T-ara get together over drinks with Ilgan Sports to talk about recent events and life as T-ara
Will there be another group with so much ups and downs like T-ARA. If we examine the team’s life graph over the past 9 years, they’ve experienced going from peak to bottom. They debuted as a public-friendly trend-setter girl group and reached the peak but then fell to bottom after the ‘bullying’ scandal started. The team underwent several reformations as well. At that time they gained a negative image with the public. Although the truth about the “bullying scandal” 5 years ago was revealed recently, it still wasn’t easy for T-ARA’s image to change.
Before their June comeback, the group revamped to a 4-member group after Boram and Soyeon’s departure. After having a drink, T-ARA confessed that they feel ‘scared’ about any ‘team changes’. Because the reason they cried after winning for the first time in 5 years was because they had a flashback of all the ups and downs they experienced.
“We tried not to cry but we couldn’t control it. We want to show a ‘smiling T-ara’ from now on.”
T-ARA was more persistent than any other group out there. It feels like they got stronger after undergoing a series of bad incidents. They invested their youth entirely on T-ARA. It’s no different than saying they spent half of their life as T-ARA. When comparing being a “celebrity” to being an “office worker, they said “For every job, you’ll experience the same amount of stress,” which showed their maturity.
T-ARA extended their contract until December this year. T-ARA’s fate in the future is up to the 4 members. What choice will T-ARA make?
Q.This is a fixed question. What is your alcohol drinking capacity?
Eunjung: up until 1 bottle of soju.
Jiyeon: I think 3 cups of Soju.
Qri: 2 cups of wine. This is my resting mode. Actually, it changes according to my condition. (laughs)
Hyomin: For soju, 1.5 bottle. For wine, up to 1 bottle.
Q.You had a drunk talk 3 years ago, your drinking capacity hasn’t increased since then.
Eunjung: During the past 3 years, it increased up to 1~2 cups. I think my ability to pretend I’m not drunk when I am has improved.
Q.At that time, Eunjung exposed Jiyeon’s bad drinking habits. You said she shows lots of aegyo, does she still do that?
Eunjung: She still has lots of aegyo. It depends on how you see it, but she’s totally cute (for me).
Q.You look very nervous this comeback.
Eunjung: We’re supposedly on our 9th year as a girl group but we still get so nervous. We showed our solo stages during the showcase in attempt to show a new side to us, but it wasn’t something we prepared long enough for. We’re doing things we haven’t done before so we’re even more nervous, excited, and also tense, we’re having mixed feelings.
Jiyeon: Before going up on stage, all four of us were like “Is it only me who’s nervous?” We were even more nervous than during our debut.
Q.How do you think of people’s reaction for ’What’s My Name?” do you like it?
Hyomin: First of all, even while we were preparing the album we already decided not to get too attached to chart results. We weren’t anxious about it. We just got mentally relaxed.
Q.Why were you relaxed?
Hyomin: We had lots of worries about whether we’ll be able to show what we prepared for well, will we make mistakes, will our showcase go well. But fortunately everything went well.
Eunjung: Even having a comeback by itself was hard for us. This comeback wasn’t easy like before, but we overcame that thanks to our fans’ big support for us.
Q.You underwent a sudden team reformation before the comeback
Eunjung: We re-recorded the song and did lots of position changes. We made lots of efforts in order not to make the two members’ absence obvious. But above all, having a comeback by itself felt happy.
Jiyeon: We felt sorry we couldn’t wrap up T-ARA as full 6 members. We’re sorry to our fans. The two members’ absence was big due to that.
Q.Are you the type to accept team changes.
Eunjung: Most of the changes T-ARA has underwent weren’t good. They created many rumors. That’s why we hated changes. We wanted to let things flow as they are without caring much about popularity.
Q.You received hard questions during the showcase.
Qri: We went up on stage expecting such questions but hearing the questions in reality we got emotional. That’s why we were even more nervous.
Eunjung: But we dont’ hate such questions. Because we know it’s only natural that (the journalists) get curious about it.
Q.Did your bond grow stronger after the two members’ leave?
Eunjung: We underwent many tough situations so I think we have a strong bond regardless of the no. of members. We feel more energy just by hearing the name “T-ARA.” Some people ask us ‘people don’t even know you released an album so why do you keep releasing albums, you’re only making things harder and receving more hate’. That’s not important to us. We like communicating with our fans, showing them our performances, and being happier with them more.
Hyomin: I think we have a strong desire to maintain T-ARA’s name.
Q.You teared up during the showcase.
Eunjung: We didn’t want to cry because we didn’t want to hear people say “They’re crying? again?”. Standing in front of the public is our job. We know that the reason we’re crying will not sound 100% genuine to the public. Unless we’re asking for perfect understanding from people, then I believe it’s better to keep it appropriate. We always end up thinking about it rationally.
Hyomin: We don’t want to show our tears in front of people. But I guess it was hard to hide our feelings that’s why we started tearing up nonstop. We want to show our smiling side instead of crying side. We want to remain as a ‘smiling T-ARA’.
Q.Your initial sales for this album reached 30K copies.
Hyomin: Really? The printed copies got all sold out so they did tell us that we no longer have CDs to use for fansigns. It’s surprising.
[T/N: in yesterday’s fansign the members said that it might be their last fansign, I guess it’s because they ran out of copies to sell.]
Q.Thanks to that you achieved 1st place in a music program for the first time in 5 years. You cried to the point where you couldn’t give an award speech.
Hyomin: We really didn’t expect winning 1st place. We had zero expectations so we were so shocked when they called our name. It was an unexpected win so we couldn’t control our tears. I remember our last win was in Music Bank for Lovey Dovey. We were thankful because we won it during our Japanese promotions, but I think this win will be more memorable. I think it’s impossible to win 1st place again. (laughs)
Q.Your resolution to not tear up again got all ruined.
Hyomin: I think we can’t hold in our tears anymore. We cried during the showcase too so I made a promise with the members to not cry again but..(laughs)
Q.We heard you even got a cake from the fans.
Hyomin: Our fans were really happy about it. We cried a lot inside so we came out late but they were waiting for us outside with a cake all that while. We teared up as soon as we saw the fans but we held it in until the end. We’re sorry for making our fans cry. In the future we’ll work hard to make you proud of being a T-ara fan.
Q.You appeared on ‘SNL’ as well.
Hyomin: We started filming the recording just a day after winning 1st place so our eyes were swollen from crying, we tried cooling them down using ice bags. We were resolute into making it a laughing day instead of a crying day.
Q.How did it feel going live on ‘SNL’. You even had to act on live broadcast.
Hyomin: we were more tense and nervous than any other broadcast before. SNL cast members took care of us and lead us well so we were able to wrap up the broadcast well. It was a special and fun experience.
Q. We saw that you right up confronted the controversy on SNL.
Jiyeon: Rather than saying that we intended it beforehand, we just thought that “since we’re appearing on the program, let’s do our best while at it!” As you know, SNL’s speciality is delivering a message or satire through skits. If we were to be scared of that idea then we wouldn’t have appeared at all.
Q.You had bold transformations through skits like Hyomin’s “Woman with fast progress” and Eunjung’s “Holiday,” didn’t you feel fearful at all?
Hyomin: Rather than saying “fearful”, we actually had fun filming. It’s a program we really wanted to appear on so we were looking so much forward to it, it was also our first time trying live skits so we had fun while working.
Q.Did you personally come up with ideas for the program too?
Jiyeon: We had lots of discussions with the production crew during the meeting. We prepared a lot in order to deliver a legend episode. We told them in advance that we were okay with showing embarrassing acting.
Q.I think you almost teared up again at the end.
Eunjung: We didn’t tear up (laughs). We just felt relieved that the live finished smoothly.
Q.During the showcase, you said “no one believed our explanation during the bullying scandal 5 years ago.” But some people reacted to that saying “when did you even explain about it.
Eunjung: I wonder why. I think it’s because we always only apologised and never really explained the situation bit by bit, but we can’t just focus on our personal feelings alone so we had no choice but to be cautious about it. During the time we were staying cautious, many people started having different thoughts. All people have different thinking. It was difficult to explain according to every person’s thoughts.
Q.Anyway, the controversy settled down after 5 years.
Eunjung: Amongst ourselves we thought “What is this again. Why do suddenly…”
Hyomin: We hated being the noisy kids [T/N: as in a loud issue] but we became a noisy topic again so it made us sad. We wanted to stay quiet. Regardless of the consequences, that time by itself was tough. We didn’t want to be the talk of people so we always acted very cautiously. We were really staying put but then that controversy came to light again so we thought “Are we really fine”.
Q.Living as an idol for 9 years, were there any hard things about it?
Hyomin: There are many hard things, it’s hard to pick the hardest thing amongst that. I believe every job has its difficulty. People’s attention, interests, misunderstandings are all a given when it comes to living as a celebrity. It’s the job we chose and it’s something that we have to cope with. It’s similar to the stress an office worker receives from their boss every time they go to work.
Eunjung: As a career, there were actually much more benefits about it.
Q.During the past 9 years, have you ever had a deviation from routine?
Hyomin: Not yet. Our company naturally let us free later. Ah right! If I’m to pick one, we once had our mobile phones confiscated so I temporarily got a rental phone. And we once secretly left the dorms when we weren’t allowed to. We made a human-shape on the bed (using pillows) and then placed a wig on top, then we made up tactics and sneaked away from the dorm. But we didn’t have any place to go at that time so we just stayed at a coffee shop in Gangnam and chatted for some time then went back to the dorm.
Q.Do you have any breakaway you want to do in the future?
Eunjung: I never thought of doing a breakaway before. I didn’t feel the need too. I think I grew more responsible.
Jiyeon: The longest (official) holiday we got was a 3-day holiday during our 3rd or 4th year. One day we spent with our parents and another day we rested at our dorm, that was all.
Eunjung: That’s why our managers were like “You don’t know how to hang out even when we give you free time?”. But then we replied “You should give us more time” while laughing. Just having a meal at the neighbourhood feels like hanging out. Once I was just walking on the crosswalk but it felt so nice so I just stopped right there. We always transport by car (for schedules) so we never get the chance to walk on the crosswalk. I feel happiness through trivial things (laughs).
Hyomin: I want to travel with the members. During our time off I’m busy sleeping at home. Receiving an (official) holiday from your job and resting for a bit while working are two different things. When I’m resting I don’t even think of hanging out.
Q.Is there any place you want to travel with the members?
Eunjung: Anywhere is good. There isn’t anything specific we want to do or have. We do have greed when it comes to working but beside that, we have no other greed. I think we’d be happy wherever you take us to. I never thought of it proactively.
Hyomin: There are many places we want to go to but I start to give up when thinking of it realistically. If we go overseas it will take us lots of time travelling back and forth and there aren’t many places to go to. That’s why we don’t have much fancies about it.
Q.Leave being realistic on a side, where do you want to go?
Hyomin: Europe or Hawaii. We once went to Italy, France, and Swiss for a pictorial shooting. Back then, we didn’t know how to enjoy our time while working. Our schedules were tight and our transportation alone took 7~8 hours by bus so all we could do is quick sightseeing. We missed so many things back then so we want to go again.
Eunjung: It would be meaningful if we go that route again. Hawaii has lots of Japanese tourists. Our members speak Japanese better than English. I think we’ll be able to communication there so it’s even better (laugh).
Hyomin: our job doesn’t have a regular pattern. If we suddenly get work to do overseas then we have to go there immediately. Back in the days, we might have grown tired of it but after undergoing several incidents we realised how much of a valuable thing that was. We now know how to be grateful.
Qri: We don’t want to ditch our work in order to play and hang out. Work comes first first and T-ara work comes first.
Q.You’re on your 9th year, but it feels like it’s been more than that.
Eunjung: On our 2nd year of debut we heard we look like a group on their 5th year. During our first 3 years, we released an album every month. That’s why. We also went on many variety shows and acted on movies and dramas. We has so many exposures and showed so many diverse sides to us that’s why we have such (veteran) image. It’s something we’re thankful for.
Q.You must have earned your pay quickly too.
Eunjung: That’s true. But we didn’t work for the money, it was more meaningful to us that ‘we debuted and went up on stage’.
Q.How did you ‘9th year’ look like in your imagination when you debuted?
Eunjung: We didn’t have time to think of our future. Excelling the job that’s at our hand came first.
Hyomin: During our 2~3rd year, I by myself wrote a future plan in my dairies, but I gave up midway. Because I thought I’ll get stressed if things don’t go as planned, especially due to the nature of our job. I was aware of the fact that it doesn’t usually go as planned, and it was also really hard to draw my future. We couldn’t do anything but do our best at the job we have at our hand at the moment. The word doesn’t go as one likes.
Eunjung: Since before, I always had the mindset that “let’s just live with flow”
Q.That sounds mature.
Eunjung: We’re not young either (laughs). I think it’s because we started working early. Sometimes I feel like I need a recharge but it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Q.Do you reveal your worries to your members? .
All: of course.
Eunjung: Even if we reveal our worries to our friends, they don’t always understand. Our members are first priority.
Q.With whom do you share your life talks with?
Eunjung: I don’t have many friends. There are many friends I know by connections. But for the friends I can share my life talks with, there is one friend I met in middle school and two friends I met in university. And that of course includes our members. I don’t know many people who’ve experienced many ups and downs. But for our members, they know how I feel even without me talking it about it. We understand on each other quickly and we know each others’ personalities well. I don’t think I have anything my friends know but my members don’t. We were together since our early 20s, and mid-10s for Jiyeon. We had lots of changes and underwent lots of emotions and our personalities matured as well. We’ve spent the past 10 years like sisters.
Jiyeon: Beside our members, it’s difficult for other people to understand our job.
Hyomin: Even financially, we’re are all the same. We understand each other even without explaining so it’s comfortable.
Q.You weren’t closed since the begining, you became a team out of business. So you must have had some troubles during your early years.
Hyomin: We’re like sisters so it’s only natural to get upset with each other sometimes. But even then we just used to speak out to each other and it all passes.
Eunjung: I can’t talk ill (to people). I think it’s more appropriate to express it as “understanding each other” than “holding it in.” I just speak it out when I have something to say instead of making things more complicated. We’re all like that. Because they’re all people I like and not people I hate.
Q.Do you like meat? How do you take care of your body.
Eunjung: I really like meat. Today is an eating day. “
Qri: I take care of my body from time to time according to my outfits. If I feel like my outfits don’t fit me then I’ll hold myself from eating on that day.
Hyomin: I can’t starve myself all the time, never.
Q.How far have you tried dieting?
Eunjung: Two members sharing one bibimbap with only vegetables. Excluding red-pepper paste. We had it with vegetable flavour.
Hyomin: It was during Bo Peep Bo Peep preparation. I took a staff’s leftover Gimbap, put it in my pocket, then called the members at the bathroom and ate it all together. Also during “Invincible Youth” days, Kim Taewoo oppa was promoting at the same time and he asked me if I had eaten and I told him no so he gave me snacks. But I couldn’t take that with me to the dorm so I took turns with the members and ate it at the bathroom. But now we can’t do that at all.
Q.Do you live in your separate houses?
Eunjung: Yes. But it was way more fun when we used to live in a dorm. We felt more freedom at the dorm. It felt like a share-house.
Jiyeon: We asked our company if they can provide us a dorm just during our promotions at least but they rejected us. (laugh).
Hyomin: In the past, we gathered money and lived in dorms for 1~2 years. But we evacuated later after our parents told us to come back home because (renting a dorm) is very costly. (laughs). That was before we started overseas promotions.
Q.Don’t you earn lots of money?
Eunjung: Not as much as the rumor goes. Because not all the money goes to us. (Laugh)
Q.You have expressed your secret to popularity in China as “Old-fashioned music. (On SectionTV)
Hyomin: Actually I couldn’t say ‘뽕끼’(slang for retro/trot feel music) on TV that’s why I expressed it as “old-fashioned”. T-ARA’s music has trot feel to it. I think that has contributed to our popularity in China.
Eunjung: Even overseas, people like our trot-feel songs like BPBP, No.9, Like The First Time, and WAYBLT. We have so many good songs. People always say “But at least, T-ara has good music.”
Q.Why did you add “at least” in your statement.
Eunjung: There are still many people who think negatively of us. That’s why I assume. It can’t be helped.
Q.Your juniors from the same company has debuted. Do you have anything you want to say to them?
Hyomin: Few days ago I had a conversation with DIA’s Chaeyeon. They’re experiencing the same things we experienced during our debut. I though it was “cute” because all of that we have been through before. Even if it’s tough, they’re all things they’ll end up doing anyway, so I hope they don’t get too stressed about it and do well.
Eunjung: I want to tell them that feelings are unnecessary.
Q.You spent your youth in T-ARA. Do you feel regret?
Eunjung: I don’t regret it at all.
Hyomin: I’ve never regretted becoming an idol. I rather think it’s an honour. We promoted during the time K-POP received the most attention and love, I’m grateful.
Q.Have your non-celebrity friends ever envied you?
Hyomin: They envy us when we travel.
Q.You must have friends who are already married.
Hyomin: My closest friend is getting married on September. It feels weird to think that my friend is becoming a mother. I think we’re definitely living less maturely than our same-age friends. It applies on both our appearance and life pattern. Sometimes when I see my friends I wonder “am I really living well?”
Q.All of you have tried dating, right?
Qri: It wouldn’t make sense if we say that we haven’t dated until now.
Eunjung: I’ve dated a lot secretly. I become more cautious when thinking of marriage.
Q.What kind of person do you want to get married with?
Eunjung: Someone who’s well-mannered, responsible, and manly. Actually that’s what my unnies told me. In the past, I used to think “What’s important about that. I just prefer someone who looks good in trench coat.” but now I wonder what’s the point in all of this. (laughs). My unnies told me that if I try to find a man who’s 100% perfect then I won’t find anyone. They told me to love him if he’s 70~80% fine. I think they’re right. (laughs).
Hyomin: I wish it would be someone who’s fun and I can have endless conversation with. For outer appearance, I’d prefer if it’s simple. Rather than a person who’s pretentious and cares too much about his looks, I prefer someone who’s natural.
Qri: My ideal type is someone with slanted eyes, it hasn’t changed. However, I think it’d be more comfortable if he has a similar pattern and is in the same work field as me. Since my job has an irregular pattern, I think someone from the same work field would understand me better than an office worker. I think it’d fit better if we can guarantee win-win for each other.
Q.What’s the longest time you’ve dated?
Eunjung: my first time dating I dated a non-celebrity for 3 years. I’ve never had a public relationship but I always get caught by my friends.
Eunjung: Of course I should. There aren’t any restrictions regarding marriage in our contract. Actually, I should make our company be the first to give me wedding congratulatory money. (Laughs)
Q.Your contract ends on December. What will happen to T-ARA in the future.
All: We don’t know.
Hyomin: if we don’t have a solution we should find another solution
Jiyeon: I guess we’ll only know then
Eunjung: There are many complicated things so we want to accomplish what’s at hand first. I haven’t thought of the next step yet.
Q.Do you want to maintain T-ARA?
Jiyeon: All of our members want to maintain T-ARA all the same
Hyomin: It’s not like a hobby which we do because we want to do it. We have aged enough and have to think about it realistically. It’s also our one and only job. In the future we’ll discuss it amongst ourselves and then decide which direction to take.
Q.You don’t have any solo plans?
Jiyeon: We have solo songs in this album. We also performed our solo stages at music programs. I think being able to do this, by itself, it something we should be thankful for.
Q.You’re a presistant team.
Hyomin: That’s how it ended it up like. So many meanings are included in this phrase. (laughs).
Q.What is T-ARA to T-ARA?
Eunjung: I spent all of my 20s. in T-ARA. I spent my youth in T-ARA. It’s my everything.
Hyomin: This will be the only day we tell sad stories. Tomorrow we’ll forget about it again. It’s like living just for a day. I believe that’s how we keep maintaining a bright side to us.
Q.At last, anything you want to say?
Qri: I’m thankful to our fans. Our fans can’t proudly say they’re T-ara fans. I want to make them become proud of being a T-ara fan.
Eunjung-Jiyeon: Thanks for always staying by our side and supporting us.
Hyomin: Our fans had it as tough as we did, and maybe ever tougher than we did.