#Exclusive: Kim Woojin and the Road to Vindication
How the trials and tribulations in the young South Korean soloist’s life inspired a cathartic album full of self-reflection and hope
Kim Woojin is no stranger to fame. As a former member of JYP Entertainment’s popular boy band Stray Kids, Kim–known by the mononym Woojin– has enjoyed his fair share of success. Being part of a group that would pride itself on introspective and self-produced songs, Woojin expressed himself as composer and songwriter on several tracks before terminating his exclusive contract with JYP Entertainment in October 2019. Citing personal circumstances with no further explanation, Woojin parted ways with the group, leaving fans wondering about the vocalist’s future.
Of course what no one knew at the time, was how ugly it was all about to get.
“That plain face makes me more afraid,” are lyrics from Woojin’s 2021 debut single, “Ready Now.” The phrase may not be of any significance to those unaware of the events that pushed the 24-year-old singer into the darkest time of his life, but to those who are cognizant, this seven vocable syntax can be analyzed as a story of perplexities and strain that presented itself in the form of an anonymous tweet. In September 2020, right before Woojin could begin a solo career, a tweet posted by an anonymous Twitter account went viral. In a series of now-deleted posts, the account’s user accused Woojin of sexual misconduct, alleging that the singer had met them in a bar in Seoul and harassed them by touching them inappropriately.
Despite trying to clear his name from the accusations with a formal statement on his personal social media platforms, every passing day saw the scandal compound. With his words being misconstrued and a new anonymous account backing the accusations, Woojin experienced the wrath of hearsays and rumors throughout 2020, with several fans and non-fans alike climbing aboard the ‘cancel’ train. His reputation was decimated and his debut delayed–he remained silent on the matter and mostly under the radar until June 2021, when his label 10x Entertainment dropped a powerful documentary titled Finger Killer.
“Being a victim of cyberbullying that some people do just for fun, Woojin has suffered indelible pains,” the company shared in a statement. “We, the members of 10x Entertainment, have been collecting the evidence to prove the innocence of our artist, Kim Woojin, and now we unveil the true story.” The six-part film centered around the fabricated accusations of sexual misconduct against Woojin, and presented evidence that debunked the anonymous Twitter user’s claims, finally setting the artist free from the social media hell he had been tossed into.
Despite his trial by fire, Woojin remains positive about his future and is determined to stay focused on the music and move on. “What I thought about the most more than what I’ve learned this past 10 months was that I wanted to play my music as soon as I could to my fans,” he confesses. “I always am grateful for the CUBS [his fandom] for waiting for me, and I’m happy the day I can show you my music has finally come.”
Despite a startling beginning to his solo career, Woojin is all set to share his artistry with the world. “It was all thanks to the CUBS and the people around me,” the soloist acknowledges the support from those who cheered him on through the events of 2020. He continues, “It’s because of the people who have supported and waited for me that I was able to follow my dream to where I am today.”
The vocalist made his return to the scene last month with the pre-debut single “Still Dream.” The alt-pop track which traces growth amidst hardships, finds Woojin singing about running towards his dreams: “Even in the midst of precariousness / Dreams bloom beautifully.” Ushered by a choreography-driven approach, he brings the lyrics to life through graceful and emotive moves, keeping listeners glued to their screen. Written by Woojin, the bridge sees the vocalist credit his fans for their love and support, “But I don’t stop because you are there far away/ If it’s you, even the darkness beyond a glittering moment.” Woojin explains he penned these lyrics with a general approach in mind. “Anyone can be at the end of this song but coming from a more personal place, the ‘you’ at the end of the song is the CUBS for me.”
Following the emotional quotient of his pre-debut single, Woojin made his highly anticipated debut with “Ready Now” on August 4, 2021. Leveraging his vocal abilities, the synth-pop track encapsulates the unjust situations that fill our society and Woojin’s desire to put an end to all of it. “Musically it’s quite bright and rhythmical,” the vocalist reflects on the sonic composition of the track. “It fits well with my straight and powerful vocal.”
“Ready Now” joins the tracklist of his debut solo-EP, The Moment: 未成年, A Minor. Setting up The Moment as a series in his newly established storyboard, Woojin has weaved an emotion-driven tapestry of stories. “The series will show you the emotions that we’ve felt and right now feel at different moments in life as we live on,” he elucidates, adding, “As it is the first album, I’ve captured the emotions we feel at our adolescence, thus the album title.”
While many may assume Woojin’s art has been influenced by his recent experiences, the vocalist explains it’s not quite the case. “It does have bits of my personal experience in them,” he shares. “The album certainly has started with me, but I don’t think the whole story itself is about me. I wanted to talk about the stories any one of us can live at a certain point in life. So I wouldn’t say the album was influenced by my recent life experiences!”
With additional tracks such as “Intro: Alea iacta est,” “In My Space,” “My Growing Pains,” and “Purple Sky,” Woojin has established an audio journal capturing the emotions through his adolescent years, focusing on themes of youth and growing up. “With some songs, I wish to be of comfort through empathy and delicate expressions,” he details. “While with other songs, I give the listeners the energy to soldier on through the hardships before us.” Brewing a mix of sounds and stories, The Moment: 未成年, A Minor caters to a wider emotional quotient of the listeners.
When asked which is his favorite track, Woojin chooses the soothing ballad “In My Space.” Driven by a soft emotive piano melody, Woojin’s vocals take the spotlight as he sings about drifting to the space of absolute solitude and containment. “I’ve never had a slow and calm song before. Despite the hardships of it being my first ever, I had fun through the whole experience and was satisfied with the result.”
Woojin’s participation as a songwriter throughout the tracks of his debut EP was no coincidence. With aspirations of taking up newer roles in the coming future, Woojin was keen on building a sturdy foundation through a nuanced understanding of songwriting. When the opportunity presents itself, the singer-songwriter hopes to release a self-produced track for his fans. Till then, he’s taking it one step at a time, enjoying the process of experimenting with new genres and creating music he truly likes. “I want to keep showing you a variety of new music and stages. I feel it’s my priority at the moment!”
The past year has been an eye-opener for Woojin. His experiences, however bitter or sweet, have helped shape his character. But most importantly, it brought the vocalist closer to his artistic vision and fans. Now with a debut EP out of the way, Woojin is actively working towards his goal of being a well-rounded artist with a bright message. “As greedy as it might sound, I want to be an exceptional artist overall,” he says. “My goal is to have a positive influence on everyone who knows me.”
When he’s not busy polishing his artistic persona, the vocalist yearns for the sight of the Indian CUBS swaying to his music. “We’re all going through an extremely difficult time,” he acknowledges, adding, “The pandemic situation has worsened in Korea now as it is in India. I hope we get through this quickly and I wish I can meet the CUBS in India soon. Until then, stay safe everyone. Thank you and love you for all your support always, CUBS!”