Was Kim Heechul originally like this? Did he laugh easily, talk in high tones, answer with many words to each questions, and act bright and kindly to everyone like this before? Our trip to Singapore with ‘Kind Heechul-ssi’ starts now. -Contributing Editor Im Kyung Mi
How do you feel after returning from the army? It’s been a long time since your last photo-shoot so this must feel different.
Ah… I still feel dazed, and I like everything. I can’t tell if we’re in Korea, overseas, or in space, because I’ve only been inside the hotel so far, but I like how I have time to relax like this. In past photo-shoots, I found it hard to smile; now, I find it hard to not to smile. But I don’t know when I’ll change, so be tense.
You looked like you’re really enjoying the schedule in Singapore.
I am really happy to have this time. The staffs worked well with me too. I liked everything except for the little rain. It’s been so long, so I thought (the photo-shoot) would take a long time, but it ended very quickly. I thought ‘Ah, right. I’m Kim Heechul. I used to do (photo-shoots) very well. Why was I worried?’ and felt relieved. Hahaha. I was really happy, so I was able to smile a lot, relax, and talk a lot.
You have been in (Singapore) many times for concerts, but how does it feel like to be here without members? Do you feel more relaxed?
I think this is the first time I was able to truly feel Singapore. When we came for concerts, we were only able to go to the concert venue and (hotel). Yesterday I went to an amusement park. I realized for the first time how great Singapore is. And another thing different from past is, when I heard that fans are waiting for me at the airport, I really wanted to see them. I was excited to know that I’ll be able to see them greet me and welcome me. I said “I want to at least see their faces”, and manager hyung was really surprised. In past, I really hated getting my clothes ripped and hair pulled, and felt that it was too much. I didn’t know I’d miss my fans’ greetings. I guess you really only look for water when you are thirsty. I felt it again, if someone does not adore me, I would go crazy. I have to receive attention to live. That’s Kim Heechul.
The tone you use to do interview has gone up high. Is your throat hurting? It’s okay to talk softly.
I’m fine right now. I’m (talking in high tone) because I like it, so don’t try to stop my passion. Hahaha.
Already released from army. Wow, time flies. But I heard you get angry when you hear people say that?
Ah, really! I thought the time from our debut to (before enlistment) went by quickly, but why won’t the 2 years in army service flow fast~
Were you waiting for the release day by crossing out dates with ‘X’ marks on calendars?
Ai~ I didn’t want to do such miserable things. Hehe
You looked really happy on the release day with your award in your hands.
I was sent to public service due to the injuries from a car accident, but I knew going to public service, as a celebrity, wouldn’t receive kind feedbacks. I thought I shouldn’t be so proud and excited, and wanted to leave quietly. So I was going to do simple greetings to fans and reporters there and leave. But… It was the first award certificate I’ve received in my life, so I guess I wasn’t able to control my emotions. It really was my first time receiving an award certificate. I didn’t know I was smiling. I looked at the pictures later, and thought ‘Is this really me?’ because I was smiling so much.
It’s been a long time since you debuted. Do you feel that many things have changed since your debut?
It’s been about 10 years since my debut, and I noticed that things like skin tone and facial expressions have changed. I feel the years when I look at the old pictures. To be honest… I think I was cooler in past.
How did you spend your time while you were in army?
I never thought about achieving anything or doing anything during the 2 years. I heard others try to read a lot, or try to get a license. I just did my best to stay out of sight, and not cause any troubles. Unchanging truth, “If you stay still, you can at least get in the middle”. I followed that phrase and (to not stand out, I) wore normal T-shirt and jeans, and used the metro to go to work/go back home.
It must have been frustrating to hide your talents. You’re a celebrity because you have many talents. Do you normally live with a ‘celebrity mindset’?
Since past, I thought ‘it’s okay to do anything, as long as you act within the boundaries of “Law”.’ I have debuted as an idol, and is a handsome pinup idol. Hahaha. And that truth won’t change. It’s not like I’m hugging and kissing my girlfriend in front of my fans, or get drunk and create disturbances. I try to live as happy as I can, while keeping the boundaries. I have a rule for myself, to not to do anything that won’t be accepted in Korea. I don’t think ‘It’s acceptable in USA, why not in Korea?’. So people who’ve met me get surprised and say “You’re really same as how you appear on TV.”
What did you learn the most while you were in the army? Did you spend time thinking about what areas you want to explore next, or what kind of celebrity you want to grow to become?
In one phrase, “Not falling in love with my job”. In past, if someone come up to me and ask me for signature while I am eating, I would get angry and would leave in the middle of the meal. While complaining, “There’s a phrase that ‘Even dogs aren’t touched when they are eating’.” But my thoughts changed after meeting many people in the district office, and taking pictures and signing for them. Small things for me can become a forever treasured memory for them. It was also hard in past to go on programs where I had to communicate with people. Now, I find it easier to talk with people, and I’ve grown friendlier. These days, the internet is so developed that it’s hard to have a ‘mystical’ image. So I also have thought about how I should become a celebrity that can communicate well with the public. And I’m not the type to plan and prepare beforehand. I just do my best in every moment.
You have many fans. Did they continue to follow you when you went to army?
While I was in army, I lived while having the thoughts of being ‘a celebrity’ out of my mind. I went and came back from work by metro too. I went to sleep at 11, and woke up at 7AM to ride line 2 in Konkuk. Pass Sungsu, TtokSum, HanYangDae stations to arrive at WangShipLee station. And 3 minute walk from the station was where the SungDong district office was. I went to work everyday around the same time. I was never late. Because I kept living like a normal person, I mixed with normal people and continued to live like one. Of course, I was careful not to cause troubles for the district office. I didn’t have any activities except for the radio in district office, and it’s been long since I’ve deleted my twitter. I think I did well to delete it when I enlisted. It was too hard to receive too much attention online, so I have no regrets about deleting it. So I asked the fans who (come to district office) to not to come. Our fans listen very well. After that, they stopped coming. I was really thankful for their consideration.
I heard the fans listen to you because you are scary?
Aigo, where did you hear such strange things? Really, news travels fast.
Did you watch other artists’ stages when you were in army?
I wasn’t interested in other artists when I was (active as celebrity before army), and I’m still the same. (When I was doing activities before going to army), I only monitored shows I appeared on. And while I was in the army, I lived under regular schedules, so I didn’t have time to grow interest (in other artists). But I know few girl groups songs. Why is Nine Muses ‘Dolls’ so good? The song, the concept. It’s the best.
Nine Muses’ performance and you match. Hahaha. Anyways, when you look at new idols, do you feel pressured?
No. I sometimes do envy their young age, but I sometimes pity them while watching them debut at such a young age. When I was in school, I have done part-time jobs, been hit by teachers, and went traveling with friends. Those happiness you can only feel in your student years are precious. Passing those years without any memories is meaningless. Because of the energy I received then, I was able to not mature; perfect to become a celebrity. Aren’t celebrities boring if they are mature? Lee Soo Man teacher knows how I think, so he tells me “We don’t have to do anything because he picks up and runs on his own, so just leave him (to do what he wants).” I am immature, but mature enough to not cause troubles.
Did you promise anything to yourself while counting down to your release day?
I just thought more and more about how I should be careful. “I shouldn’t make trouble till the day I am released.” I didn’t feel any pressure to ‘achieve’ something before being released, but I did feel anxious because I wanted to work soon. I didn’t know it’d be that hard to be unable to do something I like for 2 years. While living a normal life, a part in my heart felt empty.
As you age, you’d reach a limit of doing activities as ‘Super Junior’. You’re in 30s now.
Do I look like I’m in 30s? Ah, I don’t want to think about age. I do feel that I am at a crossroad. It’s now the time to decide if I want to become serious or live as a free person. But I feel that being serious doesn’t match me? In past, while talking with Jung Bo Suk hyung and Kim Myung Min hyung, hyungs asked “Do you want to become an actor or a singer?”. I replied “I want to become the best celebrity.” They both replied “Ya, I think that’s the best answer. That’s new.” I go around calling myself a ‘universe big star’. It’s a perfect character to receive curses. But I continued with ‘If you don’t want to see it, don’t.’ mindset. In the beginning, I received many curses. But I continued to work hard, and go long with it, and the public started to realize ‘Kim Heechul may appear like that (immature), but he knows to have boundaries’. To be honest, if Lee Soo Man teacher or manager hyungs tried to restrict me, I would have rebelled, but they let me do what I want, and fans found it funny. So instead, I felt a responsibility and stayed away from making troubles.
I heard guys’ types for girls change after they return from army. What about you?
My ideal type of girl is still the same. Ever since I was young, I liked girls who have pretty legs, look great with skirts, and have great neck line that shows when she has her hair up (tied). Fans have memorized this. I have a definite ideal type, but it’s strange how I can’t date (girls well). To be honest, most relationships ended before a month, and the longest relationship I had was 3 months. I’m the type that finds dating/having a relationship to be a tiring thing. I have fun and play well with guy friends, but with a girlfriend, there isn’t much you can do, and it’s not fun (hanging out with her) so I (used to not to) contact (the girl) often. But I guess I have aged. While watching “Dad! Where are we going?”, I started thinking that I want to have a child. I think it’s time for me to start dating someone? I don’t really look at a girl’s face though. She just has to be prettier than me.
Omona, isn’t that the hardest thing to do/be?
Haha, is it? But my fans, after watching me like game characters, go around with figures, and sleep with a pillow, are begging me to go date a girl. I have many fans who are already married. I congratulate them (on their marriage), and my fans worry about my marriage. I really like this family-like relationship.
Shall we talk about your comeback again? Are you all done preparing to return to Super Junior?
While serving in the army, I avoided going to Super Junior’s concerts as much as I could. We take pride in that we have the best concerts, and I was afraid I would want to go stand on the stage with them. I also thought ‘Would I fit in if I stand on the stage with them?’ ‘Would I look out-of-place?’ and worried. So I asked the manager to ask the members if it’d be okay for me to join the concerts that are happening right now. Members got angry and said “Why would you ask something obvious!” I was really thankful for their reactions. I think of Super Show as best, and I really want to stand on its stage again.
Lastly, can you tell us how you felt about this photo-shoot and interview?
In past, I thought a photo-shoot was an easy job. I was confident about making poses and facial expressions. But what is this? I was shy from the beginning. The photographer told me “okay”, “good”, “that looks cool” in every cut, and (in past) I only heard that as a BGM. (In past), I didn’t care what they were saying, and arrogantly made poses. Today, I felt embarrassed about those phrases, but they gave me strength.
I heard people mature when they go and come back from army. That saying must be true? I hope that mindset doesn’t change
It must be because these days, I realize that ‘things I’ve thought as something obvious’ are actually ‘precious things’. Like how tigers can eat grass for 2 years but still not forget the taste of meat. I can slowly return to my old self. I worry that my rough personality would come back, but I would do my best to keep this feeling of ‘thirst’ for a long time. Hahaha. And from now on, I want to do my best in dramas, movies, music, in everything. Cosmopolitan readers, let’s meet often from now on. Now then, universe big star Kim Heechul’s interview is finished here!