The massively popular K-Pop group Seventeen actually only has 13 members. Since their debut, in 2015, there have been three subgroups: the hip-hop unit (S.Coups, Wonwoo, Mingyu, Vernon), the vocal unit (Woozi, Jeonghan, DK, Seung-kwan, Joshua), and the performance unit (Hoshi, Jun, Dino, and The 8). The original and enduring idea behind the group—which has racked up over 100 million streams on Spotify for the song “Don’t Wanna Cry”!—was that the whole was greater than the parts, and that the three units would operate as one entity (13 members + 3 units + 1 group = Seventeen.) For W’s annual Music Issue, two English-speaking members of the group, Vernon and Joshua, represented Seventeen in a conversation with Editor at Large Lynn Hirschberg. Here, they open up about being recruited into K-Pop academies, their relationships with fans, and singing Charli XCX in the shower.
How did you join the group?
Vernon: I was a student. I was on the subway in Seoul, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. A scout approached me and asked if I wanted to train to be in a K-pop group. It sounded like more fun than being a student, so I said yes.
Joshua: I’m from Los Angeles. Every year in Koreatown, there is the L.A. Korean Festival. I went with my friends, and I was spotted by a scout. They pulled me aside and asked me if I wanted to go to Korea and train. Next thing I knew, they had given me a plane ticket, and I was here.
How long did you train?
Vernon: S.Coups, who is also the leader of Seventeen, joined the company in 2009, and we debuted in 2015. I had about three years of training.
Do any members of the individual units ever try to cross over to other units?
Joshua: We each tried out for different units. I tried out for rap, but I was better at singing.
Vernon: I’m in the hip-hop unit, but I still sing in the shower.
What do you sing?
Vernon: Charli XCX! We definitely get our inspiration from American pop.
Your fans are called Carats, as in the unit of weight for precious stones. How did that name come about?
Joshua: In the early days, we held an online poll, and Carats won. And then we had a song called “Shining Diamond,” and we performed it before our official debut. Then the name Carats really stuck.
During lockdown, you recorded and released Semicolon, which, in its first week, sold over 930,000 copies and was in the Top 10 on iTunes in 38 different countries. As a bonus for your fans, you included a craft project with all the presale album orders: a weaving kit of the cover’s semicolon image. Did you do the weaving?
Joshua: I tried it, but it was really hard, and I gave up.
Vernon: I didn’t even try. But the Carats did it. They actually changed the color of the weaving from black and white to our official Seventeen colors.
What are the official Seventeen colors?
Joshua: Rose quartz and serenity, which, in America, would be pink and sky blue. When we have concerts, there are official light sticks, and we control the colors of the sticks. When the light sticks, which are synchronized, go to our official colors, the audience is flooded with rose quartz and serenity. It’s really exciting to see. And the Carats are so happy!
Hair by Lim Jungho, Woo Eunhye; makeup by Ko Jin A, Kim Sijin, Jung Yu Jung, Son Gayeo; fashion assistants: Yeom Da Yeon, Lee Ji Yu, Park Ha Yeon, Lee Sa Rang.