment, our agency at that time, were hurt too, but when I look back on what happened, I think we were hurt more by the whole thing. There were times when I thought, ‘What’s the use of saying things that will do nothing but hurt each other’. Though there were a lot of rumors surrounding us, we kept it locked in our hearts and repeated to ourselves, ‘This too shall pass.’ I felt like when time had passed, people and the world would come to see what the truth was.” (Park Yoochun)
Kim Junsu’s thoughts did not differ much from Park Yoochun’s.
“We were frustrated. But (C-JeS CEO Baek) Chang Joo told us that we needed to hold back and endure to overcome our situation, that things would get worse if we responded to every little thing. We held back and tried to find comfort in his words that if we responded, something small that would have passed quickly if we had stayed put, would drag on and hurt us for a long time. Though it was a very trying time for us, we could do nothing but hold back. That was the only thing we could do.”
Those trying times were hard for the oldest member Kim Jaejoong, as well. But he decided to keep it all buried in his heart.
“We knew that this was a fight that we could possibly lose, but we hoped that people would understand our truth and sincerity when time had passed. At the time, we had no one to speak for us, and we could do nothing but silently stand our ground. Because speaking up would lead to misunderstandings. We couldn’t express ourselves because even denying things would make us look like cowards.”
The summer of 2009, which was too painful to let slide by, leaves a bitter taste in the members’ mouths. Things are supposed to get easier with time no matter what it is, but deep sighs still continue to escape their mouths.
The Truth Will Always Prevail
The members claimed that the difference in opinions regarding the cosmetic company was the beginning of their dispute, as the rumors had stated, but the crux of the matter was elsewhere.
Kim Jaejoong explained the situation at the time.
“It’s true that we decided to pursue the (cosmetic company) enterprise, like it’s been widely publicized. It came up because we wanted to make an investment and earn profit from it. Because the income of each member was taken care of separately, there were discrepancies. We discussed the enterprise with our company, but they unilaterally forbade us to and treated us like children. They said things like ‘Legal issues will come up,’ and ‘It will restrict your CF opportunities.’ We told them we wouldn’t do it because the we felt that our conflict would deepen if we left it at that situation.”
But the essence of the conflict wouldn’t simmer down that easily. The pre-existing conflicts that had been growing for a long time had already taken root.
“Even we could figure out how much we should be earning. Since the number of CFs we shot and the sales count of our albums were a well-known fact, all we needed to do was punch some numbers in and we’d know. But our income didn’t change that much compared to what it had been before. We couldn’t find a way to bring it up because they told us that though our sales had increased, our costs had increased as well. The biggest issue was our 13-year contract period. If we were to fulfill all 13 years of our contract, even excluding the years we would spend completing our military service duties, we’d be over 35 years old. We were so physically and mentally drained during our activities that our wish was to get just two hours of sleep. This was the case every day, so much so that we didn’t even have time to meet our friends. People told us that our sacrifice was something expected because we were stars, and that we were lucky that we were earning money and fame in the process. It’s true. They say that in order to gain something, you have to lose something else. But what choice can you make when you can do nothing but lose everything?” (Kim Junsu)
Yes. They were certain that the essence of the conflict was the problem in the system. The various environments and systems that surrounded them had begun to approach them like an impassable obstacle. Could they have found true happiness in such a system?
Looking back on the situation, Park Yoochun said, “We opened up our hearts and gave them our honest opinion about the various things we would like to see changed in the company’s system. Though they listened to what we had to say, they did nothing about it. Our reality didn’t change much from what it had been. We already knew too much to just let it go and keep going. We believed that we couldn’t be with them any longer, even if it meant that we couldn’t be active as singers anymore.”
Though SM Entertainment seemed like a big, strong fence of safety to others, it was all superficial for JYJ. Thinking back to those times, Kim Jaejoong and Park Yoochun emptied their glasses of wine in one go. As Kim Junsu doesn’t drink, he could do nothing to quell his emotions but down his glass of iced coffee.
Letting Go Of Everything For The Future
The three members’ recollections continued.
The moment they realized that they’d had enough and it was time to break away, they decided to let go of everything. At that time, their group TVXQ had already made their mark as true top stars, attracting 500,000 fans to their Japanese tour and standing on stage at Tokyo Dome, the stage of dreams. TVXQ had become a role model for singers in Asia and the idols of their fans.
Though they were breaking new records and rewriting history every day, the three members made up their minds and acted. They collectively said, “We expressed our desire to leave the company when we were at the peak of our popularity. We think that’s why our announcement left such a great impact,” and “If we had said that we wanted to leave the company when we weren’t very popular, it might have seemed like we were coming up with excuses. But we believed that by leaving when we were at the top, it would be better understood by the world and by the masses that we were hurting inside. We believed that when kids who look like they have everything they could have, ever said that they did not have a choice, others would realize ‘There must be a reason for it,’ and try to understand us.”
The media of Korea, as well as Japan, was immediately focused on their every move. It was expected that they would receive such attention from the masses and the media because they had been rewriting the history of Hallyu at the time.
Kim Junsu said, “I was scared at how focused the media were on our situation. I was scared to leave my house, even though I had done nothing wrong. The news on TV would show blurred pictures of our parents. The amount of stress I felt increased by the day because it felt like we were being treated like felons. Even my hair started falling out.”
Making this decision and putting it into action meant not being able to keep the promise of, “Let the five of us (members of TVXQ) never separate.” This is the greatest regret of many of their fans. But the people who had to endure a greater sorrow and pain than that were the members themselves. They tried to comfort themselves with the thought that their paths had divided into different directions because they had different goals in life.
It was a decision the members made for their future, no matter how uncertain it was. They would not be easily swayed from their choice. There were many who pretended to be on ‘their side’ to get them to divulge their thoughts, and there were those who tried to pit the members against each other. Through these ordeals, the bond between the three members strengthened and they depended on each other. There were large-scale entertainment agencies who tried to reel them in with down payments of hundreds of millions of Won. But they were not swayed. They couldn’t be swayed.
At the time, they had “a strong resolve and confidence to move forward, even if we couldn’t keep doing what we do.” They didn’t rush into things because they could walk down a different path if they had to, even if it meant, “Going to the countryside and growing enough vegetables in a small plot of land to feed ourselves every day.” Though they didn’t know it, the anxiety and fear they had been feeling was slowly subsiding.
The Members By Their Side Was The Only Source Of Comfort
The fight had just begun. That summer was hotter than any other; but for them, that summer was colder than the freezing winter.
The preconceptions and misconceptions of the people around them were particularly hurtful. When everyone was struggling, even the words, “Hang in there!” weren’t enough to comfort each other.
“Could the words ‘hang in there’ actually help someone who is having such a hard time that he thinks he might die? But the fact that the other members were standing by my side, silent but solid, put my heart at ease.” (Park Yoochun)
Kim Junsu had an exceptionally hard time because of how depressed he was. “I managed to hang on because of the members. The three of us meeting and talking helped to lighten the weight on my chest. I was able to hang on because we were suffering together.”
Kim Jaejoong said, “Even if we ended up having to live on the streets because the penalty for the breach of contract was too hefty a sum, I felt like I could pull through as long as the members were by my side. We had been betrayed by the people who we had sincerely trusted, and I found that I had noone to trust but my members.”
As they faced these circumstances, their friendship became stronger. They also learned to be thankful for the little things they had not noticed before. And they finally realised what a fortunate and happy thing it was to be able to stand on stage.
Meeting The One Person Who Was There For Us
At the point when they had nothing, and everything was like a blank sheet of paper, there was a ray of hope. They met with CEO Baek Chang Joo through one of Kim Junsu’s acquaintances.
Even without any place they could rely on, they did not trust and follow CEO Baek right from the start. Park Yoochun and Kim Jaejoong kept their distance from him for a period of time even after meeting him. Because they had been betrayed by too many of the people they trusted within that time, and because they had been hurt so much going against the system of their ex-agency and unjust situations, it was only understandable that they would not trust anyone so easily.
For Park Yoochun, it was like this for six months. “There were other companies that offered us large amounts in down payment fees, but money wasn’t what we were after. The most important thing to us was carrying out our activities freely. The first time we met Chang Joo was during a meeting with our lawyers over the contract matters. Looking quite shabby, he sat there without a word. We exchanged greetings and that was it. For six months after that, I did not have any contact with him personally other than for work related matters.” He kept his distance from CEO Baek because he did not know this person.
Kim Jaejoong said, “To be honest, many people had said things about Chang Joo that were not that good, and that made me more uneasy. Additionally, he did not look like someone who knew music. Thinking back now, at that time my mind was filled with thoughts like ‘How do we trust this person and work with him?’”
Time passed like that. CEO Baek walked down his path silently but steadily. It was not as if he did not feel the members’ lack of trust towards him. However, just as he has been doing thus far, CEO Baek was working step by step to fulfill his promises, which were more of a monologue, that he had made to the members.
First, he put his energy into the preliminary injunction for the JYJ members to have activities freely. Seeing him work so hard, the members slowly began to open their hearts to him.
“Seeing Chang Joo’s actions, we slowly began to trust him. Seeing him work hard under difficult circumstances in order to see through with his promises, we became more certain that this person was reliable. We decided that rather than money, we wanted to work with a company that could guarantee us freedom. And someone who could ensure all this was CEO Baek.” (Kim Junsu)
In Kim Jaejoong’s eyes, CEO Baek was “someone who leaves his own matters for the last, and works only for our good”.
“Everyone wanted to attract us with money, but no one tried to take the time and effort to interact with us. I received many phone calls from people around me scolding Chang Joo, but at some point I began to believe he was not the person they made him out to be. The only one to sacrifice everything for us was Chang Joo . This one person is also the one beside us now.”
CEO Baek was addressed by them as “older brother” and he began fulfilling the role of an older brother without reservations.
“Chang Joo sold his assets, and forked out his own money to allow JYJ to make a comeback. He supported us despite the possibility of failure, in what could be considered our reckless attempts. In fact, we only knew all this later on. He is always someone who doesn’t say much, but works hard silently.” (Kim Jaejoong)
Through this process, the members were gradually able to put down their heavy burden, and became to trust CEO Baek even more as someone who would not lie to them. With an older brother that was willing to fight for them, they were finally able to freely focus on making their music, as they had hoped for. Their trust for CEO Baek translated into their passion for making music.
A New Beginning With Nothing But Faith and Passion
The three members stood at the starting line once more. Though their new company wasn’t perfect, they now had a small niche to call their own. Because this was the first time they’d done something like this, they went in with a mindset of starting from scratch. They had no office or a company name. As for coworkers, they only had CEO Baek.
“At the time, we really had nothing. And now look at how big our company has grown. We’ve got more coworkers, and they all work in a systematic structure. To be honest, we clashed a lot with Chang Joo at first. But the more we talked, the more he tried to listen to our opinions and see eye to eye with us.” (Kim Jaejoong)
“Because I had left in search of happiness, I felt no animosity towards our former company. When we made the decision to start anew with Chang Joo, he told us that he’d guarantee a certain amount of profit for us. We all laughed at that. But those unbelievable words became a reality for us. I’m grateful for the company policy and mindset that puts us ahead of any kind of profit. No matter what decision was being made, the company chooses a long-run investment that will benefit us rather than a short-run profit, and they always keep us in their consideration.” (Kim Junsu)
“You have to have a lot of bullets to fight, but that wasn’t the case for us in the beginning. Each company has its pros and cons, but here, when we tell them about something that needs to be fixed, it gets done. I really like that. We try to adjust and yield to each other. To be honest, Chang Joo yields more to us than we do to him. I really like how the company feels like a family as well. This is something that I really wanted. I meet with the people who work at our company for a drink, and we share stories with each other.” (Park Yoochun)
The three members are not currently signed on to an exclusive contract with CEO Baek Chang Joo’s C-JeS Entertainment. There is no exclusive contract and there is no down payment. The reason why such a thing is possible is because they all believe in trying to understand each other, and resolving any issues that come up by talking about it.
“There are times when Chang Joo makes a mistake, because he’s a human being. But because the company feels like a family, we talk to each other a lot. I was planning on sending my younger brother Yoohwan to a different entertainment agency. I thought it would be too much of a burden for Chang Joo because Yoohwan’s my younger brother. But I liked the family-like atmosphere of the company, so Yoohwan ended up joining me here. What I’m most sorry about is the fact that Chang Joo has to carry the burden of our weight. If he hadn’t taken us in, he could be working in a comfortable and great environment…. He doesn’t usually cry in front of others, but I’ve seen his tears.” (Park Yoochun)
Venturing Back Into The World With A Big Smile…
The trying ordeals that they survived became a new ray of hope for them.
In October, 2009, the courts sided with the three members on their exclusive contract nullification injunction against SM Entertainment. Soon after, SM Entertainment’s lawsuit for compensation and to verify the validity of their exclusive contract was dismissed.
Their joy was indescribable. Though they may have put their hearts at ease with the phrase, “Even if we can’t perform anymore, it’s okay,” they had never been able to let go and laugh freely. The courts’ decision allowed them to open their arms and take a deep breath. They had nothing to fear as the legitimacy of their actions had been recognized.
When they had received news of their win, Kim Junsu was taking a shower. Hearing the news of their lawsuit victory from CEO Baek Chang Joo, Kim Jaejoong called out “Junsu!” in a loud voice.
“I could tell ‘Ah! We won,’ just from Jaejoong’s voice. I could never find the words to describe the joy I felt then. I left the shower on and cried a lot. My father didn’t use to smoke, but he started smoking a lot when the lawsuit began. He said that he’d stop when the lawsuit was over, and he really did.”
With the joy that made them feel like they had everything in the world, they stepped forward and faced their new challenge.
2. [C-JeS’s insight] We wanted to give JYJ ‘Happiness’
Children Who Were Hopeless Because They Were So Innocent
“They were like immature children. Children who had run away from home with no plans for what came next, who knew nothing about how the world really ran. On one hand, they seemed so kind and innocent, but on the other hand, they looked so much like a hopeless cause.”
This is how CEO Baek Chang Joo remembers his first meeting with the three members in the summer of 2009. Though he had already made the decision to leave the entertainment industry, CEO Baek heard of JYJ’s situation from his younger brother and felt a strange sense of responsibility for them. He felt the need to carefully go through the contract that the three members had signed with SM Entertainment, and the first member he met with was Kim Junsu. Listening to the singer’s story, CEO Baek felt the need to help him out of his unfortunate situation.
“I didn’t feel a sense of trepidation about it because it was a request from my younger brother, not a business proposal. When I heard the stories of the members, I didn’t feel as though it (leaving SM Entertainment) would be impossible. I got the feeling that they were ‘innocent guys’ when I was talking to them, and that’s when I made the decision that I needed to help them out.”
Regarding the situation right after CEO Baek decided to join hands with them, he reminisced, “Because the members felt uneasy about their uncertain future, I was in the position of having to provide them with a sense of trust. They believed that there was no one who would be on their side. They felt betrayed by the people they had placed their trust in, so the most important thing was to give them a good enough reason to trust me.”
However, CEO Baek didn’t make sugar-coated, empty promises to the members to gain their trust. He believed that if he opened up and talked to them, they would be able to feel his sincerity. And he believed it would be better to prove himself with his actions rather than with words.
Children who had been hurt by others, they were shaken and unable to trust at first
CEO Baek didn’t necessarily have to take on such a dangerous and difficult endeavor, taking on a tough battle with SM Entertainment and taking on the management of JYJ, which was uncertain at the time. The members did not easily open up to him or give him their trust. But CEO Baek followed his heart, and kept moving forward with no conditions attached to his actions.
Kim Junsu, who had been the link that connected CEO Baek Chang Joo and JYJ, was the first to open up and give the man his trust. On the other hand, Kim Jaejoong and Park Yoochun were still on the fence about it. CEO Baek was swept up in rumors because of what had happened in a lawsuit between him and Kwon Sang Woo, and SM Entertainment was shedding light on CEO Baek’s past to change the members’ decision to leave.
But CEO Baek was not deterred by this. He was neither the kind of person to speak before he acted, nor the kind of person to try to win the good graces of the members with empty promises. No matter what the members were thinking, CEO Baek continued to carry out the work he needed to do. Many months passed in that unstable state. But the members finally began to place their trust in CEO Baek Chang Joo.
“Later, they apologized (for not being able to trust me from the start). The members put me through quite a lot of stress. haha! But I was someone who had already made the decision to be with JYJ. In my opinion, it would have been ridiculous to give up on my decision just because the members weren’t willing to open up to me.”
Something we couldn’t have dreamed of taking on if we hadn’t been hurt
Taking on SM Entertainment, one of Korea’s largest entertainment agencies, in a fight may have been an impossible endeavor from the beginning. But the reason why CEO Baek was able to take on such an impossible fight was because he, like the members of JYJ, was carrying ‘scars from other people’.
“If I had not been hurt, if I hadn’t experienced all of those hardships, I wouldn’t have been able to stay by their side. I, like them, had nothing to lose. I believed that if it went well, it would be a good thing, but even if it didn’t go well, I had nothing to lose.”
Regarding the opinion people had that CEO Baek was trying to gain something from working with JYJ, he laughed and said, “I went in with zero expectations. We didn’t even have the capacity or time to be pushing buttons on a calculator. Because I had gone in with no expectations of gaining anything.”
CEO Baek didn’t create his company with the thought that he was going to make money through JYJ. “We need to get through this difficulty,” was the first thought that consumed him, and he was determined to “Overcome this difficult situation.”
But because a corporate body was needed to go ahead with their plans, C-JeS Entertainment was created. There is no special meaning behind ‘C-JeS’. I wanted a name that would be easy to say and remember, so I played around with the letters of the alphabet and came up with this name.
CEO Baek Chang Joo continued to comfort the members and help them heal their scars. When the members opened up to him, he said to them, “You have to forget how popular you were in the past. Think of this as a new beginning. If you don’t have that have kind of mindset, it will be difficult for us to work together.” He didn’t forget to emphasize, “We can do nothing but prove people wrong with our results. Don’t be shaken by the rumors that are flying around and only believe in what you see and hear for yourselves.” The members’ trust for CEO Baek deepened, and their bond of sympathy was strengthened as well.
Their new resolution and challenge had already begun.
Part 2. Challenges and Courage
3. JYJ’s frightening yet exhilarating first official activities
Pushing the difficult times to the back of their minds, Kim Jaejoong, Park Yoochun and Kim Junsu officially began activities. They spread their wings and showed of each of their strengths through their respective activities. Although they were having activities separately they lived up to their name and were outstanding.
After filing the injunction for their exclusive contract with SM Entertainment to be nullified, JYJ’s first public activity was Kim Junsu’s appearance in the musical “Mozart”. Following that, Kim Jaejoong acted in Japan’s Fuji TV’s drama “Hard To Say I Love You”, while Park Yoochun starred in KBS2 TV’s “Sungkyunkwan Scandal”. JYJ took its first step.
“Since it is not an easy situation for JYJ to be releasing an album, let’s find a clue through other activities,” said CEO Baek. Additionally, as the members had the strength of popularity overseas at that time, there were also thoughts of beginning activities overseas.
“But if you want to carry out activities overseas, it is dependent on the situation locally. At that time, they were unable to secure their position through the name of JYJ. It was also because of that that the idea of having individual activities came up.”
CEO Baek assessed the abilities and talents of each members. All the members possess exceptional talent both as singers or as a group when it came to singing or dancing. However, just as they needed to carry out activities individually, it was necessary to find a different stage where they could best showcase their abilities and talents. In the end, Kim Jaejoong and Park Yoochun were to become actors, while Kim Junsu was to become a musical singer, where they could showcase their best abilities The stages that were found for them were a dramas and movies (Kim Jaejoong, Park Yoochun) and musicals (Kim Junsu).
In particular, CEO Baek thought of the musical as , “A good proposal which could allow Kim Junsu to sing under those circumstances, when it was realistically difficult to release an album.” Kim Junsu’s stage was a huge success as expected. Following that, Park Yoochun also received many offers for musicals, but CEO Baek thought “It would not be suitable for the trio to be doing individual activities in overlapping fields”, so he chose dramas. Initially, Kim Jaejoong was to begin his activities with movies, but things did not go as planned, and so he acted in dramas as well. Special consideration was also given to the fact that Park Yoochun and Kim Jaejoong have different styles as actors, both with their unique image, and hence their characters would not overlap.
However, even as they took on new challenges, the barriers did not disappear. Fortunately, Kim Junsu did not face much obstacles going into musicals. It was a time when there had been close to no other idol singers who had gone into musicals. Even so, the restrictions and pressures from external parties still existed. But Kim Junsu still managed to get a firm footing.
Kim Junsu’s success had significant implications on the remaining two members. It was good motivation, and gave them desire and confidence. However, as expected, there were huge walls standing in the way of Kim Jaejoong’s and Park Yoochun’s paths as actors. On came the voices of drama producers and broadcasters to prevent them from appearing in dramas. These oppositions and pressures even came from other actors and related staff, hindering their actions. Faced with these obstacles, CEO Baek ended up spending long periods of time to gain the trust of producers and actors, and overcame these difficulties. As expected, the members gave their all and began to showcase their skills and talents.
As mentioned, the first opening into JYJ’s official activities, was created by Kim Junsu.
4. Kim Junsu, On Meeting “Mozart”
Worry, depression, burden, concern, uneasiness…
These were the emotions running through Kim Junsu’s mind when he received the invitation to participate in the Musical “Mozart” in 2009. These complicated emotions couldn’t be expressed in one word, especially since he received this proposal at a time when he was still unsure of whether or not they would be able to continue with group activities. A time when all the members’ activities as singers was on hold. It was a situation where, should he decide to stand on the stage of “Mozart”, he would be the first among the members to face the world.
Kim Junsu recalled, “Personally, that was a time when I was emotionally fragile.” He has always been one who enjoys challenges, but he was unable to take on the new field which he had never been exposed to before without taking a moment to hesitate. He was also uneasy about standing out there in front of his fans.
“I became depressed because all I could think about was how I would be looked upon by people. People in the musical industry probably felt territorial and also had preconceptions about idol singers… It was the hardest thing to have to stand in front of people through a new genre when it was in itself not easy for me to carry out activities as singer.”
Two months passed with these depressing thoughts and worries. Concerns such as, “Even actors who have been acting in musicals for more than 10 years may not necessarily get to play lead roles. It wouldn’t be seen as a good thing for an idol singer to come in and play the lead role straight away, right?” were also large.
But the production team of “Mozart” kept up with their persuasions, convincing CEO Baek that Kim Junsu had the ability. They did not give up even when Kim Junsu rejected their invitation to meet, and sent him a DVD of a “Mozart” performance.
A Song That Speaks For My Heart
One of the songs that was included in the DVD touched Kim Junsu’s heart. The complicated issues that plagued his mind also seemed clear to him in an instant. The song was ‘Why Can’t You Love Me?’ Perhaps Kim Junsu was reminded of the time when he first came into contact with the song, as he begins singing without accompaniment while sitting on the sofa during the interview. We are suddenly enveloped by Kim Junsu’s melodious voice.
“You never hear what I have to say / I don’t understand why my father left / I can’t become someone else / I would rather be myself than live the life my father hopes for me….”
When he stops singing, Kim Junsu even said, “The lyrics fit my emotions so well that it shocked me. The father in the musical said, ‘My son has never been like you’’ and left heartlessly. He did not love him for who he was.” Kim Junsu was certain that he would be able to express his feelings through this song.
In this way, it turned out that the one thing needed to change Kim Junsu’s mind was music.
“As an celebrity, I showed off glamorous, happy and good sides of myself, but there was also a feeling of loneliness that was hidden. Just as it is not easy for a celebrity to become close to other people, I have been hurt by people who approached me only for my popularity or money or reputation. In the end, the people who were once by my side left me when the lawsuit with our ex-agency began.”
The song “Gold Star”, which is sung by the Baroness in the musical, also struck a chord with Kim Junsu. It is a song that depicts the conflict between the Baroness, who wants to lead the genius Mozart towards a bigger world, and his father who is against this.
“Even when I was leaving SM Entertainment, I acknowledged that it is really the best in the business. But after leaving it and seeing the world, I’ve learned that I need to be the best . ‘Gold Star’ turned out to be telling my story.”
There were many other mountains to climb. The process right up till the moment he stood on stage was not an easy one. Kim Junsu clearly recalls the first day he walked into the practice studio for ‘Mozart’. At that point he was regretting it slightly, “Should I just not do it? Maybe I rushed into this.” He had those thoughts as the practice studio was a gathering of professionals who were all outstanding singers. Kim Junsu had never lost out when it came to vocal ability, and had always been said to be the best singer in the music industry. But it was different with musicals. Musical actors such as Seo Beom Suk and Min Young Ki could sing with their voices resounding even without microphones. Kim Junsu’s mind was filled with the thought, “If I do not want to fall behind them, then I need to give it my all and sing.”
The ‘strength’ he had gained while on stage as the top star of Asia began to rise from within him. Once he started the engine up, it started running at high speeds almost immediately. His experiences became his ‘know-how’. Kim Junsu said, “I knew that even if I tried to vocalize like the others did, I would always fall behind the people who had been doing it for years, so I utilized my own unique voice to sing in ‘Mozart’, reminding myself to think of why the director had chosen me for the role.”
The Taste Of Happiness After Hardships
Kim Junsu’s difficult decision created a new record. ‘Mozart’ opened its curtains in January, 2010 and rewrote the history of Korean musicals, with Kim Junsu at the center of such a historical moment. A total of 20 shows with 3,000 seats each at the Sejong Cultural Center in Seoul. All 60,000 seats for Kim Junsu’s shows were sold out in 10 minutes. This was a new record for the fastest sell-out of tickets in the musical industry. The media covered the records Kim Junsu was breaking every day. He, himself, was astounded by the response as well.
“I worried about basically everything. Will people come see me though I’m all alone? 130,000 Won for a ticket is pretty pricey, will I be able to fill 600,000 seats? How will I show my face if I can’t sell tickets?”
The first time Kim Junsu stood on stage after breaking such records, Kim Junsu felt as though his heart was going to burst out of his chest. “It was more nerve-wracking than when I was making my debut as a member of TVXQ.” He had to lead an entire three-hour show by himself when he could feel the gazes of everyone sitting in the theater.
“It felt like they were watching me, thinking ‘Let’s see how well you can really do.’”
His lips dried out with nerves. But the first show was a great success.
After the curtain call, Kim Junsu sat on stage and he cried. Park Yoochun and Kim Jaejoong, who had watched from the audience, cried together with him. Park Yoochun was full of praise, “If Mozart had been alive, he would have been just like the way you presented him on stage.”
“‘Mozart’ is more than just any musical. I saw hope for the first time. Even in the future, ‘Mozart’ will always be the best musical to me.”
5. Kim Jaejoong, on becoming an actor in Japan
Kicking off his acting career in Japan instead of Korea was an unusual choice. But with his signature determination of “I’ll work hard at whatever I’m given the opportunity to try out,” Kim Jaejoong headed for Japan.
Kim Jaejoong’s first acting job since becoming a member of JYJ was ‘Hard to say I love you’, the FujiTV drama that aired in April, 2010. The drama featured top Japanese stars such as Eita, Ueno Juri, Seki Megumi, and Tamayama Tetsuji and depicted the life of five young people in Shibuya, Tokyo who met through Twitter and become friends by working through their individual issues together.
In the drama, Kim Jaejoong plays the role of Park Seonsu, who introduces himself as a Korean doctor to his friends but is actually a medical equipment salesman who worries about his sales performance. He is a character who suffers from the hardships of life but is determined to keep his dreams alive.
Because this was his first acting role since becoming a member of JYJ, many showed interest in the drama, both in Korea and Japan. Looking back, Kim Jaejoong said, “I was flooded with voices of both anticipation and concern, but I wasn’t in the position to actually take notice of what they were saying. I had so much work to do because it was my first drama in Japan, and the script was entirely in Japanese.”
My signature sociability is my strength
Kim Jaejoong gained much from the two months he spent in Japan filming for ‘Hard to say I love you’. Used to living together with the other members, Kim Jaejoong brought up his happy memories as he said, “I spent some time alone and enjoyed my freedom.”
“Of course, I had a manager with me, but my lifestyle changed drastically from what it had been before. Should I compare it to the joy a person with lots of siblings feels when they get a room for themselves? Though I was nervous about living alone, I was so happy at first. Before, when I needed something while we were in Japan, our managers would buy everything for us so I never had to leave the house. But while we were filming ‘Hard to say I love you’, I went out to eat and acted like a normal Japanese native. Rubbing elbows with Japanese people made everything so fun and new. My Japanese improved greatly in two months and it felt like I had gone studying abroad in Japan for a year.”
Working alongside his Japanese co-workers was an invaluable experience. Though the Japanese drama production site was a foreign place for Kim Jaejoong, his signature sociability had him becoming friends with his coworkers in no time. When asked what the secret behind his sociability was, Kim Jaejoong smiled shyly and said, “All I did was tweak the way I spoke in Japanese a little.”
“When I first went on location, I could feel that people didn’t find me very approachable. So I lightened the tone of my voice and the staff and fellow actors began seeing me as a bright and cute person. Because of this, I was able to quickly dissipate the awkwardness that could have followed me around for a long time.”
His hard work must have worked. During an interview, his fellow ‘Hard to say I love you’ costar Ueno Juri explained her first impression of Kim Jaejoong and stated, “I thought he was a serious person who didn’t smile a lot, but I found that he’s actually very cute.” She applauded Kim Jaejoong for his professionalism as she added, “Though he was a rookie actor, he was very meticulous in looking over and memorizing his Korean and Japanese lines, and he was always so considerate and thoughtful on set.”
Tamayama Tetsuji praised Kim Jaejoong for the hard work and energy he showed on set. He talked about Kim Jaejoong’s unexpected personality as he stated, “It was have been ten times harder for him than a regular Japanese actor, but he always had a smile on his face. He’s a hard worker, and he’s very charming.”
Enjoying the experience, that’s what acting is all about!
The 11-episode ‘Hard to say I love you’ recorded an average viewership of 11.2% and captivated Japanese viewers. When asked whether he felt disappointed by the viewership of his first Japanese drama, Kim Jaejoong gave his reply with a face full of determination.
“Though it would have been nice if the viewership was higher, I’m still a rookie actor. If I was greedy about getting great results from the very beginning, I would have done what I was best at. I’m satisfied with what I did, enjoying the experience of acting and receiving great energy from on set.”
Though this may be difficult for people who have seen Kim Jaejoong’s natural acting abilities to believe, he took off running without getting any acting lessons. To put it another way, Kim Jaejoong is a ‘on-the-spot learner’.
Kim Jaejoong confessed, “I learn the most about acting when I’m on location.” He added, “Though it would be best if I went into the role with lots of practice and a complete character analysis, that wasn’t the case most of the time. But strangely, I could memorize lines better and really get into my role when I got on set, probably because I was so nervous.”
As expected from someone whose skills shine on set, it didn’t take long for Kim Jaejoong to adapt to the Japanese filming system. Unlike the Korean system, in which one scene is shot numerous times, scenes are shot only once or twice in Japan with numerous cameras rolling at the same time. Because of this, if an actor goes in unprepared, his shortcomings are directly reflected in his work.
Stating, “Though I was unfamiliar with the system that was slightly different from the Korean system at first, I got used to it and I found it to be very reasonable,” Kim Jaejoong stated that he realized the charms of acting and gained confidence through his new challenge in Japan.
*We were unable to include stills from ‘Hard to say I love you’ due to reasons given by the Japanese drama production company.
6. Park Yoochun, on achieving is acting dream at SungKyunKwan
Park Yoochun’s appearance as an actor came through his meeting with the drama “SungKyunKwan Scandal” in August, 2010. Perhaps the fans would have wanted Yoochun to appear in a romance drama that would showcase his handsome looks and tall stature. However, Yoochun’s first pick was a period drama, and there was a lot of doubt surrounding this decision.
“When I decided to pick a period drama to debut as an actor, I felt a bit doubtful myself. I heard many people ask, “Can he really do it?” and so I too, thought a lot about “Is it necessary to start off with a period drama?” After a discussion with (Baek) Chang Joo, I decided “it doesn’t matter if my first drama is a period piece or a modern piece, as long as it is a good drama” and gained confidence.
“I’ll do whatever I want to do, but will give it all of my passion”
Stepping out onto this path, truthfully, he should have been preparing himself for “SungKyunKwan Scandal.” However, this wasn’t a simple shift in mindset. He spent a lot of effort familiarizing himself with the traditional tone and pronunciation, and analyzed many roles, taking a thorough approach in getting ready to act. He recorded his practices on his Ipod, repeatedly listening and trying out different accents, working his hardest.
“Everyone has a different style of character analysis. The director and staff may have their own expectations on how the character of Lee Seon Joon should be portrayed, so eventually I discarded the opinions of others and played the role in the way that I wanted. When I first started practicing, the vocal tone was very high, and it became lower gradually. I think that allowing myself to play the role in a way I wanted was a big help. Since I’m the one acting, if I did it in a way that other people wanted me to, then it wouldn’t be me anymore. This is different from accepting advice from others.
This is how I created the character of Lee Seon Joon.
It was in this drama that he had his first kiss scene. “Although some viewers might wish that the scene where he kisses the female lead Park Min Young lightly on the lips was more intense, like how it was in the book, I felt that this was as much as Lee Seon Joon could do in terms of expressing himself.” He jokingly added that actually Park Yoochun, like the fans, had wished for a more passionate kiss scene as well.
“A kiss scene isn’t any different from any other scene. Although there are many staff on set, but I don’t think much about the fact that they are looking at me while shooting, and I did not feel nervous. Before the scene, I could smell peppermint in her breath and I all I did was think, “Oh! She brushed her teeth!” (laughs)” The kiss scene was wrapped up naturally, and fortunately, without many NGs.
Becoming a strong actor with great skills!
Although he has never taken formal acting lessons, Park Yoochun, who has matured with every drama, has coolly shed the stereotypical doubt that comes with being an “singer-turned-actor.”
“I guess I’m naturally talented? (Laughs) I’m kidding. I trained with co-star Kim Kap Soo. He taught me many techniques, such as how to enunciate similar words such as “horse” and “speech” (T/N : Both pronounced as “mal” in Korean” ) differently, as well as practicing in front of the mirror. I didn’t take any other vocalization classes. Although these classes can be very helpful, but perhaps it’s because I have been working from a young age and the experience has been quite a big help towards my acting. Pulling from my experiences and putting it into my acting gives me a great boost of confidence.”
Just like a self-fulfilling prophecy, the combination of the gentle words from the surrounding people and confidence is the recipe for a successful drama. In this drama, the contributions of Park Min Young, Song Joong Ki and Yoo Ah In are not to be neglected as well. “Excluding activities with the members of JYJ, this was the first time I was working with friends of the same age. I’m really happy that I managed to get along well with Park Min Young, Song Joong Ki and Yoo Ah In,” he recounted.
At the end of that year, he received the greatest gift – the KBS drama best rookie actor award. Although he had swept numerous awards as part of a group, this was his first time receiving a rookie award as an actor so it was especially meaningful.”
“I really didn’t expect it, but when they called my name, I was shocked, happy and grateful. Images of my parents as well as the staff that worked hard alongside myself appeared one by one. Furthermore, I was able to do a celebratory performance with the rest of my JYJ members so I was very happy. After the awards show, we all went out for grilled cow intestines, it was truly an unforgettable way to spend the last day of December.
7. JYJ’s tears, an unexpected hardship
Though it wasn’t an easy road, it felt as though all JYJ needed to do was look ahead and keep running. But hardships crashed upon them like strong waves slapping against a rocky shore. A harder and more perilous road lay ahead of them.
In the summer of 2010, the three members began their Japanese Dome tour. They ended their tour in success up till their final performance in Tokyo Dome, attracting approximately 100,000 fans to their shows. They could have never imagined that their Tokyo Dome performance would be their last in Japan. But the large-scale Japanese entertainment agency AVEX decided to unilaterally suspend all of JYJ’s activities.
Their tears did not stop flowing when they stood on stage in Tokyo Dome. Sorrow, gratitude for the fans, and the gratefulness for being able to be with each other hit them all at once. Kim Jaejoong expressed it as, “Feeling like everything that had built up in our hearts were resolved.”
“I was so sorry to our fans. I was even more sorry that we couldn’t tell them that the five of us couldn’t be together anymore. When I was walking towards our fans, the tears wouldn’t stop flowing from my eyes. I still can’t forget that moment. My singing was filled with my gratitude and apologies, but I never knew that would be our last concert…. The reason why I tweeted often in Japanese was because there were so many fans in Japan who were waiting for us. I feel so bad that I can’t even ask them to wait for us anymore , but I’m always longing to meet them again.”
Park Yoochun added, “That was our first concert as a three-membered group. Our fans’ cheers rang out as soon as we stepped on stage. We were so touched that we were crying, so I don’t really remember how well we actually sang. My sorrow grew with their cheers, and it was driving me crazy. I was so touched by the mere fact that we were able to stand on stage and grab a microphone again. I could have never imagined that that would be our last concert in Japan. I still get upset and angry when I think about it.”
To them, their Japanese Dome tour was a stage full of nothing but hope.
Kim Junsu said, “At first, we were so thankful that AVEX chose to work with us, and we were so happy that we could start singing again. Never would I have believed that another obstacle would appear and end our Japanese activities. It was a second betrayal. When I look back on those times, I think they were harder to bear than the situation we face now. It hurt to know that unfairly, we were the only group who couldn’t perform in Japan while all the rookie singers were pursuing activities there. I want to stand on stage in Tokyo Dome again. We’ve worked so hard to get there… but I hate the reality that it’s become a stage we can no longer stand on.”
Their positive energy shone through their hardships
Though they were met with a crippling hardship, they couldn’t just sit around and lament the reality they didn’t want to accept. The members collected their thoughts, brushed away their anger and sorrow and got back up again.
Kim Jaejoong said, “Our future didn’t seem bleak because I had my members by my side. We always said to each other, ‘If this doesn’t work out, let’s move to the countryside and become farmers.’ There were so many restrictions and obstacles in our way, and they’re still there, but we have our own fenced-off safe area. We have each other, and we’re not alone. That’s why I’m not afraid.”
The members’ positive mindset shone through in the difficult situations they faced. The more limitations and obstacles that faced them, the more they tried to smile and be stronger. Though they had been talking non-stop about what had happened to them, they stopped to sigh and then smiled. They shone brightest when they were together and they gained a new sense of hope, so every obstacle that came in their way was nothing but a small pebble to them. Taking a moment to think about it, Kim Jaejoong maturely stated, “People who have nothing to fear have nothing to be scared of. People who have a lot to lose, struggle harder to not lose everything.” Though they were met with many obstacles since splitting from their former agency, never have they regretted their decision.
Saying, “Never! Not once! Have we regretted this,” the members can say that at this moment, they are happy.
Don’t invite JYJ?!
Whenever they crossed a mountain of obstacles, there was another one waiting right behind it. No matter how much they climbed, the mountains never seemed to end. Even when they were walking on flat plains, they were met with gravelly fields.
In October, 2010, SM Entertainment told Warner Music, the company that distributed JYJ’s worldwide album, “You can’t release JYJ’s album because they are signed under SM Entertainment.” The Korean Federation of Pop Culture and Art Industry (KFPCAI) sent an official notice to various broadcasting companies that stated, “Please refrain from inviting JYJ to your programs as they are harmful to the Hallyu Wave.” Though the courts had already made the verdict to guarantee JYJ with the right to freely pursue any and all activities, it seemed that reality hadn’t gotten the memo yet. Not many places stepped up to work with JYJ. Even if some companies did take the first step, JYJ were usually met with an unexpected notice of cancellation.
A cable channel stated that it would air a documentary detailing JYJ’s daily lives and even aired preview videos, but notified JYJ three days before the airing date that their program was deemed ‘unsuitable for airing’. A large-scale multiplex signed a contract with JYJ after 40 days of consultations that they would screen JYJ’s documentary film, but this too was cancelled.
They received unfair treatment from KBS, one of Korea’s major broadcasting companies. JYJ were set to appear in KBS’ ‘Jeju for the 7 Natural Wonders of the World Special Broadcast’ in July, 2011. However, KBS unilaterally cancelled their appearance. The members of JYJ had already received the cue sheet for the show. JYJ had already worked hard as the ambassadors for Jeju Island’s bid to become one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, but they were being told that they would not be able to appear on the program.
KBS Jeju stated, “If JYJ appear on the program, it may not be able to air,” and gave a ‘doubtful’ excuse that JYJ were less popular than the other participants such as Girls’ Generation and f(x). The members could do nothing but laugh in disbelief. “Well, I guess we have nothing to say if they believe that we’re less popular. Hahaha!”
This wasn’t the end. In 2010, they weren’t able to release six tracks of compositions as a CD, so they had to change it into a book (JYJ Music Essay). JYJ wasted a whole year trying to find a distribution company for their album ‘In Heaven’ that was released in 2011. Though they were able to finally release their album, online music distribution sites notified them one week before their agreed-upon distribution date that they couldn’t hold their end of the agreement, placing yet another obstacles in front of JYJ.
Though ‘In Heaven’ sold over 350,000 copies, they were left out of music charts on various major broadcasting companies, and the members were unable to make televised appearances. JYJ were omitted from music awards as well for no reason, though many give awards out depending on each artistes’ album sales. JYJ were met with cancellation after cancellation every day.
But the members refused to be weighed down by their situation. They didn’t just sit around and lament the unfair situation they faced. Because they had already expected the obstacles that had been thrown their way.
Overcoming hardships and maturing
“I found myself not watching music programs anymore. Because watching them hurt. I was upset, but voicing that wasn’t going to change anything. All I wanted to do was look ahead and keep running. Though it may sound like a foolish thought, I believed that these restrictions would disappear one day. We couldn’t possibly live in these dynamics forever, right? Haha! I believe that the hardships we’ve overcome have helped me mature and grow.” (Kim Jaejoong)
Growth and maturity were born through the strong friendship the members shared. Talking about the times when they were faced with the many obstacles that blocked their way, Kim Junsu said, “We promised each other that we wouldn’t slack off. At times, we felt like we couldn’t do it anymore and voiced our weariness. But we thought, ‘We have our fans who are watching over us,’ and promised each other once more that we wouldn’t give up.”
Giving each other these promises again and again when faced with an obstacle, the members found the determination to overcome all of their hardships. But their refusal to give in wasn’t an act of petulant immaturity. Their competitive spirit of ‘Do whatever you want to us. Let’s see who wins in the end.’ Their refusal turned into passion and fueled their competitive streak.
“It’s like being in a game of tug-of-war. Though it tires us out, I want to be strong and keep pulling till the end.” (Kim Junsu)
They decided to start breaking down the high walls that blocked their way ahead. But they know they shouldn’t wear themselves out. “Though there are many obstacles in our way, everything’s okay. There are times when I get angry, but as long as we don’t wear ourselves out, there will be nothing but victories on our side.” (Park Yoochun) Because they have the promises and resolutions they made to themselves, they never shed tears in front of others. They didn’t show others their wounded hearts. Only when it was just the three of them did they shed the tears they had been holding back, and talk about the feelings they had locked deep inside their hearts.
But now, they don’t cry anymore. Because they still have so much distance to cover on their chosen path.
8. [C-JeS’s insight] We, who talk of yet another challenge
Restriction on their Japanese activities
Even after JYJ filed their exclusive contract invalidity injunction against SM Entertainment, they gained a lot of popularity in Japan as a unit of TVXQ. On September 8th, 2010, JYJ released their first mini-album ‘The…’ as a unit of TVXQ and sold 140,000 copies in their first week, topping the Oricon weekly album charts. Their DVD that was released on the same day also sold close to 120,00 copies, topping the DVD charts as well.
However, Avex suddenly announced the suspension of JYJ’s activities through a notice on their homepage in the later months of 2010 and shocked the domestic K-pop industry and Hallyu fans alike. CEO Baek Chang Joo said, “It was ridiculous.” The incident taught him that the Japanese entertainment industry is very different from the Korean industry. So he decided to not rush and take it slow. He meticulously examined the contract JYJ signed with their Japanese agency. What caught his eye were the unilaterally unfair clauses, such as the ridiculously low royalties. He came to the conclusion that the working practices of the Japanese management industry that runs on annual or monthly salaries meant that the Japanese activities of Hallyu stars didn’t necessarily translate into profit.
“I saw that many singers other than JYJ also had unfair contracts (in terms of royalties). It was a structure in which singers received very few royalties even when they were bringing in sales of 100 or 200 billion Won. It was a structure that made it hard for singers to make money on their albums.”
But CEO Baek Chang Joo and the members weren’t discouraged. They believed that they could find a different route in other fields, such as acting rather than singing.
A crisis becomes an opportunity
When JYJ learned that they could no longer stand on stage in Japan, they began to be seen as ‘Singers who are difficult to see.’ Their image improved greatly as they became honorary ambassadors for various global public organizations and domestic state events, beginning with the G20 Summit in Seoul in September, 2010, and going on to UNAIDS, the Daegu IAAF World Championships and the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit. Thanks to this, JYJ were able to appeal to the advertisement market as ‘singers with a rare quality’.
“There was something we gained from the restrictions placed on our activities. Crises can become an opportunity, and a positive mindset can make the impossible possible. Our way out was blocked, but we did our best and reaped in better rewards.”
They found an exit for each and every restriction and obstacle that blocked them but always thought of what would be ‘The best road to take’ for them.
Stating, “We always had to look at things in the long-run,” CEO Baek acted as expected of an entertainment businessman and didn’t limit JYJ to one location, whether it was Korea or Japan. CEO Baek always carried the mindset of, “Look at everything in the long-run, and look at the big picture,” and began focusing his attention on a bigger market. The global market! And he came to the decision that English was the best way for the members to communicate with their global fanbase.
Just like ‘The Beginning’, the title of JYJ’s worldwide album that was released on October 12th, 2010, this change in attitude signaled a new beginning for JYJ.
Source : [The JYJ magazine: The story of 1000 days]
Translated & Shared by : dongbangdata.net