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When it comes to Korean bands, I believe that many K-pop fans have their own favourite idol groups. With the raging Korean trend in Asia in recent years, the name 2PM has attracted a vast majority of people to scream and cheer. Since their debut in 2008, their ‘beastly idol’ style has swiftly abducted the hearts of fans. Step by step, they became Korea’s number 1 male group, and it isn’t even an exaggeration to call them Korea’s number 1 band. However “Number 1 male group” and even the impression as the “best idol group”, wasn’t something 2PM owned from the very beginning. These beasts’ progression since debut and all of their efforts from behind the scenes cannot be easily acknowledged based only on a few activities and news articles. For example, Ok Taecyeon who is most representative out of 2PM as a ‘beastly idol’ also has moments of injury. Someone asked, “Beasts get injured too?” That’s right. Beasts should be fierce and majestic, however if a beast can also get injured, then you should understand how hard-working they are to have come so far up to today.
2PM – exactly 2pm in the afternoon, is the hottest time of the day and similarly, the group 2PM brings excitement and enthusiasm to their fans and are also the most radiant group. They are a beastly idol group, however, apart from having beast-like muscles and body structures, the six members also have different prerequisites of an idol. Instead of saying the group 2PM have overthrown the traditional concept of idols; I would rather say that they infiltrated this concept with a beastly style. Nichkhun, the half-Thai and half-Chinese who possesses the perfect appearance; Kim Junsu, the humorous and talented Daegu brother; Jang Wooyoung, who has amazing dancing skills, yet is extremely naïve; Lee Junho, the handsome and passionate “smiley eyes”; Hwang Chansung, the innocent, kind-hearted and silly yet cute maknae; and of course the main character of this interview – the smart, serious and lively beastly idol, Ok Taecyeon. These six lively guys with idol qualities came together and formed 2PM. In their eyes, in terms of a team, what is 2PM to them? As Taecyeon has served as a spokesperson for Korean Tourism Organisation’s “Touch Korea Tour”, we took this opportunity to get a good understanding from him during the following interview.
In South Korea, where there is fierce competition between many idol groups, what did Taecyeon contribute behind the scenes as a member of one of the most popular idol groups? Other than endless schedules and practices, in this industry with the spotlight shining on him, Taecyeon has always been capable of using his wits to deal with unexpected situations. This includes his attitude in interviews; he is diplomatic yet sincere with his answers. Anyone would know the official answers to the questions asked, but to enable others to see one's sincerity, how much experience is needed before being able to strike a balance between being diplomatic and sincere?
Having 3 schedules in a day, Taecyeon does them energetically without a break. With his cute and innocent pair of eyes, Taecyeon continued his schedules with a smile always hanging on his face, while maintaining his glow and keeping his mood up. He also has to keep himself alert to avoid falling into traps set by interview questions. Upon seeing this, it is indeed very tiring, but Taecyeon often gives others the feeling – He is smart. After watching Taecyeon go through the interviews, I think he is very smart. Many reporters feel that Taecyeon knows how to avoid questions. When faced with a difficult question, he is always able to manoeuvre around it with a look of sincerity, hence the reporters are unable to blame him for not answering it.
(R = Reporter, T = Taecyeon)
R: Upon following you around for 3 schedules today, I saw you doing interviews. I feel that you are a smart person, so I shall just prompt you with questions directly.
T: (With a look of sincerity) Alright, please ask...
R: Which Chinese artist would you like to work with the most?
T: I've done music performances and also participated in some filming. Among my memories, China's Jackie Chan and Jet Li have always been the people I look forward to. I would love to have a chance to work with these action stars.
R: Have you thought of working with any Chinese female artist?
T: Due to work, I've always been in South Korea, so I’m not familiar with any Chinese female artist. If I’m given a chance to go to China, I would love to work with a female artist who likes me. (Hahaha....)
I believe that other than Taecyeon, many other artists have their own ways to deal with reporters. Despite knowing some of the questions are sensitive, some artists would pluck up their courage and face them, even if it concerns rumours, they try their best to let others hears their own thoughts and opinions. Although many questions have been flagged during the interview, Taecyeon emits the feeling of a young and brave man. You can’t help but sense his sincerity as a person.
R: I saw on the internet reports of you attending a school exam yet the professor said that you wasn't in school for a semester and even made you to stand in front of the blackboard for others to take pictures. Is this true?
T: Actually this is just a rumour on the net. In fact, I'm very good friends with the professor. He wasn't punishing me, he just asked me to take photos with the classmates...
By the time this question was being raised, many questions had been flagged by the manager. However Taecyeon insisted on answering, giving those who paid close attention to this issue a rightful answer. "I must answer this question", this was the firm stand Taecyeon took. Taecyeon is just a 24 year old young man, but his determined stand and imposing manner was enough to show that he is indeed a man who assumes great responsibility.
About the beast’s injury
In May 2012, after finishing 2PM's schedule in Japan, news of Taecyeon fracturing his left arm broke out. Our beast is injured..... Initially everyone thought his injury was due to dance practices or difficult technical movements, but the truth led to the pain of his fans, and they could not help but worry. Taecyeon's injury had nothing to do with his dance practices. 2PM members were using their break time after their performance in Japan to arm wrestle and Taecyeon accidentally fractured his arm during the game. This injury caused fans to feel pain as they felt that it was not worth getting injured because of a game. Taecyeon had the bandage on for over a month, and the day of the interview was the first time he took it off. Before the reporter even asked about his injury, Taecyeon had already brought up the issue of the bandage with complacency.
T: Today is the first day I took off my bandage....
R: After the recent performance, you were injured. Is it better now?
T: Thank you, it is getting better now. Today is the first day I took off my bandage.
Taecyeon laughed and ridiculed at himself, but to others, the reason he did so was not to let others see him in pain. Although getting injured due to a game indeed makes one speechless, however this also serves as a message to others that no matter how strong beasts appear to be, there are also times when they will be injured. What’s more, they are just a group of playful young men?
2PM's muscular body is the result of the hard work and effort they put in daily, otherwise how could fans drool over their perfect body lines? Besides the ridiculous injury, even though these beasts have strong bodies, it doesn't mean that they won't suffer from injuries. However Taecyeon did not seem to take his injury seriously, even joking about it, trying to minimise the impact bought by his injury to others. Instead, he uses a positive attitude to prove to others that his injury is not as serious, trying not to let others worry about him. But, this action only makes people feel even more pain.
"Ok Cat" among the beasts
Taecyeon is the best representative as a beastly idol in 2PM. His muscular body, raw voice and charisma, has earned himself a label as a beastly idol. However, at the same time, Taecyeon is a cute beast, his fans call him "Ok Cat", and he even adds a personalised drawn cat to his signature. We can see that he's a mischievous big boy, who portrays the image of a beast but goes around being adorable and cute!
R: You have so many nicknames, and you have a beastly image in stage. Are you like this in real life?
T: This is mainly because of the group's image and because of that, I try to be the same in real life. Heehee.
Although Taecyeon the beastly idol is adorable and cute, this side is only limited to him off-stage. Once he gets on stage, Taecyeon transforms into a charismatic beastly idol, portraying the charisma of 2PM to its best. While people fall in love with their charismatic beastly image, Taecyeon also receives lots of love for his adorable side off-stage. This adorable side gives others a warm and approachable feeling. While working, Taecyeon is a beast that belongd to the stage, but off-stage, he transforms into the adorable "Ok Cat" whom everyone loves. Taecyeon, who possesses two different types of charisma, is indeed someone whom everyone loves.
Significance of a team and teammates
Since debut, 2PM's path to success was not smooth. There were times of difficulties and rumours, every step was difficult and Taecyeon was there with his teammates throughout all these. If we were to ask Taecyeon what is 2PM’s presence to him, I think he won’t be able to give us an answer. In his heart, 2PM is not just a mere presence; it has merged with him as one.
Taecyeon believes just one person is unable to achieve much, it is the unity of the 6 members that is the core of 2PM. Practicing together, working hard together, going through ups and downs together, this leads to the creation of the inseparable team. Their friendship is not something that can be merely described by words.
R: Why do Korean artistes normally debut as groups instead of individuals?
T: One only has 24 hours per day, 6 of us together have more than 100 hours per day. Only with each other's support, we are then able to make up for our shortcomings and show our merits as well as having the strength to be on stage.
R: Just you alone won't be able to do it?
T: As a soloist, you need a strong aura.
R: What do you think is the difference between 2PM and the other groups?
T: I think there are 2 differences. One is our teamwork and the other is our performing abilities. In many of our performances, we need to have trust in each other, even entrusting our bodies to each another so as to perform the different movements. This requires a certain extent of trust.
Entrusting your body to each other, this is an action that has passed the perimeter of trust. It has become an absolute dependence where you view the other party as the second you. 2PM is an entity. Putting all 6 members together, as time passes, they slowly integrate as one. As Taecyeon mentioned, there are many movements that cannot be completed alone. If there isn't enough trust, who would be willing to entrust their body to others and allow them to take control in such dangerous situations?
I believe those who have seen 2PM's dance would think that this is not a group dance, instead it looks more like a group performing acrobatics. Indeed, 2PM's dance movements are known for its high level of difficulty. Taecyeon is mainly in charge of movements with the highest difficulty level, hence flying mid-air or any other movements no longer pose as a difficulty for him. Most importantly, while performing the movements, he is 100% aware that he has reliable teammates, and that his teammates will go all out to protect his safety. This chemistry and trust is not something that can be achieved with just years of friendship. It requires tons of practice, unlimited trust in each other, before building such strong rapport with one another.
It is impossible to have completely no conflicts in a group, there are bound to be times of disagreement. As there is no leader in 2PM, when the team encounters conflicts, no one has the responsibility to solve the problem. However, it is this situation that allows them to pay more attention to teamwork. Since there is no one specifically as the mediator, 2PM takes up the responsibility as a whole.
R: When problems arise, are you the middleman? How do all of you solve the problem?
T: When a problem arises, we would not express it on the spot, instead we would find a time whereby everyone gathers and solve the problem together. It is not just one of us solving problems. 2PM’s style is not about whom is leading the team, but a team as a whole.
Needless to say, teamwork is the most important to 2PM. To be known as Korea’s number 1 male group, this is also the result of their team spirit. As a group who went from 7 to 6 members, they suffered from pain and rumours, experienced stress and accusations, and raising from rock bottom, without the strong team spirit, this cannot be done.
While talking about the other members of 2PM, Taecyeon often thinks through seriously before giving an answer. It is not to prove Taecyeon's discretion, but because the members are so important to him, it is difficult to express them in words. Therefore, at any point in time, 2PM members are a compulsory and important existence to Taecyeon. These existences may not be linked to the individual. They have already merged into one as 2PM!
R: Can you talk about your teammate Nichkhun?
T: Nichkhun is my teammate as well as my good friend. 2PM has gained much popularity due to Nichkhun. This is also what 2PM hopes to see.....
R: Are there any recent plans?
T: We are in the midst of preparing our next album. Hope everyone can keep a lookout for us.
Taecyeon always unknowingly links back to 2PM while talking about the members. In his heart, every member equals to 2PM and 2PM equals to every member, there is no clear boundary. They are no longer individuals but have merged into 2PM as one. I believe that in the coming future, 2PM will continue bringing us the energy and passion they now possess, continuing their journey as beastly idols, enabling their fans not to only see 6 charismatic idols but also 2PM's charisma as a group.