Elle Korea featured Kang Seungyoon in their June 2020 issue: “Back to Me”. Seungyoon’s first solo magazine feature was with Elle Korea in 2010 during his solo activities of SSK2 era. This article was a callback to his growth in these 10 years and his focus back on Solo activities with WINNER on hiatus and what’s next for him. A lovely, insightful interview with a beautiful photoshoot, celebrating 10 years of celebrity Kang Seungyoon! Here is the making video & interview kindly translated by @softboimino:
elle. Your team now gets to have a period of rest. I’m assuming that you have more alone time now, how do you feel about that?
seungyoon. A lot of different events ended up overlapping with each other at the same time, so rather than thinking that I’m alone, everything just felt pretty hectic. I worked on my music, got ready to act again, and I’ve been trying to get my license too, which is something I’ve been delaying for a while now. And as for [Song] Min Ho, out of all the members, he’s had the busiest life over the past several years. It’s been a while since he’s had a moment to rest like this, so he’s been enjoying this time. He’s exercising with his friends, painting in his studio, going out to cafes to catch some sunlight. I think this period is acting as a time for us to rest and recharge.
elle. The music video for <Remember> decorated WINNER’s Act 1. The video consists of a lot of scenes captured from different points in your career. Was there a particular scene that you felt most fond of?
sy. So you see us looking up at a screen in the music video, and in reality they were filming us as we were on set watching an actual edited video of WINNER’s story. The director had specifically prepared it for us. It was emotional, because there were clips of us back when we were trainees, first memories between the members, first experiences. I think the director was visualizing tears as a highlight point for the music video, so he purposely didn’t tell us in advance. No one cried though, we all just sort of teared up, haha.
elle. I was looking through Youtube for Kang Seung Yoon’s solo stages and I was surprised once again. Your singing has really improved.
sy. I’m always trying to improve, and through various feedback and monitoring I can feel with every album that, “I’ve improved this much.” But I suppose, from the general public’s point of view, they might think, “He suddenly improved this much?” I think it’s the result of consistent practice. And I feel proud of it, too.
elle. What aspects did you try to improve in terms of your vocals?
sy. The first feedback I ever received was 10 years ago on <Superstar K2>. The most memorable comment I received at the time was from PD Park Jin Young, who told me, “Sing as though you’re speaking.” I’m placing an emphasis on ‘singing as though I’m speaking’, while fusing that together with maintaining my personal color and vocal volume that many people have liked.
elle. You’ve worked so hard, to the point where you call yourself a ‘workaholic’. In a radio program that you featured on recently, you mentioned, “I wanted to shatter stereotypes about me”. Do you think that’s the reason why?
sy. To a lot of people, the strongest image that they have of Kang Seung Yoon is this rough kid who plays guitar and does rock music. So they have this prejudice that I won’t be able to do anything besides that. I wanted to show these people. That’s why once I came into my agency, I started learning and partaking in everything that I could possibly get from being in that place. My ambition around the hip-hop, r&b, and dance genres increased, too. The more people said, “He won’t be able to do this”, the more competitive and unyielding I became. I thought, I may not be perfect at it, but I don’t want to hear that I can’t do it at all.
elle. After all this time that you spent as WINNER, what quality of your team are you most proud of?
sy. It’s that we are not like anyone else. We hear often that, “WINNER’s music has something about it that is unique to WINNER”, and that makes me feel proud and thankful. And our team has a good balance.
elle. When I interviewed WINNER for the first time since debut, I remember how surprised I was that each member was so different. Interestingly enough, I get this feeling now that the four of you are harmonious and in-sync.
sy. The four of us really are very different, right down to the little habits. Nevertheless, when we come together under the name ‘WINNER’, we create harmony and balance, no matter what it takes. I want to say we’re these soft, squishy beings meshing together, rather than puzzle pieces that try to fit with one another. It’s interesting, and I feel grateful. I think it’s only possible because each member sacrifices at least one thing when they come together to become WINNER.
elle. I heard you do a lot of monitoring. Your members were worried that you might get hurt over the hateful comments, right?
sy. I’m restraining myself nowadays. To be honest, I used to use it as a driving force for me to improve myself. But I’m only human, so I would get exhausted from time to time. And when you read any negative or malicious comments, you can’t help but feel small, angry, and upset. I used to purposely go digging for the tiniest things, but now, I think I restrain myself to the point where if it’s not right there, I don’t go out of my way to look for it.
elle. When Kang Seung Yoon feels tired and worn out, what’s a prescription that will give immediate results?
sy. I think that, first and foremost, it’s important to steadily maintain your normal condition. But still, when I feel down, I partake in something I like, like buying something off of my wishlist (laughs). I’ve been collecting watches, and I found that when you’re winding a watch spring or just sort of taking care of it, you can empty your mind and concentrate on that instead.
elle. What do you spend the most amount of time on nowadays?
sy. Spending time with my pet Thor, and reading. My fans give me a lot of books as gifts, so I’ve set a goal to read through them one at a time starting from 2020. I even bought one of those floor-level sofas just for this. So I sit on the floor and read, while Thor plays with his toys. I guess that’s how I spend a lot of my time nowadays.
elle. You were 17 years old when you appeared on <Superstar K2>. And this year, you turned 27. Do you think you’ve lived a good life these past 10 years?
sy. There were moments when I swayed, but I think it’s worth being proud of that in those moments, I was able to keep a grip on my mentality and eventually make it this far. I became a celebrity, I made more money than most kids would at that young age… It was a continuation of fortunate events. There were a lot of temptations around me too, and invitations to have fun. I ended up losing touch with a lot of friends because I didn’t have time to meet up with them. Just 1-2 years ago I thought about whether or not this was the right way to live, but now I think that because I worked this hard, the present-me is able to be here today. I’ve been doing better about meeting my friends recently, too.
elle. Is present-day Kang Seung Yoon similar to the Kang Seung Yoon you dreamed of 10 years ago when you were 17?
sy. Yes, I think it’s pretty similar, to a certain extent. I mean back then, my dreams were irrationally big. ‘A global superstar’, hahaha. But in terms of qualities that I really wanted to maintain like my mental attitude, the way I improve, or how I treat other people, I think I’ve done a good job.
elle. What’s Kang Seung Yoon’s ‘tone and manner’ that you’d like to keep?
sy. I think my ‘tone and manner’ is how well I’m able to fit into the situations around me, regardless of what activity or stage it may be. I’ve always thought that’s what’s most important, too.
elle. Fitting in anywhere. That’s a very difficult thing to do.
sy. I think I’m just very ambitious. Being non-committal to your main job and branching out to try other things never sat right with me. I had my acting debut through a sitcom while I was still a trainee, and after that when I got invitations to join other projects, I turned them down. It felt like a sin to be unprepared and to try new things even before I could get properly acknowledged as a singer. Of course, I’m still a long way off. But I think it’s come to a point where at the very least, whatever Kang Seung Yoon may do, it will make people anticipate and look forward to it.
elle. That sounds like an official proclamation. Any personal activities that you have planned in light of your team’s hiatus?
sy. First, I would like to release my solo album soon. I’ve been preparing for this from before, but it’s a bit difficult to speak about it in detail. I think it’ll be an album that contains narrations and changes of the last 10 years in Kang Seung Yoon’s life via a mixture of various genres and musical styles. As for acting, like I mentioned earlier, I tried to hold myself back despite my desire to continue. I think the roles I’ve had previously had the benefit of me using ‘satoori ’ (a regional dialect in Korea), but now I need to execute it with my skills and my skills alone. So I’ve been taking acting classes, and working hard to prepare for that.
elle. What do you think these next 10 years will be like for you?
sy. I’d like it if we could successfully roll out WINNER’s Act 2. If we’re to say that Act 1 was focused on showing the synergy between the four of us, going forward, I want us to magnify the identity of each individual and to make our personal brands more widely known. I think once that happens and we come together again, that’s when WINNER’s Act 2 will really begin. And so, thinking of these brand new 10 years, I’m going to be more greedy not just as WINNER but as Kang Seung Yoon.
elle. Do you think it might be easier this time around?
sy. I think these previous ups and downs that I’ve gone through taught me how exactly to prepare myself in the ‘downs’ in order to go even higher in the ‘ups’. Instead of fearing, ‘What if I lose what I have’, it’s about focusing on, ‘What can I do to make more opportunities again?’ I still feel scared, sometimes. Like with the things that inevitably come at you, getting older, generational changes with new music…. But in spite of these, I will think an infinite number of times, and I will find a way.
Translations by softboimino