2PM's got nothin' on Jay Park
This article will be mostly old news for K-pop fans, but for the casual K-pop listener, there is an interesting story behind Jay Park and his recent solo debut. The rest of the article will assume you don’t really know who Jay Park is to begin with.
Who is Jay Park?
Jay Park is a Korean-American B-boy and musician (singer and rapper) from Seattle, Washington, USA. He auditioned for JYP entertainment and was accepted as a trainee. He trained for 4 years under JYP until gaining his first exposure on a JYP themed reality show called “Hot Blood”. Here, 13 male trainees were given various tasks and challenges. The end result was an 11 member boy band called “One Day”. This was later further split into 2AM and 2PM. Jay, now going by his Korean name, Jaebeom, was selected as the leader of 2PM.
Tell me more about 2PM.
Okay, well, 2PM was a 7 member boy band that debuted in 2008. After moderate success with their first single “She’s a 10 out of 10” (10점 만점에 10점), their popularity skyrocketed with their 2nd single, “Again and Again.” 2PM for a time was the top boy band in Korea, consistently beating out Super Junior and Shinee for the top spot. (Big Bang, Dong Bang Shinki, were on hiatus at the time.) Again and Again was Korea’s song of the Year for 2009 at the KBS music festival. Casual fans of K-Pop would have probably been able to name only two members of 2PM without doing research of the group. Those two would have been Nickhun (a Chinese-Thai-American from California) who appeared in so many TV shows that he developed a popularity separate from 2PM fans, and Jaebeom.
What was so special about Jaebeom?
Okay, this is basically my own opinion, but he was by far and away the most talented among all of the members. When you watch 2PM perform, you’re watching Jay. The rest of the people in there might as well be background dancers. (And I don’t mean that with any disrespect to the other members of 2PM. Jay simply is that good.) Take a look at this performance of “Again and Again”. Jay stands out.
It appeared that following this single that 2PM was poised to do for Korean boy bands what HOT had done for them 10 years earlier. Their popularity continued to soar, and it seemed like there would be no end to their domination, but all was not well.
At the height of 2PM’s popularity, a Korean phenomenon known as “netizens” took them down a notch. (Netizens are people on the internet that spread information to each other quickly. If one person finds some news, within minutes, hundreds of thousands of people will know about it. Since Korea is so well connected, the actions of one can literally reach millions in a matter of a few hours.) Netizens had located Jay’s myspace page and read through old comments that he had made long before his debut. After cherrypicking the very worst of them, netizens spread this “news” on to each other. Jay had made some disparaging comments about Korea and Koreans when he had first arrived in Korea as he was having trouble adjusting to life as a trainee and was homesick. And really, how can you blame an 18 year old kid for feeling homesick, not being certain if he’d ever debut, adjusting to a new country (including learning a new language), and not being totally familiar with Korean culture? Also in fairness, the Korean people who were offended by his remarks don’t really understand the nuance of what he said. The two comments that stick out the most are “Koreans are gay.” and “I hate Koreans.” Literally taken (as they must have been) these sound horrible. First “I hate Koreans” taken literally means what it sounds like. But in English, the word “hate” can be thrown around when it doesn’t really mean what it sounds like it does. For example, I say “I hate Pepsi” all the time. That should mean that the mere thought of drinking Pepsi should make me want to throw up. It does not. In fact, I’d rather drink Pepsi than several other things, but I say “I hate Pepsi” when it is available and my favorite soft drink, Coke, is not. I’ll have to apologize to any homosexual readers who take offense to the term “gay” being used in this way, but at worst, it means “disagreeable” or “too much effort required.” I admit that I’ve used this term myself. The last time I used it, I was in the DMV back in Maryland trying to get tags for my car. Since my mother was a cosigner when I purchased it several years before that, I was required to produce her marriage license since our family names are different. “That’s so gay!,” I muttered to myself. I wasn’t calling anyone a homosexual (and even if I was, I don’t consider that an insult.) I was expressing my frustration at the situation. When Jay was saying that “Koreans are gay!” he was expressing his frustration at living in Korean society, not suggesting that all Koreans are homosexuals. Homosexuality is still taboo in Korea, so literally translated, this is a horrible offense on Koreans.
So what happened?
Well, uber-nationalist netizens and others who became aware of what Jay had said 4 years earlier cried bloody murder and called for Jay to be deported, jailed, executed, and there was even a petition that people signed asking him to kill himself. Most of the fan base of 2PM or K-pop in general probably didn’t really like his remarks, but they didn’t act in such an extreme way as these people. So, fed up with all the negative press, and at the height of 2PM’s popularity, Jaebeom suddenly quit 2PM and headed back to the U.S.
Man, the netizens are so GAY!
Haha, well, there were also netizens in support of Jay. Those against him seemed to be the same kind of people who preach that Korea is (and should be) racially pure, that Korea shouldn’t have any kind of contact with the outside world, or other nonsense theories about Korea’s cultural superiority. Those for him were undoubtedly fans of Jay or 2PM, and also a large contingent of Korean-Americans who live in Korea and could empathize with him. In addition it seemed that JYP and 2PM itself threw its support behind Jaebeom, and hoped for his return, but in his absence, they would continue as a 6
boy man group. This lead to several awkward situations, when they had to perform songs in which Jay had had parts. If you watch the video below, you will see exactly where Jay was supposed to stand.
How did 2PM do as a 6-person group?
They did alright. They came out with a new hit single, “Heartbeat” and in Jay’s absence, all of the other members (especially Ok Taecyon) gained a lot more exposure. 2PM rode their popularity further and each individual member got more face time and became more well known. After promotions of that single died down, 2PM took a much needed break.
What happened to Jay?
He left Korea, went home to Seattle, and started up with his old breaking crew called Art of Movement. There he focuses mostly on breaking, but from that, he’s also started his solo career. He also started his own youtube channel, where fans can keep up with his activities. After one of his videos of him singing BoB’s “Nothin’ on you” surfaced, Jay was contacted lend his voice to the Korean release of the same song. He also wrote his own Korean version of the song. This song reached the top of the Korean chart.
Jay Park also came back to Korea recently to act in a movie about Korean B-boys. His popularity is soaring. And it’s quite possible that Jay by himself is even more popular than 2PM without him.
Will he ever rejoin 2PM
Will Michael Jackson ever rejoin the Jackson 5?
Hey, that’s not nice, he’s dead!
May he rest in peace, but it essentially is the same question. Jay is at a level so much above and beyond the 6 members of 2PM that there’s no reason for him to go back.
Any closing thoughts?
Yes. SPECULATION ALERT (I don’t know if the following is true) I think Jay’s departure from 2PM was simply a little bit too convenient for 2PM and for Jay. On the one hand, Jay probably got out of an exploitative contract that he signed when he was a kid out of high school, and wasn’t getting what he was worth. He was outshining the other members of 2PM to the point that if things had continued further, 2PM would essentially be Jay Park with back dancers. (It’s a little harsh to say that, I know, but it’s true, he is so much better than they are in my opinion, even though they are really good.) I have a belief in a conspiracy theory that the breakup was mutual. The netizens finding his myspace account was just a convenient excuse to accomplish the break up. The individual members of 2PM are now more well known, and Jay Park is free to collect big on his own. It’s a win win scenario for both parties. Fans seem to be angry with JYP Entertainment about this, and Sunmi’s departure from the Wonder Girls, but as the majority of K-pop fans are fickle teenage girls, I doubt that these grudges will have any real effect on JYP’s standing in the entertainment industry.