Life Behind The Lens: A Chat With Former LC9 Member Eden Park
It’s no secret that the camera loves former LC9 member Eden, Park Hyungjin – as much as he enjoys being in front of it too.
Much like any other aspiring YouTuber out there, Jaedyn is better known under an unique moniker that has quite the catchy snag to it. To his fans and audiences, he is Eden – a young man who’s crazy talented, with a keen sense of humour and good looks to boot. His resume is certainly impressive too – Eden’s a musician, designer, and he’s also an ex-K-pop idol.
Eden, whose original stage name was stylized as E.Den, was part of Nega Network’s now-disbanded idol boy group, LC9, an acronym that stood for League of Competition #9. The original group line-up, comprising of leader Rasa, J-Hyo, King, Jun, AO, and E.Den himself, joined the other legions of fresh-faced K-pop debuts back in 2013 with MaMa Beat.
Coming from the same agency as one of South Korea’s legendary girl groups, Brown Eyed Girls, did lend its hefty weight on the burning anticipations that was in store for LC9. The group unfortunately went on hiatus for an extended length of time, a risky move for any rookie group in the business, leading LC9 to fall behind and into the K-pop industry’s harsh and unforgiving abyss of obscurity. The silence of the group’s inactivity was broken in July 2014, when the official announcement of Eden’s departure from the group was posted, much to the shock of Love Beats worldwide. Eden wanted to pursue his studies back in Canada, and had actually left for the country in February that same year.
Although Eden has largely been out of the limelight since then, he still garners a notable online presence, and he speaks to hellokpop.com exclusively about the daily struggles of university life, his online endeavors, and reflections on the past, present and future.
With upswept hair and a slight grin resting on his lips, Eden fiddles with the settings on his camera, and does a quick rundown in his mind before he hits the REC button. He settles, but notices something amiss – he quickly turns to fix a lopsided picture frame behind him with another grin, before letting his words flow in the makings of his next Vlog.
It’s all in a day’s work for Eden.
YouTube is presently Eden’s go-to creative playground, where he expresses himself from both an artistic and personal standpoint. There is a little something for everyone on his channel – from music covers, to Vlogs and the ever-popular reaction videos, and that’s just the beginning. He is also not afraid to get down into the nitty-gritty of things; openly tackling heavy topics considered controversial or taboo in the K-pop sub-culture. Most recently, Eden shared his thoughts and perspectives on marriages, especially on idols getting hitched while still in the biz, and encouraged discourse among his viewers too. As much as he enjoys Vlogging, there is no denying that music is still a huge, magnetic force in his life.
Eden brightens at the mention of his latest cover and remix of Drake’s Hotline Bling, and reveals that he rekindled his passion for creating music when he started doing it on his own. “I feel that music and creating videos on YouTube are things I will probably keep doing for an extended period of time, at least until I graduate from university. I like doing my own music – even though everything I’ve done so far is fairly preliminary, and not too much effort has been put in it, I think I can only keep evolving from here.”
However, he adds that his music has been in the backburner recently due to his other engagements. “I have to keep up with school, I have limited equipment, and I have to do everything by myself – or with some other friends, who aren’t professionals either,” he sighs, listing them out through outstretched fingers, but Eden is far from being disheartened. “Doing everything myself has forced me to learn and put more effort into everything, and I believe I’ve improved in every aspect – maybe other than dancing!”
Reality soon catches up with Eden.
Slumping back into his couch, Eden readies himself for an all-nighter. He has to prep for an exam at 8am in the next morning – a reality that’s part and parcel of a typical university student’s life. “When I left, I said it was for school and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the past two years,” Eden shrugs, pulling a laptop out from his bag. “I’ve been living a very normal life- going to school, hanging out with friends, partying, playing sports, playing games… that’s what I’ve been up to on a daily basis,” he shares, absentmindedly scrolling through a presentation slide on his screen.
This sense of normalcy that Eden has grown accustomed to is a far-cry from the organized chaos and crammed schedules he was exposed back in South Korea. Although he admits that having music as a focused career in the past allowed him to work on his music without constraint, Eden is however adamant on steering clear from the idol industry. “I have no intention of ever being in a group or being under strict management. I’ve experienced it and those things have its pros and cons, but I don’t think I would put myself through something like that again,” he remarks, shaking his head.
It is claimed that idols and artists in general put up a front while performing on-stage; a carefully-crafted persona designed to create a certain positive impression on audiences. For Eden, it rings true for his past with haunting clarity. He felt as if he was donning a mask while presenting himself as part of LC9, forcibly concealing the real him.
“I think a lot of my fans who know me from just LC9 don’t really know who I am. Especially those who saw me in person, because I’m not actually like that in real life,” he discloses, clasping his hands. Eden says that it was a rather trying time in his life where he was clouded with doubts over who the ‘real Eden’ was. “I had a lot of stress and pressure and I was definitely a different person than who I actually am. I think since I’ve left entertainment, I’ve just become myself again.”
Although education was the reason provided to explain Eden’s withdrawal from LC9, there’s no doubt that glowing embers of curiosity still linger in many fans’ minds over the exact motives behind his departure, but Eden comments that it’s not something he can share the full story to, either.
“This answer does not depend on me alone – it affects other people too so I won’t go too much into detail about it,” Eden offers, but maintains that school was primary for his leave, as Korea lacked the courses and faculties he wished to major in. “There was an option for me to transfer my schooling to South Korea – but it was never a logical one. There are very few lectures done in English, and almost none are conducted in English for the faculty that I wanted to be in,” he says, detailing his struggles.
Although Eden drops a bomb that he was offered a place in 3 other well-known companies in the K-pop industry after his withdrawal, he reveals that he denied them all in order to focus on his studies. His firm dedication regarding his education stems from how the sacrifices from his parents helped to create better, brighter windows of opportunity for him. “Any student of immigrant parents will understand -they sacrificed a lot for me to get an education in Canada. I need to at least graduate from University before I set out to do anything else.”
Rapping, singing, writing and dancing are some of the basic skills which are drilled into trainees throughout the gruelling process en route to debuting into an idol group. Some might not even make it all the way through; and even if they do, success does not come guaranteed. Having been thrust into the limelight and out of it has given Eden renewed insights on the Korean entertainment scene. Reflecting on the K-pop culture as a whole, Eden believes that it is too obsessed with instant gratification, and he’s also critical about the artistic merit of K-pop, citing that there is rather little originality within the artists, particularly with idols.
He also burst the bubble that K-pop is up, front and centre in terms of international recognition, a notion that is increasingly prevalent and being upheld – not by the general public, but amongst K-pop fans themselves, and that’s where he thinks the issue lies.
“If I show any of my friends in Canada a typical K-pop group, they won’t be able to understand what’s going on. They don’t understand why these guys have such thick makeup on, and why the girls are almost anorexic,” he says, putting things into perspective. “It’s pretty unfortunate actually because a lot of the artists, including idols, are very talented. But because of these circumstances, they are not being taken seriously – at least, in North America.”
But, he acknowledges the fact that there are lots of platforms for artists to express their music, and people there are driven by a strong sense of determination. “People are very serious about what they do and they strive for the best.”
Although Eden has left the glitz and chaos of the K-pop dream behind, remnants of his past idol title still resides in many small, yet significant ways. He still actively communicates with his fans, both old and new on his social media accounts, and he’s pleasantly surprised at number of fans who are still avidly keeping up on the comings and goings in his life.
A quick check on Eden’s Twitter reflects the massive love and support he still receives and garners up till today. The almost never-ending thread of comments in reply to his recent tweets reveal that his posts have always drawn a constant stream of positive feedback and sweet remarks from his followers. Yet, Eden takes his time to reply to the influx of comments, ensuring that his fans’ love is being acknowledged well.
“I’m very lucky that some fans are still sticking with me and are curious about what I’m up to. I wish I had this sense of gratitude when I was younger,” Eden admits with a wry smile. Although Eden explains that he doesn’t necessarily wish to have more fans concurrently, naming them as one of the two things he wished he could have retained from his idol past mirrors the sincere awareness and respect he has for his fans. “I wish I had done a better job of treating my fans (back then),” he says thoughtfully.
With such an endearing, global fan-base, we are curious if Eden had encountered moments when he was recognized by fans on the streets. He nods with a grin. “I get recognized quite often in the Korean area of Vancouver, which is Robson St. I also got recognized on campus a few times but most of the times people who recognize me will not come up to me and say anything, but they will tweet or message me online afterwards,” Eden recalls.
Glancing back at the whirlwind phases of change in Eden’s life prior, during, and after experiencing the idol lifestyle, his strong character was the anchor that kept him grounded in what would be an otherwise tumultuous time for anyone else, were they in his shoes. “I’ve faced much more difficult situations in my own personal life. I think that’s what has helped me the most in difficult situations within the entertainment world.”
“I don’t really think too deeply about the difficult times or ever doubt myself. I think that’s just how I am as a person; I’ve always been very certain of myself,” he muses. “Whenever I make a decision, I’m very certain of it. Every decision and every goal I’ve made has been made by myself – so it’s safe to say that I’d never regretted a decision I’ve made in my life.”
Same goes for joining LC9 – Eden doesn’t consider his short stint as an idol a waste. In fact, he has ‘no regrets’ because they helped him to become who he is now, today. “It’s been one of the best experiences of my life. I’ve learned so much from my time in South Korea. Those experiences don’t just stop after I’ve left – they stay with me forever.”
Now the question is, does Eden have plans to return to his home country?
“Maybe, I can’t say what the future holds for me. There are lots of things I miss, and there are lots of things I respect (in Korea), like the social life there. Even though I have closer friends in Canada, the entire scene is so different in Seoul.”
Revealing that he actually returned to the country back in the summer of 2014, Eden states that he prefers Korea in every way over Canada, aside from a couple of hitches. “Other than my close friends back home; and the work culture in South Korea is just too crazy!”
With 2016 being a year of new beginnings, what path will Eden plan to etch out in this New Year?
“2015 was a great year for me to get an idea of what I want to do, and I like how I lived my life (in 2015). I just want to be consistent with everything, and put in more effort into my personal life and my life on the internet.”
Eden too hopes that fans will anticipate his upcoming projects, as he revealed that he will be quite active online this year. “I’m going to be more consistent with my uploads, especially on YouTube, because I have a lot of exciting things lined up!”
But then again, Eden does not wish to be confined to a particular label – in this case, solely a YouTuber. “I want to do whatever I feel like doing without being labelled within a particular occupation. I don’t think I’ll ever be happy with doing one particular thing – I never really feel burned out, but I do sometimes get bored of things. I like trying new things and I want to try experiencing everything that I can while I’m alive.”
Catch up with Eden through his various social media pages:
(Interview conducted by Seckvoon & Clarissa, Editing by Adrian Cheng)