Welcome to Fan Chant, a weekly column for K-pop fans, stans, and newbies alike. Each week, I’ll be rolling out interviews, lists, and all kinds of content to keep you in the loop on the latest and greatest from our friends in Seoul and beyond. Also, make sure to subscribe to my companion newsletter!
For all the glitz and glamour of the entertainment industry, working as a K-pop idol is not always the dreamy life many fans might imagine — and while this isn’t a new idea at all, it’s one with which HUH YUNJIN of LE SSERAFIM has become all too familiar.
LE SSERAFIM debuted in May of 2022 and have quickly found their footing. The members turned heads with their diverse, sharply-honed skill sets: KAZUHA, for example, is a classically trained ballet dancer and incorporates her background into LE SSERAFIM’s choreography, while HUH YUNJIN has a background in opera, and recently opened a performance flexing her years spent sharpening her vocal skills. LE SSERAFIM made our list of 10 K-pop acts that dominated 2022, and the five members seem to have no intention of slowing down any time soon.
HUH YUNJIN, a vocalist and dancer in the group, was raised in America. In the short time that’s passed since LE SSERAFIM’s debut, the now-21-year-old has been vocal about hoping to use her role within the industry to bring positive change to the idol experience. She’s not afraid to dive into topics that might still feel a bit taboo in the world of K-pop, and turned up the volume in her latest self-written and self-produced single, “I ≠ DOLL.”
little throwback for pride 🙂
i love you. unconditionally.#LE_SSERAFIM #HUHYUNJIN #허윤진 #ホユンジン pic.twitter.com/LO7ueLuBQl
— 르세라핌 (@IM_LESSERAFIM) June 2, 2022
The animation in the music video for the single was also created by HUH YUNJIN herself. It shows scenes of a cartoon figure, a stand-in for herself, boxing a masked figure, presumably intended to be an online troll. Later, after having her outfits switched out in a way that recalls dress-up computer games of our youth, she stands as camera bulbs flash and newspaper headlines surround her: “ANT SIZED WAIST, WEIGHT LOSS TIPS, DESIGNER BRANDS, SHOCKING NEW LOOK.”
It’s unusual in the best way for an idol in the K-pop world, especially one as young as HUH YUNJIN, to tackle these themes head on. (LE SSERAFIM’s name, appropriately, is an anagram of “I’M FEARLESS.”) I was so excited to connect with HUH YUNJIN for this week’s column and hear about what went into the release.
Take a listen to “I ≠ DOLL” below, and read on for HUH YUNJIN’s insights into the message and songwriting process.
This song is incredible. Was there an experience in particular that made you feel inspired to release this song, and why release it now?
HUH YUNJIN: Thank you so much! Rather than saying a single experience catalyzed this song, I want to say it was inspired by a collection of things I felt between being an onlooker to being a player in the entertainment industry. It was not inspired by a single moment that came to me after debut.
I think regardless of fame, gender, age, class, race, etc., the cruelty, superficiality, and contradiction of online hate is something everyone has experienced at least once. Treating people with fairness and kindness has always been crucial to me. And this message that people you see on screen are still in fact people like you has been something I’ve dreamt of talking about since I was a trainee. I decided to release it now simply because I’ve been waiting to.
How did you feel when writing and recording the track, and in the moments before it was released? How do you feel now that it’s out in the world?
HUH YUNJIN: I remember writing this track in my bedroom at 2, 3:00 a.m. The lyrics and melody to the chorus just came to me out of nowhere, and like a bolt of lightning, I got to my desk and started writing things down. It was actually my first time writing an original song in Korean, so I was scared I wouldn’t be able to be as honest in comparison to English. But, you know, I ended up swearing in both languages so I guess I proved myself wrong [laughs].
I’ve been waiting to release this song since last year, so the moments leading up to its release I was so excited, screaming and running around the room — we were getting our hair and makeup done at the time — telling all the staff, “There’s only two minutes left!” And when it was released, we just listened to it altogether on speaker on repeat. I am just glad if people recognize the message, because that is my only goal.