“WHEN THE BURDEN OF WHAT YOU SHOULD DO UNTIL A PARTICULAR AGE LIMIT LESSENED, I GOT TO THINK THAT MY JOB AS A CELEBRITY WASN’T MY REAL IDENTITY. IN FACT, I AM A STUDENT. A GRADUATE STUDENT.”
During the four days we spent with Taecyeon, it was hard to find any “beastly” aspect in him. Usually when you forget the celebrity’s luggage and head over to the parking lot, depending on the celebrity, it ends in a catastrophe. But a similar accident in Vancouver, when Taecyeon went back to the airport to collect his luggage without any air of importance, was just an opening act of his good will. However, there was another catastrophe: The never-ending rain that fell for two days during the scheduled photo shoot time.
When we said that we would have to push through the photo shoot disregarding the weather, Taecyeon was happy about it. Stanley Park was cold and humid in the rain, but Taecyeon smiled brightly wearing just a t-shirt. The yacht was moored in an island were the marine breeze would slash your neck like a knife, but even there Taecyeon kept on laughing with just a thin night gown flung on his shoulders. The staff members didn’t have to secretly study his mood. Even though he was caught in a rain for an entire day and shivering from cold, in between the shootings, Taecyeon would just wonder about The Three Meals menu (that no one asked him about) or talk about his graduate school. How there’s no fridge in Jeongseon, how he got some alcohol for free while hanging out with a group during the Korea-Yonsei games. When you see him talk openly like that you can’t help but agree the Ok Bingu* nickname fits him well.
When finally a hail put a stop to our photo shoot, we just carried on with the interview. He strutted around the streets of Vancouver without any hesitation, roaming around the late night cafe shops like a genuine tourist. Even in the cafes, instead of lowering his voice and taking in the surroundings, he would wave his long arms around and talk laughing so much you could see his molars.
“2PM is about to release a regular album, so I will get busier than before. I had some free time in March and April. So I just took my parents on a trip. To Greece and Turkey. As for Greece… There are just ruins, and the only places that remain are the sites themselves. I also went to Santorini, but it was cold and a lot of places were under maintenance construction, so there wasn’t much to see. Even so, father left a “Thank you, Taecyeon-ah” message in the family Kakao Talk chat room. It’s the first time I’ve heard this in my 28 years of life. I really liked that. Ah, but my first trip was to Rome.”
We knew that. That package trip appears in the related search results when you research Taecyeon. He personally applied for a Rome package trip at a travel agency and spent a week with “regular people” without taking any manager with him.
“When you’re working for 7 or 8 years, somewhere in the middle there comes a time like this. A difficult period. That was after 3 or 4 years of work. “Why am I like this?” At first, it’s okay to just make people know you, then it’s okay to make a lot of money, so now people know you and you’ve earned a lot. So why am I still doing this? And then I went to Rome.”
Through the ordinary people he learned how to have fun while working and how to appreciate life. People pointed out to him an extremely realistic fact: “You’re an idol, who else could make this much money and go on a solo trip at this age?”
We might have forgotten it, but he’s the one who once ripped his shirt in a funny manner on stage. He’s the “beastly idol” who rarely has a chance to relax his frowning forehead. Before this truth manages to slip into the oblivion even more, 2PM is coming back soon with a regular album.
“We’re never sure whether the people would like it. I don’t really know what a good song is nowadays. We just know that we can do well.” According to Taecyeon, 2PM is a republic. The album track list is also decided by the majority vote.
“We make a grade list among ourselves. When we listen to the songs, we grade the songs from “very good” to “very bad,” and the song that gets the highest mark becomes the next title song.” Actually, as far as the general public is concerned, the time when they would have expected something ground-breaking from the middle-aged group that is 2PM and the idol Taecyeon has already passed. Therefore, Taecyeon does not really care even if he appears on stage wearing thick eye-liner, dancing and rapping; and driving a tractor on The Three Meals at the same time. He’s basically on a track where he can now personally decide whether he wants to use his burly shoulders and thick arms for sex appeal or for physical labour. However, this doesn’t mean he’s reached his zenith as a singer. Taecyeon has known that a lot better.
“I’m not that good at singing. I, going solo? I think that in such a case, I would have to do something completely different from 2PM. To be absolutely honest, I don’t really crave for solo activities. I’ve realized that while working: Even if you’re not too greedy, things that are supposed to work out, they do come to pass. Little by little, I’ve become less shaky. My character’s not like that to begin with.”
His debut acting role in the “Cinderella’s Sister” also was offered to him even though he wasn’t openly craving for it. Actually, it was the writer who had been greedy about it. He declined the offer multiple times saying he didn’t feel confident enough, but the writer wanted him for the role.
“Back then there weren’t that many acting idols like now, and it was a time when one mistake would make them curse you to the point you’re ground you to dust. It was scary. I’m the type who works hard on whatever drops in front of me, but I still find it amazing how I managed to get to the weekend drama “Wonderful Days” from such a half-assed beginning.”
However, little by little he learned how to control his wavering glance as he played a stone-cold person who silently watches over someone, a soft man who holds onto a withering love, a roughneck son who harbours distorted emotions towards his mother. He might not be a method acting god who exudes overflowing energy, but you can sense his focus as he calmly gazes at the camera. Even in the variety he quietly trims a leek or lights up the fire as he watches the grumbling Lee Seojin.
A man who is only calm and hard-working has no charm. We wanted to know Taecyeon’s secret. “Please tell us something you haven’t told anyone else.”
“There’s no such thing.” (Well, there was, but it’s not like we could put that on paper.) Considering his easygoing attitude, it seems that he’s had deep thoughts about the entertainment industry. Lately, if there’s something he doesn’t want to do, he declines the offer honestly. You think that sounds arrogant? There simply has been too much energy wasted already between the things one can do and the things one can’t.
“I was 21 when I debuted. Back then the Super Junior hyungs were in their mid-twenties. Then I even thought: “Ah, so you can be an idol at that age too.” When you reflect upon it, I think the landscape of the entertainment industry changed because of the Shinhwa and g.o.d hyungs. When the burden of what you should do until a particular age limit lessened, I got to think that my job as a celebrity wasn’t my real identity. In fact, I am a student. A graduate student.”
He’s like a grown-up child. Is there anything he’s impatient about?
“I wonder. Marriage? I thought I should get married fast as I looked at my parents. My parents are still young, but now that I’m all grown up, they travel here and there for fun. I also wanted to get married at around 28, just like my father, but it’s already too late for that.”
“You just have to get married within this year.”
“No. That’s not happening.”
- bingu – a slang for “idiot.” Ok Bingu is Taecyeon’s nickname in The Three Meals.