[NEWS]ZE:A Hot Debut Diary- Heechul
As ZE:A’s own Heechul enters the room for his first meeting, the room is immediately brighter with his lively mannerisms and practically yells out a “Hello!” to everyone in sight as he bows to greet them.
While being asked questions about his childhood, Heechul suddenly asked “Have you ever been to Jeju island?” As this reporter was making a confused expression, Heechul began explaining with a big smile.
“You see, I’m the only idol from Jeju island.” Heechul, who is known famously among fans as ‘the handsome one from Jeju’, is really excited to share his childhood stories, proudly retelling how nice Jeju island is. “As a child, I had to do the things I wanted to do. I think that’s probably why I would always get in trouble with my dad.”
His dreams about becoming an actor began during high school. And because of his tendencies to obsess over things that he wanted, he began attending acting classes after school. His hard efforts soon payed off after being accepted into Seoul Art College.
“When I stayed in Seoul, it was the first time I had spent a large amount of time away from my family. I lived in a one room [apartment] but after that I lived in a goshiwon (a 6.5″ x 6.5″ room), I think I had a hard time because I wasn’t used to it. Because I didn’t want to ask my dad for money, I even got a part time job for the first time in my life. You have no idea how much I missed home at that point…(laughs)”.
Heechul says it was only by luck that he got the chance to audition for Star Empire. Intimidated by the president who asked him to sing on the spot, he dumbfoundedly sang a song. Heechul smiled broadly as he reminisced his “life changing moment”, remembering how the president had liked the “color of his voice”.
“Truthfully, I was only nurturing my dream of becoming an actor when I suddenly stepped into the world of entertainment. But that was then, right now my desire to become a singer is much greater than acting. I think acting will come after that.” He began living in a dorm with the other members the day that his trainee life began. He said it was very difficult to share a small space with so many people.
“The amount [of time] we had to practice was terrifying. As soon as I opened my eyes in the morning, it was off to practice. Right after that, it was bedtime. It was a strict regimen that was repeated day after day. I’m a bit shy, but looking back, I can’t remember a time when I was awkward [with the other members]. Right now there are 8 members excluding myself, but if even one of them is missing it’s strange because I can feel the emptiness.”
It’s been over 100 days since they’ve debuted under the name of ‘Child of Empire‘. Even before they had debuted, their skills were recognized on a cable program as they spread their name. As soon as Asiae asked him what his most memorable moment was after debuting, he answered without a moment of hesitation.
“The Wingcar concerts. Not just for me, but I think for the rest of the members too.” Heechul said with a big smile, explaining that because of the Wingcar concerts, Child of Empire is where they are today.
All 9 ZE:A members were acting shy during their first interview, that is, until a certain topic got them stirred up and talking animatedly. Their own Heechul took the lead as they began talking about their cable TV program, Children of Empire.
Time flew by quickly as each member shared their own take on their filming experiences during the show. “There were two seasons for ‘Children of Empire’. With both of those seasons combined, I was the one who felt the most distressed” Heechul began. The rest of the members agreed that Heechul had the most stories to share from their filming. “[i]During the first season, I was the one who was dropped from the Star Empire training. At that moment, everything went blank for me. When the manager took me to the airport, all the strength I had left in me just vanished and I couldn’t even hold myself up[/i].”
Heechul’s demeanor suddenly became very serious, almost as if going back to that moment.
“I had no idea it was all scripted. After I got to the airport, I got a call from the manager director who told me [it was scripted]. I thought it was weird when the female writers had followed me into the bathroom. When I later asked them why they did that, they said they were worried I was really going back to Jeju.”
Only the top coordinators of the agency and the show’s producers knew that the expulsion of HeeChul and TaeHun as trainees was scripted, all the other agency employees, and of course the members, had no idea. “[Coming] from a dorm bustling full of people, Taehun and I moved into a one room in Kangnam and lived there together. It was a nice environment (laughs).”
Heechul tried his best to playfully tell his heart aching story of when strangers passing by would ask “Why is he walking so carelessly when he was just kicked out of ZE:A?”
“Taehun and I were continuously training, practicing rapping, but of course the place where we trained was right near the agency. While we were going to train, it was like a special 007 mission and we would sweat our butts off in order to accomplish it. Because everyone thought I was back in Jeju, I couldn’t get caught by the employees of the agency, the other members, or the fans.” Secretly living and training so close to the other members, this reporter wondered, did he ever get caught?
“The funny thing is, I got caught not near the agency, but in Kangnam. As I was going to meet up my friends, I ran straight into the members at Kangnam station. Thinking back in that moment, I still feel shaken up. While I was hiding behind an ATM, I completely denied that fact that I was in Seoul while on the phone with Joonyong. But DongJoon wouldn’t buy it, so I confessed that I came to Seoul to take care of some business. I think I was taken aback so much that I got sick with a fever of 40°C (104°F).”
After all that hiding and sneaking around, how was it that they were able to reunite with the rest of the members? “Taehun and I wrote and recorded a rap together, then sent it out to the agency. While the other members gathered around and listened, they were completely surprised when they recognized the voices. At that moment, Taehun and I burst into the practice room.”
That scene was the highlight of Children of Empire, Season 1, as the surprised members hugged Heechul and Taehun, overcome with emotions. Even a clip of leader Joonyoung crying like a baby was shown, saying that he was overwhelmed with emotions when he found out the touching lyrics were written by their own Taehun and Heechul.
“That’s how Season 1 ended and we got started on the second season, which were the Wingca concerts. Everyday we traveled to 3 different locations in the countryside and performed. When we first started in Ilsan, we performed in front of only 20 people, but as the time passed, the number of people who shouted our names and cheered us on increased. I was really thankful for them.”
After sharing their stories from the first season, is there anything in particular that stood out to them from the second season? “After a vote with the members, Kevin, Hyungshik and I were picked to come to work wearing a uniform, they said they picked me because I was the second youngest. At the time, I was upset when they kept making fun of me because I didn’t know it was scripted.”
So many things happened during their Wingca conerts, from the power going out, sand going into their mouths, and having speakers burst. At a performance in Daegu Dongsung Street, 2,000 fans came out only to see ZE:A after there were rumors that DBSK was in town. They say that the emotion they felt that day was an unforgettable memory.
“Thinking back on it, the times we spent on the Wingcar concerts were the most important stepping stones in the making of ZE:A.”
Child of Empire will always look back at their Wingca Concerts and see them as the stepping stones in the making of their careers. They’ve earned themselves the nickname ‘Road Idols’, a name which they now wear around their necks like a medal of honor.
ZE:A’s Heechul, known as the ‘mysterious rapper with an attitude’, takes a look back at January of this year, a time when the 9-membered group shakily got up on stage and showed the audience the results from their hard work. “We were just rookies that had just debuted, but thankfully many people paid attention to us. They liked our song, we shot a CF, we were very happy (laughs).”
Child of Empire made their debut in January of this year with their first single, ‘Mazeltov‘. With their unique lyrics and catchy beats, their song soon became a hot issue. “After we debuted we worked really hard. Looking back, I think all the members worked hard, focusing only on the future without thinking about anything else. Because of that, all of a sudden it was 100 days after our debut.”
“Many people recognized ‘Friday, Saturday, Sunday!~’ Mazeltov and the name Child of Empire. But generally, people had a hard time matching up ZE:A with 9 different faces. I think it’s understandable because we’re rookies. I made a resolution to work even harder.”
It didn’t take long to see how hard Heechul had been working, as he was offered to appear on the variety show Big Show featuring Park MyungSoo as the MC. “I thought the opportunity to appear on ‘Big Show’ was such a great chance. If I was to appear on entertainment shows on top of the music programs, more people would recognize me and when that happens they naturally pay attention to our music.”
Heechul, who felt like he had an obligation to publicize the name ‘Child of Empire’, gratefully accepted the offer.
“Truthfully, I was worried because I was a beginner in entertainment. Whenever I was anxious, members would cheer me on saying I would do well. Seeing the members cheering me on, I thought to myself, ‘I really need to do well’.”
Heechul burst out laughing when asked about the atmosphere at the ‘Big Show’ filiming. “It’s so much fun going on to the film set. MyungSoo hyung, HyungChul hyung, SangChu hyung, HyunHee hyung all really like me as the youngest. They all treat me so well, the mood is bright and harmonious, any day I have to go in and film, I get excited and head straight to the set.”
While members of Big Show are known to be veterans in the entertainment business, Heechul had no problem admitting how long ago he had debuted. “It’s been 3 months since I debuted!” he said proudly as the guests went around saying how long ago their debut was.
“I have a lot to learn from the hyungs. They really have tried to teach me a lot. I want to teach the other members what I’ve learned from the hyungs. These days, other members are going out on entertainment programs, they’ve done well without me teaching them. Especially DongJoon and KwangHee.”
Fans have kept their expectations high ever since they found out about HeeChul’s appearance on Big Show. Being the first member of ZE:A to appear as an official cast member of a variety show, fans gave him the nickname of ‘Jung Tide’. With this nickname, fans meant that Jung Heechul would bring on a tidal wave of ZE:A members on variety shows.
Having now debuted in the Entertainment business after appearing on Big Show, Heechul has a different charm to his personality. “I want to do lots of activities under the name Child of Empire with our members and receive lots of love for as long as we can. I want to work my hardest so that we can always be our best.”