Last July, we posted this tweet by GQ editor Jang Woo-cheol saying that he had a 4-hour talk with Taeyang, which he will include in his new book, Here and There. Here is the English translation of the interview. We’ll post the interview in 4 or 5 parts since it is quite long.

The writer is the senior editor of GQ Korea who’s well-known for his unique writing style and photography skills. His writing style is somewhat ambiguous and poetic so there might be some parts that are translated to something different from what he really means. (Translator: But I tried to convey what’s going on in the whole interview as best as possible.)

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The Spring of Dong Youngbae
Born in 1988. Also called Taeyang

You’re wearing a cap. I actually imagined you coming here wearing a cap.
― Yes, I worked till late at night yesterday, then went to dance instead of going to sleep first, and came here finally just after getting out of bed.

Has spring arrived?
― (pause) To me, spring has arrived. It’s truly here.

Do you want me to set the camera? I heard that you refuse to speak without someone filming you these days.
― Me? Who said that?

I did. You look joyous even in TV variety shows unlike before. Does this mean you overcame something?
― Um, in fact I don’t bother at all. Nothing really bothers me.

So spring came to you in such a way? How did it arrive?
― Ah, how should I say this? Though I’m still young, there’s something that felt quite differently after I turned 25. Things felt totally differently. By the way, didn’t we plan to do this interview at the riverside?

Ah, we talked about Hantan River then. I forgot about it.
― When you brought it up, I looked forward to doing it. I like scenic places.

The scenic places… Sometimes you talk like an old man. You once said you wanted to love without any concern of this fugitive life of yours. It sounds like little kids who were raised by their grandmothers talking about that tingling pain in the joints. Do I treat you as a child now when you’ve just announced you’re already 25? What’s your mother like?
― She’s quite an ordinary person.

When you appraise people with the criteria of being ordinary, I think there’s no one we can call “not ordinary”, right?
― She’s very, very, very sensitive. I inherited that from her.

When you were a kid, you went to film auditions, did you?
― Back then I was a pretty kid. Really. My face became chubby ever since I went to the actor’s academy. Before that, I was really cute.

Was it what you wanted to do?
― No.

Were you forced to do it?
― Um, as I recall the days, I think I just had to do it. I’ll explain. My father’s business was run soundly only until the IMF crisis came. I was left to my aunt’s care immediately. I started to go to the actor’s academy because my cousins, younger twin sisters, went there. I still remember that I really didn’t want to go. I really hated being forced to do something even then. I liked playing the piano and listening to music by myself, but you know, when there’s a family gathering, the elders ask the children to sing, show some dances, etc. They do so without thinking how the kids might feel…

Such as the dog’s leg dance?
― Yes, I wasn’t good at it and I hated it. No wonder I couldn’t fit in the academy. When you go there, the first thing you have to do every day is to show off your stuff. Maybe they wanted to see whether you have talents or not. But I was so shy, so ashamed, and thought that it wasn’t good to memorize the script and just act along.

You ‘thought’ even then. You’re not Dong Youngbae if you stop ‘thinking.’
― Right, I was already like that. Then I heard that some music video crews were looking for a child actor and they were from an agency called YG. I just tagged along with my friend who attended the audition, but I made myself a promise then that I would join the agency by all means. I was 13 years old.

13 years old. What do you think you knew back then? Maybe you were aware of what you don’t have any idea about now?
― At that very moment when I told mom I would join YG, I was already thinking that I’d have to carry out everything for myself from then on.

― I still remember that I thought I should make a decision. By any stretch of the imagination, I didn’t seem to succeed academically. But, actually I didn’t do that poorly in school. Really, I’m not lying. I think I’m not dumb.

Mothers often start to argue with this line “my son/daughter isn’t dumb at all, but only…”
― Um, it was a terrible shock to me to witness it. That my father fell on hard times overnight. I saw it with my own eyes, and it was really a shock. I was told things like we had to move out to a bad neighborhood. I thought I should hurry to save my family. Acting was such an impossible thing to me, and music was my favorite. I thought I should join YG by all means. Mom didn’t allow at first, but later told me to do that if I wanted it that badly, and even if things would go wrong she wouldn’t get involved. She told me to do whatever I wanted but fight my own battles, so I said OK.

Haha, you said just OK, huh?
― I turned my back sternly on acting and other things at that moment. To be honest, things were distressing. I was a trainee but there wasn’t even a temporary contract concluded. They just let me use a practice room and told me to do things on my own if I wanted. That was all. Jiyong also joined the company around the same time, but we were in very different situations. As for me, I had to insist to join, but Jiyong was a scouted talent from another company. I had a very difficult time. The old company building was also here in Hapjeong-dong.

Every day, every minute and second that you spent might have been accumulated in you.
― I was still living in Uijeongbu*, where I went to school and of course took exams, too. I had a rule of my own that I should never be ranked below 15th place in the class. And I was never gone below 15th. Why are you laughing?
(Translator’s comment: *Uijeongbu-shi is a city located just north of Seoul in Gyeonggi-do.)

― I often talk about it, I think I was crazy at that time. I even rarely slept. Shuttling between Uijeongbu and Hapjeong-dong, I went to bed at 3 or 4a.m. and woke up at 7. Ah, I always think that if I had slept properly in those days, then I would be taller, at least about…

Come on.
― I was just mad about it. Even for myself, that’s the only possible explanation.

There’s this thing called the achievement motivation. Say, I want to get recognized by someone, or I’ll get the chance to perform on stage as soon as possible.
― I was really happy that I was working like that. Honestly, that was all. My mom came to see me from time to time. She was worried about what I would grow up to be like, suspicious that I was doing fine. So I said to her, “Mom, my goal isn’t that low, I won’t be satisfied with being a singer just contending for the first place in Korean music shows.”

― Haha. I told her that I’d rather strive for the first place on the Billboard chart, wouldn’t be satisfied to succeed just in this country. “So you don’t have to come here and worry about me anymore,” I said. I still remember me speaking like that.

What do you think you dreamt of then?
― When I pictured myself as a singer, I saw myself performing in front of the crowd that pack out an unbelievably-sized dome. I thought I’d perform in such a place, thought like “of course, I shall be on such a stage someday.”

Even though you couldn’t dance the dog’s leg dance just in front of your family?
― Haha, I don’t know. It was definitely different. I was practicing rapping at that time. There were only rapper hyungs around me, I also tried my best. The style was also different from now. The blurred line between rapping and singing is the trend these days, but rapping was just rapping then. To be frank, I couldn’t keep up with those hyungs.

So you stuck to something that you weren’t good at but you wish you could do well, while your dream was performing on a big stage, that’s too much…
― That’s true. I had a hard time then.

Then what caused you to start to sing instead of rap?
― Honestly I think, I really love to sing since I was a kid.

― For real. I closed the door, stuck in my room just to listen to my favorite songs again and again till I could memorize them. I didn’t memorize the lyrics, exactly speaking, just memorized the sounds as I heard them. I just concentrated on rapping so much that I forgot about singing for a while. Meanwhile, when I was 15 or 16 years old, there emerged the R&B scene. That was the moment I decided to sing. Singing was not easy, either, because my voice broke already, but listening to Brian McKnight, Boyz II Men, and Stevie Wonder, I realized I was much more deeply moved by listening to songs than raps. I was never teary-eyed listening to raps, but I cried very much listening to songs at that time.

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TAEYANG always VIP<3