XP Star Talk = Reporter Kim Kyung Min
Super Junior, the backbone of all idol groups whom debuted 11 years ago, actually already has a special place in SM Entertainment. Them who went through the uncertainty of whether they could debut successfully, is now a representative of K-POP, and is prospering with many activities.
And within this group, Leeteuk is again a very special existence. He overturned people’s stereotypes about idols, and kept appearing on TV for a long time as someone who does broadcast.
I’ve known Leeteuk for 10 years. Back in my early twenties, it was my first time being assigned as a reporter for one of the year end music shows, and in a certain broadcasting station’s studio, there was Leeteuk, Kangin, Shindong and Kim Heechul, who were all shouting, “Hello hyung”.
A rookie group like that has now walked till their mid-thirties.
The last time I met Leeteuk before he enlisted, I told him, “let’s do another interview within the next 5 years”. I thought this agreement will just float by like a cloud, but it came true.
The 2 hours I spent talking to the 34 years old normal person Park Jungsoo, who has debuted for 11 years, was incredibly enjoyable. I saw his true heart and his life as an artiste, and also his passion for life. Although I didn’t write the transcript for the interview in formal language, throughout the entire interview, Leeteuk very politely used formal language to tell me his thoughts.
Canada rock star Bryan Adams said that he thinks the best album name is <So Far So Good>, so he released an album with this name. As for Leeteuk, I would say that he too, is “So Far So Good”.
–Your enlistment period was really tough. Everyone could understand that it was very hard for you.
Teuk: To be honest, it was really hard. Although there are some things that I can’t say, but I feel that all the things that happened in the past is an experience for me now. Now, I can feel the value of every single day, and I thought a lot about death. I will think, “it’s possible for the people around me to suddenly disappear”. The reason why I work harder everyday is probably because I started thinking of that. Even though I want to treat my mother better, it is not something that I can do very well from the start. But recently, I will ask my mother “how are you?” first. In the past I was always chasing after success, I wanted progress, but now I’ve started to care for the people around me.
-You have changed quite a bit as a person.
Teuk: Perhaps I have become more relaxed? Although right now I will still observe the viewer rates on the second day after recording a programme, but I was more sensitive in the past. All I thought of was that the programmes I did must have high viewer rates. But recently what I enjoy more is that I can interact with other people when recording shows. In the past I’m more of the kind who hides myself, but after army there was once I went to the convenience store on the way home with our manager after a day of schedules to eat the snacks that were memorable to us. It was about 3 to 4am, there wasn’t many people. At that time I told our manager, “hyung, don’t you think previously I led a life whereby I’m always avoiding people? Is this happiness?” That night we also went to other places and ate ddeokbokki, and continued to look for our happiness.
-Let’s first not talk about Super Junior. Is MC Leeteuk doing well?
Teuk: The main thing I do now is MC. But my disadvantage is that I didn’t experience what a normal man would experience in his twenties and thirties. Especially because I’m an idol, I know very well that it’s hard for me to gain the liking and recognition from male viewers. I feel that the only way to make others feel that (I’m) relatable is to have a lot of experience. To accumulate all these experiences, I want to interact with more people.
-Experience? Doing schedules as an idol for 11 years is not easy right?
Teuk: Of course it’s not easy. But what’s harder is to get the public’s recognition. Although idols can rise fast, (we) are not recognised in terms of our depth. Of course, it is something I have to continue work hard about too.
-You have already debuted for 11 years, I’m curious, why did you choose variety?
Teuk: Actually when we first debuted, I didn’t think that I would do variety. When we first started, I liked to play the keyboard and write music, but about 2 months after debut, our manager asked me, “what is your other dream?”. I replied, “I don’t know about other things, I just want to be able to fill my stomach and earn a living”, and our manager then suggested me to do variety. Just like that, the both of us started to go to the different broadcasting stations to greet others, we even said if the group (SJ) doesn’t do well, our manager will go on (the show) instead. (laughs) When we first debuted, we carried the name ‘SJ’ together and went around promoting ourselves. I would always say “Hello, I’m leader Leeteuk”, and suddenly one day our manager gave me a list of variety shows and said, “these are all the variety shows that are showing now, if you were the manager, which show would you pick?” In that list, there was ‘X-MAN’, “Love Letter” etc, and in the end I chose them. But manager hyung showed me the viewer rates for each show and taught me, “you should go on ‘1000 Song Challenge’ or ‘Sponge’ since they have an average viewer rate of about 20%. Only through that will you be able to not only attract teenagers, but also people in their thirties~fourties.”
-I thought you went through variety lessons, but after hearing to what you said, it feels like you went through manager lessons instead.
Teuk: (laughs) At that time, Siwon and Heechul went on X-MAN, Shindong and I were at most just helpers. After that, I went onto MBC’s Star Words. Starting from that show, I went to take part in other shows like ‘1000 Song Challenge’. Just when I began gathering experiences, I joined Star King, and this programme became the turning point of my life.
-Is it because you got to know Kang Hodong?
Teuk: It’s like this. Kang Hodong-hyung was like an active volcano at that time, even though Eunhyuk and I were fixed guests, we were afraid of him since the very beginning. So there was a period of time we worked extremely hard, and one day Hodong-hyung came to our waiting room himself to give us guidance and taught us. We still remember this line that Hodong-hyung said: “Take care of your family. You not only have to take care of your own family, the people around you are also family.” Later on, Hodong-hyung left Star King for personal reasons, and after that, I enlisted too. But what I didn’t think would happen was that one day before I enlisted, Hodong-hyung asked me if I wanted to make my comeback through Star King. Actually the production team asked me if I would like to come onto the show but the company rejected it, but I didn’t expect Hodong-hyung to request for me to go onto the show himself, so I appeared on Star King the day before I enlisted. (laughs) After recording ended, when I was packing my belongings at home, Hodong-hyung called. I told him, “I will do well in army and come back well”, I was surprised that in the end hyung cried. That was a first.
-Leeteuk is the first for Idol MCs. Is there any secret?
Teuk: I am unable to emcee as short and sweetly as a news broadcaster, I’m also unable to be as humorous as a gagman. Even though it’s a bit embarrassing to say this, I think it’s because I worked hard? I would watch the replay of my programmes at home everyday, people always ask, “how do you practice being an MC?” For me, I watch myself a lot. Shows with Leeteuk in them are the most interesting. (laughs) I don’t only watch once, I will watch 3~4 times. I will think, “saying that line at that time was not bad”, just like this, I will reflect on what I did well and did badly. I will also look at my hair style and outfit. Like in “I Can See Your Voice”, because I am given quite a bit of screen time, I will discuss the show with the producers and share my opinions. I also study the other MCs around me, like Kim Sung Joo MC, he speaks differently when he emcees different shows. His tone is different in <Please Take Care of My Fridge> and <King of Mask Singer>, sometimes I will learn from him. From Yoo Jaesuk I learn about posture. It’s not easy to stand straight on both legs but he perseveres and stands like that throughout.
-After doing it for 11 years, how does it feel? I’ve heard that a lot of idols don’t like going on variety shows.
Teuk: About 7.8 in 10 idols don’t like going on variety shows. When you’re a rookie you would want to go, but after 2-3 years you will become the senior or a variety person. But at that time, I felt that I should continue, because at that time, our popularity was not going up but going down, it felt like if I don’t do anything about it, I won’t be able to be an artiste any more, one has to know what is ‘desperation’. Gaining popularity is not about being famous alone, it’s only when your group is popular will you then be famous, it’s something I wish everyone understands. Whenever a production team says “the limit to the number of years you/your group will last is coming, maybe you should stop appearing (on shows)”, I will forget it instantly. I still want to compete with the kids who just debut. As compared to being a legend, I still don’t want to retire to quickly. Giving people the impression of “he used to be great” is something I don’t want yet.
-Don’t you want to rest?
Teuk: Actually before enlistment, I even cried because I didn’t have schedule, I was really a little too much of a workaholic. Up till now, I still feel that recording shows is a very interesting thing. When recording, my legs will ache and when night comes my eyes will sting, but at the same time I can feel the kindness from people. It is not something that one can feel just by doing well in his work or being great at playing chess. When I see the audience and my partner laughing, when I hear the staff say things like ‘you did exceptionally well’, it all becomes my strength and my reason to live.
-Do you still dream of being the second Yoo Jaesuk or Kang Hodong?
Teuk: I had that kind of ambition before, but now I just want to be able to do variety for a long time. But I do want to do a “Leeteuk Show”. I used to think that being No.1 is just purely being No.1, but now I understand that the best is to be able to walk a long way.
-What is Leeteuk’s ranking now?
Teuk: I would say about 10.
-I heard that you will read articles about yourself. Is that true?
Teuk: Yes. I will search for articles with the words “Super Junior” and “Leeteuk”. The reason is because I heard that clicking on the news articles on the website is a great help to the reporter, so I started to open every article and press ‘like’ after skimming through it, sometimes I will post comments too. (laughs) It feels like if from the beginning the replies are all positive, all the comments will turn out to be good , so I give comments, wanting it to have a good start. You ask if it’s tiring? I even got hurt (laughs)
-Even so, I feel that after you’re back from army, you’re receiving a lot more positive comments.
Teuk: It’s not that, the main reason is because there are a lot of girl group scandals. *what he means is that because there’s a lot of scandals so the attention is all on them and not him*
-Since we mentioned this topic, I would like to ask, don’t you get into relationships?
Teuk: Actually about a month after I came back from the army, I had a girlfriend, she’s an actress. But after being together for about 1 month, we broke up. I had to release an album and had to go all over the place for concerts, and she couldn’t understand, now I’m still looking (for a girl). Recently I’ve been thinking about exactly what kind of girl do I have to meet to think about marriage, if you ask me when I’m going to get married, my answer would be for sure not now. They say now it’s the ‘hundred generation’, so the age to get married is slowly moving to 43~45 years old, don’t I still have 10 years left? (laughs) I don’t want someone who is too young, hopefully I will meet someone whose mindset matches mine, a lady who has depth. Maybe a lady who’s 4 to 8 years younger than me? (laughs) Ah, 9 years younger is fine too.
-Lastly, let’s talk about the past 11 years for Leeteuk and about his future.
Teuk: It’s hard to say what kind of MC I will turn out to be. The past 10 years made me who I am today, in the next 10 years I will also work hard to become a better person. I want to become a good person who is able to live everyday seriously and give his best at whatever he does.
Korean-Chinese Translation: -AnTeuk- [Please take out with full credit]
Chinese-English Translation: @jungsoostan_