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USA TODAYは東方神起のU-KNOWと、3枚目のEP「Reality Show」、創作プロセス、アーティストとしてのアイデンティティについて語ります。



































Get to know U-KNOW: TVXQ! member talks solo album, 20th debut anniversary and more

Olivia Munson

Corrections and clarifications: An earlier version of this story misidentified the release date of “Reality Show.” The EP was released Aug. 7.

As one of the trailblazers of the Hallyu, or Korean Wave, Chung Yunho – known as U-KNOW – has cemented his status as a K-pop legend. In his nearly 20-year career, U-KNOW made his mark both as a member of music group TVXQ! and as a solo artist and actor.

U-KNOW's innate talent for performing is augmented by his abilities as a storyteller. He's someone who showcases his thoughts and emotions through artistry, and with his latest solo EP "Reality Show", U-KNOW continues his authentic vision.

USA TODAY spoke with U-KNOW about "Reality Show," the creative process and identity as an artist.



U-KNOW, 37, debuted in late 2003 with TVXQ!. The group was among the breakthrough stars of the first generation of the Hallyu, finding groundbreaking domestic and international success.

Over the years, the group has had countless high-charting releases, hitting over 10 million physical albums sold within the first decade of the members' careers. Since debut, TVXQ! has become known for their experimental tracks, captivating performances and thought-provoking lyrics.

Within the group, U-KNOW showcases his strong vocal and dance prowess. This level of expertise extends into U-KNOW's solo work and is exemplified in each release, particularly his latest.

Welcome to the 'Reality Show'

On Aug. 7, U-KNOW released his third EP, "Reality Show" with title track "Vuja De." The mini album's concept harkens back to the musician's affinity for telling stories, leaving room for curiosity to unfold.

The inspiration for this record has been in the works for a while – back to when U-KNOW was enlisted in the South Korean military.

"During my military time, I thought about one day, I want to create a show," he said. "That's where this concept arrived from."

This show is symbolized through the mixture of reality and fantasy, and its accompanying short film, "NEXUS" explores ideas like finding your way in everyday life.

"A lot of times, people compare their 'behind the scenes' with others' 'highlight scenes,'" said U-KNOW. "I wanted to picture that into the whole album and give the message that your show can shine as your own highlight scene."

The creative process of 'question marks'

U-KNOW says he enjoys leaving "question marks" in his work. That even though he presents something one way, he hopes the audience takes away personal, unique interpretations.

"It's actually their own choice and their perspective," he said. "Just giving them a lot of variety of their choices for them, that's my new direction."

This openness has allowed U-KNOW to explore different genres, particularly in "Reality Show." The song variety, from the jazzy title track to the synth-pop "Spotlight," underscores U-KNOW's expansive range.

The album weaves in an overarching theme that has been present since U-KNOW's first project.

"Overall, the concept was always the showman," he said. His three EPs and their title tracks have shown different aspects to this, from the futuristic "Follow" to reflective "Thank U" and now "Vuja De." This creates a through line that flows in all of U-KNOW's solo work.

Defining a vision through honesty

Though U-KNOW first began promoting at a young age, he did not start releasing solo music until 2019, nearly 16 years after his initial debut.

When he began, U-KNOW said he was naïve. "I didn't know much about the industry."

Becoming a solo artist was something U-KNOW took a meticulous approach to. In the beginning, he was unsure what to focus on or try on his own.

"I had a lot of things that I pursued and I dreamed about, but realistically, I felt I was pretty short with," he said.

In order to fully set the tone of being a solo artist, U-KNOW studied and further honed his craft.

"That's why it took a long time for me to actually come out as a solo artist," he said. "I thought I wasn't ready enough by that time. I thought what I should do best is actually express something that I could be totally honest about."


Evolving with the industry

For U-KNOW, his music allows him to be his best self. "I think of myself as the most pure when I'm on stage; when I'm doing music," he said.

In South Korea, someone's 20th year symbolizes coming of age. During his 20 years in the industry, U-KNOW has matured not only as an individual and artist, but in the way he connects with his fans. As a result, the fans hold a special place in U-KNOW's heart.

"They've seen me since I was a baby TVXQ! U-KNOW, and now, a grown-up U-KNOW," he said. "I've always thought of my fans as a third member. That's how I keep them close to myself always."