Shin Kijoo (referred to as “Shin” below): You told me you’d host Blue Night forever and ever, so can you explain to me what’s going on right now?
Kim Jonghyun (referred to as “Kim” below): My life is consumed with guilt right now.
Shin: Many people think it’s such a shame. Yesterday, Saturday April 1st, was the last broadcast of our “Midnight Spoiler” corner. And right after this interview, you have to go straight to Sangam-dong to proceed with the final live broadcast of Blue Night, This is Jonghyun. There’s only about three, four hours left until midnight already.
Jung Woosung (referred to as “Jung” below): It’s time for listeners and fans alike to prepare their hearts. To prepare to let “Jjong-D” go.
Jung: The period of time for you to wrap up seemed really emotionally taxing. When I was listening, I felt like, "he’s having to live the pain of saying farewell every single day." Jonghyun-ssi, you began to play your own songs quite often, as though you’d made a resolution. I had the sense that each day was like a farewell broadcast for you. Though today is truly the day of parting.
Kim: After I’d made up my mind about parting ways with the broadcast, each and every day was really precious for me. So I would choose to play the most romantic songs that suited the midnight time slot, the way you’d give music as a gift to a precious someone at a precious moment. I think that was my own way of saying goodbye.
Jung: It was a soft and gentle broadcast.
Kim: It wasn’t necessarily just like that, though. Shin Journalist-nim will know my tendencies, but…
Jung: This person right here? The journalist who specializes in film, economy, management, architecture, politics, and interviews! Why, how can you introduce yourself in such a way? Are you allowed to muddy the waters of journalism like this? Recruiting the help of Jonghyun, no less! Shin Kijoo begged you to introduce him like this, right? Be honest and tell me, I’ll keep it between us.
Kim: Haha, Journalist-nim is in charge of Saturday’s “Midnight Spoiler” corner on Blue Night. It’s a corner where we introduce movies. We’ve been greeting each other like that from the beginning, so it’s become like a signature.
Jung: So, what I’m saying is, isn’t it due to coercion?
Shin: To be honest, eventually it got so that any time you didn’t introduce me like that, I felt a little disappointed.
Jung: So it was coercion. My suspicion was right.
Shin: My character got stuck that way, so what was I to do?
Jung: It wasn’t “stuck” that way, you grabbed it for yourself! In any case, the two of you met every Saturday for over three years. You must feel really regretful. (T/N – “Regretful,” as in they must feel it’s a shame they can’t continue to do radio together for longer.)
Kim: I started Blue Night in February 2014. And the corner that’s always kept its place since then is “Midnight Spoiler.”
Jung: My goodness, why?
Shin: What do you mean, “why”? I’m telling you, even though the PD-nims changed and the writers changed, I’ve been faithfully by Jonghyun’s side doing live broadcast with him every Saturday.
Kim: If we’re being totally honest, it wasn’t live broadcast. We did it live what, three times or so throughout the whole three years?
Jung: This is what I mean. I’m telling you, as you’re reporting you find, – this is the type of editor-in-chief I work for.
Kim: It must be exhausting for you.
Shin: You know, we’re doing an interview with the last live broadcast of Blue Night, This is Jonghyun just ahead. We started out with an emotional mood, so how did it suddenly turn into this? We even hugged each other after the live broadcast yesterday.
Jung: Editor-nim, I see you’re trying to change the mood by evoking sympathy. Mr. Journalist-nim-who-specializes-in film-management-interviews-and-evoking-s
Shin (ignores): The Kim Jonghyun I watched over the past three years was so, so busy. A Hallyu star that had to go to Japan yesterday, China tomorrow, South Asia the day after, even South America the next week. But despite it all, he consistently fulfilled his late night radio schedule duties. I was always curious what his source of motivation was.
Kim: Sometimes, people ask me what my life’s turning point was. Every time, I answer by saying that it was when I dropped out of school in the 10th grade. It wasn’t when I got into SM, or when I started making music. When I decided to drop out, I deviated from the life of the unspecified majority, and let myself free. And I can say that my second turning point was doing radio. More so than my debut, or when I published my book.
Shin: Why is that?
Kim: I think I used to have a narrow-minded perspective. When I get fixated on something, I have a tendency to see only that one thing as though I’m wearing blinders. It’s a disposition I was born with. But by doing radio, the scope of how I view the world became much wider. Just like it did the moment I dropped out of school.
Jung: How did radio “expand” the person that is Kim Jonghyun?
Shin: Through meeting Shin Kijoo?
Jung (ignores): Before and after becoming a radio DJ, how much and in what ways did you change?
Kim: For one, I got to have way more indirect experiences, so my ability to express myself artistically grew along with it. The breadth of my life itself became wider. I really love fantastical things. As Shin Journalist-nim already knows, I love the hero genre as well. It may be that I was always living in a fantastic, fairy tale-like world. But by doing radio, I became able to understand common, everyday stories too. For example, experiences I’ve never had such as working for a company or a part-time job. Stories about the minutiae of daily life. Things like making a mistake at work and getting in trouble with your boss, and being tired and disheartened by it. It’s impossible for radio to proceed as a medium without those kinds of stories, and it’s the only medium to which you can share all the mundane little details of that kind of story. I found myself peeking into the lives of the unspecified masses that I’d never imagined before.
Jung: As I hear you talking, the song you wrote called "The End of a Day" comes to mind. The lyrics that say, “Just like the bathwater that embraces you seamlessly.”
Kim: Truly, "The End of a Day" is a song I was only able to write because I did
Shin: You’ve worked hard. You’ve really gone through a lot. My dear, you are my pride. (T/N - These are the ending lyrics of "The End of a Day".)
Jung: Enough, enough!
Kim: (laughs) At first, I was burdened by the fact that I had to regularly sit in front of the mic every day. I’d quit school in order to escape that kind of regulated life. I find that kind of life hard to endure and get worn out by it quickly. It doesn’t suit my disposition. But maybe about a week after I’d chosen to do radio, I came to love the feeling of being inside a studio space every day at the same time so much. You could say it felt like I’d gotten a job and was working for a company. As you know, the profession of being an entertainer itself is really irregular. It’s a job where you live each day as though you’re working away from the office, but doing radio I got to “go to work” every day.
Jung: It seems as though you would have felt stifled, and stable, all at once.
Kim: It wasn’t easy. You develop an adverse reaction when you’re exposed to an unfamiliar setting. I don’t even like traveling. And when I have time off, I just like to stay at home. I tend to like being in a space that I can understand and am used to. But before I knew it, the radio studio had become so comfortable for me.
Shin: How long did it take? Until you felt comfortable.
Kim: I think it took about eight months. From around that point on, I started getting red in the face a little less frequently while broadcasting. And I got more comfortable with the production staff, and received a lot of help from them.
Jung: Was Shin Kijoo helpful to you? Surely not?
Kim: (Together, we would) Say we hate things that everyone else in the world likes. Express crooked ways of thinking. Reveal twisted inner thoughts.
Jung: What a bad hyung.
Kim: Since we have the same disposition, we suited each other well. How was it for you, Shin Journalist-nim?
Shin: Really, from some point on we started to click. As Jonghyun-ssi got relaxed in front of the mic, the radio studio became like our living room. From then on, I came to
Jung: You really speak like an uncle.
Kim: You could say it’s heartwarming.
Shin: I feel like for the last three years, I’ve watched Kim Jonghyun grow and learn to communicate with the world and become a grown up.
Jung: Don’t cry already. Your eyes are too moist right now. Do you think if you met the Jonghyun from three years ago, he would feel like a different person?
Kim: Thoroughly so. If I traveled back to three years ago and saw myself, I definitely think I would feel like a different person. Though that’s impossible to do in real life.
Shin: Did SHINee’s other members understand the Jonghyun doing radio?
Kim: They often said it must be hard for me. And there were members that worried about me. Key especially worried a lot. He worried a lot about my health, too.
Shin: Live broadcast in particular really robs you of your soul. It’s inevitable that you’d get exhausted, going home after doing live radio from midnight to 2 o’clock in the morning. But I see you came to the radio studio to greet the world despite all of that?
Kim: It may be that I came running to radio in order to escape. I don’t really like going outside. And I don’t really like having to meet a lot of people. I’m also afraid of trying new things. The radio now felt like my own personal space. It had become an escape hatch for me to greet new things without feeling awkward.
Shin: So you could say the unfamiliar world flowed into your own familiar space.
Kim: It became a mental refuge for me, but it also enveloped me with physical fatigue. You could say it was a space of love and hate.
Shin: Considering how hard it is for him to bear unfamiliar places, I was amazed by how easily he could take off all his clothes on stage. You could say it was like tutoring a little brother on movies every day in your living room, and seeing him on stage one day, showing off his muscular physique.
Kim: I think that’s simultaneously one of the greatest advantages and disadvantages of the profession of being an entertainer. Shin Journalist-nim is one of few people who understands quite a bit about what kind of person I am on a human level. That was how he understood Kim Jonghyun, so when he saw me as a singer, it felt different. It was shocking, and alien to him. And if he sees that side of me, and thinks: "so, this is how Kim Jonghyun creates Kim Jonghyun on stage," I’d be thankful.
Shin: I think I’ve even thought about which one is the true Kim Jonghyun.
Kim: They’re both the real Kim Jonghyun. Only, I think it’s important which one I feel more comfortable with. Before, I think I was more comfortable being “the singer Kim Jonghyun.” Because that image of Kim Jonghyun was the one that was first exposed (to the public). Because it was the one I was used to. But that changed when I started doing radio. As I started expressing my human side to others, I became quite comfortable with the image of Kim Jonghyun that I revealed through radio. And thanks to
Shin: So you came to be able to approach people on a more intimate level.
Jung: Radio has truly played an immense role. Now that I think of it.
Kim: In a little while, <Story Op. 2> is going to be released. I’m going to continue releasing two types of albums like this. Music that has elements of fantasy with the potential for performances, and music that contains ballad, jazz, and acoustic sensibilities like the ones that are included in my Collections.
Shin: Kim Jonghyun of SHINee, and Kim Jonghyun of
Kim: In a way, if SHINee’s music contains the idealized version of myself, the music in my Collections shows a side of me that’s more ordinary and human. I plan to continue distinguishing the two even more distinctly from here on out.
Shin: Just like their namesake, idols are idealized beings. Beautiful beings that have been created in the most ideal form so that it’s impossible not to be loved by everyone. And since it’s hard to achieve that kind of existence, once you do get created in such a way, it’s only natural to be afraid to shed the skin of an idol. Of course you’d want to settle with what you’ve got. So the more Jonghyun reveals of himself, and the more he reveals his desire to go out and meet the rest of the world, it could actually make the people around him more anxious.
Kim: To be honest, it’s madness (to try to reveal my true self).
Shin: So why (are you doing it)?
Kim: The reason I had no choice but to do it was because I had (emotional) scars. I’m not just talking about the scars that have been inflicted on me as an entertainer. I’m talking about scars I’ve received as I’ve lived my life. The scars I collect as I continue to live my life. In the words I often use — growing pains. You know how people get stretch marks when they suddenly have a growth spurt? I have stretch marks on my waist, too. When I was young, I once wondered why it was that people had to grow. It was because I didn’t like seeing these stretch marks on myself. "If only I could have just stayed the same as I was when I was little, I wouldn’t have gotten these unsightly stretch marks. I wouldn’t have had to go through these growing pains. Why is it that we’re forced to grow?"
Jung: You were already a philosopher at that age.
Kim: Ever since I was young, like a dreamer I would imagine things that made absolutely no sense. I found myself engrossed in philosophical questions that had no answer. I think the reason people continue growing even in the midst of pain and suffering is simply to survive. In order to survive, we inflict wounds on ourselves and persevere through the pain. I, too, got scars from trying to grow and I felt a need to bare those scars.
Shin: By choosing the profession of an idol, you must have had to grow up a lot faster than other people. Without even knowing that you were in pain; that stretch marks were forming, leaving scars. You could have hidden all of that and pretended to be someone without any pain. But on the other hand, you could have exposed all of your scars and truly lived through this world.
Kim: I think I just kind of shattered myself because I wanted to live, and in order to live. (T/N - “Shattered myself,” as in he broke the previous image of himself.)
Shin: In order to survive, or in order to live through — which expression is closer to you?
(T/N – Shin Kijoo uses two words for survive here: “살아남다” vs. “살아내다.” The “~내다” suffix in the second word implies an active will to live through / survive something through great effort and perseverance, whereas the first verb has a more passive nuance.)
Kim: I’m fundamentally a pessimistic person. Ever since I was little I showed a lot of depressive feelings, and it’s the same in the present. But I don’t think I can keep living my life sustaining those depressive feelings forever. You might be able to go through the early-to-mid-part of your life with that kind of melancholy. But if you want to grow, you can only survive if you throw those feelings away. Unless you want to get trapped within yourself and die, you have to grow no matter how much it hurts — but if you stop because you’re afraid, in the end it’s inevitable that you’d remain in an immature state of mind. I chose the path to transform myself. To reveal myself to the public. To attempt to make my thoughts understood. I have to make people aware that this is the kind of person I am, and I can only be on the defensive if I know that they know. (T/N – I tried to avoid using the word “depression” in this section, because Jonghyun only used the term “우울감” [depressive feelings], not “우울증” [depression] specifically.)
Jung: Is it for the sake of more active communication?
Kim: More than that — it’s closer to me wanting to prove that this is who I am. This is something I discussed with Shin Journalist-nim on radio, but I think the reason humanity goes on living is, in the end, in order to leave an imprint of who we are in the world. You need to tell who you truly are.
Shin: The movie we discussed during the first broadcast of “Midnight Spoiler” was <The Dark Knight> series. And, the movie we discussed during our last broadcast was also
Kim: I thought about wanting to come across as human, too. As a human being, I mean. Because it’s more common for entertainers to be expressed and understood as a certain character, rather than as an individual human being. It’s kind of my way of replying that I, at the very least, am also living my life as a human being. I like to think of it as me giving an eloquent speech about it on my own.
Jung: So you were agonizing over questions like: "why do I keep having these feelings, why do I feel like I can’t go on without writing or singing," and in the end you’re living the way you are now in order to survive?
Kim: I think of this as my job. And my job is the most “okay” talent that I have out of all my abilities. I think it’s better to do a job you’re good at, rather than a job you love, you see.
Shin: Weren’t you doing well at a job you love?
Kim: Truthfully, the work I really love to do is producing and writing.
Shin: Come to think of it, that ring you’re wearing right now isn’t the one you always used to wear before.
Kim: This ring is part of our concert goods.
Shin: There was a ring you always used to carry around without even wearing it.
Kim: I took that one off. And that empty space felt awkward, so I’m wearing this ring right now.
Shin: Is that another scar of humanity?
Kim: (laughs) You could say it’s part of the process of growth?
Shin: To be honest, I worry that you’ll gain more scars from letting go of radio.
Kim: You know how I’ve been saying that I’m quitting radio due to “personal matters”? To describe it as “personal matters” is another way of politely requesting others not to ask me about the reason anymore. Still, if the personal matters get healed, if I feel like "it'll be okay now" if there are people out there who are still searching for me, I would like to return.
Shin: Do you remember the time you first met the SHINee members?
Kim: I think it was around then.. When I was in the ninth grade.
Shin: You didn’t come together yourselves; rather, you were put together by your company.
Kim: We were notified that the five of us would be debuting together.
Shin: At the time, you would have had no way of knowing you’d be together for as long as you have been. I suspect that, of all things, would have been a fateful moment.
Kim: We’re a community of common fate. Like family. Once I started, I realized they were my family. Once I started, I realized they were my team. Of course, it was my choice to enter this company, but other than that, everything else was the result of decisions made by advisers. But of course, if I hadn’t made the choice I wouldn’t have gone that way. I had faith in those decision-makers. Honestly, I’m not the type of person who gets heavily influenced by the people around me. At the time, I just thought: "so, I’m going to be in the same team with these kids", and "so, I’m debuting now", and that was about it.
(T/N - “Community of common fate” (운명 공동체) is a term to describe a group of people who share a common destiny. There’s also a very similar term called “community of shared fate” (공동 운명체). They have slightly different nuances that are hard to explain, and are often used interchangeably. “Community of common fate” is a group that is born with the responsibility of sharing a common destiny without any say in the matter; therefore, you could think of blood-related family members as an example of such a group. On the other hand, “community of shared fate” could be described as a group that jointly shares their destiny by choice, such as married couples or coworkers at a company. Jonghyun uses the former expression, not the latter, which implies that he considers SHINee like family members with an innate bond and duty to one another, rather than just coworkers who can opt out of working in a team/company at any time.)
Shin: You were nonchalant about it.
Kim: Obviously, it’s important who you debut with. But since I was young, I didn’t have the energy to spare worrying about it. I was busy enough trying to take care of my own self. I was obsessed with wanting to not cause anyone harm, and I was obsessed with fulfilling my role exactly the right way. Because I felt like I wasn’t good enough.
Jung: In a lot of ways you’re like the eldest brother, Jonghyun-ssi.
Shin: Were you pleased with the name, SHINee?
Kim: I didn’t have a chance to think about it all that deeply. As soon as our debut was decided and we started practicing, I was just overwhelmed by a sense of inferiority. You could say I felt inferior to the artists that I loved and dreamt of (being like). Someone might say: "why would you compare yourself to Chris Brown?", but that doesn’t make me feel any better, since my own personal judgment is more important. That’s the driving force that made me grow/progress the most significantly. My feelings of depression and inferiority were always the ones that ruled over me.
Shin: You’re writing something currently, right?
Kim: A thriller novel. Last time I wrote a romance novel, but it wasn’t the genre I wanted. I don’t particularly enjoy love stories, you see.
Jung: Do you like thrillers?
Kim: It’s my favourite genre. And it’s the kind that can best express who I am.
Shin: Writing has to be lonely. Just as I thought, Jonghyun has two sides to himself. The Kim Jonghyun that withdraws into himself, and the Kim Jonghyun that shines brilliantly on stage.
Jung: A little while ago, I almost cried while listening to Blue Night, This is Jonghyun. And Jonghyun-ssi, you did end up crying. There was a story from someone who said on the day that Blue Night first aired, they opened a restaurant with their father who had just retired and their whole family. They’d managed to host their last customers and close up, and just as they were thinking they could finally rest, the program they happened to hear was the first broadcast of Blue Night. From that day on, that person would wrap up their day and rest while listening to Jonghyun-ssi’s broadcast. Do you remember that story?
Kim: I couldn’t tell the listeners back then, but at that point I had already decided to leave. So I felt so much sorrier for it, and I couldn’t stop crying because I knew what it (i.e. the radio) meant to these people. Because it’s just as huge for me, too. I keep telling you this, but I was totally consumed by how sorry and guilty I felt. But this is also due to my personality. Because my personality is difficult and not easygoing, I rebuked myself when I heard that story. "Why can’t you do more? Why can’t you take responsibility for your words more perfectly?" So it was a lot more, kind of…
Jung: You could feel everything.
Kim: So I wrote something like this. “What shall I do, with this space of mine that’s grown so vast.” I have the feeling I’ll be dwelling on this sentence for a while.
Shin: In a little while you’ll be doing your final live broadcast, and I feel like you’re going to burst into tears again. What shall we do?
Jung: I hear you’re in charge of being the “big dam” in SHINee. Because you cry so much. (T/N - Shawols call Jonghyun “big dam” and Kibum “little dam” because of how much they cry. And on that note, Minho is known as the “dam repairperson” because he always comforts them when they cry.)
Kim: That’s right. These days, I haven’t been showing a lot of tears. There are various reasons why but it’s mainly because it’s really hard on me, personally, when I cry. I don’t get scared or sad about showing tears. I think that’s just a way for people to express their feelings, but…
Shin: What shall we do.
Kim: Honestly, it doesn’t even feel real.
Jung: The content of today’s broadcast has been decided already, right?
Kim: Today, we’re going to introduce a lot of listener stories. And talk about the handwritten letters. Actually, they say late night radio that airs from midnight to 2 a.m. is dangerous emotionally. Because it’s the time when all your sensitive feelings become released. That was true for me as well. And it’ll probably be the same today.
Jung: Now, what shall we do with our Jjong-D.
Kim: To be honest, me wearing a suit right now is my own way of showing etiquette. Today’s live broadcast is going to be held at our open studio, and there will be quite a few listeners who come. Plus, we’re going to be on viewable radio. I kind of felt like dressing up for when we share our final goodbye, so I’m preparing my manners.
Shin: Are you happy? This is the last question of our duo-interview.
Kim: I plan to be happy. I’ve thought about this the most over the past six months. About happiness. My disposition in and of itself has a tendency to torment me. For people like me, it isn’t easy to be happy. Though on the other hand, it is possible to grow.
Shin: So now, you want to grow but also be happy, too.
Kim: A few years ago, I was crying and whining at my mom and sister while I was really drunk. I asked my mom and my sister.. it wasn’t long after we’d moved. I asked them if they were happy. I got drunk and woke up my entire sleeping family, like some ahjussi. It had been my number one goal in life, you know, to make my mom and sister happy. They both woke up and told me they were happy. But I was so envious at the fact that they were able to reply that they were, indeed, happy. Because it wasn’t like that for me. I told them while sobbing: "I want to be happy too." Then I felt like I’d done my mom and sister wrong. But from then on, I started contemplating about happiness. For about six months, I pondered specifically over what I would need to do in order to become happy. I think that time of transformation has come. I think I need to become happy, now. I must become happy. I am going to be happy. (T/N - The full nuance of “행복하려고요” [I plan/am going to be happy] is a little hard to translate directly. It’s kind of like saying, “I am going to try to be happy,” like he’s telling himself he’ll be happy no matter what, and he will do all he can to ensure his happiness from now on.)