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[Interview] StarNews Hanbok Interview with Chuu (240210)

[Exclusive] Chuu: “Fans also worried about me standing solo.. After moving agencies I looked for stability”


“My grandma’s cooking is so great.”


The moment Seollal came up, Chuu (Kim Jiwoo, 25) gulped at the thought. She couldn’t help but think of her grandma making doraji-muchim (spicy bellflower root side dish) by hand back in her hometown. “She really likes making food mixed by hand. Dorachi-muchim, dodeok-muchim, minari-muchim… I reeeally like my grandma’s food.” Reminiscing on memories of happy past holidays, Chuu’s face lit up with a smile. “During the holidays I’d always receive spending money from my grandma but two years ago I started giving her spending money instead,” Chuu added, “she tried not to show how much she loved that but I think she couldn’t help but show it a little,” laughing brightly.


Chuu came to Starnews in a hanbok for Lunar New Year. As the nickname “human vitamin” would suggest, she filled the interview site with her bouncy energy. “I feel like I’m a princess when wearing hanbok. Keeps making me feel like fluttering the skirt, and doing a spin.” Having burst onto the music industry like a shooting star as a member of the girl group LOONA in 2018, she said brightly, “It feels like a really long time since the interview I did with the members in hanbok, not long after debuting.” “I think hanbok looks great on me, so I want to wear one every day. It feels like I need to shoot a historical drama.”


“Just after debut, I got very excited just to wear hanbok. But the dyed hair didn’t really suit it. Now wearing a hanbok with darker hair, I think that suits it much better. I’m happy whenever I wear one. Back then, everything was new. At the time, I felt like I was giving a present to the fans, thinking, “The fans would love seeing an interview with me wearing hanbok. It’s an outfit we rarely show so it’s exciting to be able to do that. The photos are going to look great. Ah~ I look good.”


For Chuu, last year was more special than any other year because she settled down at a new agency and started her solo activities in earnest. Her first solo album Howl, released last October, incorporated her unique sentimentality and appealing musical tone. It showed Chuu’s musical transformation, as she set out alone, five years after her debut. Including the title track “Howl”, a total of five tracks were on the album, with “Underwater,” “My Palace,” “Alien,” and “Hitchhiker.”


Chuu said, “Fans were worried since it was my first time doing activities as a solo act. While they were expectant, they were also worried that I would feel pressured while doing this alone,” and recalled, “I didn’t feel too much pressure. Compared to how worried the fans were, I enjoyed it all so much. Because the fans were rooting for me so much, I only have good memories of that. It was a year in which I got off to a good start, set clearly defined goals, and took a step towards those goals.”


“Howl” was also included in U.S. music media outlet Billboard’s “25 Best Kpop songs of 2023.” It was  recognition for her musical talents as a solo singer. She was the only female solo singer selected in the Billboard list. Growing to be a global artist, Chuu quenched her thirst for the stage with a tour in December that spanned six cities in the U.S.


“When I heard that I’d go on a U.S. tour under my name, I was filled to the brim with excitement. In fact, I received even more energy and love from fans in the U.S. Through the tour I learned about the joy of performing onstage. I had an even better time than I thought I would. I was onstage alone from start to finish, but I wanted to show so much that I was more passionate than worried. I had the bold goal of showing them my energy.” 


Chuu did not forget to thank her agency that supported her new leap materially and mentally. ATRP is a new agency that was established last year by CEO Kim Jin-mi, who served as director at WM Entertainment, having produced idol groups such as B1A4 and Oh My Girl. Chuu signed an exclusive contract with ATRP in April of last year. Chuu said, evaluating herself, “I’m so thankful for how they looked into what sort of character I could be even more than I did, and how they continue to inspire me with courage,” adding, “Thanks to them, I discovered what I’m most happy, and best at, doing. As such, I received a lot and took away a lot from preparations for Howl. Thanks to the great staff and company atmosphere, I could find stability and carry out my activities. It was a big year of growth for me.”



[Exclusive] Chuu: “♥ IU 365 days a year.. I want to shine powerfully and firmly”


Chuu gave herself a 8/10 for her first solo activities. “I gave myself a high score since I think I had a good start, but I also got nervous a lot too. And I still have a thirst for being onstage.”


Having just passed the starting point now, Chuu’s potential as a solo artist is endless. Chuu said, “I think I began with a concept that people didn’t expect and weren’t familiar with in order to overcome my limits. I wanted to show the possibility of myself attempting endlessly different genres too,” adding, “Honestly I thought that ‘Howl’ was a song that was fairly distant from myself. I’m content and thankful because I too felt the message this song has, and the emotions that the public felt about it.” She also confessed, “I’m also planning a little present for the fans, to give early this year.”


Chuu’s musical role model is IU. Chuu said, “I most want to resemble how she melds the messages she wants to convey to the general public into song while having freedom in her music activities, how she gets many people highly expectant, and how she always shines,” adding, “I want to be someone who shines strongly and firmly like IU sunbaenim.”


Unfortunately, she has yet to meet IU in person. Chuu said, revealing how much of a fan she is, “I’d be so happy if I met her. These days I’m seeing her 365 days a year through video only. I listen to and watch sunbaenim’s songs every day. The songs that I practice most often are sunbaenim’s songs, and the styles that I like are her styles. All the songs she has released regardless of genre, including the remakes, too. I think I like sunbaenim’s voice.”


As for her favorite IU song, she selected “Dear Name” from IU’s 4th album Palette, released in 2017. Chuu said, “It was the song I listened to most often while leaning my head on the bus window as a trainee,” explaining, “The lyrics reached out to me very much during a period in which my self-esteem was low. Since the song had the message of, ‘To all names, you’re pretty and beautiful as you are. Regardless where either of us are, I’ll be shouting your name,’ I listened to the song many times, being really moved, heart fluttering. I thought that I would also like to make a song with such a message. It was the song that comforted the most during my period of growth as an adolescent.”



[Exclusive] Chuu: “The LOONA members, steadfast partners.. Worry the most when it’s tough for me”


While they are now scattered in different places, the LOONA members are still dependable colleagues whom Chuu relies on and cheers on the most. Their bonds have grown deep as they’ve been together through thick and thin. “I went to the ski slopes a week ago with the members. And we hang out often on a whim, if we’re bored. If we’re hungry we eat together, we get nail art done, we watch TV and watch performances as we talk about the old days and get embarrassed and so on.”


Chuu referred to the LOONA members as “the people whom I tell how I’m really feeling before anyone else, the ones I go to before anyone else when I’m having a hard time”, and expressed her affection for them, saying, “all of them are quick to notice things, so when I call them and my voice sounds like I’m hurting, they run over right away. It’s hard even for family to do that. They’re precious friends who worry about me the most during hard times.”


The LOONA members have re-formed girl groups at different agencies, such as Loossemble and ARTMS, to continue their careers as singers. Sending heartfelt encouragement to the members, she said, “the members are partners who have watched each other’s growth for a long time. As I’ve watched their performances, the feeling I got was ‘So this was what they wanted to do’, ‘They’re really flying around.’ I saw them being genuinely happy. I’m so proud to watch from their side as they achieve the things that they had always said they wanted to do in our conversations.”


The multi-talented Chuu is also standing out in the variety sphere. Last year, she starred as an MC on Channel A’s survival program Steel Troops 3, and as a master on TV Chosun’s competition program Mr. Trot 2. Regarding the variety shows she’d like to appear on in the future, she said, “I get energy from watching singing content. I’d like to try being a judge on an audition program where I can watch people sing, like Sing Again. I fall too short right now, but once I have a decent amount of experience and I’m able to give personal help to hoobaes like the great sunbaenims can, that’s when I’d like to try.”


She is also planning to be more active in music this year. “I got more ambitious when I heard I was picked by Billboard for the first time as a female solo. “Howl” receiving so much love made me want to do album promotions more frequently. I’d like to hold a concert where I can communicate with fans up close. If possible, I want to go meet fans in Korea outside of Seoul too. I feel like my musical spectrum has widened as well. I’d like to show diverse charms that aren’t just the public image that people anticipate from me.


Chuu did not forget to leave an affectionate message for the fans as well. “You embraced me with much love and gave me courage, and you’ve been by me through every moment whether hard or joyful. In 2024, I want to create more happy occasions for you. Dear Kkotis (Chuu’s fandom), hope you have an exciting start to the new year. Please always be healthy.”



[Exclusive] “LOONA, lifelong companions” - Chuu: contract dispute → after taking off as a soloist

(Excerpt)


There also exists a group chat where just the members talk among each other. For the group chat name, she said she used an icon of the moon, which represents LOONA. “Adults say that your friends from school last forever, but in idol culture, I think that members you’ve been in the same group with last forever. When you’re having a tough time together it’s tough, when you’re all happy you’re happy, so I think you get to know each other the best, and can sympathize with each other the most. Partners in work before, now companions. They’re people I lean on, in a way.”


(Sources: 1, 2, 3, Full)

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