K-pop, Mandopop and other Asian pop

K-pop star Joy from Red Velvet talks about her name, her image and her friendships in the group

Joy has performed in North Korea, her group Red Velvet has had three number one albums in the US and they’ve just released their first Japanese-language album. She shares her story and talks about her perfectionism

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 June, 2018, 8:31pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 June, 2018, 8:30pm

Colourful, energetic and elegant, South Korea’s Red Velvet are a K-pop group with a surprising level of artistry in their music.

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The “red” in their band name represents their wild, youthful side, while “velvet” symbolises the sophistication that lies behind their fun image.

And it’s partly this duality that has made Joy, Irene, Seulgi, Wendy and Yeri so popular since their debut in 2014. Apart from their landmark show in North Korea in April (they were the first K-pop outfit to perform across the border since boy band Shinhwa in 2003) they are the first Korean girl group to have three No 1 albums in the US on the Billboard World Albums Chart.

Ahead of the release of group’s debut Japanese-language album – Cookie Jar, which launches on July 4, we take a look at Red Velvet’s lead rapper and lead vocalist Joy, and her role in the group.

Her early life

Joy, whose real name is Park Soo-young, was born on Jeju Island, South Korea’s “Hawaii”. A lifelong fan of Korean pop classics, the 21-year-old became interested in modern music at a young age, and auditioned to join Red Velvet’s management company, S.M. Entertainment, in 2012. Before her entry into the K-pop industry, Joy planned to be a dog trainer.

Her role in Red Velvet

After two years of vocal training, Joy joined Red Velvet as the fourth and the intended final member, before bandmate Yeri was introduced a year later. During a 2016 interview with Marie Claire Korea, Yeri says she and Joy bonded quickly.

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“We’re similar in age and because I don’t have many friends my age, we talk a lot. I used to share a room with Joy but now any more … Just last night, I came out to take a shower and she grabbed me. Then we went to her room and talked. When we get the chance, we also go to cafes together.”

Her image

Joy says chose her stage name because she wanted to project an image of joyful celebration. And while she is cheerful and bright on stage, in reality Joy says she is a perfectionist who practises hard until she masters each song and routine.

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“I think I have been [a perfectionist] since I was young. If I had to present something in school … I would practise over and over again until I memorised everything. I always plan things out. If I haven’t organised a plan of what I’m going to do the next day, I can’t fall asleep. Because of this, Yeri tells me I must live an exhausting life, but I can’t help it – this is my personality,” she said in the interview with Marie Claire.

Her solo work

No stranger to TV, in 2015 Joy appeared in the fourth season of South Korean reality TV show We Got Married, in which she was paired with boy band member Yook Sung-jae from BtoB. Since then, she’s gone on to act in The Liar and His Lover in 2017, and is now a lead character in the 2018 drama The Great Seducer, a South Korean version of Dangerous Liaisons. Joy has also modelled for colourful South Korean make-up brand Etude House.

In her words

“[From] small things like ‘Am I spending my day fully?’ to ‘Am I going the right way?’ I tend to ask myself questions that make me reflect on myself. I worry about the future but then I talk to Yeri, after that, I feel a little more comfortable,” she told Marie Claire.

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“We never thought of ourselves as leaders of this new generation, but since we are trying out so many genres and trying different things, musically I think we can be leaders. We’re also close with other girl groups around our age,” she says.