‘Elsie’ Eunjung responds to public anger with constant apology in extensive interview
T-ara’s Eunjung (27, real name Hahm Eun Jung) stood in front of the public as a soloist. Using Elsie as her solo stage name, she released her first ever solo album after debuting for years, and ended her promotion of the title track ‘I’m Good’.
It wasn’t an easy challenge. Having a little more than a month of preparation time, it was a sudden solo activity. The name Elsie, used as a part of the blind marketing strategy, was unfamiliar to the public. However, Eunjung ended the promotion successfully as expected. Unlike ‘T-ara’s Eunjung’, Elsie exuded a different charm of maturity by performing body wave dance in a dress with side slit. Her melancholic and sweet voice surprised even fans.
Eunjung had an interview at the Mok-dong CBS office recently, discussing on various topics, from the end of her solo activities, to the continuous malicious comments made to her.
When did you start preparing for your solo album?
There have been plans for solo activity since the past, but it was only suggested officially at the start of this year. It didn’t went well in the beginning, but the company still started it unexpectedly. I was still mentally unprepared when being managed all of a sudden, and I came out as a solo in only about a month. It was a short preparation, but thanks to many people’s assistance with the album, I am very satisfied. I hope to have make longer preparation next time and spend even more effort to make a better album.
Is there any interesting thing that happened (during this solo)?
I was very busy with the album cover’s photoshoot schedule. Sleeping for only one and a half hour before proceeding to the photoshoot the second day is really too tiring. That’s why if you look at the photos carefully, none them showed me with my eyes open normally. (laughs) Luckily the first scene was on the bed, so I could close my eyes for awhile.
Why did you use Elsie as your stage name for the solo?
Our CEO gave me this name because it symbolizes all good qualities of ‘brightness’, ‘happiness’, ‘honesty’, ‘a promise to the god’, as well as ‘dignity’. I was actually a little embarrassed with it too. When I first heard the name, I also thought that it is very similar to Frozen’s Elsa, a lot of people laughed when they hear my name too. On top of that, we couldn’t reveal it openly as we started off with the blind marketing initially. We didn’t do that entirely for the sake of hiding my existence, it was because the CEO had intended to let my music be heard first (before introducing the singer). Of course, I wanted to tell everyone that I am Elsie as soon as possible. I was afraid that no one would know it is T-ara’s Eunjung after that, but now I have also developed a feeling for the name Elsie.
Is the concept of your solo activity what you have expected as ‘solo Eunjung’?
No, it is totally different. A lot of people like me in my healthy, energetic and boyish image. I thought I would want to improve on that image if I could have a solo. However, the company hoped that I will be able to showcase an entirely different image. They figured that it will be good to show a more feminine appearance, and even better if people didn’t recognize as me. I changed my hairstyle, and wore many outfits that I wouldn’t wear usually, the change is really drastic.
As your first solo album, did you not participate in the production?
Other than the title track, all other songs in the album were personally chosen by me – from listening to the songs at the start to choosing them in the end. I even wanted to participate in choosing the title track but the company advised me otherwise after much consideration. I also felt that it seems to be a good idea to try a different image, which was why I started promoting with ‘I’m Good’.
Your melancholic vocal, different from when you were in T-ara, has made a deep impression.
I have always had a thick vocal, I can also make soft, thin sound through breathing techniques. I belong to the type that changes my singing style according to the ambience of the music. This time it’s a song where the lyrics are filled with heartbreaks and sadness, hence I emphasized on the feminine feel in it.
Although it was a pity, but your music didn’t chart well as expected.
At first I got into top 20 but halfway through, we did something that wasted the fans’ efforts. This is the first time I am mentioning this, but originally ‘I’m Good’ is a song of 3 minutes 9 seconds long, but the company changed to 3 minutes 50 seconds long afterwards. The company wanted to show a better song after the mix, and hence cleared all the data from before. To me this is a lovely act, but regrettably, I also feel sorry to the fans who supported me. Being able to stand tall on the sites is no doubt a good thing, but I already feel satisfied once I think of being able to have people question “Eunjung can also have that side?” and things like this. Moreover, each time I stand on the stage, many people gave me strength. I feel thankful just for this.
How do you feel having solo activities?
Due to the fact that I have to stand on stage alone, there are a lot of details I had to take care of. It is the same for the rest right? From the release of the album, to the viewer rate on Youtube, everything has to be taken care of nicely. The sequence of the pages inside the album was decided by me as well. Every single word in the Thanks to, and even the small gifts are very important to me. What’s more, I have to be strong at heart to stand on the stage alone.
Things you would definitely want to do after ending the solo promotion?
After ending my promotion, I have decided to go eat pork belly meat with my company and my family. I want to eat a plentiful of it. (laughs)
You recently shed tears on Mnet’s ‘4 Things Show’.
After watching the broadcast, I blamed myself a lot, why did I cry? (laughs) The shooting was really interesting and I was very happy. I relaxed a lot as they (the production team) showed me a lot of care and concern. I’m not sure if it’s because of that, but after having the chance to converse with the production team members comfortably, I suddenly teared up and started talking about the past just like that…The production team broadcasted that scene with the intention of showing a warm atmosphere, but that appearance has caught an attention. “I displayed another image that will lead to misunderstanding again”, I thought. People can have different interpretation from seeing the same thing. I should be responsible for my tears.
You talked about the word ‘determination’, and smiled as you look at the ‘cake’. That made a very deep impression. Have you become immune already?
Saying that those doesn’t matter now would be a lie. Regardless of me saying I like it or not, this is a sensitive topic either way. Firstly I feel that I should accept. After seeing the cake prepared by the production team of ‘4 Things Show’, I laughed because I felt a mixture of emotions.
There were many malicious comments such as “why did you appear on the broadcast instead of apologizing?” (T-ara, the group Eunjung belonged to, suffered an image change after controversy on the ostracizing of ex-member Hwayoung incident in 2012.)
Of course I should continue apologizing. I have decided to apologize, but the if the public did not think of it as an apology, then it isn’t one. I personally feel that I should continue apologizing, until the public stopped questioning “why are you not apologizing?”. Moreover, we (T-ara) are already people who live by getting scolded, we are people who have done wrong. No matter what kind of explanation we try to give, it won’t look good. Of course, to me, the company, as well as our fans, it is very upsetting. Even so, if the public said no, then it’s a no, and because they are angry, it is right of us to soothe their anger.
After experiencing being a child actor, to being in a girl group, until your solo activities now, it really do seem that your determination is strong.
“Perseverance and hardwork brings forward understanding,” I continue with this in mind. I won’t try to differentiate where I should go, I go wherever I am needed. From being a child actor to participating in T-ara’s activities, it really is a blessing to be in the entertainment industry for 20 years.
What is your source of motivation?
It might sound like a lecture, but the love from fans is really powerful. Being able to remember me and support me, I want to repay them back. While going through solo activities this time, I felt that the love from fans became even more extensive, which made me think of showing everyone a better me from now on.
The area you would like to challenge from now on?
Stage play musical. I would also like to try being a radio DJ. I like to listen to stories shared by others. I do have desire in new things, but from T-ara’s activities, to acting, I won’t expect too much if I can just do what I can from now on.
What will T-ara’s Eunjung be like 10 or 20 years later?
Actually I don’t have a definite plan, because I am in an industry where I don’t even know what schedule I have tomorrow. When I was 10, I wouldn’t have thought that I will become a T-ara member in my 20’s. During my debut days, I have never thought that I will become a solo singer one day and have such interviews. Although I will be insecure being unable to set a goal for my future, but thinking optimistically it could be interesting as well, because I don’t know what will be coming in the future.
What kind of person are you, not as T-ara’s Eunjung, but solely as Eunjung, in the late 20s?
I will be a person with sense of responsibility and honesty. People of the same age as me are like that too. After going through mid 20s, there will be more troubling thoughts of the future and an increasing responsibility, it’s just that we all have different career. On normal days, I would watch movie and go to restaurants with friends. Wearing sunglasses is even more attention seeking, so I wear casual clothing to shop everywhere. (laughs)
It has been a long time since you had a one-to-one interview, isn’t it?
This seems to be the first time since 2 or 3 years time. After starting solo activities, I feel like a rookie who just debuted, today’s interview felt like that too. Ending the activities in different perspective, my thoughts became different and I have become more comfortable as well.
Your plans from now on?
Although broadcast activities has ended, there is still a fully packed schedule for me. Starting from June onwards, T-ara will be having concert tour in China. The filming of our Korean-Chinese web drama is also ongoing. I will probably be having activities in China for the time being.