Former K-pop idol Min is rejecting South Korea’s ageism

Making her solo debut with EP "Prime Time," the singer is doing what she wants and being herself

Min's EP "Prime Time" is out now.

Photos courtesy of Monstar Entertainment

Words by Jihyeon No

In the year 2024, the oldest a K-pop trainee can be in order to be recruited by a “Big 4” agency (HYBE Labels, SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, YG Entertainment) is 18 years old, meaning born in 2006 at the latest. The expectation of these trainees to debut is between one and three years. But in an industry where youth is capital, what happens to the ambitions of artists whose age exceeds that Big 4 sweet spot? According to Min, formerly of JYP Entertainment’s Miss A (which disbanded in 2017), they can do whatever they want.

The South Korean idol turned New Yorker is nowhere close to done and is preparing to re-debut as a soloist with the release of her EP Prime Time, out today. Ahead of rehearsal for her album release party, Min set aside time to catch up with JoySauce and tell us about the Prime Time agenda.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Singer Min, dressed in a black blazer and black pants, with blonde hair, leans forward, against a blurred beige background.

Jihyeon No: Let’s get right into it! Your single, “Prime Time,” is also the title track of your debut EP. How did that come to be?
Min: I just wanted to share my music with the fans and I wanted to cheer people up and send a message that no matter what people say, or how they try to bring you down, you’re in your Prime Time.

JN: You were in Miss A for seven years, and now, seven years laterthe typical lifespan of a K-pop groupyou are releasing your debut EP. Why now?
M: It’s been seven years since we disbanded? Really? Wow it’s been a long time, I didn’t even realize.

Why now? Because why not? Because the music is ready, my team is ready, I’m ready. I wanted to release as fast as I could but as an independent artist in America, everything takes more work, and I need to do more [than just] singing and recording in the studio. So we took our time and that happened to be now.

JN: Was it difficult to return to the discipline of being an idol? Dancing, singing, eating responsibly, being in front of the camera, etc.
M: No it hasn’t been difficult, I’ve just been enjoying every moment of it. Sometimes it’s hard, but I’m doing what I love, and that’s a very big privilege, because I know a lot of people who can’t do that. I see a lot of people who’ve been in the music industry, and I’ve seen a lot of people give up, and just seeing people like that makes me feel very appreciative of my current situation.

JN: Though you have had single releases over the years (“Onion,” “Hit Me Up”), “Prime Time” is the first solo release that demonstrates your power as a danceryou were famous for being the main dancer of Miss A. With that in mind, does this feel like your true solo debut?
M: You know what, yes! I’m very excited. I’m happy I can give people what they are seeking from me as an artist. I feel like a lot of fans do like watching me dance and being able to do that makes me very happy. It makes me want to work hard for it and it’s very inspiring, because I love what I do on the stage.

JN: Can you tell us about other tracks off the EP? From the bright yellow concept photos, “Shimmy” seems to have a very different treatment than “Prime Time.”
M: “Shimmy” has a similar message to itit’s just saying to people, “I’m gonna do what I want and I’m gonna be me,” but in a very bright way. And “Prime Time” is more edgy and fierce. Both have similar messages of being independent and being in control. But “Shimmy” is more bright and the melody is actually from a Korean traditional hand-clap game and a famous Korean cartoon character“Yeongsimi” is her name. I think this track is very relatable because if you are brought up in Korea, you can’t not know this song. It’s very friendly. I hope a lot of people find this track fun and relatable and catchy.

Korean cartoon character Yeongsimi, with brown hair, a yellow shirt and red bow in her hair.

The melody for Min's“Shimmy” is from a Korean traditional hand-clap game and cartoon character named Yeongsimi.

Property of KBS/DAEWON Media

JN: Many of the songs off your EP use a “reverse K-pop” lyric methodthe majority of lyrics are in English and there are certain phrases in Korean. What inspired this?
M: English is more relatable, and I’m releasing this EP in America so I wanted more people to understand my music. But I wanted to use Korean lyrics because it’s what I am and Korean is pretty. When you hear the song I’m sure a lot of people won’t notice itit goes very naturally. 

JN: Let’s talk about your New York life; you’ve been living here for a couple of years now and even have a green card. What do you love about NYC?
M: Definitely the diversity. The diversity in people and culture for sure. And I feel like there’s always something happening and always people visiting so I get to meet different people.

JN: Can you see yourself ever going back to Korea? Even short-term, for promotions?
M: Yeah I can see myself going and promoting my music! But I don’t have anything lined up right now.

Singer Min, dressed in a large white shirt, with short blonde hair, stands in a crosswalk, holding a bottle and glass of champagne, with city buildings behind her.

JN: Can you tell us about your new label and the team you’re working with?
M: I met MJ Choi (founder of Monstar Entertainment) during KPOP on Broadway and we became friends after. And one day we were just talking and I was saying how I want to put more music out and she said, “Let’s do it, I’ll help you.” So she made a label with a producerhis name is also MJ. Then I met up with him at his studio and since then we have been working together. I couldn’t have done that without them and I am super grateful to have them by my side.

I have so many people who are just willing to help, and I’ve collaborated with many other people, and I’m very thankful and feel very supported. I’m also very happy with myself as well because why would they help me if I wasn’t a good person or if they didn’t trust in me? I just want to be a good person to them and inspire people.

JN: I have to ask, do you have any TMIs? Better yet, can you give a Korean TMI (arbitrary detail about your recent activities) and a true, Western TMI (actually too much information).
M: Korean TMI? One hour ago I ordered pork belly for a dollar.

JN: Pause, you ordered it for a dollar?
M: Yes, as a new customer for a website there was a promotion to order pork belly for a dollar.

Singer Min, in an orange shirt and shorts, with blonde hair in two buns, sits on a blue blanket holding a blue ball and blue bike behind her against a yellow background.

JN: Wow. Okay, Western TMI?
M: Western TMI, I have a dog and his breath smells like trash but I love it.

JN: Do you have any words for fans who have been following you since your Miss A days?
M: I’m doing this because of you, and I am very thankful and very grateful I have you guys as my supporters. I wanna be able to make them proud for being my fan. Therefore, I will work hard and keep doing what I love to do.

JN: Lastly, to come full circle, can you tell us how you personally feel about female artist longevity in the music industry?
M: I think it depends on how you look at it and how you perceive yourself. There are certain eras in your life, and I think it’s really hard because, say you debut when you’re 15. And then you’re 25 and that’s considered “old.” But I think if you accept you’re in a different era and work hard that won’t be a problem. But the whole industry and people and society will make you feel like that very easily, so I think it’s very important to keep your own mindset.

I also think it’s really important to be comfortable with who you are and knowing who you are, but I’m sure a majority of people don’t know who they areI don't know who I am but I’m trying to learn more about myself. But still, I don’t want anyone to tell me when my prime time is, I’ll get to choose when that is and that’s on me. Don’t let anything bring you down. No one’s perfect. You can do it.

Singer Min, with blonde hair in two pigtails, dressed in blue, holds a white bunny and sits on a blue blanket, with a box of pizza next to her.

Published on June 21, 2024

Words by Jihyeon No

Tomboy with a camera.