You who reads
Musician Jinyoung (GOT7)
Promoting as GOT7’s member and an actor, Jinyoung reads extremely slowly. In that time, it becomes a world made up of only the book and himself. Although it is only later (in life) that he picked up a book in his hands, Jinyoung has never once let go of his book after picking up literature. He is this month’s ‘You who reads’.
How was it when you first received the offer for an interview in the literary magazine [Littor]?
At first I requested for a day to think about it.
What did you think of in that day?
I felt this is different from an interview with a fashion magazine. It’s a literary magazine and I did want to do it but I thought that I’m young and didn’t know any better so I asked for time. As I pondered over it, I read [Littor]. There are many good writings, and the people interviewed are adults with deeper thoughts than mine. But suddenly I thought: I am twenty-five years old, and anyone can see that I’m young and even though I’m not complete*, the readers will be able to understand**. I thought that even though I am lacking right now, it is a process (in growing). I had greed (to appear on Littor).
Note: ‘Complete’ used in this context means that he’s not fully grown/matured/developed.
‘Understand’ in this context is used to mean that they will understand his shortcomings because he is still young and has more to learn about.
The age in reading varies. In what aspect were you greedy in?
I like reading/books so I wanted to at least dip my feet in this. Being included in [Littor] alone is truly great. Although I do feel sorry in being in this place (column).
A year ago, you and I met. We spoke mostly of your acting and stage promotions but after that interview, we sat down and spoke about books for quite a long time. You wrote down the books I recommended on a memo. I’m curious which books you would have read.
I read slowly, regardless of what it is. I can’t read books quickly. I read when I want to read and when I feel tired while reading, I just head to bed. That way, there are many times when I fall asleep. When you fall asleep while reading, you lose the page you’re at, don’t you? So you forget the page you’ve read up till so you start reading all over again.
At that time, you were reading Murakami’s [The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle]. The book was first published in 1994 and you were born in 1994. It made me think once again about the long life (power) of Murakami.
I’ve read a couple of books after that. [TV People] comes to mind especially. There’s a charm to it.
Not too long ago, the GOT7 members who appeared on radio mentioned that they’ve been reading a lot lately. Is this possibly Jinyoung’s influence?
That’s not how it is. If I were to influence the members, I would have done it earlier? (laughs) Reading is something you’d need a will of your own to do therefore even if you were to be influenced by someone, it would be a difficult matter to accomplish if you don’t have a will of your own. Out of the members, Yugyeom reads a lot. He started reading from some point on. I guess Yugyeom started thinking of music more seriously and he probably wanted to write better lyrics. I guess he realised some things. I think that there’s definitely parts of music and literature that are connected. Therefore if you’d like to do music, if you want to write lyrics especially, you have no other choice but to start reading. Because half of a song is in its lyrics.
Did you like reading from a young age? What kind of books did you read?
When I was younger? I didn’t read a lot.
Seems like you were a student who wasn’t all that interested in languages?
I liked mathematics. If it’s at this point in time, I think I would be able to learn languages very enjoyably but at that point in time, it didn’t match well with me. For mathematics, it works out when you know the right method but answers for literature are not set so I felt that it was difficult. I remember reading a 63-book manhwa [Three Kingdoms] when I was younger. Since it was made into a manhwa, I could read it well. I also remember reading [The Case of the Kidnapped Princess] but [Three Kingdoms] left a stronger impression. I like Zhao Yun. Holding a child and penetrating through thousands of military looked really cool to me. Guan Yu who knew how to be loyal is cool too.
When did you start reading? Was there a driving force behind it?
I’ve once answered that it was to live life well but I think that was a little grandiose. As I repeated (life) in practicing and promoting, I felt like I was turning into a fool. Even if I heard the explanation to a certain situation, I couldn’t understand what was being said so I felt like I was a fool. I strong believed that if this was to go on, I would truly end up being an empty vessel. Then, the company staff advised me to read. There wasn’t any particular book that was mentioned but (they) told me to read novels. That’s how I began reading.
So what kind of book did you start reading?
Since it was a time when I felt that all books are hard, I thought that I should start with love novels. I was younger than I am now, it was at a period where I had an abundance of sensitivity. So I started reading Guillaume Musso’s books. As I read [A Mix Up in Heaven], [The Girl on Paper] and other love stories, I started wanting to read other stories. From then on, I started looking for and reading various books. I read classics too. From time to time, there are books I want to read, and lately I’ve an interest in things happening in the society so I read Han Kang’s [Human Acts]. There’s a saying that in order to know your life, you need to know the society in that generation. Reading it was extremely sentimental. It was not only in its expressions and descriptions but the emotion lines were so densely connected that in reading it, my heart hurt. I think it’s a book that you must read if you’re a Korean.
Do you have a habit in buying books? Do you buy books one at a time or do you buy them in one go?
I’m the type to buy one book at a time. I still have a lot of unread books at home so I wonder if I should continue buying. I also have a lot of books that I used to receive from the fans as gifts. I do buy books that I want to read but I don’t end up buying a lot. I look at the recommendations that are sent through mail for an online store’s ‘This month’s book’. Since it feels like I’m getting updates, I read them. I look up books that the actors I like read, and there are also many instances of me reading classics that are recommended to me. I used to love going to the used bookstores in the past but because I have no time, I ended up not going anymore. Since I eventually end up buying books online anyway.
Do you not have a desire to own the books?
Of course I do. But books will continually be published and you can just buy them again. I have a stronger desire for older books that are no longer printed. But I think reading them has a stronger meaning over possessing them.
You have a lot of overseas schedules, don’t you? For books that you obtain overseas, do you leave them behind if you’ve finished reading all of it?
Of course I bring it back (laughs). Although slightly different, I have a wish to read a book at a cafe, and once I’m done, to write my name on it and leave the book behind. In the past, I’ve been to a cafe that had lots of book – I saw a corner where people could leave their books behind. Although I don’t know if they wrote their names.
Seems like you’re talking about ‘book crossing’. A connection through a book with someone you wouldn’t be able to know.
It looks really nice. I would like to try that too but firstly it will never be at a place near the company.
What kind of name would you write? Your real name, Park Jinyoung?
I will write ‘A child’. Since my name, Park Jinyoung, is a name of a truly famous person, I feel like people will laugh at it. If I were to write ‘a child’, wouldn’t people stop to think for a while? ‘What kind of child is this, why did he/she leave behind a book.’ Although I’ve not decided what kind of book I’d like to leave behind.
Are you someone who prefers classics to contemporary works?
It’s not like that. Just like how there are people with the ears to discern good music, there are people with the eyes to discern good books. But I don’t have those eyes. Classics are books that have already withstood the test of time, and there must be a reason why they’ve lived through the long times. With that in mind, it seems like I read classics a little more. For contemporary books, I can’t easily judge if they are written well, or if they’re good books so rather than books from the modern times, I tend to look for classics a little more.
As you read, don’t you slowly start to develop a discerning eye? You could also call it your preference.
That’s right. When there’s a really good movie or a good book, I end up not wanting to look/watch it now. I save those works and when I have leisure time, I want to gather them all together and watch it at one go. There’s been times when I could only watch 30 minutes each time for a movie when I had schedules and that was really hard. I can’t take my hands off works that are called masterpieces. If I read intermittently, I won’t remember it. I have a lot of time when I’m on flight so the plane is the best reading room to me. I think the unique sound of the plane has an effect and helps me to focus.
Soon GOT7 will begin your world tour. You will be visiting various countries, which books are you planning to read on flight? Have you thought of the book you’d like to read?
It’s a book read by an actor I like, Heath Ledger. It’s a novel by Gustave Flaubert called [Sentimental Education]. In the movie documentary ‘I Am Heath Ledger’, I saw the book and I started wondering what kind of thoughts when reading the book so I wanted to read it.
Have you thought about writing your own book someday?
When I was younger, I did have thoughts like that. But as I started reading, it truly came home to me that it (writing) is not an easy matter. I truly think that the writing profession is a cool/suave one. I enjoy reading but I don’t think I have the aptitude for writing.
But anyone could write about themselves, no?
That’s right. I read actor Park Jung Min’s [Useful Person] and it was written really well with so much wit. The wit that only he possesses melts in the book. I’ve once thought that if there comes a job/project that makes me write, I’d like to write like that.
If that time happens, how will you write the you from now/present?
If you were to depict it as a wave, it’s currently going up. As GOT7, I am doing well and in respective of my age, I am not lacking in anything and am living well. I am truly happy. But once in a while, there is emptiness. I think it’s true that emptiness forms the better you do (in life). I am truly thankful to the fans and I am very happy but because I know that this happiness is not forever, because I know that what I possess now will not be in my hands forever, I think there is emptiness there. And that’s why I decided to get rid of my greed. Jim Carrey has spoken of this before. He hopes that everyone succeeds and does well so that people know that that is not everything. Everyone works hard for success and wealth and in doing so, they do better but people who possess all of that have said that it is not everything. I am not someone who possesses that much but I’ve begun thinking of what exactly is genuine happiness. Does it convey across if I say that because I am happy, it in turn makes me search for even more happiness? I think when you’re happy, you should be enjoying that happiness but I don’t think I’m able to do that. Therefore I’m wondering what is true happiness. I’m talking about the feelings I’ve experienced in my life.
The answer to what you’re pondering over now and the similar question of ‘What is happiness?’ is contained in various forms in literature.
That’s right. It is the truth of life that everyone searches for. There is a limit to the happiness you feel through money. In that regard, there has to be another kind of happiness. Therefore, I’ve been thinking quite a lot lately. (But) firstly, since I am a singer, I think that I should do well in my music and performances.
GOT7 members participate in writing and composing (of song) don’t they? I saw that the lyrics you personally wrote became the slogan that the fans held up during your concert. How did you feel?
I was embarrassed. Firstly, the song I wrote recently is something about the fans. I wrote it very naturally. Since it’s a known story that is between us (GOT7 and I GOT7). When I first heard the track, I was overwhelmed with emotions. I wanted to write a warm song and in keeping that emotion while writing, it gradually became a fan song. I have to do even better. I think JB hyung writes lyrics well. Mark hyung is a foreigner but he writes Korean lyrics with sense well.
The existence that you find the warmest and you’re most thankful to seems to be the fans. In being close together, it must be extremely warm.
That’s right. Since I am someone who is an idol for a job. Celebrities have the closest relations with the fans. Because it is an inseparable relationship, I am even more thankful.
What kind of lyrics did you write recently? Is there any book that you’d like to convert into a song?
I’m someone who doesn’t believe in ‘inspiration’. Since it doesn’t come to me (laughs). I’m not a genius who is able to write in one sitting after being inspired; I’m someone who only knows what I can write after listening to the track so the direction (of the track) is formed as I write. Out of the things I’ve written recently, there is a relation to the horizon. Above the horizon, the sun rises and sets, and that is truly beautiful but it talks about how even if you’d like to catch (own) it, you are not able to. There are also lyrics that is written to my younger self.
What did you write?
It says that the hero of my life is me. Like SuperMan. And I also wrote ‘Let’s meet again someday’ to the youths of that time.
As you’ve mentioned personally, even though music and literature seem different, there are many aspects that are similar. It’s like how both (contain aspects that) tell a story. What kind of story was included in the latest album?
Confidence and advancement. If the album prior to this was about concerns, therefore this album was about moving forward. For anything (in life), you ponder about it and use it as a foothold to move forward, and I think this album is the starting point of that advancement. There should be a narrative so you can’t just stay at the ‘development’ stage but it is the feeling of approaching the finish line gradually. I think that we have gotten hold of the direction of the musicality that we pursue and we are moving towards it. Honestly, in the beginning, it was a huge concern on what type of music are we doing as a group but I think lately we’ve found GOT7’s colour. We’ve come to a realisation that this title song [LOOK] is GOT7’s style.
Would you have 3 life books that you’d like to share with the readers of [Littor]?
Osamu Dazai’s [No Longer Human], Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s [The Little Prince] and Han Kang’s [Human Acts].
[No Longer Human] remains one of your life books.
It’s a book that gives me a sense of stability. The main character (leads a) complex and difficult (life) but it shows that it is a universal emotion felt by humans so on the contrary, it gives me a sense of stability. Towards the end, someone calls Yozo “an angel-like child.” Even as he did drugs and drank, he was an angel-like person to someone. I believe that the world is according to how you see it. If you view it positively, it’ll be good and if you view it negatively, it’ll be a horrible world. Yozo in the book viewed the world as really difficult and negative and it was a place that inevitably made you do drugs. That if you wanted to stay alive in that kind of world, you’d have to turn mad but from other people’s point of view, it could be seen as innocence/pure – I really liked that point of view.
Is Yozo an innocent/pure person in your eyes too?
I think he has an innocent side when he doesn’t just think of himself and acts in accordance to everyone else. It’s not that people who only think of themselves are people who are not innocent but it’s just (Yozo) thought (about things) after taking into account how other people behaved. As I read the book, I reflected on myself. I know that the author wrote the novel by projecting himself and I thought of how this amazing writer was faced with this much torment and concerns – it made me look back on myself.
Out of all the interviews done for [You who reads], the books mentioned the most when asked about their life books are [Demian] and [No Longer Human]. Why do you think people are captivated by [No Longer Human]?
I think that this book is like graffiti somewhat.
Do you mean it’s like watching abstract art?
Yes. I think I’m captivated by its complexity. In [No Longer Human], the emotions are drawn like the graffiti that would hurt your eyes. It started off with three photos but I liked how as it went on, analogies were created based on the expressions, and I also liked how it started off complicatedly but it ended off delicately. I was close to tears as I read the book.
Did you read books repeatedly?
I don’t read a lot so I try my best to read a new book when I get time. But I re-read [No Longer Human]. I’ve not read [Demian] yet but someone gave me the book and told me to read it once a year because the things you see at each of those times differ. That you’d see the things you didn’t see before. I will get to reading it someday. Going off tangent but I’d like to read books quickly too. I’m very envious of people who read quickly. I feel like saying there’s no time to read is an excuse. At least, it’s like that for/to me. There’s definitely time to read while waiting (in between shows) or when I’m on the plane. Therefore I’m embarrassed to (once) have said that I don’t have time to read.
Then how about ‘a book that can be digested in a month’?
That is nice. I am pretty slow in understanding. I am pretty slow in reading a line and drawing a picture of that scene. For people who read a lot, they are able to complete the imagery in their head as soon as they read the content? But I’m someone who reads a line and draws it in my head before moving on to the next line. I guess that’s why I don’t match with mystery novels. Because I can’t draw it well. Reading it that way, I can’t catch up with the speed too. I like being alone but I heard so much of ‘don’t be alone’, ‘don’t think too much’, ‘it doesn’t match this generation’, and I was stressed out by that for a period of time. There are also people who tell me that I’m too serious. I’m not someone who usually reads self-improvement books but books like [The Power of Time Spent Alone] became consolation for me. I read that book at the time when I was wondering if there was a problem with me and a sense of shame was building up in me. I also like Milan Kundera’s [Slowness]. Like the title, it truly is ‘slowness’. I think it is a book that tells people who have to live quickly in this generation to live slower. I am really slow, you see.
Have you ever felt any regret as you read?
I think it would have been better if I started my reading habit earlier. Even if I don’t read often, reading one or two books is still a habit. Lee Soon Jae teacher makes sure to read at least a few pages before sleeping. I think that’s how you nourish the life of a book. Books also develop your senses. There is that smell that comes from a new book, the touch when you flip over a page, it also activates your eyes. You also think (when you read). I think it awakens several senses in a person.
What kind of book do you think is a good book?
I think a book that matches well with you is a good book. I think a book in which you feel good as you read it is a good book compared to a book that other people say it is.
You end up taking a look at yourself when you read, don’t you?
That’s right. It’s possible. If you embrace those books.