A Rare Peek into Min Hee-jin’s World

Editor: Harry Jun, Kim Jae-hun, Park Sanha, Jin Chae-min, Contributing Editor: Cha Woo-jin, Photographer: Song Si-young, Translator: HKPP, Kim Hyun-kyung

민희진, 어도어, 하이브, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 아이돌, idol, minheejin, ador, hive. kpop, girlgroup

Artist Project

A Series of Profound Conversations with Artists

BeAttitude’s Artist Project explores the artistic worlds and mindsets toward creation of different artists through in-depth interviews with each of them. The fourth interviewee is the CEO of ADOR, Min Hee-jin. Most people know Min for her role as the creative director of SM Entertainment, where she led the new Korean Wave. Since 2019, she has served as Chief Brand Officer (CBO) at HYBE and is also the CEO of ADOR (All Doors One Room), an independent label within HYBE that she launched last year. As she normally shuns all media exposure, her appearance on You Quiz on the Block last year—her first television appearance to date—turned heads. BeAttitude recently caught up with Min, who has been building up her name recognition in the K-pop industry over the past 20 years, for an exclusive interview. Dig deep into her insights about the K-pop industry through the most recent entry in our article series!

Artist Project 04: Min Hee-jin

BeAttitude’s Artist Project is an exploration of the artistic worlds and mindsets toward creation of unique artists through in-depth interviews with each of them. We chose Min Hee-jin to be our fourth interviewee. Min was constantly making waves in K-pop, the industry at the crest of the Korean wave, for her work as the art and creative director at SM Entertainment, where she led the new Korean Wave. Min has been working as Chief Brand Officer (CBO) for HYBE since 2019 and became CEO of ADOR, an independent label launched under the HYBE umbrella, where she is spearheading the debut of a girl group in her characteristic Min Hee-jin sensibility. BeAttitude invited Cha Woo-jin, a pop culture critic, to serve as a contributing editor for this exclusive interview. Four of our staff members, all K-pop enthusiasts, joined Cha in interviewing Min in the form of a conversation. Enjoy this exciting two-part series.

Part 2. A Rare Peek into Min Hee-jin’s World

When the first part of the exclusive interview with Min Hee-jin—the leader in innovative K-pop branding and who is now leading HYBE’s independent label ADOR—went out, the editorial team at BeAttitude couldn’t believe their eyes. And not only because of the huge surge in visits to our site. We were at once surprised by the influx of readers from all over the world and their distribution around the globe as well as by the immediate reaction on Twitter, which ranged from translations into Arabic, Spanish and Thai to fervent anticipation for the second part. We experienced first-hand the lightning-like sparks of joy our readers could experience from an interview so densely packed with stories in both Korean and English. This led us to delay the publication date of this next part of the interview to ensure we had enough time to hear all about the changes Min experienced after the release of Part 1. We also added her thoughts on the reactions from across social media, intimate stories revolving around the girl group that’s getting ready to debut under ADOR, and her own inspiring playlist. We hope this rare glimpse into Min’s thoughts, views and personal stories provided by Part 2 satisfies the curiosity of everyone who has been following the every move of the executive who has affectionately been called the “leader’s leader” of the industry.

민희진, 어도어, 하이브, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 아이돌, idol, minheejin, ador, hive. kpop, girlgroup

(Park Sanha) Part 1 received a really great response after it was published. The misunderstanding was cleared up and people were moved by your sincerity. How did you feel about it?

I couldn’t say every little thing I wanted to tell people, but it was nice to be able to say those things out loud. It felt like I was interacting with the customers directly, and that was the most meaningful part for me. I was also curious how people would feel about the things I said, since the interview was a bit different from the ones I did before, but I was so thankful they embraced what they read. Since BeAttitude’s editorial team said they want to hear about the human side of Min Hee-jin, I’m thinking I’ll try to speak a little more freely and openly this time. Since we’re probably going to be talking mainly about my personal life, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea and it might end up running long. So, just a friendly warning: If long articles aren’t your thing or if you don’t have any interest in my life story, it might be better if you close the window now. (laughs)

(Jin Chae-min) There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the girl group you’re producing. The way you’re so affectionate toward your upcoming girl group has raised people’s expectations. What would you say your nurturing style is like?

I look at myself as their mom. (laughs) It feels like I’m taking on the mom role while also their friend at the same time. The girls are honestly so sweet and wonderful that I always feel like talking about how proud I am of them. I never liked any idols as a kid and I was never the type to have any illusions about celebrities. For me, celebrities have always been more like colleagues, or siblings, or my own kids. So it only makes sense I would feel the same way about my own label’s trainees but stronger. So I tell myself I have to be sensible and keep my composure. Someone told me they happened to overhear an employee in another department a few weeks ago admiring how the ADOR trainees always say hello and how polite they are. I was suddenly struck with emotion. I thought, “Oh, is this how parents feel?” Like I was hearing the song “You Can Do It, Dad!”* (laughs) I immediately bombarded the girls with accolades in our group chat.

* A famous children’s song.

I don’t like people who try hard to come across as a good person for show. I’m not easily won over by those tactics. I hope our girls will be warm-hearted to everyone in any circumstance. Being kind for the sake of appearances requires conscious effort so it becomes a chore. It’s tiring and eventually becomes difficult to keep up. I think your inner values are what count the most. That’s especially true when you interact directly with the public. People aren’t robots—we make mistakes and we can’t always be friendly. Rather than obsessing over their outward-facing character, I hope our girls always exercise inner strength and kindness.

민희진, 어도어, 하이브, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 아이돌, 에프엑스, fx, idol, minheejin, ador, hive. kpop, girlgroup

f(x)_[Electric Shock] © SM Ent.

민희진, 보이그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 슈퍼주니어, superjunior, minheejin, kpop, boygroup

Super Junior_[Sorry, Sorry] © SM Ent.

(Kim Jae-hun) Now that you say that, I’m curious about the training process. How would you describe the direction you’re taking?

I’ve faced numerous problems in this industry in the 20 years I’ve been working in it and I developed some know-how and a philosophy of my own. Casting and training are usually kept separate from the actual production stage, but I think the casting and training processes are important for boosting creativity. When I was just a creative designer in the past, I couldn’t really get involved in the training process. So I wanted to take control of the whole process, including casting and training, by launching a separate label of my own. I think that’s especially important since the average age of the kids who aspire to become idols is relatively low. Naturally I’m trying to keep on top of a lot of small details during the training process.

There have been many unforeseen fluctuations on the business side, so it might have seemed confusing from the outside, too. Even though the girl group started as a collaborative project, they later became solely an ADOR group, so I’ve been in charge of ADOR’s whole girl group system since September 2021. And the first step was the training. The very first thing I did was to check their health and lifestyle, plus check the condition of the accomodations and the practice studio. And trainees usually have a hard time keeping up with school when they’re set to debut because there’s so much they have to do to prepare for it. But in reality, even if you didn’t like school when you had to be there, you might feel left out and like you’re missing something once you’re no longer able to attend. Because people tend to linger on the things they’re not able to experience… So I felt like I wanted to create, to the best of my ability, a substitute environment. I think the trainee life we provide is akin to a mini version of school life, so I feel they’re studying things at the label in place of what they would learn at school. The things we study are similar to subjects like music, art, history and language arts. To look at it another way, you could say the subjects they’re most interested in are more immersive now. They’re even able to develop relationships and social skills with their fellow trainees and their trainers. That’s why I always emphasize to all employees in our organization that they’re also role models.

In the same way, we made time to write lyrics together. We see it as a kind of class in language, literature, creative writing and essay writing. I explained the whole concept of the album to them and the direction the songs are taking first, then everyone had some time to talk about their own experiences. It was meaningful and interesting just hearing all about each member’s experiences, but I was proud of them because the lyrics they produced afterward were full of potential. So now we actually plan for at least a little bit of the lyrics they wrote to be included in their songs. We chose to do it as part of the learning process. They’re inexperienced because they’re young, but that inexperience is what makes them as brave as they are. Even if the lyrics aren’t perfectly elegant, the process and what they were able to pull out of themselves as a result were invaluable and radiant in their own way. I think you have to take time to continuously observe someone rather than make a rash decision about whether or not they have talent. You never know unless you actually try, and in many cases their talent will be discovered over the course of persistent practice, even if they initially seem like they don’t have any. I would hate to overlook someone like that.

민희진, 보이그룹, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 태연, taeyeon, minheejin, kpop, boygroup, girlgroup
민희진, 어도어, 하이브, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 아이돌, idol, minheejin, ador, hive. kpop, girlgroup

Girls’ Generation_[The Boys] © SM Ent. | f(x)_[Pink Tape] © SM Ent.

(Cha Woo-jin) What do the group members think of you?

I’m not too sure. Haha. Even though I talk to them like friends, they might struggle with that because of our age difference or my position, you know? (laughs) Titles can make for awkward situations. I don’t like how rigid it feels being called by my title, daepyonim, but having said that, Ms. Min, eonni, Producer Min, Director Min—they’re all equally uncomfortable, so we all just decided to stick with daepyonim. But then one of the members made a typo in a message she sent me where it said “daepyoonim.” I actually found that one really funny and cute and liked it best. Hahaha!

I mean, I’m not as young as I used to be, and I’m worried I’m unconsciously talking about the girls like they’re babies, so I think maybe I should tell you a little about them. When you see them in person, they have such tremendous skill, talent and passion that you hardly even notice how young they are. And what makes them so special is how they each have their own talents and appeal. They’re extremely close with each other, probably because of their time training together, and they all freely and fluently move between Korean and English, which I think will allow them to broaden the range of fans they can reach out to.

(Harry Jun) Could we hear a little more about the members?

I would love to talk about all of them one by one, but since I can’t do that, um … Usually, in a situation like this, people choose to talk about the youngest one, right? (laughs) Our youngest member is cool and sophisticated. She came to my home one day and we ate together, went to the bookstore, and walked around the neighborhood, talking about this and that. There was a passing awkwardness, but after a while it felt like I was taking a walk with a friend. She’s got so many talents and amazing skills. She’s young, but thoughtful, with that innocence they have at that age. I still remember bathing in her refreshing energy, and the sublime weather only added to the effect. One time the whole group came to my place to hear about the concept and direction of the group and this kid heard the music I was listening to at home and kept saying how much she admired it while taking notes. Hahaha. They weren’t the kind of songs kids her age would really know, and I can’t imagine she had ever heard any of them before, but watching how genuinely she liked them suddenly made me feel strange and brought me back to my younger years. It was fascinating. I could feel this strange sameness that transcended generations. If I could, I would tell you everything about every single one of the members, but once I start talking about them I know I can’t stop. It’s all very difficult, fun, cute, fascinating and surprising at the same time.

(Jin Chae-min) Hearing everything you said about the group members makes me think of the term “Min Hee-jin kids.” Is there anything you’d like to say to them?

One of our team members, Kim Nayeon, used that expression to describe herself. She said she liked my work and grew up on it, so it was so amazing that we ended up working together. It’s amazing and touching, and a little bit embarrassing, and I’m really thankful. It sounds awkward coming out of my mouth and I feel indebted just speaking the words. A few years ago I was a speaker at a lecture and after it was over some students came up to me and asked for my autograph. For me, signatures are for signing documents, and it was so awkward and funny that I almost couldn’t do it. It’s so cringey. Anyway, they were in tears, saying it was an honor to meet me, and, um, it’s not exactly easy to forget a feeling like that. I find it stunning, and it makes me feel so emotional I can’t find the words to describe how touching it is. I couldn’t believe they were moved to tears just from meeting someone who’s nobody special like me. I’m basically just the girl next door… so I tried to comfort them and I told them not to cry. I was so thankful and moved. Sometimes people I meet in a meeting will even describe themselves using that expression. Or they’ll say their own kids or their nieces or nephews are. When I imagine them having a good upbringing and functioning as talented members in any part of society, like Nayeon, well … I don’t know how to express it, exactly, but it feels like my heart is full, and now it’s spilling. To be completely honest, I just want desperately to do everything I can so I can let those people who self-identify with the term how grateful I am to them.

민희진, 어도어, 하이브, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 아이돌, idol, minheejin, ador, hive. kpop, girlgroup

f(x)_[Pink Tape] | f(x)_[Pinocchio] | Girls’ Generation_[The Boys] | Red Velvet_[Ice Cream Cake] | Red Velvet_[Ice Cream Cake] | Girls’ Generation_[The Boys] | NCT U_[The 7th Sense] © SM Ent.

(Jin Chae-min) Has anything changed since the first part of the interview was published? It’s okay even if it was something small.

I think I’ll have to give some background information to explain what changed. And I’m afraid it might be a little long. As weird as it sounds, I lived a major portion of my life really feeling like I was hated(?) in a way. I touched on it briefly in the earlier interview, but I think for quite a long time I had been subjected to cases where people made excuses to criticize me, without any basis in truth and with no attempt at constructive criticism, for no reason other than because they wanted—and I’m putting this bluntly—to sabotage me. In many cases it had nothing to do with my work, so I just overlooked it, but after leaving it all alone, one day I felt like it was trapping me in a box. I can’t debunk every criticism that comes my way from people who aren’t properly familiar with my work one by one. I can only refute or correct them if they’re willing to listen, after all. But after leaving those assumptions alone for so long, they came to be accepted as truth, and people who didn’t know me and only knew me by name became quicker to condemn me, turning into a vicious circle.

If your whole goal from the start is to slander somebody, there’s really no point in fact-checking. The fact is those people don’t have much interest in what’s really going on with other people. I’ve witnessed the “everybody was saying it so I assumed it was true” phenomenon countless times. How ironic. I don’t really search my own name much, so I guess you could say it was lucky I found out about all that as late as I did. (laughs) I can understand why people think that way, since another person’s business is only of passing interest to them, but there were still a few years there where I felt terrible. I’m a lot better now, but I had to see a psychiatrist and a counselor when the panic attacks and anxiety got worse. Harry Jun was surprised to see how many views the first part of the interview got after it went live and said, “Ah, is this what it feels like to work in the entertainment industry?” I replied that it’s a double-edged sword. People are probably mainly envious of the fame itself, so they probably have no interest in the consequences. Maybe that’s why they’re mostly oblivious to the fact that others might suffer from all the slander. There might be some people who read this and wonder what it’s all about. In every industry, there are always bright spots and darkness. I’m not the kind of person who enjoys receiving attention, and with how obsessively I was working, I think the pain was amplified for me.

민희진, 어도어, 하이브, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 아이돌, idol, minheejin, ador, hive. kpop, girlgroup

Girl’s Generation_[Hoot] © SM Ent. | f(x)_[NU ABO] © SM Ent. | EXO_[EX’ACT] © SM Ent. | EXO_[XOXO] © SM Ent.

(Park Sanha) I’m surprised to hear you say that. It seems like you were going through more than I could have imagined.

Breaking through the inertia of an organization in order to achieve something is no easy feat, especially for one person. Not only is there the effort involved in a multi-pronged plan of action to persuade a company, your colleagues and the consumers on the road to achieving your goal, but even if you get it done, no matter how overwhelming the work seemed, sometimes those hardships quickly become taken for granted, which makes you feel like it was all in vain. And it’s ultimately the organization that is realigned and a never-before-seen system is created, which serves to give the company an opportunity to climb one step higher. Of course, the one who did all that work might feel a sense of accomplishment as an individual during the whole process, too. But I think I was a bit hurt during the process, through everything I experienced inside and out. It felt like all the credit went to the company and any fault was attached to my name as an individual. The longer I had to endure the hardship, the more I lost my enthusiasm and my heart hardened. That was one of the things that triggered my burnout and it had some impact on my decision to quit that job. I would’ve much preferred if there had never been any mention of my name at all … But, as I said in the previous interview, I regarded it all as the trials and tribulations of a director working in pop culture, so I got through it by living like an ascetic. Maybe I would’ve suffered less if I had put a little less of myself into my work, but I’m not that kind of person, so when the work felt more and more futile I was torn whether I should skip finding a new employer and walk away from the business altogether instead.

(Park Sanha) That’s awful. How are you now? Did you get through it okay?

I thought things would get a little better if I quit. But even after I decided to leave and was in the process of starting with a new employer, things repeated just like before. My decision to quit and find a new job wasn’t motivated by financial reasons. And it wasn’t a case of lofty expectations or idolizing the company. Unlike most people, I didn’t even decide where my next job would be, since my primary goal was to escape the psychological pressure I was feeling. I can have my own standards and reasons, different from the normal, universal criteria or goals that are so dominant in the world. And I’m not strictly required to explain those reasons to others. I tried not to care too much, since everyone has their own ideas about what’s important in life and they won’t always understand everything about me, but once people started speculating wildly and spreading rumors about extremely personal issues like when I found a new job, I inevitably felt like surrendering emotionally. It just—it led to thoughts like, “I guess they must hate me.”

People were saying the outside world came to see me as “SM in human form.” That’s what I heard when I was changing jobs. I found it incredibly surprising and unbelievable when I heard it, personally. People wouldn’t expect it, but considering how long I worked there, there was always a sort of unbridgeable gap between me and the company. It wasn’t an issue of compensation or the way I was treated. People always ask why I left the company even after I was given a position on the board of directors at such a young age, but becoming a part of the board wasn’t a particularly meaningful event in my life, to be honest. The work I was doing was far more important than any executive title. I was never one to exercise unconditional loyalty out of a sense of duty toward an organization. Maybe it would be more accurate to say I value genuine loyalty between people. Personal loyalty between people of the same organization is absolutely indispensable. And the two are entirely different concepts. I think I had a sense of personal loyalty when it came to my projects. Anyway, changing your job might be a common occurrence, but it ended up bogged down in so many issues that I was left with a very heavy heart. It was like, everywhere I went, I was walking on eggshells.

So I had so many mixed emotions after seeing the response to this interview. It’s not because it got the response I wanted, but rather because I felt to some extent that I was being empathized with and understood. I was grateful to everyone who tried to understand me and was looking forward to the next part. If I had to choose something that changed in me because of the interview, I would say I figured I could relax a bit for the second part of the interview and I saw a glimmer of hope that what I once thought was a severed connection was actually a channel open for communication. The relationship between producers and consumers in this field felt oddly distant to me at the time. I think I disliked that feeling of distance. I pour my heart into the things I create so it felt bad whenever someone doubted my sincerity. Moreover, hearing the consumer out and gathering their opinions is the very basis of my work, but there’s no way to hear them if we aren’t close. I wasn’t really in a position where I could come forward and say it before, but things are somewhat different now. I’m quite straightforward. The reason I’m opening up about these stories now but never before is not to express the difficulties I’ve been through but because I want to open up about my true feelings more. It’s difficult to look the present head-on without first understanding the past. I personally find it encouraging that my inkling of a private suspicion that, if I reached out to the consumers with complete sincerity first, I could be a little more connected to them than before, was confirmed. It’s a two-way street, after all.

민희진, 어도어, 하이브, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 아이돌, idol, minheejin, ador, hive. kpop, girlgroup

(Harry Jun) Is there anything that hasn’t changed, or anything you’d like to see change?

Despite everything else, there could still be some things that haven’t changed, like misunderstandings or conjecture. It’s human nature that, when someone sets out to hate another person, the facts are irrelevant—everything about that other person becomes fodder for hatred. Everyone’s capacity for empathy is different. So what I really wish would change is for all prejudices to go away. I’m something of a perfectionist, as I mentioned before, which makes my head fill up with thoughts and wear me down. I mean, I’m the type of person who puts their all into everything they do. I put my all into my work, work hard so people will understand my intention and I’m trying my very hardest to convey myself in such a way that there’s no misunderstanding. People have their own stereotypes about different jobs; I might be a little different from the stereotypical director or CEO that everybody always thinks of. For those interested about me, I hope they avoid pigeonholing me into any conception of what an executive is like and instead take some time to observe the work I’m doing. You won’t be able to see much if you have a closed mind and think within a narrow frame of reference, obviously. There isn’t really anyone who’s going to risk their live just to attempt something radical. I could take the easy route, but right now I’m traveling down a path no one’s ever taken before, even though I know it’s going to be exhausting. But that’s my personal choice, so it’s not like I would ever ask someone to try and understand that. But naturally, I would love it if they uncrossed their arms a little. If they just lightened up a bit.

Most people bring up Pink Tape when they talk about their anticipation. But if our new work is too similar they’ll calling it a rehash, and if it’s wildly different, you can expect they’ll say it’s too left field and a let-down. Because I’m aware of the risk that this could disappoint people this way or that, I’m working more prudently than ever before. To be honest, it almost feels like I’m caught in the middle of a thunderstorm and tasked with dodging every raindrop and arriving at my destination completely dry. (laughs) Now that I’m running my own company, I’m faced with so many new challenges popping up all the time. I might face a lot of dilemmas going forward when I have to make decisions since the first priority of any company is to turn a profit, but for myself, at least, I think my priority when it comes to making any decisions will be to do so conscientiously. For people who look at a challenge as a thing of beauty—one full of meaning—I hope they do away with all the needless misunderstandings and conjecture and have faith in it going forward.

(Kim Jae-hun) From what you’re saying, it sounds like you must be under an incredible amount of pressure.

I see pressure as an inevitable part of the job. But I actually want to use this interview as an opportunity to express my deepest thanks to all the fans and consumers. I heard from the ADOR team that, in conjunction with the previous interview, domestic and international fans alike have been working to set the record straight about all the misinformation that’s been out there all this time, piece by piece! 🥲 And, on top of that, I’m feeling really grateful for all the Korean fans and fans from every other country lately, so I really wanted to take this opportunity to say how thankful I am. It’s hard for me to find the words to express just how thankful I am to all the wonderful fans of our team at ADOR. I’m sincerely indebted to them for expressing so much interest, even though none of the members have officially been revealed yet. And I’m amazed by all the support that’s been flowing in from all around the world. Brazil was one of them—maybe because I said I like Brazilian music. (laughs) I want to mention every country, but there’s so many, it would take me forever to list them all one by one. There’s so much anticipation and encouragement coming from so many countries that I’m at a loss for words. I do feel some pressure, since the greater the expectations, the bigger the disappointment could be. I hope people don’t set their expectations infinitely high and just enjoy the experience. I’m really trying to stay positive as much as possible. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, but I’m trying to stay positive, keep my mind in check and think about how blessed I am to be launching a project to all this fanfare! Anyway, it would be silly of me not to say thank you just because of the pressure, so I’m saying it now. My hope now is that we can repay every one of them with a good performance when the time comes through hard work.

민희진, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 레드벨벳, 엑소, exo, redvelvet, minheejin, kpop, girlgroup

Red Velvet_[Russian Roulette] © SM Ent. | Red Velvet_[Rookie] © SM Ent. | EXO_[12월의 기적] © SM Ent.

(Jin Chae-min) What would people who know you say if asked the question, “How much do you know about Min Hee-jin?” What about the public?

I’m nobody special—there’s no reason to know everything there is to know about me. But since the fans are also the consumers, I figured if they understand me, the executive director, better, it will make the business run more smoothly. These days, especially. And that’s the reason I agreed to this long interview, which is unprecedented for me. I’m putting in a lot of effort to get close to the fans in my own way. But I’m also aware that even this kind of honest interview can be distorted and lead to gossip in turn. Or maybe, because I have a lot to say, it could be excerpted and spread around and then distorted. And yet, if I don’t do it, there could still be misunderstandings, so I figured I could get ahead of it—“If they’re going to talk about me anyway, I may as well be honest!” People usually have their own ideas about the leadership or president of a company, right? But, as you know, blindly grouping people together by their generation, job or title and judging them that way is pointless. It differs from person to person.

I hear people are concerned about our music because I’m an art director by trade. But we’re living in an era where hybrid work is regarded as normal, so it goes without saying that that’s a really outdated way of looking at things. Maybe it’s because I never talk about it. I didn’t think I was limiting myself to the art directing aspect only. Any time I could do something, I tried to do everything I could in aspects outside of the visuals as well. At my previous workplace I regularly expressed my opinion when it came to selecting songs and the direction they should take, too. I had the name of an album changed once, and we even took a rare staff vote after I offered my opinion once and that led to changing the lead single. It was my idea to put out a compilation album in collaboration with 10 Corso Como, too, in collaboration with several DJs. Wow—that was back in 2013. There’s no way that outsiders would know about that, and yet there’s already a long history of producers who started out as businesspeople and managers with no connection to music who are now making albums. I wonder if people are confused because my case is slightly different. I’m always surprised this kind of narrow-mindedness exists in 2022.

10 Corso Como Seoul Melody

(Cha Woo-jin) There certainly are deep-rooted views in our society. It makes me even more curious about your music.

I think most people are excited about seeing the concept and design. The whole reason I wanted to start an independent label, and have the final say on all decisions, was because, when it comes to production, every field is interlinked with one another, and no one field is more important than any other. I wanted to suggest new things for music but for various other fields as well. What makes me happy is that our group’s members are really into our music. They said so when they were listening to songs without being told which were theirs. When I finally revealed it was their music, they all clapped and cheered. The whole ADOR team did as well. But obviously, just because we like it doesn’t guarantee everyone will. There’s no way of guessing what will be popular until it’s out in the wild. So maybe that’s the reason I feel you have to do what you want to do most. Because there’s no way to know until you try. I had a hard time creating works in the past, too, when I wasn’t really feeling the music. Working with music you like is a joy in itself, so it’s important to work on music everyone likes so that they all feel satisfied about what they’re making. People who create artwork, especially, are naturally quite sensitive to music and sound and easily influenced by them, so in the past I’ve made teaser videos and trailers to highlight the distinct mood of good songs. The “Odd–View” trailer series for SHINee is a good example. When good artwork is combined with good music, the feeling is even greater than the sum of its parts. I don’t mean to say the music is the most important part—what I mean is that, when every part comes together well, the beautiful feeling behind it reaches its maximum potential. That’s why the business side of things, which might feel sort of removed, is also important.

SHINee_[Odd] Comeback Trailer © SM Ent.

(Cha Woo-jin) That makes me think of the branding presentation you did, all of a sudden. It seems like you have your own way of approaching commonplace projects. It felt so fresh, even though it was a corporate presentation.

When I first wrote the initial proposal for the HYBE: New Brand Presentation and planned out the script for it, there were a lot of worries about it until they saw the final product because it was in an untested format. I understand there’s a limit to how well people can understand because it only exists as a blueprint in the mind of the planners until the finished work can finally be seen. Now I accept that this persuasion is a necessary part of the process. It’s second nature to me now. (laughs) I stayed awake every night preparing with our team’s director, Yemin Kim, and Donghoon Shin, our vice president, until the day of the presentation. The best part was when I heard people who weren’t from our company saying, “Why am I so into some other company’s presentation?” Standard corporate presentations are, of course, quite boring. It meant a lot to me that I could make people happy, even through something no one had any expectations for. But I once again felt acutely how hard it is to persuade others to make something that has never been made before. If you work through the difficulty and break existing expectations, new possibilities present themselves and the delight that results from that becomes another motivation to work. I think I naturally have a desire to surprise people with interesting ideas. And I’d like to make that happen again with ADOR’s girl group, too.

HYBE: New Brand Presentation

(Kim Jae-hun) I can sense from this whole interview that you have a lot of faith in your teammates. It’s unusual for a workplace to become so close that coworkers stay in touch during their personal time as well. How do you become friends with others, personally? What does friendship mean to you?

If I’m going to discuss this, I want to talk about Yemin Kim, our team’s director. She’s so reluctant to reveal her personal views, so she’s definitely going to nag me if she finds out I said this in this interview. (laughs) She started at the company I used to work for, so we’ve been working together for a long time since. We share similar values when it comes to the world and to working. Yemin and I have worked on major projects together for quite a long time. She made sizable contributions to EXO’s Pathcode project, too. Most people probably wouldn’t know this, but I ran the project with a task force of three members, including the two of us. Pathcode project was also a similar case to f(x)’s Art film work. At that time, I deemed it strategically necessary, so I proceed with it myself. Sometimes people outside the company misread the situation and thought we mobilized a great deal of people to get it done, but they were mistaken. The amount of personnel on a project and the quality of the work are not always proportional. What’s important is that you have an acute understanding and unbreakable concentration in a given time. We’ve done a huge number of projects together; she’s a talented director with a strong work ethic who spent her time agonizing over things with me. I think we naturally formed a friendship after all the difficulties we overcame.

There’s been numerous times where I became friends that way with a music video director or other staff members, too. I’m something of a homebody and not particularly social, plus I’ve spent so much of my life dedicating myself to my work that maybe it’s inevitable. Donghoon Shin, our VP, is like a human moral compass. (laughs) He gave me extremely helpful advice when I was struggling, just like a psychiatrist. I was able to hold on thanks to every single member of the ADOR team, all of whom I’m incredibly thankful for, and all my friends who stepped up and shared the load. I think that applies to everyone who’s reading this and thinking, “Is she talking about me?” (laughs) I want to take this opportunity to extend my sincerest gratitude to them. No one likes to experience hardship. However, when you overcome that hardship together, the reward is progress in your relationships, and that’s a gift. Maybe in the future I could share this kind of friendship with ADOR’s girl group members, too.

(Park Sanha) I kept hearing “The Girl from Ipanema” at your home when we visited and I’ve been listening to it ever since. On the surface, most of the music you listen to is nothing like K-pop. Now I’m curious about how much your tastes differ from your job.

Wouldn’t the mainstream market be more interesting if there were more people like me? I’m sure the industry will slowly evolve as more people who think outside the box show up. As I mentioned, the youngest member of our girl group likes the old songs I listen to even though she’s unfamiliar with them. Personally, I feel a bit bothered when I hear people saying things like, “People will love this style,” or, “This is the only way to do it.” If that kind of formula existed, everyone would be successful, not just a select few. I think I unconsciously project my own tastes into my work in order to enjoy it more. I want to introduce people to the things I like to listen to and other things I’m into. As a person who creates pop culture, I’m always thinking about that point of contact. There’s so much good music in the world, and I don’t think that goodness can ever be restricted to just one style. So I want to introduce people to that kind of variety. With that in mind, I think I’ll be actually able to choose diverse music styles that exist beyond the standard style because I’m not a music producer by trade. Once I like something, I like it for life. I chose the executive music producer of ADOR because they’re someone I really trust and can vouch for. We’re working hard together. While I’m timid and easily hurt, I’m also predisposed towards curiosity and foolhardiness, so I’m giving some things a whirl specifically because no one else is doing them. I’ll try my best to suggest a variety of good things.

민희진, 보이그룹, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 크리스탈, krystal, minheejin, kpop, boygroup, girlgroup
민희진, 보이그룹, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 크리스탈, krystal, minheejin, kpop, boygroup, girlgroup

© «W Korea» | Taemin_[ace] © SM Ent.

(Park Sanha) Judging by the comments on Instagram, people are very interested in your home. What is your philosophy about home as far as being a place where living and working coexist?

I was made aware very late that the way I live has never been very typical, although, as I say, I wasn’t aware for the longest time. (Don’t get me wrong—I’m not one of those weird-for-the-sake-of-weird types! I can’t stand that.) The same goes for my attitude toward my workplace, my work, and other people. I think the same applied to my home, too. I wanted to make it a place where I could be happy more than use it as an investment. I was planning to fix the place from floor to ceiling anyway, so there was no need to find an expensive house in the first place. And I kept the house empty as I slowly worked on it over the course of a year. Now that I think about it, I’ve already been living at my place for 12 years now. Not only do my friends love it, but our teammates like to come over and hang out or work, too. And I really enjoy it as well. Everybody who comes to my home all say the same thing—oh, and I think you BeAttitude people said this too, right?—that this house makes you feel like you’re transcending time and space. So you all stayed late into the night, talking away. Hahaha. As a side note, I focused on creating a space people would want to stay in when I was designing HYBE’s new office space, too. I’m not just saying that to sound generous—I really did design it from the bottom of my heart in hopes that everyone would be happy being at the company. That kept me unbelievably busy and I can’t believe it’s already been a year.

(Kim Jae-hun) As a content creator, I feel you must have good taste when it comes to “good” things. Can you recall the first good things you came across when you were a child or in your teens? It could have been anything from music, to books, or anything else.

Recommending songs I like—I can’t get enough of it. Hahaha. I really love music. Music really controls the whole atmosphere and mood of the space it’s played in, so wouldn’t it make sense that people fall in love so frequently when sharing the music they like? The environment was completely different when I was young, so digging around to discover new music was a skill in itself. I was a somewhat precocious child and became completely absorbed in books, music and movies from a young age. I think I didn’t really read comics much, though. But I still enjoyed some classics like Rough and Slam Dunk. Anyway, I don’t confine myself to genre when I listen to music—there’s just a certain feeling that I like. I think I naturally seek out that style of music to listen to. When I was a kid I had a whole collection of mixtapes at home made up of songs I heard on the radio and liked and managed to press record just in the nick of time. I can’t remember for sure whether it was in grade school or middle school, but I still have this vivid memory of lying down and tears rolling down my cheeks when I first heard “Desafinado” by Antônio Carlos Jobim. I could make out every chord and rhythm as though all the instruments were separated and I loved this marvelous, fantastic feeling of the exquisite harmony they created together. “The Girl from Ipanema” is like my theme song(?). (laughs) Anyway, I’d gladly recommend some songs I like. But please don’t misinterpret this and assume this is what ADOR’s girl group’s songs will sound like. Please understand that I would never give away hints that easily. Haha. Naturally, some of my tastes will spill over to some extent, but it’s just my tastes and nothing more—business is a whole other story. (laughs)

Metti una sera a cena by Florinda Bolkan, 1969
惑星 by Pizzicato Five, 1988

Under Control by The internet, 2015 

Meaning of you by Yang Soo-kyung, 1990
Margery, My First Car by VULFPECK, 2016
Only Trust Your Heart by Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto, Astrud Gilberto, 1964
Underwater Boy by Virna Lindt, 1983
The Blue Rose by Francis Lai, 1975
Monet by Beenzino, 2021
Mirage by Toro y Moi, 2017
Betty by Ed Lincoln, 1970s
Homage by Mild High Club, 2016
Chompy’s Paradise by BADBADNOTGOOD, 2016

(Harry Jun) Do you think creators also measure the success of their work by the business aspect of how many people consume it?

Everyone has their own way to measure success. The same work could be seen as a success or a failure depending on how you measure it. People say the most important thing is for you to be satisfied, but they should be on their guard because there’s a high chance it will quickly deteriorate into personal comfort if no one can relate to it. Finding success on the back of popularity or reputation without regard for depth or quality can lead to delusion about what made it successful, so if you want to figure out whether your success is real or not, you have no choice but to engage in self-criticism. If you have to criticize yourself, you inevitably end up hurting yourself, too. As they say, there’s no reward without perseverance. I completely understand why adults were always saying that now that I’m older myself. At the end of the day, I don’t think there’s any path you can take that’s going to be pleasant, easy and rewarding. You don’t have to look any further for an example than me: It might be easy to look at my fame or my salary and find a reason to feel envious, but as I keep saying, I went through an extremely hard time. One thing I discovered that shone through the darkness for me was to not cling to the notion of success, since it isn’t everything, because everyone’s idea of success is different, and instead recognize that it’s important to strike a balance between self-satisfaction and self-criticism to find a way that allows you to keep yourself happy. It’s a long, hard, lonely road, but once I managed to identify my own method and solution, the next step revealed itself to me. The next step is something only applicable to you and not to anyone else. I think that’s just the way life is—constantly looking for your own personal next step.

(Harry Jun) You spent years in a constant state of intertwined joy and suffering where staying up all night at work was an everyday occurrence for you. And yet you stayed in the same field. I can’t imagine anyone could get through all that without having their own personal philosophy. What is your philosophy when it comes to work? I’d also like to know what has kept you going like this for so long.

I always say to my friends and coworkers, “Ugh, why do I work this hard?” (laughs) I asked myself that question many times, and actually, I don’t think there’s anything I really want all that much from life. Sometimes I feel like a mayfly, living 24 hours at a time. “I’m going to accomplish this someday,” “I want to become this kind of person”—I don’t really have anything specific like that. My top priority is just to accomplish whatever my short-term goal is at the time. By the time I achieve them, everything will have changed to match them anyway, so I’ll have to set a new goal. I guess you could say I’m chasing anticipation. I don’t hope; I imagine, “Wow—I wonder how my life will change after I accomplish this?” I think my curiosity is what keeps me going. So sometimes I feel like my life is a kind of performance art. Almost like I’m conducting an experiment of my own design, with my life as the subject. Maybe that’s the way I’m playing that character, not because I love working so much. At any rate, if I didn’t work, life would be tedious and empty. I think I find enjoyment in the unexpected that inevitably arises from the process.

Apart from that, I think I was just born with a sense of responsibility. The two work together beautifully, which is probably why people who don’t know me well see me as a workaholic, but in reality, the work itself isn’t really something I see as all that great, or something I love, or something I’m overflowing with pride over. But I’ve worked so long and so hard in my field that I at least feel personally loyal toward it, like I said before. It might sound weird to say, but I feel genuine loyalty toward my work. And my sense of responsibility is inborn, not something I picked up from working, so it naturally imbued me with a strong work ethic, too. I think of these two concepts as being inextricably linked. On a surface level, the two might express themselves in similar ways, but it’s not the same as loving work. Anyway, with the different weight of this new position, it feels like what was once a practice test has since become a real exam. And it makes me a little nervous. For the enjoyment of anyone reading, and for my own excitement, and to ensure the lives of all interested parties keep on being exciting, I sincerely hope I pass this exam with room to spare.

민희진, 어도어, 하이브, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 아이돌, idol, minheejin, ador, hive. kpop, girlgroup

Artist

While working as a creative director at SM Entertainment, Min Hee-jin was the leading force behind the experimental concepts taken on by the company’s idol groups, such as Girls’ Generation, SHINee, f(x), EXO, Red Velvet, and NCT. After she joined HYBE as Chief Brand Officer (CBO) in 2019, she was responsible for the company’s branding as well as creating the spatial design for its new office building. She is the head of ADOR (All Doors One Room), a new label launched by HYBE in the latter half of 2021, and is currently making preparations for the debut of her label’s first girl group. Min was selected as one of the “Women That Have Made an Impact in Global Entertainment” by American entertainment media outlet Variety earlier this year.

Editor

Harry Jun studied visual communication design at Kookmin University and began his career at the Korea Culture & Tourism Institute. He worked as an editor at magazines such as Monthly Design, Space, and Noblesse in the past, and has contributed various columns to the design magazine CA and HuffPost. In addition, Jun served as deputy chief editor, editorial advisor, and creative director for BRIQUE, a magazine on residential architecture. As a design and architectural journalist, Jun currently contributes articles to a variety of media, including The Chosun Ilbo, The Edit, and Luxury. He is also the chief editor of BeAttitude.

Contributing Editor

Cha Woo-jin is a pop culture critic who mainly observes, listens, reads, and writes about fandom, content/music industries, and the creator ecosystem. Cha writes columns about media and content industries through TMI.FM, his own music newsletter and radio startup, while contributing articles about music and lifestyles to different media outlets. He is the author of several books, including Independent Worker, Music Industry: Its Setting Is Changing, as well as Sound of Youth, Understanding Popular Music, and Idols: From H.O.T. to Girls’ Generation. He is an advisor for the Korea Creative Content Agency’s music industry white papers and forums. He has planned or produced content for Naver Onstage, the Korean Music Awards, and the Hyundai Card Music Library.

Photographer

Song Si-young is a photographer based in Seoul. Song majored in photography at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York. He has worked on a variety of album covers and has collaborated with numerous media outlets, including ZEIT Magazin (Germany), W (U.S.), and Magazine B (Korea).

How Much Do You Know about Min Hee-jin?

, Contributing Editor: Cha Woo-jin

Editor: Harry Jun, Kim Jae-hun, Park Sanha, Jin Chae-min, Contributing Editor: Cha Woo-jin, Photographer: Song Si-young, Translator: Kim Hye-jin, Kim Hyun-kyung, HKPP

민희진, 어도어, 하이브, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 아이돌, idol, minheejin, ador, hive. kpop, girlgroup

Artist Project

A Series of Profound Conversations with Artists

BeAttitude is carrying out our Artist Project to share each artist’s world of art and mindset towards creation through in-depth interviews with all of them. The fourth interviewee is CEO Min Hee-jin of ADOR. Since 2019, she has served as Chief Brand Officer (CBO) at HYBE, and now is the CEO of ADOR (All Doors One Room) , an independent label of HYBE. This is rare peak inside the world of Min Hee-jin, who rarely opens up to the public. For an exclusive interview, BeAttitude recently caught up with Min Hee-jin. Dig deep into her insights about the K-pop industry through our article series!

Artist Project 04: Min Hee-jin

Our fourth Artist Project interviewee is Min Hee-jin. Min Hee-jin has been working as Chief Brand Officer (CBO) for HYBE since 2019, and became CEO of ADOR, an independent label launched under the umbrella of HYBE, where she is leading the debut project of a girl group in her unique Min Hee-jin style. BeAttitude invited Cha Woo-jin, a pop culture critic, to serve as a contributing editor for this exclusive interview. Enjoy this exciting two part series.

Part 1. How Much Do You Know about Min Hee-jin?

We recently got some big news about Min Hee-jin, the hugely influential Korean who is leading the independent music label ADOR under HYBE. Min has been named to a highly prestigious list—“Women That Have Made an Impact in Global Entertainment”—by Variety, the world’s leading entertainment media outlet. The reason for her selection was clear. According to Variety, “As a K-pop branding innovator, [Min Hee-jin] redefined the concept, opening a new era of girl groups starting with Girls’ Generation in the past, and suggesting innovative artist branding through SHINee and EXO.” In addition, the fact that she is preparing to launch a new girl group in 2022 was also a big factor. Actually, the new girl group, whose members haven’t even been revealed yet, is fondly being referred to as “Min Hee-jin’s girl group,” and is already considered one of the most anticipated K-pop girl groups this year. This raises the question, however, about how much we really know about her. Since she often shuns any media exposure, the latest source we can access is her first TV appearance on You Quiz on the Block. The encounter between BeAttitude and CEO Min Hee-jin will provide an interesting opportunity to better understand the perspectives of the young executive, and someone who has now positioned herself at the heart of the international K-pop industry.

민희진, 어도어, 하이브, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 아이돌, idol, minheejin, ador, hive. kpop, girlgroup

(Harry Jun) Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with BE(ATTITUDE). Many in the industry are well aware that you don’t often do interviews, which is partly why I’m curious as to why you decided to do this one with us.

I find it distressing when the meaning of my words is distorted or undermined, owing to my perfectionism and rather straightforward personality. Considering, especially, the nature of my work, what I say is often somewhat complex, requiring a certain extent of understanding to follow; however, interviews tend to be limited in length, which makes it difficult to explain myself and convey my intentions sufficiently within such restraints. Given this situation, I try to do as few interviews as possible and only when absolutely necessary. As you know, and as is often the case, people perceive the same word differently or their understanding is fairly disjointed. This especially depends on the context and the individual’s degree of understanding. Ironically, however, there have been some occasions where I try to save my breath, only to be misunderstood!

This is why I decided to appear on TV for the first time in my career last winter, on a show called You Quiz on the Block. There had been some advice among the ADOR team and my other contacts that, because the world had little exposure to me, I seem to be perceived as a “mythical creature”—those were their exact words—and, it might be best that I come across as a “living person” with feelings. At the time, I had just launched the new label, and I thought it necessary to present how I, the producer, think in general. In line with that, I was pleased to discover the webzine BeAttitude had a generous amount of space set aside for my interview. To get off track a moment, reading your elaborate message trying to persuade me to join you for an interview, even before I could have said no, you seem to have expected that I would turn down your offer, which impressed me. So, I wanted to upset your expectations. (laughs)

(Harry Jun) Haha. What was your first time on TV like?

They first reached out to me in winter 2020 and yet I wasn’t exactly aware of that show since I do not normally watch variety shows. And anyway, I didn’t have any intention of appearing on any TV program back then, so I turned them down, and that was followed by their next invitation in spring 2021, which provoked my interest in that show. So I looked up the show and it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with it for its sincere and heartwarming concept. Despite that, I had a hard time deciding whether or not to accept, but over the course of a few months’ of conversations with the program’s writers I felt more at ease. I really appreciate all the staff for seeing to everything with care and consideration that day. There was, however, a small situation where what I said on the show was presented in a slightly misleading way.

(Harry Jun) Can I ask what it was about?

What I said was, “I like to hear people in our industry”—not me—“using the terms ‘fictional universe’ and ‘artist,’” but it came to be interpreted a little differently—to mean, “I like these two terms.” I guess it may have been interpreted that way because it wasn’t explained thoroughly enough. I don’t usually use the term “universe” myself. This may be a complicated way to explain things. When I am working on something and plan out the direction it will be heading, I naturally come up with an appropriate narrative; in that senseI prefer when some subject matter’s true nature is reflected in the natural flow of the story and through its use of foreshadowing wherever possible, rather than in an artificial setup. Of course, sometimes a little setup is needed in certain cases. Anyway, rather than tacking on  a cut-and-dried conclusion, I prefer a story to unfold naturally in an open style, so I usually like to provide the topic, after which the rest is free to unfold in any way with autonomy. Therefore, personally, I find the meaning or nuance of the “universe” currently used in the K-pop scene somewhat excessive. It feels slightly different to me from the context I am pursuing. But still, consumers are free to bundle the thoughts and feelings that arise for them from my work and refer to them as a “universe” all they like. That is a completely different story, as I realize the direction I choose to take my work in can easily be interpreted as a “universe.” And, as a producer, it is fun to witness them approach my work with their own interpretations and let their imaginations soar, which I really appreciate. I believe that the definition of the universe is self-actualization, not instilled by others. So what I meant by what I said before is that it’s better when other people say the words than if I were to use them directly. I was once again reminded how the role of the spoken word differs from that of the written one, thus leading me to accept this interview which is destined for the page. People say that kids these days dislike reading, but I believe in the power of the written word.

(Kim Jae-hun) What does this interview mean to you?

After I left SM Entertainment, I had been turning down offers for any form of appearance in the media as well as private interviews. One of my main considerations for that was that I didn’t want to talk about my past anymore and I felt it was the time to move on and focus on the present and future. To be frank, I wanted to avoid bringing up on that TV show what had happened at my previous workplace. But, of course, I am only who I am now as a result of my past work. Finding myself feeling uncomfortable when such stories naturally cropped up, I managed to figure out I had been experiencing a multitude of stressors. I wanted to break free from this traumatic mindset of mine and now, at last, I think I can talk about myself and not have to be in a position of representing any company. On top of that, I really liked the way you have serendipitously recruited interviewers from various backgrounds for this interview—a group of pop music critics, K-pop fans in their 20s, and people interested in where K-pop is heading. I once thought about how interesting it would be, as a producer, to invite people from across the consumer spectrum—critics, direct consumers, and secondary consumers—to discuss the same topic together, and I felt like, in a sense, that had been realized.

민희진, 어도어, 하이브, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 아이돌, idol, minheejin, ador, hive. kpop, girlgroup

(Cha Woo-jin) From what I understand, you were an art director and creative director at SM Entertainment in the past, and now you’re the CBO of HYBE and the CEO of ADOR. Before starting our conversation, would you mind explaining to readers what exactly the terms art director, creative director, CBO, and head of a label mean?

I don’t want to devote my interview time to defining those terms. (laughs) Positions and titles stopped being important to me quite a long time ago. Roles are obviously important within an organization, but once the scope of your duties at work, of your own volition, goes beyond the job description, titles can lose their meaning and even act as obstacles. I don’t mean to say we should all be working beyond our assigned roles, of course. Your role can only start to expand once you first perform your given duties thoroughly. If there is a clear goal you want to achieve, you will inevitably be required to reach out beyond your job description, and so it is rather inevitable your scope should expand spontaneously, as I think it is something that people cannot really be made to do by force. If it is within reason, that is. Once that expansion begins, a single title will never be sufficient enough to capture what you are in an organization, anyway. For the sake of efficiency, titles may be a necessity in the course of carrying out duties within an organization, but I don’t think we should stick too rigidly to that idea. It all comes down to the individual’s work ethic.

(Cha Woo-jin) When witnessing the rapid growth of the Korean content industry, it’s impossible to deny that K-pop is playing a leading role in this phenomenon. The growth and success of K-pop is obviously due to many different artists. However, in terms of its visual strength, something often mentioned in the success formula of K-pop, it feels like you make up a very large portion of it. In addition, a certain trend has emerged in mainstream K-pop design that you appear to have had a hand in. What do you think your contribution to the K-pop industry has been to date?

I personally don’t believe that what I have worked on in the industry has been limited to the visual aspects. As I mentioned, I think of titles merely as labels that organizations assign in order to manage themselves. In some cases, those titles might not be inclusive enough to cover or express the full range of the tasks at hand, and even if they do, they might not be properly understood because everyone is influenced by their own preconceived notions and biases about those roles—and, in fact, I don’t think the way anyone thinks about that is particularly important. What matters is achieving the desired outcome. I always want to put my whole being into my work. When I first joined SM Entertainment, people’s understanding of K-pop was fairly different from what it is now. I wanted to add some character to improve the image it had at the time. That was likely the source of my foolhardy head-first dive into this industry despite my lack of interest in the mainstream idol market.

I wanted to carry things out differently from the existing approach, and to that end, I credit myself with the idea of “expanding the potential of the K-pop industry.” Discussions that are limited to visual elements and design cannot cover everything, but those principles are nonetheless important from a perspective of contemporaneity and visual dimension. Therefore, in order for visual elements to be demonstrated as a true strength, we need to acknowledge that a general comprehension of non-visual elements and an intellection fusion between the two is a must.That essentially suggests you can’t isolate the visual aspect from the other parts. Along with a firm understanding of the fundamentals of the industry, the constant push for innovation based on the expansion and combination of business models stand as the sole motive to usher in a new era of visual culture.

(Cha Woo-jin) It partly shows why you wanted to launch a new label, right?

It has typically been talent managers, celebrities, songwriters and producers who have founded entertainment companies. For instance, it was not surprising to see a CEO who used to be in talent management to deal with the visual side of business, nor a former songwriter involved in the management or visual aspects once president, because, as I mentioned earlier, a person’s prescribed role and the work they actually have the capacity to perform are different stories altogether. So, it’s not surprising that I should have launched a new label—considering my background as a creative director, it was fairly plausible. To fully give shape to my big picture, it would have to be the music I want that’s at the foundation, and the casting, training, design and business would all have to be aligned with my vision as well. The clearer the blueprint, the more likely this scenario becomes.

민희진, 찬열, 화보사진, 케이팝, 아이돌, idol, minheejin, chanyeol, kpop, girlgroup

TommyHilfiger © VOGUE

(Park Sanha) You’ve led the new Korean wave of many K-pop idols, and this “brand” is something that’s come to be referred to as “Min Hee-jin sensibility.” What’s at the core of this Min Hee-jin sensibility?

There is likely a certain degree of discrepancy between my perspective and the perception of others. I, of course, am familiar with my own work inside and out, but for people experiencing my work from the outside in, the truth is that they will necessarily be restricted by that which they see or perhaps only those parts they choose to remember.I would expect there to be such disparity—as, for example, when the majority of people only ever mention my work on f(x)’s Pink Tape when in fact I have worked on numerous projects over the years. At the same time, I have to admit that there is definitely a common thread running throughout all my work. There is something I like that one staff member said after seeing a photo I had taken: “The people in your pictures all seem to have a certain Sayeon*.” which touched me. Sayeon is a very Korean expression, filled with delicately nuanced meaning, making it difficult to translate into other languages as well. I want my work to convey each and every person’s individual stories—their unique, unpredictable Sayeon.

Sayeon* : a Korean word meaning an unveiled private story touched with one’s nostalgia and sentiment

(Park Sanha) You’ve successfully molded the images of many Korean idols. In an industry that’s prone to uniformity, which strategy was most urgent for you in order to give individuality to each idol or idol group? Also, how were you able to overcome all the difficulties that arose along the way?

I feel as though I perceive the concept of an idol differently. I always have felt, and continue to feel, awkward whenever using the term “idol.” It feels like this word that was once used incorrectly but that has since become a fixture of everyday language—like we’re witnessing nonstandard vocabulary being used as though it is standard. Any industry, as it settles, sees an operating methodology under the unique protocols of its system emerge. While I do not prefer this methodology, I am sometimes forced into this complicated situation where I have no choice but to embrace the system for the sake of practical efficiency. I would say I have tried my best each time I have faced an issue to find a workable solution and do whatever it takes more so than sticking to any one particular approach. I would see what I needed to accomplish through to the end when I deemed it necessary, even with the exhaustion that followed, and endured all of this as a matter of course. I long for the system to be demolished at the same time I am in a position of having to preserve it, and it is this dilemma that makes me so tired.

Constructing a system in the creative field inevitably brings about dilemmas. That is, the more you rely on the system, the more likely a dearth of individuality is to follow. On the other hand, the system certainly introduces stability and establishes a foundational ecosystem by shoring up its financial power. This eventually leads to that old saying, “balance is everything,” but a strategy of delegating compartmentalized roles within an organization is not enough to maintain this balance. The end result is this idea that a comprehensive strategy is key. The desire to tackle all the dilemmas and frustration I faced while working is what finally led me all the way to establishing a new label.

(Park Sanha) Looking at your past interviews and projects, there seems to be specific perspectives that you adhere to. For example, “thesis-antithesis-synthesis,” or trying to deal with opposite elements together, pursuing a hidden gem, or being faithful to the essence and authenticity of something or someone. When you create something, what do you keep in mind and try not to forget?

Those are ideas that naturally come across my mind, even when I’m not consciously thinking about them. I support the idea that, even if it goes overlooked by others, as long as you make an effort to not compromise your beliefs, you can never go wrong. So, in a way, you could say my energy and motivation come from effort itself.

민희진, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 아이돌, idol, minheejin, kpop, girlgroup
민희진, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 아이돌, idol, minheejin, kpop, girlgroup

Krystal_[I Don’t Want To Love You)

(Jin Chae-min) When it comes to art directors, nobody in the K-pop industry is as famous as you. Which, I suppose, is why everyone was surprised at our pre-meeting when you said, “I never had any desire to be famous.” (Laughs) Once you began to be recognized by the public, you were constantly talked about online. You’ve been subject to criticism and interpretation, and are often shrouded in praise and criticism at the same time. How do you deal with all this when it continues to go on regardless of what you say or do?

I really appreciate the attention. At the same time, it would be a lie if I said I did not find it stressful being incorrectly presented to the public. Again, I can’t help but be worried that this might lead anyone to misread me as being pretentious. It is true that I have received a great deal of commercial offers—everything from advertisements, media appearances, publishing deals, and more—during my career, but I turned all of them down. I didn’t even use social media. I thought this spoke to my character in itself. I had no desire to profit in any way from fame. In that sense, I felt only the pain that came from being famous, and struggled with that a lot. Then, further to that, I managed to know where they were coming from. But it seemed like people may have more readily put my head on the chopping block because there was no information out there about me, so I went on TV last year and decided to open an Instagram account as well.

Nonetheless, I still find I am not the type of person who perfectly fits in with current trends. We now live in an era where emphasis is placed on communication, but I’m not sure the direction it has taken today is ideal. Communication is, in fact, difficult, as it demands a certain degree of understanding others, which requires conscious effort. On the business side of things, that led me to a desire to have real communication with consumers as it’s very upsetting when there is a misunderstanding even after putting in the effort. I am now seeking to create solutions to that problem, which hopefully goes as well as planned. (laughs)

(Jin Chae-min) Is the only solution to a situation you can’t stop or control on your own—regardless of what you do—to ignore or detach yourself from it?

I accept being the target of criticism and analysis for what it is because, like it or not, it’s the way of the world. But baseless, nonsensical claims stress me out, of course. There have been times when I have been implicated in situations that have absolutely no connection to me whatsoever, and I don’t know why. For instance, there was an article that said I played a major role in scouting a certain group member for a soon-to-debut group at an entirely different label. A person whom I have never even met, incidentally. I also heard a somewhat malicious rumor that I was involved in the break-up of another label’s group. I really wonder where all those baseless rumors originated.

(Jin Chae-min) How do you handle wild speculation from the public about you or your work? Is it painful to hear such rumors?

It is scary. And it’s sad, too. Some argue that, if the rumors are so irrational anyway, I should just laugh them off and move on, and I did ignore them at first. And anyway, I’m not the type of person who goes looking for gossip. But even if I don’t look it up, I still hear about it. When that kind of nonsensical story is published, even if the story is baseless, a succession of people who believe it follows. And the more irrational the story, the harder it is to determine the source of those rumors and catch them. Once you experience reading about one of these untraceable rumors in print, the world becomes a scary place. I was similarly plagued by such things during my time at my previous workplace, too, but it’s something you never get used to.

I have experienced all kinds of fatigue working as a creative director in an industry that directly faces the public. I have been subjected to double standards as well—for example, when criticizing my work, they said everything was my fault, but when praising it, they doubted I could do it alone. Nevertheless, I accepted it as the fate of a director, who, as a chief officer, is meant to stand at the front line and receive praise and suffer criticism. However, groundless rumors are devastating to one’s emotional condition. The warp and weft of the society I am a part of and the goings-on that take place there are mostly interwoven through a complicated process and for different reasons. In most cases, it’s hard to summarize something in one word and difficult to blame just one person. I can think of nothing crueler than the way people compress these subtle layers down flat into one. I sincerely hope a culture of not speaking carelessly about things we know nothing about takes root—not just for the sake of my work, but for a healthy society that benefits everyone.

민희진, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 에프엑스, 아이돌, idol, fx, minheejin, kpop, girlgroup

f(x)_[4 Walls]

(Kim Jae-hun) You’ve captured people’s hearts by combining contradictory things such as choosing a concept with the combination of words such as “grotesque beauty” or adding old Italian jazz to a film for an idol group. Do people feel moved by such things because of the contradictions they naturally have? In your opinion, can creativity using this law of contradiction succeed regardless of time or place?

Even if you feel very passionately about someone, if the way you express those feelings becomes formulaic or is always the same, it’s not uncommon to lose interest soon after. That kind of formulaic approach is seen especially often in the way idols are produced and their work consumed, but, because I don’t prefer that method, I worked hard to do things my own way, and so it must have looked like some kind of twisted concept from the viewpoint of those consumers used to looking at things through one particular unchanging lens. Notably, this directing style of mine was perhaps seen as attractive specifically because it stood in contrast to SM’s early style from the days before I became involved with them—the trademark SM style with which they had found success for their first-generation idols. As I started from the idea to do things opposite to the way SM did with their first-generation style at the time, my work, with its unconventional impression, could become an object of curiosity. I also had a chance to become noticed in the industry for my idea to break free of the existing idol formula. Inwardly, I was operating under my own assumptions and expectations as to the kind of response that would follow. It tends to be the case that the size of a group and the rate of innovation are inversely proportional to one another, so it’s only when you’re attempting to subvert expectations that you can impress the others with innovation. I, therefore, think it’s much more clever to identify the right place and the right time to launch a multidimensional attack rather than simply justifying the use of what would itself be contradictory.

(Kim Jae-hun) That’s really interesting. You must have overcome all sorts of difficulties in doing so. Can you tell us about some of these challenges?

Anyone would welcome an unexpectedly surprising work coming from a sizable organization. I regarded my work as something necessary for the future of the company and not as a courageous expression of quality visuals. Sadly, present fortune blurs past hardships. Back then, there was no recognition toward the importance of visual elements in the industry. Consequently, the lack of recognition toward its importance as a concept meant there could be no consideration toward it when allocating budget and time. It took an unexpectedly long time until I was able to make people recognize it as an indispensable strategy and concept within the industry. Despite my passion towards it, I recall that period as being a very tough time. That was how, in the approximately 10 years I was with SM before I left, the direction of their visual language came to be entirely reorganized around the method I had established. So I felt no reluctance about leaving the company. I felt like I had accomplished everything I needed to.

민희진, 샤이니, 레드벨벳, shiny, red velvet, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 아이돌, idol, minheejin, kpop, girlgroup

SHINee_[Married to the music] © SM Ent.

민희진, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 레드벨벳, redvelvet, minheejin, kpop, girlgroup

Red Velvet_[The Red]

민희진, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 레드벨벳, redvelvet, minheejin, kpop, girlgroup

Red Velvet_[Perfect Velvet]

민희진, 샤이니, 레드벨벳, shiny, red velvet, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 아이돌, idol, minheejin, kpop, girlgroup, 키

SHINee_[Odd] © SM Ent.

민희진, 보이그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 아이돌, idol, minheejin, kpop, boygroup, exo, sing for you, 엑소, 싱포유

EXO_[SING FOR YOU] © SM Ent.

(Jin Chae-min) You seem to push yourself really hard day in and day out. Your productivity with respect to creative work seems quite high in both absolute and relative terms. Where does this incredible productivity come from? And what’s your opinion about achieving efficiency at work?

Work productivity, I believe, comes from the level of awareness one has for their own goals. It’s a concept that no one can force upon you. As each individual has their own natural talent, we cannot formulate one approach to efficiency. A perfect example of this is rote education. It remains with us despite us all knowing about its harmful effects. We must bear in mind that, without self-enlightenment, there will always be a limit on the capacity for being force-fed information by others.

(Jin Chae-min) I think there’s certainly a stereotype with K-pop. Everyone tries to overcome this stereotype, but it’s hard to find successful cases. How do you work around solving this problem?

The idea that “everyone” in the industry tries their best to overcome the stereotypes might itself be a stereotype you silently picked up. In my experience, there are more people who choose to pursue stability in their life and in business. What people have been taught to believe is the right concept and that which an individual actually wants in reality can be very different, but the latter is sometimes ignored because it is generally believed that pursuing novelty is the right thing to do., just as there are many people who may say the ideal life is one that is stable and textbook, but on the inside really dream of deviating from the norm. So, most people say they crave novelty. But sometimes I doubt whether they truly do wish for it.

It is completely natural to feel uncomfortable when faced with something new. However, I frequently witness people immediately complaining or criticizing that which is unfamiliar the moment they come across it, even before they have come to a proper, level-headed appraisal. We have all heard it so many times: “Poor so-and-so, ahead of their time…” (laughs) I don’t mean to say here that the new is always good, or that the unfamiliar is always new and good.

(Jin Chae-min) Can you be more specific with us?

For instance, “new for the sake of new” leads us to another sort of problem separate from the issue of the formulaic approach. Namely, as inertia under the guise of novelty could actually delude people about what newness is as a concept, we must differentiate them. Ultimately, what I want to say is that we should be focused on the fundamental nature of why people crave novelty, rather than scrutinizing the concept of novelty (unfamiliarity) itself. I never expected there would be so many people who are confused about what they really desire. I think when such people get together and are all talk about finding something new, they are opening up a chaotic can of worms. Because everyone has their own standards, what is new for one person might be lame for another. For that reason, satisfying everyone’s need for novelty is essentially a next-to-impossible, Herculean task. Despite all that, taking on challenges with reckless abandon is what I endeavor to do. After I became the head of this label, my workload skyrocketed. There is tremendous pressure—so much so that, at times, the things I need to accomplish race through my mind and the pressure is such that I cannot fall asleep. Even if I try to gauge all plausible situations and take everything into account in advance, there are always unpredictable variables. You could say that acknowledging that potential for uncertainty, and in fact anticipating it, is one of my strong points.

민희진, 어도어, 하이브, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 아이돌, idol, minheejin, ador, hive. kpop, girlgroup

(Cha Woo-jin) HYBE set the direction of its business to satisfy customers by continuously improving its services. I think business is fundamentally value creation through problem solving. What kind of problems does the label ADOR try to solve?

I could write a whole thesis on that subject. It’s true that there is no industry without its share of problems. It is not easy to put such a weighty topic into simple words.It was also one of the reasons I formed my label, so it requires something of a long explanation, but if I had to summarize, I would say I have the will to courageously and actively seek a new way out and create an alternate exit by breaking free of the fixed routine that comes standard in the business (which sounds simple, but actually doing so in reality is a considerably difficult task). I share some things in common with HYBE chair Bang Si-hyuk, but we each have our own approach when we pursue goals. I ended up launching my label because of the necessity of that difference and because it had been acknowledged. And HYBE CEO Park Ji-won thought the same way. The more that mutually exclusive possibilities are given room to coexist within an organization, rather than having everyone look in the same direction, the higher the probability of success. I am well aware that, once an industry becomes sufficiently advanced, it can stagnate and become complacent with the existing, stable methods, but it’s also true that I no longer feel entirely excited about the current K-pop scene. You need just the right timing to make your new ideas and efforts become relevant. And I think that time is now.

(Kim Jae-hun) It seems you’ve made a lot of choices up until now. How do you approach the act of choosing? What’s the most important choice you’ve had to make?

I think I have generally always had an intuitive sense about what it is I need to do as it is needed. I have a clear, firm justification for every decision I make; therefore, when I need to list them by priority, I come to feel sorry for the other choices that I push down the list, which makes it difficult to choose. Regardless, the one that perhaps stands out to me the most is the decision to quit the company I worked at for so long.

(Cha Woo-jin) I believe balance and tension are very important in the creative industry. A creative person should have both a sense of reality and the personality of a dreamer. How does the creator Min Hee-jin and the CEO Min Hee-jin define and control the correlation between balance and tension?

The only way I can explain is that I became a CEO because I wanted to exist as a creator. Those two roles have totally different characters and yet are intrinsically linked to each other. Any commercial creations which can not be converted into capital loses vitality. Similarly, I’ve witnessed numerous cases where the business was incongruous with the creative work and had difficulty achieving any major success. The moment your petty ego leads you to turn a blind eye to the fact that, in commercial terms, the creative work and the capital are inseparable, everything tends to go wrong.

I do not have any interest in the title of CEO itself. I am in that role now, and I find, based on the tremendous responsibility, that it is a role filled with its own kind of misery and fatigue. I founded a label so I could make my own decisions, and the title was something I inevitably had to decide. How fantastic it would be if I could marry good, creative work with an efficient business and see them blossom into commercial success. I am now trying to find the right balance today for the day that dream finally comes true.

민희진, 어도어, 하이브, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 아이돌, idol, minheejin, ador, hive. kpop, girlgroup

(Jin Chae-min) As a K-pop fan, I’ve always wondered about an entertainment agency’s strategy to intentionally adjust the psychological distance between idols and fans. How important is this sense of distance when you come up with content?

Basically speaking, I prefer to be as close as possible. Maybe this is because I am more of a giving type and have never been the kind of person to play hard to get. It is exhausting, and I can’t stand it. I cannot say for sure how important it is as I have never intentionally played that game. I prefer to be honest and friendly when it comes to the projects under my lead and command.

(Harry Jun) ADOR’s upcoming girl group is predicted to be overseas K-pop fans’ favorite K-pop girl group to debut in 2022. Even before announcing the official members, fans are calling it “Min Hee-jin’s girl group.” It’s clear that expectations for you are pretty high. When will the secret about the girl group debuting this year be revealed?

We held auditions back in September 2019 and by the end of that year, we had completed not only the audition process but the casting as well. The girls have been in training for roughly the last two years, since the beginning of 2020. Initially, a collaborative project, the group was originally scheduled to launch in 2021, but that was postponed due to the pandemic, and in the meanwhile, my label launched ahead of schedule, so now they will make their first appearance under ADOR in 2022. They will present the direction I’ve had specific plans for a new girl group for a long time. I expect their launch to take place in the third quarter of the year.

(Park Sanha) You’ve only mentioned a little about the direction you want to take the group in, so I’m more curious about its members.

A hasty debut would no doubt place a large burden on such young members. I do not want to rush anyone as I understand the pain that comes from an intensive workload. However, I cannot overlook the fact that fans have been waiting a long time, and certainly there is such a thing as good timing, so instead of favoring one side, we considered all the moving parts to arrive at the most sensible timing for their debut, which was the third quarter of this year.

Our girls are already making an incredible effort even though no one is pushing them. And yet, they are still constantly worried about not being good enough. The primary purpose of our field is to entertain. It did not start with breaking records or measuring performance by numbers in mind. What I truly want is to foster an environment where everyone can do their best while having fun. If it is not fun, there is no point. A hard-working attitude does not spring up magically every morning. A can-do attitude starts with enjoyment, and because of that, doing your best requires practice as well. And I think the energy from that effort emanates from those people in a clearly distinctive way. So I have set our group’s focus on enjoyment rather than proficiency. The energy radiating from people who are sincerely enjoying themselves is extremely powerful, so it makes the people who see them dance, too.

(Harry Jun) After listening to all that you’ve said, I can’t wait to see what kind of group we’ll see.

We set our own standards and are working our best toward them. In that sense, I believe our group’s energy is absolutely outstanding. They are constantly polishing their skills. It might sound too idealistic to some, but what I hope in earnest is, I want to try and create a culture where everyone can enjoy themselves together. What I personally find to be a real shame is that even a culture of enjoyment carries with it a sense of competition. An appropriate degree of competition instills a healthy kind of tension, but too much of anything is a problem. I have witnessed a long-standing contradiction where people speak up for improvements to and awareness of youth labor and for human rights for the young members of idol groups, and yet, at the same time, they hold young children to harsh standards and expectations when evaluating and criticizing them. It is both ironic and a pity how people transpose the contradictions they experience in everyday life onto the objects of their enjoyment wholesale. I understand many groups will be debuting this year, and I hope people support not only our group but the groups at other labels. I hope for K-pop culture to become one of enjoyment rather than competition.

민희진, 어도어, 하이브, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 아이돌, idol, minheejin, ador, hive. kpop, girlgroup

(Cha Woo-jin) If we had to roughly define the K-pop industry, it seems that it’s a system for producing artistry. Do you agree with this? In your opinion, what has changed in the K-pop industry in the 2020s compared to the 2010s? What part of it do you think should change the most?

Along with its steep growth, I think K-pop has acquired a much more diverse significance and definition. This has the makings of a thesis, too, so it will be difficult to summarize. So many things have changed dramatically in the past 10 or so years. The recognition, too, has changed in a massive way. As such, the capital invested in it has also increased. The scale of the budget used for the production of albums and music videos, for instance, has changed so much in the past three years, after I joined this company. However, other than in terms of scale, I’m not sure the methods of supply [production] and consumption have progressed to the same degree that the status of K-pop itself has so dramatically changed.

Personally, the biggest improvement I’d like to see is more tolerance towards change. From some point on, we settled into an unchanging pattern and all the content became similar in the way it was produced and consumed, as though trouble would befall those who failed to follow this one, identical method. Trying to settle who it is between the supplier and the consumer that is more responsible for the problem seems to be just like the “chicken and egg” problem. People say there’s nothing new under the sun, but I believe someone who tries can discover a new concept, no matter how slight the difference. The most important thing when trying something new is to have courage. But no one can force you to tackle a new idea that will end in starvation. Production can’t exist without consumption. So that’s the reason I was talking about my hopes for both producers and consumers to develop their perceptions, and for an attitude of enjoyment rather than competition.

I’m personally very saddened by all the growing conflict I see, a tragedy brought on perhaps by the COVID-19 era. I feel like I am witnessing people fighting about trivial things nearly every day, exercising excessive, harsh standards and trying to censor others. If there was more widespread tolerance and a greater capacity for acceptance, we might be able to bask in our enjoyment more. Especially in the culture industry, if an openness to the new does not come first, or if the industry does not involve itself with this attitude at all, there can be no diversity whatsoever. I believe this should apply not only in creative fields but also to the viewpoint with which we examine the industry in general. If we disregard this sort of basic assignment when we are faced with it, I think any discussion about the future is meaningless—hardly any different from empty talk.

민희진, 어도어, 하이브, 걸그룹, 화보사진, 케이팝, 아이돌, idol, minheejin, ador, hive. kpop, girlgroup

Artist

While working as a creative director at SM Entertainment, Min Hee-jin played a leading role in experimental concepts for the company’s idol groups, such as Girls’ Generation, SHINee, f(x), EXO, Red Velvet, and NCT. After she joined HYBE as Chief Brand Officer (CBO) in 2019, she conducted branding efforts for HYBE as well as creating the spatial design for its new office building. She is the head of ADOR (All Doors One Room), a label newly launched by HYBE in the second half of 2021, and is currently preparing for the debut of the label’s first girl group. Min was selected as one of the “Women That Have Made an Impact in Global Entertainment” by the American entertainment media outlet Variety in 2022.

Editor

Harry Jun studied visual communication design at Kookmin University and began his career at the Korea Culture & Tourism Institute. He worked as an editor at magazines such as Monthly Design, Space, and Noblesse in the past, and has contributed various columns to the design magazine CA and HuffPost. In addition, Jun served as deputy chief editor, editorial advisor, and creative director for BRIQUE, a magazine on residential architecture. As a design and architectural journalist, Jun currently contributes articles to a variety of media, including The Chosun Ilbo, The Edit, and Luxury. He is also the chief editor of BE(ATTITUDE).

Contributing Editor

Cha Woo-jin is a pop culture critic who mainly observes, listens, reads, and writes about fandom, content/music industries, and the creator ecosystem. Cha writes columns about media and content industries through TMI.FM, his own music newsletter and radio startup, while contributing articles about music and lifestyles to different media outlets. He is the author of several books, including Independent Worker, Music Industry: Its Setting Is Changing, as well as Sound of Youth, Understanding Popular Music, and Idols: From H.O.T. to Girls’ Generation. He is an advisor for the Korea Creative Content Agency’s music industry white papers and forums. He has planned or produced content for Naver Onstage, the Korean Music Awards, and the Hyundai Card Music Library.

Photographer

Song Si-young is a photographer based in Seoul. Song majored in photography at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York. He has worked on a variety of album covers and has collaborated with numerous media outlets, including ZEIT Magazin (Germany), W (U.S.), and Magazine B (Korea).