Kevin Kim talks ZE:A disbandment & new beginnings with radio show ‘SBS PopAsia Live’ [interview]

Kevin Kim, SBS PopAsia, SBS PopAsia with Kevin Kim, ZE:A

Courtesy of SBS PopAsia

As K-pop fans who know the bare minimum of the Korean language, it’s always a struggle to try to tune into a radio show whenever our faves are on. Unlike K-dramas or other TV shows, live radio shows don’t have subtitles — unless a merciful fan translates and uploads a bootleg version (#Blessed). But like the dramas and TV shows, these subtitled versions always come days or even weeks later. Moreover, what’s usually even more difficult as a foreign fan is living in a country that doesn’t necessarily accommodate your daily K-pop fix. However, that’s about to change — or at least for Australia, and therefore English speaking fans all over the world — thanks to ZE:A’s former member Kevin Kim. With his new radio show, SBS PopAsia Live with Kevin Kim, the K-pop star will answer all your Hallyu questions and fulfill your all your fangirl and fanboy needs.

Kevin has been in the entertainment industry for well over a decade in both Korea and Australia, where he spent most of his adolescent and teenage years. He’s always carried an enamoured passion for music, since his early days in Australia when he took part in an array of musicals and a choir that went onto doing international tours. He carried his love for everything entertainment with him back to Korea, where he joined idol group ZE:A as the lead singer. Fans were gifted with Kevin’s talent time and time again, even if the Korean music industry failed to recognize his skill during his time there.

It’s unfortunate that things didn’t pan out the way they perhaps should have, but everything happens for a reason, right? They say opportunity doesn’t come knocking on your door twice, but in Kevin’s case, it did. We recently caught up the K-pop star over the phone from Australia as he makes his big move from Korea. He talked about his most missed Australian foods, life after ZE:A, new solo music, and what we can expect from the radio show.

Hi Kevin! Thank you for setting aside time to do this interview KultScene Congratulations on hosting SBS PopAsia! How do you feel about becoming a daily host?

Kevin Kim: Hello! Well, I’m very honored to be with SBS and doing PopAsia Live starting on the 29th. I’m very excited about it and I’m looking forward to it!

Can you tell us a little bit about SBS PopAsia Live with Kevin Kim?

KK: I’m going to play a lot of K-pop songs and also V-pop, C-pop [on the show]. I’ll also be sharing all my thoughts with the fans and try to give [them] more information about K-pop. [The show will] mainly [be about] Asian pop, fans, and stars.

You were the host of Hotbeat on Arirang for over four years. How and do you think your previous experience hosting has helped you prepare for this new MC gig?

KK: As you said, I’ve been doing radio for four years now with Arirang radio station. [Going into this,] I’m very confident because I’ve been sharing a lot of thoughts and messages with our fans, [receiving their feedback], and I think it will be great to see what the outcome will be like. I just want to feel the vibe here in Australia. You know, the K-pop fans here, they’re also very excited about Korea, the stars, all things Hallyu as well, so I would love to share [my knowledge with them] and see how everything will turn out.

Also on KultScene: Artist Spotlight: Kevin Kim (ZE:A)

What prompted your decision to leave Korea and to go back to Australia and start MC-ing?

KK: The main thing was I wanted to just, you know, after [ZE:A’s] disbandment, I wanted to come back to take a rest because I’ve been away [in Korea] for about 10 years. I wanted to restart myself with something special, which is SBS and the radio show that I’m hosting. I’m going to be doing more of my music and I’m working on my solo album as well, so hopefully I can turn that out sometime this year.

How’s it like being back in Australia as an adult after pursuing your career in Korea?

KK: Oh, good question! You know, a lot of things have changed. I was surprised by all these shops and restaurants. There’s been a lot of changes [from 10 years ago]. It’s been a month now since my arrival [back in Australia] and I’m still adjusting [laughs], but also having fun.

What’s your favorite or least favorite thing(s) about being back?

KK: Well first of all, I missed the food; Meat pies, sausage rolls! You just cannot find — well, they did have Australian food there in Korea as well, but not as good as here in Australia, so food was my thing! And also, my friends. I haven’t seen them for years. I never had the chance to come to Australia to perform as ZE:A, so [now that I’m back], I want to see what it’ll be like.

What will you miss most about living in Korea? The fast internet connection? Just kidding, but really…

KK: Well, obviously that [fast internet] [laughs]. I miss basically everything, [like the] members. It’s only been a month but still… I don’t know, it kind of feels weird, I guess. Just leaving everything there and being here by myself. I’m used to sharing everything with the members and all, but now that I’m here by myself, it’s a bit lonely. But I’m A-okay! You get used to it [laughs].

You’ve been apart of ZE:A for seven years, so how is it like to transition back to daily life in Australia?

KK: It’s not hard, actually, because I was born in Korea but I was raised here [in Australia], so I’m basically used to the culture and the people here. Except for all the changes, you know? So I’m trying to [figure out the changes and] all that. Aside from that, everything is like a daily thing to me.

How did the members react/feel when you told them you were moving back home? Do you have any plans to go back and visit any time soon?

KK: Well, they are doing their own thing now, so, I guess — We still keep in contact through a messenger app, so every time we come up with the motion [idea/concept] for movies, albums, we just share it all in our chat. We don’t really feel sad about being solo and doing [our own] promos; we’re always happy for each other [and seeing each member] do their own thing. That’s how we feel right now; we’ll always support each other.

It’s not a definite goodbye to Korea, I mean, [moving back to Australia] is just another challenge for me. I’m also trying to expand. I had a great opportunity that came through to me, which was SBS. Also, my old agent, Martin Bedford, I knew him from when I was in high school, he contacted me about a year ago when I was in Korea and I was surprised that he still remembered me, so maybe it’s all destiny [for me] to be here again. To tell you a little detail about Martin Bedford, [he runs] the agency that Russell Crowe was in and Olivia Newton John [is currently under], and now I’m here with Martin and SBS PopAsia. Like I said, I’m going to expand my career as Kevin from now on.

Also on KultScene: Top 5 English Covers By Korean Male Singers

How does it feel seeing all the outpouring amount of support from your fans on your new endeavor?

KK: I’m so excited to see [what’s to come] and like I told you, I haven’t been here as a solo artist or as ZE:A, so I think the radio show that I’ll be doing will be a great gateway [for me] to be connected with the K-pop fans here in Australia. I think I’m going to show more of me and share everything that I’ve been doing and [have] experienced in Korea as well. It’s very exciting!

It’s been over a year since you released Collection.” Can we expect any future music projects?

KK: Well first of all, I’m so looking forward to making a single or maybe a full album here in Australia. I’ve worked on a lot of songs throughout my career as [a member] of ZE:A when I was in Korea, so I have a lot of things to share and a lot of things to show. There’s a lot of exciting things that I am getting ready for ,so I hope I can show our fans my style of music. With the Collection album, I really wanted to show [listeners] what I was capable of. That song was inspired from a fashion show that I went to; I just had the idea of this word,“collection,” and that’s how it lead me to creating the song.

Just for fun, what’s your most played song right now and who are some of your current favorite artists?

KK: My number one is Michael Jackson. He’s always been my favorite artist and biggest inspiration. There are tons and tons of artists I’d like to recommend, but right now my favorite artist is Chris Brown. I’ve been listening to his latest song “Privacy” [a lot]. I also like Justin Bieber too.

Any final words for KultScene’s readers?

KK: Thank you for having me! I hope you guys are ready to hear my show on SBS PopAsia Live, which starts on the 29th, Monday through Friday, every day at 6 p.m. AEST. I am also working on my songs and I’ll be releasing my singles and album here in Australia and also in Korea in the near future. Hope you guys will be ready for that!

* Interview was edited for clarity.

SBS PopAsia Live with Kevin Kim will be a one-stop show to stay tuned for all things Asian pop, featuring the latest music, news and interviews from Korea, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Thailand. It will air Monday to Friday at 6 p.m. AEST on SBS PopAsia starting May 29. Listeners can also tune into SBS PopAsia Digital Radio by downloading the SBS PopAsia mobile app or by streaming live on their website.

Kevin Kim, SBS PopAsia, SBS PopAsia with Kevin Kim, ZE:A

Courtesy of SBS PopAsia

Do you have a favorite K-pop radio show or podcast you listen to? Share your experiences in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Blink & You’ll Miss These ‘Doctor Who’ References In K-Pop Music Videos

Doctor Who Meets K-PopK-pop and British pop culture has little direct influence on one another, but some K-pop music video directors are definitely fans of the iconic British television series, “Doctor Who.” Although they’re few and far apart, there are some K-pop music videos that directly take influences from “Doctor Who.”

In honor of the new season of “Doctor Who” being well under way, I took a look into three K-pop music videos that get their inspiration from “Doctor Who.” Even if you’re not a fan of the British show, you know these K-pop music videos and may be surprised.

Big Bang’s “Bang Bang Bang”

Long before Buzzfeed’s Try Guys noticed a connection between the British television series “Doctor Who” and one of this year’s most watched K-pop music videos on YouTube, I noticed a seemingly impossible reference to the iconic sixth season premiere, “The Impossible Astronaut.” In the music video, wearing a cowboy hat and a leather jacket, Big Bang’s rapper T.O.P appears to be no other than the stand in for the show’s leading man, The Doctor.

Also on Kultscene: 4 K-Pop Songs Casting ‘Harry Potter’ Spells

Yes, T.O.P is The Eleventh Doctor. And River Song. Or, at least, he’s wearing a cowboy hat while hanging out with an astronaut, who also appears to be T.O.P. To my knowledge, YG Entertainment hasn’t explained if T.O.P kills himself and ruins the history of time forever or is married to himself, but it’s a pretty humorous few moments in the music video.

Think the cowboy and astronaut are just coincidences and accidentally appear to be referencing “Doctor Who?” Think again, because here are definitely alien-like specimens in jars on the sill and that white room looks a bit like the room from the episode “The Girl Who Waited.”

ZE:A’s “Breathe”

The Big Bang music video is actually just the most recent addition to this list of K-pop music videos that take aspects from “Doctor Who.” The 2014 music video for ZE:A’s song has a bit of a depressing tone to it, like the whole world being destructed and ZE:A dancing in a spaceship, but then we get our space elements that take us to “Doctor Who” and everything seems like it is much better.

In this case, we don’t get a blatant reference to The Doctor or any other character from the show, but we do get a TARDIS. Yes, a TARDIS, but not The Doctor’s TARDIS. This is more like ZE:A’s COE.

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 9.39.24 PM

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For K-pop fans who don’t know, The Doctor’s TARDIS is his spaceship that travels through time and space, and it looks like a 1960’s police call box from England. Its name is an acronym for “Time And Relative Dimensions In Space.” So, going with that, ZE:A’s blue box has the group’s name it in English, which is Children of Empire so… I decided that ZE:A’s spaceship is called a COE, and it doesn’t really travel through space and time as much as it makes a handsome K-pop group.

ZE:A’s music video has a lot of out of this world elements, but I can’t help but wonder whether their blue stage outfits came before or after someone suggested throwing in one of the most iconic images of British pop culture, the TARDIS from “Doctor Who”.

IU’s “You & I”

Last but definitely not least, we have a K-pop singer emulating The Doctor.This 2011 music video from IU takes us to England, or somewhere that looks like it, with a clock tower that can’t quite compare to Big Ben and a cozy little house with black and white pictures and a random goose walking around IU’s home as she counts down to D-Day.

Do you remember how I explained that the TARDIS is a spaceship that travels through time and space? Well, IU’s waiting for some handsome guy to wake up and there’s a magical mystery device that says “time” and “space” on it.

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And then it gets better!

Not every season of “Doctor Who” has clockwork in the beginning of each episode as part of the opening theme, but clockwork played a role in the intro of the eighth season of “Doctor Who,” and what is IU dancing in front of during the intro of the song? Nothing more than tons of clockwork gears.

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 9.48.17 PM

Okay, that may be a bit of a stretch, but here is the best use of any “Doctor Who” reference in K-pop to date- IU uses the TARDIS. Or something that looks like it and works the same way.

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 9.55.48 PM

Yes, Korea’s pop princess IU takes a ride on a train called the Fantasy Express and then gets into a time machine that looks oddly like a TARDIS from the outside. “You & I” foregoes the delightful bright blue color for something a bit more sedate, but there’s the same twirling and cosmic ambiance of IU’s box of time and space.

Do you know any other references to “Doctor Who” in K-pop? Let us know in the comments and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Artist Spotlight: Kevin Kim (ZE:A)

kevin kim, ze:a
What makes you love a group? How do you choose a bias? Or is it in the opposite order? Do you unexpectedly stumble upon a member and then find yourself falling in utter and complete love, to later on being converted into that person’s’ actual band? Sometimes, that’s the best way to do it. Discovering Kevin Kim and seeing him singing on ”K-Pop: The Ultimate Survival” and thinking to myself, “Is this real life? Is that really him singing?” was a pivotal moment in my K-pop life, a definite game changer. Read more

Best Of The K-Pop B Tracks Pt. 4

Are you ready for yet another installment of our Best of the K-Pop B Tracks series? It’s been almost a year since our last article, but no worries; we’re back with a fresh and manly list, consisting of some older and newer songs for the latest installment of our series!

Artist: GOT7
Album: “Just Right”
Song: “Nice”

It can easily be said that 80 percent of GOT7’s albums usually consist of dance tracks. They’re young guys bursting at the seams with explosive energy, so why not, right? Straight from the get-go, “Nice” had a hypnotic beat with semi sensual lyrics. Not only have the members of GOT7 grown physically, but their voices have also matured a great deal since debut, with member Youngjae being the most noticeable with his honey-like voice. With the release of each mini album, there always seems to be that one track — how should I put this? — that puts you in the mood, makes you feel some sort of way, and “Nice” just so happens to be that particular song.

“Nice” is filled with what has a sophisticated level of ecstasy and has a contagious chorus and yet I can’t seem to wipe off this smile from my face, unable to take them seriously because I’m already so used to them acting like silly kids. I wonder what it’s like having these guys in the recording studio; it’s hard trying to image their level of seriousness when they’re always acting so goofy. Am I the only one that feels this way about GOT7? Regardless of all that, take a listen and I promise you’ll be singing bam bam bam bi dam bi da bi dam bam for the remainder of the day. Read more

5 English Covers by Korean Male Singers

english covers by korean male singers g.o mblaq ze:a kevin 2bic
It’s one thing when an artist does a cover of a song, but it’s another thing when that artist is able to move you and convey an even stronger message than the original singer. And it’s even more astonishing when the language of the song isn’t even the singer’s first language.

If you’re a YouTube junkie, then you might’ve seen these covers floating around before, and if not, you’re in for a treat! Here are my top five English covers by Korean male singers.

5. 2BiC I’m Not the Only One

Read more

5 Occasionally Neglected Male K-Pop Idols

There are lots of K-pop groups out there, but not all of them are popular. What’s more, within a group, some members are always no more popular than others. But this doesn’t mean that some are greater than the rest, I mean, who doesn’t love an underdog? That’s why we’ve listed a few members from underrated, ocassionaly neglected groups that deserve the spotlight. Here are our picks of a few personal favorites that a lot of K-pop fans may be underestimating.

5. Yoon Doojoon (윤두준) known as Doojoon from BEAST (비스트)

Read more

Let’s Discuss: Did ZE:A’s Lee Hoo Go Too Far?

Lee Hoo went up against the Korean entertainment establishment and came out on top. Then he continued, and now there is some concern that maybe he’s gone too far too fast.

This week saw ZE:A’s leader Moon Junyoung, known by his stage name Lee Hoo, go up against his company, Star Empire, on Twitter and win. The initial response to his outburst was a positive one, to see an idol attacking injustices. But then Lee Hoo continued after seeing the conclusion of what he was seeking; now it’s unclear whether he is overstepping his boundaries and should be happy with the gains that he has made, rather than risk making everything worse.

After increasingly difficult situations within Star Empire Entertainment, including little-to-no pay, unfair management, and physical abuse, Lee Hoo threatened the company’s CEO on Twitter. He promised to release incriminating documents, proving the company’s corruption, and also mentioned that he may reveal information about other entertainment companies.

Lee Hoo also called for other entertainment companies to reevaluate their terms, and asked journalists and fans to help him. Plus, he revealed that the Dream Team production team had treated him poorly after breaking a bone on set, using a single example, but implying that Korean PDs are also harsh on idols.

And after several outbursts of anger on Twitter, Lee Hoo stated that he had met with Star Empire’s CEO to reconcile and reconsider ZE:A’s contract terms. After, Lee Hoo wrote that ZE:A’s terms would be reversed from how it had been before, so that the idols would earn 70 percent of the profits and the company 30 percent, rather than vice-versa.

ZE:A Lee Hoo's Twitter Update

That seemed to be the end of it, but only a few hours later, Lee Hoo returned to Twitter saying that if fans clamored enough, he would reveal more evils of the Korean entertainment industry if netizens asked him to. It seems likely that Lee Hoo will keep his crusade going, if fans support him.

However, is there such a thing as too much in this case?

The Korean entertainment industry is extremely hierarchical, and Lee Hoo took to social media like so many other modern-day revolutionaries to reveal the truth of a horrendous situation. He acted very brave, but also slightly careless; the CEO, who he named, could have sued him for libel, cut his contract, and it could have had a downward spiral that affected all of the members of ZE:A (no other ZE:A members have spoken up about the situation, so it is unclear whether they were aware of what Lee Hoo was going to do).

Luckily, things worked out well, and Lee Hoo was able to make many gains for ZE:A. Netizens also supported the idol’s actions instead of turning on him. There is some criticism that he called out the CEO publicly, but Lee Hoo addressed the fact in his tweets, saying that the situation had gotten so far out of hand. Many netizens posted messages of support for Lee Hoo.

But should Lee Hoo stop before he hurts himself and the group? He already pushed the envelope a lot; he took to Twitter in a vehement way that hasn’t been seen from any K-Pop idol previously. Even the most outspoken idols have not truly gone head-to-head with their CEO, airing all of their despicable issues. Instead, most idols leave their companies and sue. And none of them have said that they will release more incriminating documents in the future about other entertainment companies or production companies.

Lee Hoo is risking the entire entertainment industry’s wrath, rather than just upsetting his own company. After getting so much for ZE:A, Lee Hoo obviously is feeling very successful. Hopefully, the company will work with ZE:A for the better, and all of this will work out.

But if netizens ask Lee Hoo for too much, he may turn the entire industry against him and ZE:A. ZE:A debuted in in 2010. In the past four years, the nine members have achieved limited fame, with several members becoming incredibly popular while the others live in relative obscurity. ZE:A’s songs have gained attention, but the group has never become a leader of Hallyu, or even won an award on a music show. Complete apathy from fans, who were happy with ZE:A being second tier idols, and from ZE:A’s company have hindered the group.

Now that ZE:A is at a crossroads, as the leader Lee Hoo has some important decisions to make. He has fought well, but it seems that the whole thing is still very tenuous.

What do you think? Is Lee Hoo at risk of losing everything he’s gained? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.


Let’s Discuss: Why Does ZE:A Get So Little Love?

ZE:A is one of the best, most consistent idol groups out there today. The group has several amazing songs, and some duds, but since their debut in 2010, ZE:A has struggled to place in charts to reach the fans.

Even its recent song, Breathe, has gained little attention.

The group has filmed over 20 music videos since debuting, featured in countless songs. Four of the nine members: Kwanghee, Hyungsik, Siwan, and Dongjun, are pretty well known for their acting and variety skills. They’ve appeared in popular shows and movies like The Heirs, Star King, The Moon That Embraces The Sun, Real Men, We Got Married, To The Beautiful You, and A Company Man.

With individual members so popular and the group so prolific and talented, it’s always bothered me why ZE:A isn’t more well received. This past April, the group was ranked as having the 33rd largest fanclub in South Korea; that’s no small feat when there are so many idol groups. YG’s upcoming boy group, WINNER, ranked #26.

This could be a simple matter of larger companies filling up the idol scene and promoting their members better than a smaller company like ZE:A’s, but that’s not the case. Star Empire Entertainment was founded in 2000 and produced not only ZE:A and Nine Muses, but also popular groups Jewelry and V.O.S.

The group is popular enough to rank on the idol fanclub chart (it’s harder than it seems – JYJ, Secret, and SISTAR were at the bottom of the list, despite their popularity). People know the names of some of the members. Several of their albums ranked within the top ten charts, but the group has never won an award on one of the music shows like Inkigayo. They’ve debuted in Japan pretty successfully and have unit groups, but ZE:A still struggles.

So what’s going on?


I’ve also thought about it as the group doing too much, without being exceptional in any single way.

The group’s debut song, Mazeltov, was okay. That’s me being extremely nice — I rewatched it and thought that it was a bit of a mess. But the group made up for it with the follow up track, All Day Long. Songs like Here I Am, Heart For 2, Aftereffect, Phoenix, Step By Step, and my personal favorite, The Ghost of the Wind, have proved that the group can create great, catchy songs.

But not charttoppers.

Popular, but never popular enough. That seems to be ZE:A’s “claim to fame.”

The popular members are popular, but not popular enough to bring ZE:A into the spotlight as a group. The songs are good, but never can compete to be number one. The company is a good one, but doesn’t have the ability to promote ZE:A as much as a bigger company would be able to.

The group tries extremely hard, but it’s like ZE:A is climbing a never-ending staircase. ZE:A’s almost reached the top, but when it pauses for a moment or two to catch it’s breath, another idol group comes out with something that slips ZE:A up.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be changing. Every time a new ZE:A song comes out, I, and other ZE:A fans, get excited. Ghost of the Wind really should have been “the” song for ZE:A. But it wasn’t, primarily thanks to too much competition – EXO, B.A.P, f(X), and BEAST were all promoting at the time of Ghost Of The Wind’s release.

Based on the fact that it hasn’t happened in four years, it’s unlikely that ZE:A will produce a song that gains enough attention. The songs are catchy, the vocals are good, but they seem to be missing that special thing that makes certain releases from less popular idol groups shoot to popularity.

Considering this, it’s sad that ZE:A’s debut song wasn’t all that great – some groups debut with such a great concept that fans can’t help but pay attention, like B.A.P. Groups like VIXX and INFINITE debuted with strong songs, and then gained momentum to propel them to become current front-runners of K-POP.

But ZE:A’s first song was, as I said, less than exciting, and the group has been around for so long that people know that they’re there, but just don’t really care.

It must be incredibly hard for ZE:A to work so hard day after day, knowing that there will always be more groups to compete with. ZE:A lost it’s chance for a solid debut back in 2010, and it seems that no matter how hard the group tries, it all seems futile.

Rather than saying the flooded idol market or something like lack of talent or a small company is to blame for ZE:A’s failure to gain attention, I think that apathy is ZE:A’s biggest enemy.

We know it, but we don’t love ZE:A. We listen to the songs, watch them entertain us, but there’s no real connection. Something’s missing in the relationship between ZE:A and fans, and until the group does something to change that, it will always lag behind other, newer, K-Pop acts.

Hopefully something will happen that will propel ZE:A into the spotlight that they deserve, or at least allow people to acknowledge the talented, hard-working  group.

What are your thoughts on ZE:A’s lack of popularity? Subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.