You may know him as a K-pop idol and member of 2PM, but Nichkhun is not one to be put in a box. The singer, songwriter, rapper, model and actor in the soon-to-be-released Hong Kong Love Story lets us into his world
Singer, songwriter, rapper, model and now Hollywood actor, NICHKHUN is a man of many talents. The Thai-American, who’s currently based in South Korea, gives NATASHA GILLESPIE-WONG an insight into life as a K-pop idol
MOVING EFFORTLESSLY IN front of the camera, Nichkhun Buck Horvejkul, better known as Nichkhun, obviously knows his best angles. A quiet confidence shines through as he expertly works each garment into the frame. A few more outfit changes, a quick snack and he’s ready for the interview. Without the cameras on him, Nichkhun’s demeanour changes and a soft-spoken, almost shy man sits before me.
Brought up between Thailand and California, Nichkhun was scouted by JYP Entertainment as a teenager in Los Angeles, and so began his whirlwind adventure to K-pop superstardom. Speaking fluent Thai, English and Korean, Nichkhun quickly became the darling of Southeast Asia. Now, he’s in Hong Kong ahead of his Hollywood debut in Hong Kong Love Story.
You’re multilingual and have lived all over the world. What aspects of your international upbringing influence your work and work ethic?
I think being and living in different countries, experiencing so many cultures, opens doors. It gives you perspective. When I talk to someone who’s been around the world or has lived somewhere else, they tend to be more understanding. Experiencing different cultures gives you an understanding of why people behave the way they do. So I think in that sense it plays a big role in my career and my work ethic.
When you’re working, you deal with a lot of different people, from different upbringings. A lot of the time people don’t even know they’re doing something you’re not used to so when you’re understanding of different cultures and norms, you don’t get frustrated. I really encourage my friends or people around me to travel more, not just for a couple days, but to get out and meet local people and talk to them, learn a bit about their language and their culture. I think that that really helps a lot and not just for work, but for your life.
You were scouted at 18 and had to learn to sing, dance and speak new languages. What new things did you learn about yourself through your work? Was there anything that surprised you about the training?
I was never very good at singing and dancing. [ JYP Entertainment] recruited me to go to Korea. When I was there, I started training and they would say, “Why are you not good? Why can’t you sing? Why can’t you dance?” I was a bit taken aback because I thought, “You saw my audition tape, you know what I can do”, which, to be honest, at the time was nothing. But then I started to understand that they just wanted to motivate me. I’m part of the company and I have to measure up to their standards.
The guys who were already in the company had some skills before coming in. So I had to work extra hard; I think that was the hardest part for me. Living and moving to Korea and adapting to Korea wasn’t that hard, just the training was not easy. I think what surprised me most about working in this industry is myself. I started off with no skills and zero confidence and I was so shy that I couldn’t even speak in front of a class to give a presentation or anything. I surprised myself. The first couple of times I went on stage, I thought I was going to freeze. But I didn’t. And that taught me that if you try hard enough, if you want something, you can do it.
I read that your mum never expected you to pursue performing as a career. What fuels your passion for the arts? Did you perform as a child at all?
When I was growing up, I would do school concerts and festivals but never anything serious. I never thought I would perform in front of a real audience, outside of my school. Once you’re on stage professionally, it’s a different story. When I found out that I could perform, maybe not that well or maybe not as perfectly as I wanted, that just drove me to be more thirsty and I just wanted it more. I just wanted to be better.
As a member of 2PM, what do you think your personality specifically brings to the group? And what are some of the challenges of working as a group?
I think I’m the international bridge that connects the group to places outside Korea. If the group were only Korean members, the reach would be very Korean. But because
I’m there, I make the group a little more international. Me and Taecyeon, because he grew up in Boston.
In Korean culture, younger people usually can’t speak up to the older ones. But we’re all friends, colleagues, partners. So whatever problems we have we talk it out. It doesn’t matter if you’re the youngest or the oldest, we just call a meeting and we talk about it. I think that’s how we’ve remained so close for so long.
Because music is art, sometimes less is more but sometimes more is more so we have to find a balance. We haven’t perfected it, but we’re still on the way, still learning a lot. What I’ve learned is you can never satisfy the public completely.
What was it like to go out on your own as a solo artist?
I never thought I’d do my own music, because in 2PM I have five other members to cover for me if I make a mistake. But when they went off to the military, I promised the fans that I wouldn’t leave them. That’s when I came out with an album and started touring. I called my first solo album ME, because I wanted the fans to hear what I listened to or what I wanted to make, not what’s trendy. I never thought I could sing and dance all by myself for two and a half hours on stage, but I’ve done it. I just keep learning new things about myself through work. I’m very fortunate that this is my job; it’s a blessing.
“The first couple of times I went on stage, I thought I was going to freeze. But I didn’t. And that taught me that if you try hard enough, if you want something, you can do it” NICHKHUN