“I think we’re sitting too far apart. Do you want to come closer?” Nichkhun says to us, beaming. Of course, with those melt-your-heart puppy-dog eyes staring at us, it’s hard to say no. We’re at the industrial-chic POISE studio in Seoul where we’ve just flown six-and-a-half-hours to meet with hunky Korean boyband 2PM for all of 15 minutes.
We’ve just plonked ourselves a comfortable distance away (as you do when you meet K-popsters) from the impeccably-dressed (main pic, from left) Ok Taecyeon, 28, Nichkhun, 28, Jang Wooyoung, 27, Lee Junho, 27, and Chansung, 27. Missing in action is Jun.K who’s recuperating from a fall from a moving stage during a performance. Upon Nichkhun’s behest, we inch our chair forward, just as the crooner rises from his and strides over to pick up a stool from the back of the room and settles it in front of us. “Put it here,” he says, gesturing at our recorder which we’ve unceremoniously plopped on the floor earlier.
So the Thai-American boybander’s rep for having impossibly good manners to match his good looks appear to be true after all. Despite making a name as ‘beastly’ idols (Konglish for brawny, rather than a reference to the Disney character) for themselves, the members are laidback, easy-going and well, very un-idol-like in person. Other than exuding warm, friendly vibes and doling out un-K-pop-like candid answers, English-speaking members Taecyeon and Nichkhun have even taken it upon themselves to be our unofficial translator for the day.
Together, they’re a rambunctious bunch. If those rumours about in-band rivalry are true, it sure didn’t show. As we’re shooting the breeze with the boys on their latest reality show outing, Wild Beat — which sees them embark on a 10-day adventure Down Under — their camaraderie is palpable. Often, they get so carried away chatting among themselves, it was as though we weren’t in the room at all. It may not have been the hottest time of the day when we spoke to 2PM at 3pm, but we’re feeling the brotherly warmth, alright.
8 DAYS: Your latest reality show is called Wild Beat. What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever done in your life?
TAECYEON: (Laughs) For me, it was during my trainee days…
NICHKHUN: Am I included in your story?
TAECYEON: No, you’re not. Do you want to be? Anyway, I had a shoot in Argentina. On the way back, we had a layover in New York. So, I thought I might as well visit my parents [in my Boston home] ’cos I missed my mum! But I didn’t tell my management [JYP Entertainment] back in Korea. I got into a lot of trouble for it. My management got so mad, they kicked me out and I was left out in the cold for three days. But it’s okay. It’s all in the past now. [Fist pumps] JYP! (Laughs)
JANG WOOYOUNG: My upcoming Japanese album has a very wild concept. I dyed my hair and I’m wearing grills!
NICHKHUN: The wildest thing I’ve done recently is take the subway [just last month]. I was going to Bangbae with one of my managers, and to drive there would take an hour but to take the subway would only take 25 minutes. It was really fun. I was so excited, so I was filming myself [and posted it on Instagram]. That was pretty wild. It was my first time taking the subway in 10 years. Back when we were trainees, we’d take the subway all the time to go to [rehearsals]. But I haven’t done so since then, and it’s changed so much.
CHANSUNG: I recently grew out my moustache for two weeks ’cos I didn’t have any official schedules that required me to do my hair and make-up. I was curious to see how it would look. When I saw myself in the mirror, I was really shocked at my appearance. So I shaved it off.
TAECYEON: No one recognised him.
NICHKHUN: It was really long.
LEE JUNHO: I was shooting a drama in Korea for three months, and many times, I’d have to stay out for three days in a row. I also couldn’t sleep [’cos of the hectic filming schedule]. I was a bit out of it then, and even now.
On Wild Beat, to fund your trip from Melbourne to Uluru, you had to take on part-time jobs in Australia. Some of you worked as waiters, chefs and dishwashers. What kind of struggles did you face?
JUNHO: It was embarrassing ’cos it was my first time [going out there to look for a job]. Who would give anyone without any experience a job in one day? So I didn’t like our producer in Australia. Just kidding. (Laughs) It was really hard to find a job in that situation. But I eventually did. I received a lot of help from the restaurant owners. Cooking is very difficult. The queues at the restaurant I worked at was very long. There were only three chefs, including myself, at that time. So we had to keep cooking and it was very difficult for us to even go on bathroom breaks.
TAECYEON: I did dishwashing and I thought it was very peaceful. You don’t really have to worry about anything. You just wash the dishes and there’s warm water coming out of the faucet. I was just by myself, the water’s running and I’m slowly washing the dishes. And it doesn’t stop — the dishes keep coming and I’m like, “Hmm, this will never end.” I had so much time to think about my life, like, what am I doing here?
NICHKHUN: I guess it could be very therapeutic. That means you’re not working hard enough! You’re supposed to be looking at the dishes to see if they’re clean enough.
TAECYEON: Usually, for dishwashing, you have to soak all the dishes first and then wash them with water altogether at once. But, since I’m not really good at dishwashing, I did it one dish at a time. It was very time-consuming, but relaxing. I suck at dishwashing, by the way.
NICHKHUN: I was waiting tables, taking orders and cleaning up the tables. The hardest part was to not spill food on people ’cos I had to move really fast and the floor was slippery at times. So I had to try to balance those plates on my hands while walking through tables and chairs.
Before you guys found fame with 2PM, what part-time jobs did you take on?
CHANSUNG: I was giving out and posting up flyers.
WOOYOUNG: My parents owned a supermarket. So I worked with my mum from a very young age delivering goods on my bicycle.
NICHKHUN: I didn’t work. I just went to school.
TAECYEON: I had a part-time job as a beta tester for remote controls. In America, my friend’s mum used to work in Verizon, the phone company. They were coming out with remotes. So I had to test the different remotes. I’d just pick up a remote, use it, and be like, [ticks off a box on an imaginary form] ‘Okay, not bad.’ I did that when I was 16 or 17 ’cos they paid really well — US$80 (S$112) bucks an hour.
NICHKHUN: (Incredulously) What?! Why did you leave your job?!
TAECYEON: But it was only for two hours [each time].
NICHKHUN: Just stick to clicking remotes. You’ll be rich!
What new things did you learn about your band members on this trip that you never knew in the 10 years you’ve been together as a group?
NICHKHUN: We lived together for almost eight years. So we know pretty much everything about each other, except for the fact that Taecyeon spends a lot of money.
TAECYEON: It was just for the show.
NICHKHUN: For himself!
TAECYEON: That’s true. We know each other so well that we don’t really have anything new to find out. ’Cos we lived together…
NICHKHUN: … we already know each other’s habits.
CHANSUNG: Like snoring and all?
TAECYEON: Like sleeping habits, but we already knew that before we went on the trip.
2PM Wild Beat is available on demand on E! Zone (StarHub Go). The series also airs on E! (Singtel TV Ch328 and StarHub Ch441) on Apr 30, 2pm (Ep 1 to 5) and May 1, 2pm (Ep 6 to 10).