Jung Yong-hwa dreams as big as he is dreamy.
Millions of K-pop and K-drama fans who have seen his brand of dreamy — a clean-cut vocalist from Busan who rocks a fedora as well as he rocks the stage as the leader of CNBLUE — know just how big that is.
On a breezy Tuesday evening inside Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles last week, Jung, 24, steps out onto the field, auburn hair glossy and blazer outstandingly white, in front of dozens of cameras and tens of thousands of baseball fans.
“We’re delighted to have Korean superstar and leader of the band CNBLUE, Yong-hwa Jung, kick off festivities by singing Korea’s national anthem,” the announcer booms.
While “superstar” may be an overwhelming a word to describe some, Jung has earned a good portion of it through the past five years.
His 2009 debut as the toothy, wholly perfect Shin-woo in the hit SBS drama “You’re Beautiful” helped catapult the guitar-riffing “I’m A Loner” from CNBLUE’s first album to the top of the charts in record time.
And while addicted K-pop fans hummed, “I’m a loner, I’m a loner, da ra di ri da ra doo” on repeat that year, Jung juggled dramas and variety shows alongside band activities. He did it all, from “We Got Married” to MCing gigs to writing music.
The band’s most recent hit, “Can’t Stop,” was written and composed by Jung. He could even be called prolific, having produced more than 50 songs since 2010.
“Day-to-day, I make a recording or a memo if there’s a moment in which I feel inspiration,” he says. “I think my songs feel more relatable to fans when I write them without forcing myself to do something different, but rather by writing in the moment.”
It was songwriting, too, that brought him to L.A.
A big sports lover — he says he likes it all, in particular baseball and basketball — and personal fan of Dodgers pitcher and Korean baseball hero Ryu Hyun-jin, Jung says he heard that the sports star liked the CNBLUE track “One Time,” and decided to re-arrange it into a theme song.
The result, “Ryu Can Do It,” has been playing at the stadium to introduce the pitcher since April.
He was so nervous about having been invited to sing the anthem that he showed up at the stadium the day before to check out the field and to cheer on Ryu, he says.
As CNBLUE’s arguably most high-profile member, he’s a constant presence on the many inconsequential polls Korean netizens create online. A recent poll by a popular Internet community ranked him No. 2 on a list of celebrities who resemble a dinosaur (for the curious, Super Junior member Dong-hae topped the list.)
He has a different kind of poll he wants to see his name top in the future.
“For ‘The Best Artist,’” he says, then adds, “Musically.”
After all, fans and the public may not always associate him with music thanks to his frequent television drama stints, including the leading role in “Heartstrings” and another in “Marry Him If You Dare.”
“I’m trying to continue acting consistently and will give my best when roles come in, but I want my fans to hear my music,” he says.
It looks like they will — in March, FNC Entertainment, his management company, announced that Jung would release his first solo album this year.
The solo album will be another step. He doesn’t know what it is yet, but he wants something bigger. Something more. And he wants it in America, a place he’s already visited thrice this year.
“I just want to make something happen in America. Just something,” Jung says. “I want to be active here in America. When I came to see Ryu Hyun-jin yesterday, a thought came to me. ‘I, too, want to make my dreams come true like he did.’ I learn a lot every time I come here.”
What kind of dream do you have in mind?
“I want everyone around the world to hear my music,” he smiles. “Jung Yong-hwa is a Korean. I want to show people the taste and beauty of Korea.”
Text by Tae Hong for Koreantimesus