It’s been 8 years since group ‘Super Junior’ debuted. Thirteen members each worked on their music shows, and also worked in variety shows and many other areas. Among them, Kangin was a familiar face. His quick sense and ability to speak well was shown on variety shows. As the numbers of his variety shows increased, more gossips were spread. After long time, Kangin quietly returned to his position. After his army service, he finally returned to Super Junior as the first reserved soldier. Joining in a unit targeted for China, Super Junior-M, Henry made his name known in Korea in June with his first mini album “Trap”, and as a first male solo SM has presented in 13 years. With father from Hong Kong, and mother from Taiwan, he was raised in Canada, and is now a global idol that promoted in China. He studied classical music since he was little, and his talent for pop music was discovered early. His album is full of songs composed by him thanks to that. His honest and slightly weird way of talking on variety shows became a hot topic, and he’s an idol with Korean and foreign fans. But at the photo shoot locations, he was like a little a boy.
Kangin and Henry’s relationship is Sun/Hoobae in music, company family, and shares the name of ‘Super Junior’. It was out of curiosity for us to capture them with cameras. The two were different. Kangin liked ttokbbokki, while Henry liked bread. But the two were also same. One star that lost its shine is on his way to getting it back, and another star is gaining more light. The two youth shares the burden from having an exposed-to-public life. Kangin and Henry look different, but they are going down the same path.
You are getting ready to reappear on national TV. In the end of August? You must have been careful about making the decision.
I wasn’t hesitating because I was afraid. It was just that my heart was closed. I wasn’t ready. The person who has to give laughter to the public, wasn’t ready to smile. I first had to get readjusted to the society. 4 years was a long time.
Yes. The world changes at a faster rate.
I am very sorry when I meet my hoobaes, but I really can’t tell who is who. So I tried searching every one of them before.
When Super Junior debuted, sunbaes must have felt that way too.
When we did interviews with newspapers, we went around with name tags. (laugh)
That was already 8 years ago. This year, you became 30. For a man, 30 is an important year.
Yes. It is special. I actually wanted to hurry up and become 30. I thought I would become an adult when I become 30. Deciding on what I want to do, talking, moving, and thinking like an adult. But I became 30, and I still feel like a 20 years old kid. The age “30” is hard. I act more careful and talk more careful now. I think ‘My words can become a scar to someone, and also could become encouragement for someone.’. I have become a bit more mature.
Do you feel that you have achieved nothing alone so far?
I have experienced many precious things so far. Something I wouldn’t be able to exchange with money or anything. People say “Aigo, Kangin did something terrible when he was 26 and went to army in 27. That’s when he was most popular…” but I’m (not sad about it) at all. I have learned many things.
You can say this because it has passed. When you were in middle of this, you didn’t have same thoughts.
I would be lying if I say no. But I am different than those who experienced hardship before debuting. I experienced it while I was receiving lots of love. So I thought I would never be able to stand on the stage again. That’s all I thought when I was in the army. “What will I be when I return now?” No matter how many chances come, and even if people forgot about it, I thought I wouldn’t be able to forget about it. I wasn’t able to forgive myself.
You blamed yourself a lot.
It was like, the fire within me died out. Pouring bucket of water on the fire that was burning within me. People who remember me from past variety shows gave me strength. Adults told me “Aigo, I watched “We Got Married” well. Super Junior is full of energy with Kangin.”
Ah, right. I was someone that was receiving lots of love. Why did I give them disappointment instead of enjoyment?’ and blamed myself, and regretted a lot.
Why couldn’t you have thought of this while you were busy?
In past, everything was just work to me. Fun job, job that I could enjoy, done out of habit. Something obvious…. I thought me appearing on TV was an obvious thing, and fans coming to see me was an obvious thing too.
The public can be a friend, and turn into an enemy in a second. They are especially harsh towards idols. They want as much as they give. They expect you to live the way they want.
In that area, I am now peaceful about. Going to army was the biggest influence in that. 2 years in the army is like the only normal social experience I have after debut. Every celebrities need a time like that. Responsibilities that come in being an Idol should be carried and endured. Because it’s the path I chose. It’s a big thing to be loved by so many people. It may be too much to endure as a young person. But I am 30 now, and I am okay.
How did you feel when you were released from army?
I didn’t cry in front of the cameras outside, but when I was saying goodbye to junior officers, tears came out. The age gap between us was big, so they seemed uncomfortable with me at first, but on the day I was being released, they called me “hyung~” while crying.
Your comeback stage after army seemed lifeless to fans. You might have been low-spirited.
I was. It felt like a strange unfamiliar place to me. First two months, I wasn’t able to sleep in the night before music shows.
You must have worried a lot. You seem to be more eased now, and brighter.
I’ve gotten better. If “Star Show Splash” was 100% variety show, it wouldn’t have been easy for me to go on it. But this program’s message is about ‘challenging’. So it has a big meaning to me.
Environments in broadcast shows has changed, you have many more hoobaes, and when the program starts, you will hear many more things. You have received a scar before, you may be fine now or feel more frightened.
It’s not something I can do about it. I know that I cannot jump over everything with just one step. I don’t act greedy nor rush myself in this.
Is it awkward, being your first variety show after a long time?
It’s not really awkward, but I wasn’t able to bring myself out to the front as much as I did in past.
Were you comfortable in past?
I was number 1. I played while recording shows. Sunbaenims said I am ‘cute, good’ after recordings, so I played around more, and they accepted it.
You received lots of hate comments online.
It was obvious that I’d receive curses, because what I did was wrong. They aren’t wrong. But when I saw that some people had complete misunderstandings… I wanted to visit them one by one to share a cup of soju with them, and talk to get rid of the misunderstandings. (laugh)
You are doing ‘Super Show 5’ world tour with Super Junior members. You participated up to ‘Super Show 2’ and came back for 5. It’s happiness to be able to stand on stage and be with fans.
I am really thankful to fans, that I cannot express it into words. Fans worried a lot for me while I was in the army. They kept telling me to think right, and those young friends shook my heart. I really felt like going crazy.
And with their help, you were able to open your heart and forgive yourself.
When we hold concerts, thousands and thousands of fans come watch. In past, I thought that was an obvious thing. I only realized in the army how they work hard to save their money, and break time to come to the concerts.
Normal people experience falls and ups in their 20s too. Kangin spent 20s in Super Junior. Super Junior must be another ‘world’ to you. How does it feel, does that ‘world’ become stronger as time goes?
I have received too much from members, and learned too many things. People expect me to be ‘tainted’ by those things, but I am not. I have matured more inside, and have deeper thoughts now. Other than that, it even makes me curious how we are still same.
As much as Super Junior was loved, you had to pay back a lot.
We were doing very great with ‘Sorry Sorry’. After what I did, members must have lost energy. When I was in army and saw them perform ‘Bonamana’, I could easily see that they prepared a lot. I wasn’t thinking ‘I should be there’, I was just very happy and thankful.
You are now at a new start. What kind of man do you want to become?
A man should know to look at only one thing. Whether it be love or a dream. You should have a definite heart as a center. I want to become a good man. A person that’s nice and warm to each and everyone. I have had people point fingers at me, but now I want to hear “he is a good man”. That is the goal in my life. One day, when I get married and have kids, die, or be discussed, I want to hear things like “your father is a good man. your husband is a good man. your son is a good son.” I hope that becomes true.
We saw you perform a solo stage on a ‘Super Show’ before. You played piano and guitar all by yourself. It made us say ‘Wa~’
That was when I was really a baby. (Laugh) I really sucked. I still can’t play well, but I was worse then.
You speak 6 languages, play many instruments… People call you ‘genius’ or ‘talented’, do you know this?
Ai~ I’m not a genius.
You said you started learning classical when you were little?
I learned violin and piano since I was 6
What more did you want to do?
I didn’t want to do both. My mom forced me to do them. When I became 10,11 years old, I won 1st place in a contest. After that, I liked music. Before then, I really hated it. I didn’t have any thoughts like ‘I’m going to continue playing classical music!’. I didn’t think ‘I want to become something with this’. I just got up in the morning and practiced. And so, music became part of my life and a habit.
How did you go to SM Audition in 2006?
I didn’t know what SM was back then. I didn’t know Super Junior too. I was raised in Canada, and had no chance to hear about Korean music. Before the audition, I went to places like festivals to sing and dance. A Korean friend recommended me to SM Global Audition. And I am now here.
You made it here though you had numerous competitors. What did you do at the audition?
I danced, played the violin, and I sang the Korean song ‘I miss you’. I didn’t know Korean at all then. The staffs thought I was a Korean, and asked me questions in Korean. (Laugh)
How was your childhood in Canada?
Our neighborhood was diverse, with blacks, whites, and asians. There were many Koreans and Chinese. The languages I learned from Chinese, Indian, and Thai friends from school still helps me during music promotions.
Your personality must be very opened too?
I am too opened. That’s the problem (laughs)
It must have been hard when you first started promoting in Korea.
You can’t really say Koreans are opened*. I wasn’t able to speak Korean well, and I didn’t know the culture well, so it was reall~~y hard.
*T/N: Koreans used to be really closed minded to foreigners; it has gotten much better over the years, but many older generations are still closed minded ^^;
Koreans still talk and count ‘our people, our nation’s people’
What is ‘동포?’
People from same nation
Ah~! But the problem I had I think was I appeared to be Korean, but I wasn’t.
That was a problem?
People assumed that I am a Korean from my looks, and expected me to have Korean manners. I didn’t know I had to be careful, even about 1 year age differences. So people first thought I was a rude person.
You were raised by Asian parents, in Canada, with diverse friends. You are going around many countries, with Korea as the center. Where do you feel is your ‘home’?
Home. The standard for ‘home’ has really gotten awkward. In past, Canada was my home, but after living in Korea for 6 years, I feel that Korea is more ‘home’ to me. I spent a long time in China for Super Junior-M activities, so China feels like ‘home’, and I’ve also lived in Taiwan and Hong Kong, my parents’ countries, so they feel like ‘home’ too. I’ve also lived 6 months in Thailand. I speak a little Thai, so that place feels like ‘home’ too. There are fans that always welcome me no matter where I go, so everywhere feels like ‘home’.
You travel many places for long times. Do you sometimes feel lonely?
I did feel that way once. Now, I know that ‘home’ is decided by who you are with, not where you are. Our members, staffs, and friends that I write songs together with.
The team name is ‘Noize Bank’?
Oh! Yes! I go around and play with those friends often. We go play, go to supermarkets, people who you are with is important. If I go to my home in Canada and no one is there, that’s not ‘home’ to me.
When you did activities with members in China, members must have been like family to you then.
Of course, of course.
We talked about cultural differences earlier. Did you have any with Super Junior members?
All the knowledge I have about Korean culture and Korean language is from hyungs. So sometimes, I say strange things.
Like the one you talked about on the show? How you accidentally said ‘Ajumma, please take off your clothes’ instead of ‘Ajumma give me mushrooms’ ?
There are more strange things I’ve said. Ones I cannot talk about on shows (laugh)
Not for shows? Are you still learning a lot from hyungs?
I am now teaching hyungs. Haha.
You must feel happy about receiving lots of love.
Am I receiving lots of love right now? I don’t know for sure.
What’s Henry’s charms?
매력? What does 매력 mean?
There must be a reason why SM brought you out as their first male solo in 13 years!
My charms are my music. Doing the music I want to do. And also because I am like an average person? Someone you can comfortably meet on street while walking.
Where would we meet someone like Henry on the streets?!
I don’t have anything special. I don’t think I have any talents as an artist that I had since birth. It’s all through hard work. Violin and Piano skills are also not born-with talents. I practiced 5-6 hours daily ever since I was little.
Did you have long trainee years?
I debuted not long after passing the audition. I learned much more while doing activities. First 3 years, I wasn’t happy. ‘I can’t do well, I need to do better’ I kept thinking that. So I asked the company for some time. I studied music in USA and came back.
You did activities with hyungs in China, and now you are standing alone in Korea.
Am I doing well? Was it okay?
Do you not have confidence in yourself? (laugh)
No, I need to continue to do better.
You seem to be the type that aren’t satisfied with oneself.
I have to look much more forward, and think forward. This is just the start. I can to many more music I want to do.
You’ve debuted in 2008, and performed mostly overseas. You must have received lots of scars and learned much. What kind of musician do you want to become?
I will continue to make music, and continue to stand on great stages. My biggest goal in doing music is this. I would be really happy if someone would listen to my song while driving. It’d be nice if a man and woman make up after fighting, through listening to my music. I want to make many music that people would be comfortable in listening to.
When you are too tired or want to give up, do you sometimes want to end everything and go back to Canada?
Whenever I feel that way, I watch a movie. A movie like the one with Will Smith in it, “The Pursuit of Happyness”. Many people in great hardships are shown in movies like that. I have never been in a hardship that’s as bad as them. When I watch the movies, I feel that the hardship I’m going through right now is nothing.
Many people are making goals after seeing Henry.
I know well. So I have to become an even better person in future. A good person that gives good influences.