As you might already know, we spent the weekend with the Korean “Prince of Ballads”, Tim Hwang (Hwang Young-Min), who was in Malaysia as part of his first fan-meeting plus promotional tour. Lucky us, we got to speak with the talented and good looking American-born Korean right after his press conference – he was only too happy to oblige.
Chattier than we imagined him to be, might we add!
So let’s relive that moment and find out what he has been up to since his hiatus, and how Tim has finally settled in in South Korea, where he has been pursuing his musical career. Little twists and quirks, included:
Welcome to Malaysia, Tim. How are you settling in? What has surprised you most about Malaysia?
“I haven’t really experienced much of Malaysia! It was from airport to hotel and then here right now in this interview. Nothing has really surprised me yet – there are a lot of similarities with Indonesia. Like, on the way here there was a massive traffic jam (laughs). But really, Indonesia holds a special place in my heart so, it feels the same, it feels familiar, yet different you know?”
Previously, you had a hiatus for almost six years and that’s pretty long for someone in the Korean music industry. What did you get up to in those years of absence?
“A lot of different things happened and there are a lot of reasons for that – you know how they say when it rains it pours? Having to take the hiatus was definitely difficult for me. So many different issues happened all at once. But more importantly, through that situation, it pushed me to learn about who I really am and what I’m doing with my life.”
Was your comeback a challenge, considering the circumstances?
“Coming back into the industry with another album was..the Korean music industry is totally different now what with all the boy groups and girl groups. I mean, there were definitely groups like that back in the day but now they’re everywhere! It was difficult adjusting but I adjusted – there were so many advantages from that hiatus.”
We agree. The “K-Pop groups” invasion is out of this world! Is it difficult being a ballad singer, you know, in an industry that has such a strong “group” trend and kids who have obviously started training from a very young age?
“Sometimes, I even get surprised at how young they start – training at a very young age and all. It’s very extreme. Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages with being solo. Being on my own all the time sometimes suck – it would be nice to have ‘hyungs’ or members in a group that you can kinda rely on and it would be fun. But at the same time, being a ballad singer means that the range of people that I meet is probably different. I’ve met so many types of people and stood on so many different types of stages. It’s really interesting and..I guess I’ve always stayed faithful to my music.”
What were the things that shocked you the most when you moved to South Korea from the United States to pursue your music career?
“Back home in the United States, my family’s very Westernized. We’re Christians so we go to church and stuff, so we were taught to bow to greet each other by bowing and in church, we’re all brothers, sisters, and more importantly, we’re all friends. But in Korea, the way in which people relate to each other is really important. I always kinda knew it but I didn’t know how extreme it was. I mean, I’ve never called my brothers ‘hyungs’. It would be so awkward. In Korea, there are ‘hyungs’, and ‘noonas’, and ‘dongsaengs’ – hierarchy is taken very seriously there so that came as a cultural shock to me. That and the food too, of course. The actual food and the way of eating food.”
We can imagine! While we’re on that topic of your great shift from United States to South Korea, tell us, do you think in English or do you think in Korean?
“Before, it was all in English but now it’s all mixed up. As in, I would think in English and then filter it into Korean. Now, it’s kinda like, probably 60% English and 40% Korean. And I think I can express myself better in Korean now. Sometimes, there are Korean words that you can say to fully express yourself that would’ve taken an entire sentence to say in English.”
Say you’re on a Korean variety show, when you speak to the TV host, do you do the whole “think in English, translate into Korean, words come out in Korean” process?
“Yes! Haha. That’s why I’m so slow sometimes. People are like, why is Tim so quiet? And I’m just sitting there trying to understand what they’re saying because they speak so fast! And you can’t always translate English word for word into Korean because grammatically, Korean is the other way around. So it would’ve sounded silly. I had to go experience moments like that four or five times before I got it figured out. It has gotten better now!”
Let’s talk about your music a little – how much creative control do you have over your songs and which one of your songs holds a special sentimental value to you?
“Where I’m at right now, I have as much creative control as I want but to a certain degree because I have to take into consideration the company, their plan, what I’m good at, what is right for the market, and all that stuff. So I kinda have to juggle all of that. As for the song that holds a sentimental value for me it would be ‘New Beginnings’. It was written at a time when there were a lot of suicide cases in Korea and I wanted to write something that would reach out to people. The suicide rate is still high and it’s not something you can dismiss, you know? We need to talk about it and address the issue. ‘New Beginnings’ was written to inspire people and to encourage the younger generation.”
Last one for the road, Tim, what is your dream?
“My dream is to be satisfied and to be happy today. Because, tomorrow’s not promised to me, it’s not promised to you, we don’t know what’s going to happen but people live like it’s promised to them. For me, acknowledging that tomorrow’s not promised to me gives me a better perspective on what’s precious and what’s real in life. Of course, as an artiste, we all want fame and fortune but that’s something that’s not promised to me. And knowing that makes me want to put all my energy into being that today – happy and satisfied with being who I am.”
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Aww. Thank you, Tim. For your music, and for being so inspiring – we’re already your number one fans! Special thanks to our friends from Sony Music Malaysia for organizing the interview. To check out Tim’s music, click! The “prince” is also on Twitter, if you’re interested in stalking him.