THE INTERVIEW was conducted in his office, a top floor room where the light cascaded gently in and the scent of warm coffee filled the air. The place resembled the man himself: warm, gentle, and welcoming. Most commonly known as one of the lead singers in the male duet Brown Eyes, Yoon Gun is an accomplished singer-song writer with timeless hits like “Don’t Go, Don’t Go,” “October Rain,” and much more. He is also a business owner of his own café in one of the lovely streets of Hongdae, and an actor who appeared in shows like *High kick through the roof*. Although, he has consistently received love and attention from the Korean public for over a decade, his surreal good looks and ingenious capability in music has hindered him from gaining recognition as a graduate of Yonsei University. This interview serves as the purpose to familiarize the man who has become one of the bearing foundations of the Korean music industry, and honor him as a proud graduate.
The Yonsei Annals: You performed in the Yonsei Amphitheater this May for the Star-counting Night concert. How did it feel to come back to your school as a celebrity and perform in front of thousands of guests?
Yoon: The amphitheater was teeming and the day could not have been any more perfect with clear skies. It was actually my first time performing at a festival hosted by Yonsei University and as a graduate of Yonsei University, and I rejoiced every second while performing. My heart still flutters at the thought of performing on that stage.
Annals: What inspires you the most when you are composing?
Yoon: I have played the piano since I was young, so most of my songs were composed while I was sitting in front of the piano. It definitely differs from song to song but my inspiration spurts the most when I’m listening to other songs and traveling. I love to travel, and I would have to say my most memorable trips were to England and Helsinki, both beautiful regions that inspired me greatly. Also, human interaction and relationships are of course elements of revelation.
Annals: Were there any professors or friends instrumental in forming who you are today?
Yoon: In college, the main curriculum mostly dealt with classical compositions which I loved, but personally found insufficient to satiate my thirst for music. A part of me wanted to stray away from that field and immerse myself into contemporary music, my true passion. The school curriculum taught me important fundamentals of music but at times, limited me from broadening my horizons. And during those times, my seniors helped me out the most with keen advice about my career and my future. They taught me how to use the synthesizer and midi, which definitely became the bearing foundations of my music career today.
Annals: What kind of student were you in college? And how does that differ from who you are now?
Yoon: In my first year of college, I just indulged in the full fun college experience. Most of my freshman year was full of blind dates, school festivals, and hanging out with friends. I definitely had a lot of fun. After I came back from my military service, however, I had to get start being focused. I tried to immerse myself in contemporary music and devote myself into forming a music career. I actually prepared for my debut while I was a student in Yonsei, but that did not turn out well, and consequently not many people know about it. In school, I tried not to be tied down to the school curriculum and pursued my own path. I remember this one time there was a project that was quite crucial to my grades but I ignored the specific guidelines and composed a piece of my own that really reflected my musical preference. I received a poor grade but I still remember the piece and it was a testament to my individuality as a musician that I still hold on to today.
Annals: Are there any places on campus that holds great reminiscent value to you?
Yoon: There is this bench in front of the Theology hall. I remember this one class, I saw this eye-catching girl. She was one of those people that you could recognize even from far away. I knew she wasn’t a music major, because if she was, I would have recognized her before. I had been eyeing her all semester, and after the last course had ended, in fear that I would never see her again, I followed her footsteps all the way to the Theology building. There she was, sitting on the bench. That was the first place I talked to her. I knew I wouldn’t get another chance to talk to her, so I had to muster up so much courage. And forgive me if I don’t remember the ending of this young and naïve college boy’s love story; it was just so long ago. But my heart fluttered desperately at that moment, and that specific spot is a place I cherish in memory.
Annals: Is there any advice you would like to give to college students today who have their own aspirations?
Yoon: I just want to tell the students to not be fixated on one image of themselves. I know that I’m not quite the great figure to be giving out advice to others. But just based on my experience, I knew I always wanted to be a singer but that did not stop me from delving into other fields. I have published several books, started my own café business, and acted in some television shows. They were all fields I was interested in, experiences that formed my unique self, and things I could have never gotten into if I was only fixated on music. For example, I started my own café business when I realized coffee can be much more than just a leisurely drink; it acted as a medium of interaction between friends and a stage for intellectual discussions. I did not realize then that my love for coffee would extend to what I have today. All I want to say is that, life is malleable and there are hundreds of variables. There are so many different ways to succeed so don’t obsess over one of your failures because I promise it all stands as valuable experience to forming your future self.