Kim Jong-kook, who was named singer of the year by the nation's three major broadcasters in 2005, is now better known as a regular guest on SBS's entertainment program "Running Man." But Kim recently returned to the music world with his new album "Journey Home" after a three-year absence.
"I hesitated for a long time because I felt overshadowed by my past success, and I was afraid my new album would be shunned by the public," Kim confessed. "I increasingly felt like an outsider in the popular music scene, which has become dominated by idol groups."
"Those feelings of isolation and fear led me to focus almost exclusively on entertainment show programs, to the point where most young people nowadays don't even know I'm a singer! But I plucked up the courage to give it another stab as music is my true vocation."
"I don't know if I can be so successful commercially now, but the main thing is to keep doing what I love and making music," said Kim, adding that he wrote most of the lyrics for the songs himself.
Kim, who debuted in the mid-1990s, remains an influential figure in the K-pop scene. What is the secret to his success? "I think I left a lasting impression with my unusual [soprano-like] voice, which contrasts with my muscular body," he said. "I also established my image on a number of TV shows."
He said "Running Man," which has garnered high viewer ratings of around 20 percent, is the first show he has really enjoyed working on. But it still ranks second to music making.
"First and foremost, I want to be a singer who can perform on any stage, even when I'm old," he said.