After 3 years away, Sunmi returns

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After 3 years away, Sunmi returns

Park Jin-young, founder of leading music label JYP Entertainment, introduced his first solo female singer in 13 years last week, with the release of “24 Hours” by Sunmi.

Park’s last singer was the tremendously successful Park Ji-yoon, so hopes are high he can repeat his magic.

Sunmi, however, is no unknown. She rocketed to fame six years ago as a member of the Wonder Girls, with the song “Tell Me,” when she was just 15 years old.

But just as Wonder Girls were reaching their peak of popularity, Sunmi left the group, citing personal reasons; chiefly that she wanted to go to university.

Then, less than a month ago, her hiatus suddenly ended with an announcement on the JYP Entertainment Web site.

After the music video for “24 Hours” made its debut online last week, the EP hit online distributors Monday and nearly immediately shot to the top of all the major charts, proving Sunmi still has a lot of fans.

Prior to the release of “24 Hours,” Sunmi sat down with the JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, to share details about her life and comeback.

Q. It looks like your agency has put a lot of effort into your comeback.

A. It is quite large, and chief producer Park Jin-young had his hands on every little detail. However, phrases like “I’m JYP’s hidden charm” are too much. I’m also worried how the public will respond to me because it has been so long. My goal was just to stand in front of the public again, so my dream has already partly come true.

Was it hard to practice the dance moves in that video?

The dancing had some elements from modern dance, but because I never learned modern dance I found it difficult and different from what I had done before. How you use your hands, which body part you need to put more energy into and how to breathe are all different, and it wasn’t easy to master it all in a short amount of time. It was fun, but I got bruised everywhere from falling, crawling and rolling on the floor. I even had some inflammation on my knees and hips.

How did you decide on the visual concept for the album?

Because there are some stereotypical sexy codes out there, I avoided long wavy hair, smoky makeup and high heels. I cut my hair, danced barefoot on stage and wore light makeup for the music video. I tried to show a kind of charm that fits my age, not yet all mature and sexy like a grown-up woman.

How did you feel when you left the Wonder Girls?

I never left, I just stopped participating with the group. I said that I would be back, like a trainee again but (the public) took that to mean I was leaving. (Toward the end) I found myself going up on stage and coming down automatically, like a machine, after pushing so hard from such a young age. I thought I had lost the initial feelings I had when I was 15, just trying to get an audition - that feeling of wanting to be a singer and nothing else but to be standing on stage. I felt like if I don’t get some humility, I won’t be able to make my dream come true.

What dream did you have?

Like Uhm Jung-hwa or Park Jin-young, I wanted to become a singer with my own style, who could last a long time. Park Jin-young told me that if I can’t stand the tedious repetition or if I continue to doubt my talents, I won’t be able to make it until I’m older. The phrase “tedious repetition” really touched me.

What did you do during your time off?

I made many friends and took trips. I never had a chance to make friends during middle school and high school. Everyone tried to take my photo in school, so I barely had time to be myself and relax. My college friends consider me “Sunmi,” not “Sunmi from the Wonder Girls.”

How did you feel about the fans who supported you, even during your time off?

I am touched. They were waiting without any promise I would come back. I’m sorry but also thankful.

Do you plan on reuniting with the Wonder Girls?

That is a possibility, if a good chance comes up.

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