Does anyone remember the time when New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, and N’Sync reigned the music charts and captured the hearts of millions of fans? Many of us do… however, years – decades – have passed, music has changed and a new wave of pop has been launched into the world and now reigns supreme: K-Pop.
Photo © Stallion Entertainment
K-Pop (Korean Pop) music has become a huge phenomenon, making its way to Europe and the USA. Even with most of the lyrics and rap inserts in Korean, it is no wonder that the language is not a barrier; K-Pop music videos are well thought-out, engaging and almost kaleidoscopic, not only because of the performers but other elements as well: fabulous hairstyles, wardrobe that is almost out of this world and sophisticated choreography of dance parts. Not only that; with the great platform that is the worldwide web, most idol groups’ songs get subtitles and lyric translations. When that veil gets lifted, it becomes easy to see that some K-pop songs actually carry deep meanings besides catchy tunes, but there are also some that would have been better off without translation.
Photo © Stallion Entertainment
With groups like BIGBANG, SHINee, EXO and BTS (currently, the biggest idol group in the history of Korean pop) paving the way, the Korean entertainment world seems to only be getting started. The country keeps producing new boy/girl bands like hot buns with various degrees of success. However, just because a group is not immediately as successful as BTS or EXO, that doesn’t mean that they are any less talented. One such group is The King, consisting of Choi Rang, Se Jin, Dong-hyeok, Seung-jae and Bawool; slowly and steadily, the boys are drawing in the crowds around Asia and Europe.
In 2014, the group performed at the opening ceremony of the Asian Games in Incheon (Korea) and a year later, The King became the Honorary Ambassador of the Seoul Youth Dream Centre. In 2016, they were recognised with an achievement award by the Global Peace Foundation for promoting and performing the song One Dream One Korea. Their talents have not gone unnoticed also outside of Korea – they have fan bases in Thailand and China, as well as in a few European countries.
Music Video @ Stallion Entertainment
The King appeared on various Chinese and Thai TV programmes, including A POP Thailand Amarin Channel, Khanpak on Thailand Channel7, China’s Hi Tiger and M-Hit, just to name few. Not long ago, the group went on to showcase their music in Malaysia, Thailand (again), Russia and Romania. The band has recently released a couple of new songs; one for the OST of the Korean TV drama (K-drama) I Picked Up a Star on the Road, starring Sung Hoon – the track titled Knock Knock, as well as a single titled I am Coming to You.
We are excited that we got the chance to interview Choi Rang, Se Jin, Dong Hyeok, Seung-jae and Bawool. We discussed the artists’ careers, the challenges of working in K-Pop industry and life in general.
Photo © Stallion Entertainment
We are very excited to meet you guys! Before we start chatting about your careers and lives, could you tell us how it all started – have you always wanted to be in a K-Pop group?
Se-jin: When I was really young, I think I lived in a fantasy world. I was watching various singers on stage on TV, and I wanted to be that way too, but I have an introverted personality, so I hid that dream in my heart and studied in school. However, when the right time came, I really wanted to do it. I decided to talk to my family and started dreaming of becoming a singer. And… Here I am now.
Choi Rang: I started singing because I like music and I honestly wanted for my music to be loved. I am proud to be a K-pop singer.
Dong-hyeok: Actually not always. I’ve always liked to sing and I wanted to become a singer. I auditioned at a company that was in a process of creating a new idol group. After that, I prepared to be in a boy group.
Seung-jae: I wanted to be a scientist when I was 7-13 years old. I’m good at studying and learning. But suddenly, when I was in the 2nd grade of high school, I heard a song that two of my friends were singing. I thought to myself… I think I can sing better. And, just like that, I announced to my parents that I will become a singer.
Bawool: I was an ordinary student in Korea. I was studying abroad for about 4 years and then I came back to Korea; after that, I was trying to go to the military. Back then, I went for an audition at an entertainment company, and today, I’m a member of The King.
Did you receive any formal training before becoming singers?
Se-jin: I went to a vocal academy. And when I was a backup dancer, I also learned to dance. I trained for a long time in an agency.
Choi Rang: After finishing the military service, I joined the team. I trained for two years.
Dong-hyeok: I studied in a college a little bit and then at an academy.
Seung-jae: Well… I don’t know exactly if it is formal or not… but I learned the sort of things like how to pronounce words, how to make sounds… I guess, how to sing well technically.
Bawool: Yes, I trained for 2 years before debuting.
The King © Stallion Entertainment
Who writes and composes all your songs, and if it’s you, who does it? Where do you get your ideas from and what is your songwriting process like?
Se-jin: I mainly write and make songs for The King. All members are able to write and compose though. I’m just fortunate to be able to write a lot of my songs; I do appreciate it. I know the advantages and disadvantages of each member, so I write and make music to fit them as much as possible. Whenever I have an idea for a song, I first decide to write the melody and the lyrics.
Choi Rang: All members compose; however, most of the groups’ songs are written by Se-jin.
Dong-hyeok: All members can write songs, and all of us have different approaches.
Seung-jae: Our team leader Sejin usually composes our songs; one of our songs was also written by Bawool.
As you sing in Korean, would you mind telling our readers what your songs are about?
Se-jin: I try to make people feel comfortable with our songs and make sure that, as they listen to our songs, they can feel our emotions.
Choi Rang: We recently came back with a song titled I’m Coming to You, and we wrote the lyrics for our fans.
Dong-hyeok: This song is for our fans (laughs).
Seung-jae: Yes, of course. The song that Choi Rang mentioned is about love; about someone who is waiting for me, then I realise that someone is my true love, and I can’t wait to go back to get that someone – something like that (laughs).
Bawool: I’m Coming to You song, well… Last year we received a lot of love from our fans; now, we are trying to ‘give’ our hearts to the fans.
The King at the Fan Meeting in Malaysia © Stallion Entertainment
Besides I’m Coming to You, you also released Knock Knock, a song recorded for I Picked Up a Star on the Road OST – it really showcases your strong vocals. Can the international audience (fans) expect more new music from The King, perhaps a full-length album?
Se-jin: I’m Coming to You is a song that took a while to prepare. From the first moment of making the song, it has been a song that tells our fans what we want to talk to them. That’s why I’ve been more careful and nervous about writing it. I’m coming to you expresses the feelings about meeting our fans. I hope that a lot of people will like this song.
Knock Knock is the first OST track for The King. I’m really thankful to be able to sing for this OST of the drama starring Sung Hoon and Kim Ga-eun. We love the song! I will keep making good songs for you, I hope that you can wait for them!
Choi Rang: Probably. I am looking forward to the day when I will sing on the stage again.
Seung-jae: Yes. Yes. Thank you for saying that. We are preparing to release more songs and a new album. Just wait for us – love ya!
Bawool: We are going to meet the fans and perform the two songs – Knock Knock and I’m Coming to You – soon. We haven’t performed them on stage – yet.
Music Video © Stallion Entertainment
Are there any concepts, or certain music, you would like to try out with your future releases?
Se-jin: I have a song called Hangover that I wrote 4 years ago, and a song called Spring, which I wrote a few years ago. I wish these songs will get proper attention and will at some point get released.
Choi Rang: I want to try making a ballad album. Our members’ voices are really good and I think suitable for it.
Dong-hyeok: I would like to sing more bright/happier songs. I want to cheer up people who listen to our songs.
Seung-jae: Hmm.. It’s just my own opinion, but I want to try a song that needs a powerful dance choreography, like some of the BTS’ songs.
Bawool: I want to try performing a hip-hop song with the group.
Is there music that you like, which never fails to make you feel good? Who really inspires you as an artist?
Se-jin: Everyday is different for me really. I like to listen to BIGBANG and GD’s songs at the beginning of the day. But I listen to IU’s music on regular days. I like and get inspiration from her songs because they have good lyrics. I also listen to many other artists.
Choi Rang: I like listening to LO-FI music. Listening to LO-FI music makes me feel calm and clear.
Dong-hyeok: My idol is Park Hyo-shin. I want to be like him, because he shows his best every time he releases an album with new songs.
Seung-jae: I love to listen to Linking Park’s songs. Their songs never fail to make me feel like I’m up for a challenge.
Bawool: When I’m feeling down, I listen to Beautiful Day by Michael Buble.
The King during the rehearsal in Malaysia in 2018 © Stallion Entertainment
What’s the hardest thing about being in a band? As there are five members, there are also five different personalities. How do you make it work as a team?
Se-jin: All members have different personalities. When we have a problem, we solve it by meeting and discussing it. We fight and we solve problems a lot. It’s hard to explain because we are all so different.
Choi Rang: There are a lot of conflicting opinions when five people live together. I try to understand others more, not just express my own opinions.
Dong-hyeok: We make time to talk to each other and discuss the issues.
Seung-jae: Of course, we have many things to deal with. We often talk to each other and gather all opinions before making any decisions.
Bawool: That’s simple, we always try to consider someone else before we consider ourselves.
K-Pop is huge nowadays, and with various boy bands (BTS, EXO, SHinee) pushing through into the foreign markets, how do you feel about your own career abroad?
Se-jin: I need more experience to do more creative things. I want more performances in other countries, with larger audiences. I have a desire for a tour and a solo concert.
Choi Rang: It does not matter how the other teams are doing. I think it’s important to think hard about what we’re doing.
Dong-hyeok: We will be famous. Superstars! (laughs)
Seung-jae: I think we haven’t conquered the world yet. That means there is still time for us to do so (laughs).
Bawool: That is like a dream, but dreams come true (laughs).
The King (Choi Rang, Seung-jae, Bawool, Dong-hyeok) at the 2018’s Seoul Fashion Week with Pro-Specs © Stallion Entertainment
What would it mean to you if you had a chance to perform in the United Kingdom?
Se-jin: To me, it would be very important to be able to perform in the UK. I love British bands: The Beatles, Queen, Radiohead, Coldplay, Oasis, McFly. When I was in high school, I had a dream that I would go to England, with a guitar, after graduating from school. Unfortunately, I have not made that dream my reality yet, but I think that it would be a big achievement in my life if I performed with The King in the UK.
Choi Rang: To experience a different culture is similar to getting to know a new world. It would be great to come to the UK.
Dong-hyeok: It’d be my honour. Please invite us!!
Seung-jae: In the UK? We will be there if you give us a chance (laughs).
Bawool: It’d be so exciting for us! Going to another country and meeting new fans, it’d be so exciting, at least for me.
When you are not working, what do you do to get away from it all and relax?
Se-jin: When I take a break, I rest as much as I can. I watch dramas, movies and entertainment shows; I also play music. And then I read webtoons while eating the food in my bed. Some people don’t understand it, but it’s how I rest.
Choi Rang: I listen to music and read books. I sometimes take a walk or I play games online.
Dong-hyeok: I just lay down in my bed and play with my phone.
Seung-jae: I usually play games, especially League of Legends. And I exercise to feel stronger.
Bawool: I really like to sleep. I think if I had the time for it, I’d sleep for as long as I could.
The King at the 2018’s Seoul Fashion Week with Pro-Specs © Stallion Entertainment
In 2016, you were recognised with an achievement award by the Global Peace Foundation. You promoted the Global Peace Foundation’s New Generation Unification Song Campaign by performing the campaign song One Dream One Korea. How was that experience for you?
Se-jin: Participating for a good cause makes me feel better. As the only divided nation in the world, we are always concerned about peace. I am honoured to have been able to announce the importance of peace to more people. I am grateful that we were chosen to do something so important.
Choi Rang: It was a strange experience. I felt that I could convey my hope only by singing.
Dong-hyeok: It was an impressive and special experience. I would like to do more for the global peace foundation campaign if I can.
Seung-jae: It was a truly special experience. One Dream One Korea is a song about the wish for a reunified Korea. Singing the song, we felt how serious the song’s intention was.
Bawool: I’m honoured that we were a part of that campaign.
Dong-hyeok of The King at the 2018’s Seoul Fashion Week with Pro-Specs © Stallion Entertainment
What’s next for you as a group? Perhaps you have individual plans when it comes to your careers?
Se-jin: I want everyone to know more about The King and I hope that as many people as possible will listen to our music. I would love to have many gigs with a lot of people. Therefore, we are thinking about having as many PR activities and overseas schedules as possible, so that we can let even more people know who we are. I am looking forward to our domestic music broadcasts, dramas, and movies. If you see The King anytime and anywhere, like us and give us a shout-out, please! Thank you.
Choi Rang: I’ll just practice the same way and sing the same way I did before. And I will continue to grow.
Dong-hyeok: I am preparing to do everything. I will make you see me on the movie screen, TV screen, the stage, before the whole world.
Seung-jae: I’m practicing to be a musical actor, not just a singer. I hope you can see me in the theatre one day! Thank you.
Bawool: If I have a chance to be on a TV show or in a film, that would be great. I will be working hard for that.
Se-jin of The King at the 2018’s Seoul Fashion Week with Pro-Specs © Stallion Entertainment
We’d like to thank Stallion Entertainment for their assistance in the interview and to Choi Rang, Se Jin, Dong-hyeok, Seung-jae and Bawool, who kindly took the time to answer our questions. We hope to see The King in the UK soon! In the meantime, check their music out!
Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Sanja Struna