(Yonhap Interview) Super Junior's Kim Hee-chul embraces jaggedness, escapist humor
By Chang Dong-woo and Lee Eun-jung
SEOUL, March 13 (Yonhap) -- Contrary to its name, boy group Super Junior is hardly a "junior" team today. Having debuted in 2005, the 11-member team is one of the oldest South Korean pop acts in the scene.
While we're at it, about the "super" part too, it's difficult to argue that the team is in its prime. And as common idol career logic should indicate, members have branched out their career orbits into non-music ones in television -- including Kim Hee-chul, who has risen into a prominent TV show host and entertainer today.
In this file photo, South Korean singer Kim Hee-chul, who stars in "Secretly Greatly," poses for a photo during a publicity event in Seoul on Nov. 30, 2016. (Yonhap)
"I'm doing five shows, recording Mondays through Friday, while shooting other things, such as commercials, on Saturdays," said Kim during a recent interview with Yonhap News Agency.
"Initially, I only did 'Knowing Bros' but increased the number of shows thinking 'I should do more work.' I make sure that the formats of my shows don't overlap."
Arguably his biggest program is "Knowing Bros" a variety talk show on JTBC in which its regular cast of comedians act as students in a classroom while guests come in as newly transferred students.
In "Knowing Bros" and other programs, Kim's dons a sharp-tongued, bratty and loudmouthed persona, delivering ad-lib punch lines usually at the expense of guests and other cast members.
Kim said he relished his new-found TV career, but admitted it wasn't always like that.
"When appearing in 'Sseoljeon,' I become too conscious of my words when commenting on fellow entertainers or others. I contemplated on whether TV entertainers have to be always nice and humble," said Kim.
Kim added that later he came to realize that he can't satisfy everyone, even those who say, "I don't like you."
"If you're too conscious of comments (in news stories of yours), you become disheartened while trying to ad lib. Some might say that I've become selfish, but if you can't do what your heart tells you, you end up becoming a cookie cutter TV personality free of uniqueness," he said.
"If you're not breaking the law and not getting into trouble, I believe I'm staying true to myself even if I appear a bit jagged."
This image captured from JTBC's variety talk show "Knowing Bros" shows Kim Heechul (C) holding up and commenting on an old picture of fellow cast Kang Ho-dong (L). (Yonhap)
On the success of "Knowing Bros," Kim attributed it to its lowbrow, escapist humor.
"I talk with my fellow cast on this, but entertainment shows nowadays tend to convey some degree of emotional inspiration or deal with social or political issues. 'Knowing Bros,' from the beginning, targeted the minor code and B-grade sensibility.
He continued that even if the show is called "fit for elementary students" and "infantile," he hopes that it continues to pursue that value. "Shouldn't we have a show where, if you come home after a stressful day at work or school, you can watch it and laugh without thinking about it much and forget about it the next day?"
Through his work, Kim said he grew fond of entertainment big names, including Kang Ho-dong and Lee Soo-keun.
"Kang Ho-dong is very nice to me when using the same waiting room. I'm really thankful for him reacting nicely even when I'm a bit rude on TV," he said. "Soo-keun is truly awesome in that he's able to perform ad libs, scripted sketches and even slapstick. Also, I'm a bit weak while filming outdoors, becoming inconsistent when shooting for long hours. But Soo-keun is always consistent."
Kim, meanwhile, denied rumors floating online that he is gay, but wanted no one to be hurt in his denial.
"I'm not gay. I like women. (laughter). But If I'm too aggressive in denying it, I thought that in itself could be seen discourteous to gays. Since it’s just a matter of taste."
He also expressed hope to keep on with Super Junior's music endeavors, saying that while he isn't sure if they can go one as many music shows as they did in the group's heyday, they would make a comeback after everyone has completed military service.
"I especially want to do a concert. Concerts are the only gateway to meet with overseas fans," he said.