THE STORY OF KIM JAEJOONG
Several years ago, somewhere in South Korea, a boy, barely fifteen, leaves the small town he has lived in for all of his life. He says goodbye to his family, and the sound of their tears don’t cause him to turn back, because he knows he'll lose his courage if he does. He gets on a train headed for Seoul, the big, glamorous city he’s only heard about. He’s scared, frightened, but determined all the same. His name is Kim Jaejoong, and he’s chasing his dreams. He’s my hero, and this is his story.
Kim Jaejoong was born on January 26th, 1986. He was raised in the countryside by his loving, adopted parents and eight elder sisters. His fondest dream was to be a famous and respected singer; to have his name remembered and recognized. With hard work and perseverance, this dream would come true. And it all started when he stepped off the train, looked at the huge, foreign city that was Seoul, and asked himself, “Can I really find my place here?” But he knew himself, and he knew that he would never forgive himself if he turned back now. He found himself a tiny apartment to call home, and prepared himself for an audition to the biggest entertainment company in Korea. He knew he was tone deaf, but he practiced and practiced. When he sang for the judges, his voice was filled with emotion, touching everyone in the room. It was a voice that drew you in, made you want to lose yourself and listen forever…only it was too soft, and too weak. But he won. They chose him for his pretty face, which they said was made to be in entertainment. He signed a seven year contract; he would pay for his lessons for the first two years, and afterwards, if he made it, he would begin training to debut as a singer. Knowing that his family was not well off, he promised himself that he would make it on his own.
The next two years would contain some of the hardest times he would have to face. He put money for tuition before other necessities, and took on three part time jobs to pay for his lessons. Delivering stacks of newspapers at the crack of dawn, manual labour at construction sites, walking three hours to a waitressing job after his lessons; all for the day when everything would be worth it. But even so, he didn’t have enough money for three meals a day. Once, running a high fever, he drags himself through the three hour walk to his restaurant job, and on the way back spots a blood donating booth. Having not eaten for days, he feels he has no other choice; he receives money for donating blood and buys the cheapest pack of crackers he can find. Eventually he gets through the two years, and the company puts him into a group with four other boys. The band name has been determined: Dong Bang Shin Ki. The Chinese characters are 東方神起, and it means “Gods Rising from the East”. The five will live together, practice together, and, the company tells them, they will be something together. When the time comes to choose a stage name, he is at a loss. The others have already chosen their own, and all of them are meaningful, their hopes and dreams summarized in a name. Their manager takes him to a fortune teller; the woman chooses ‘Youngwoong’, meaning ‘Hero’. It will bring you to great places, she tells him. And so Kim Jaejoong became Youngwoong Jaejoong.
Their first single HUG, despite having only two songs on it, tops the charts. Fan letters increase day by day, and he feels like all his troubles are over. But it’s not. The first time they hold a fan meeting, not one of the fans line up in front of him. As his heart shatters, he wonders what he has done wrong. When he reads posts online, he finds out that they are jealous of his looks, and he laughs in relief. He refuses to give up, but each performance adds pressure until he feels like a vase about to break. He starts to watch every smile and word in front of the camera. But he’s being so cold the company considers switching him out. It’s only his fans, who boycotted the company against it, and his band members, who did everything they could to prevent it, that he stayed a part of the band. He’s grateful, and works ever harder, cherishing every moment as he fulfills his dream. It’s during a rehearsal that he falls. He thinks that it’s normal to fall when you dance, but his knee hurts so much that the other members notice, and carry him to the hospital. He finds out that he needs major surgery. Even so, two days after the operation, he shows up at their performance, and lies that he feels fine, biting his lip and drawing blood rather than crying. When he finally recovers, he celebrates with his friends. On the drive back, he is arrested for drinking and driving. For two weeks he is kept in silence; he knows that the other members are begging the company to let him stay. He insists on apologizing, and for the first time, he cries in front of everyone. They tell him he is forgiven, and from this he finds the strength to carry on.
Kim Jaejoong is someone who never gives up no matter what the obstacle is; something as small as forgiveness is all the faith he needs to continue. After all of his hardships and suffering, his dream became realized. He’s a member of one of the most popular groups in Asia, loved for his perseverance, passion for music and beautiful voice, someone who isn’t afraid to face his mistakes. He may not have saved a lot of people, but his story inspires people who were too afraid to reach for their dreams. Despite everything he was able to make his dream come true, because “underneath, lies the soul of a true hero”.