Three hundred pairs of shades to hide his panic

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Three hundred pairs of shades to hide his panic

Dark sunglasses, a trimmed beard and a powerful voice are the trademarks of the singer Park Sang-min.
Without the first two, he believes, he couldn’t have the third.
“Change my image? No sunglasses and no beard? No way. I could not sing any more.”
The beard and sunglasses are not there merely to project a tough-guy image. They represent his own personal jinx.
Ever since a disastrous performance without his sunglasses, he’s never failed to wear them onstage. He hasn’t been seen performing without them since 1992.
Now he wears them to weddings and funerals. He has about 300 pairs, in different colors and styles.
Over the years, his sunglasses have cost him a sprained ankle, a six-month suspension by an employer and lost opportunities to be cast in movies or commercials.
The JoongAng Ilbo tried to persuade him to be photographed without them. At first he refused outright.
“It’s been five years since my father saw my eyes,” he said.
But last weekend, in a JoongAng Ilbo studio, he seemed ready to take the first step.
It wouldn’t be easy. This was a man who’d vowed to wear sunglasses at his own wedding. But he agreed to discuss the issue with a psychologist, also at the JoongAng Ilbo studio for the occasion.
Dr. Choi Yeong-hee asked him why he couldn’t sing without sunglasses and a beard.
“I feel that I am naked if I take off the sunglasses, and I lose self-confidence without the beard,” Mr. Park said.
“It feels as though I’ve been defeated in a game, in front of an audience.”
When Dr. Choi asked him carefully why he lost his self-confidence, and whether he had a complex about his appearance, Mr. Park began to talk more and more.
“You know what’s on my mind,” he said. “I don’t know how it became a jinx. It was nothing at first.”
Perhaps a strategy would work ― like gradually replacing the sunglasses with lighter- and lighter-colored pairs.
However, it still proved difficult. The dark sunglasses were exchanged for lighter ones. He seemed uncomfortable. His expression seemed more and more fixed.
He never did agree to be photographed without the sunglasses. But he took them off. Though he avoided the mirror, he showed us his face.
He looked a bit more at ease than he had a few moments before. It seemed certain that one day, fans would see his gentle eyes, beaming with mischief.

by Koo Hui-lyung
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