Q&A: K-pop Star KANGDANIEL is on the Pursuit of Happiness

New York — KANGDANIEL is one of K-pop’s brightest stars, but at just 26 years old, he’s already learned there’s more to life than bright lights and fancy restaurants.

“I like to pursue happiness because in the end, time is not eternal … we have to maximize our happiness and it’s almost imprinted in my brain,” explained the “Paranoia” and “Nirvana” singer. “There are times when I had to do something that I didn’t want to and I didn’t have no money, and there was no outcome that I expected. I was shocked because money didn’t give me happiness.”

KANGDANIEL, chosen by Forbes Korea as one of its top 40 celebrities for 2022, is wrapping up his first North American tour, with the final stop in Los Angeles on Saturday.

KANGDANIEL’S path to superstardom began in 2017 after winning the second season of the reality TV talent series “Produce 101,” which led to the formation of the K-pop boy band Wanna One. He went solo two years later. He released his debut album, “The Story,” last year.

KANGDANIEL, who publicly struggled with depression and panic disorder in 2019, says the pursuit of happiness is not a fanciful wish but a way of life.

“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, without money you are not happy.’ For me, those two things are separate,” said KANGDANIEL, who grew up listening to an eclectic mix of Green Day, Nirvana, Michael Jackson and Usher. “That’s why I pursue happiness above everything.”

In an interview, the avid “Star Wars” fan talked about reaching the American audience, pursuing film roles, and the pressures of fame.

Remarks have been edited for brevity and clarity.


AP: This is your first tour in the U.S. K-pop is so huge all over the world. Does crossing over to American fans matter?

KANGDANIEL: K-pop fans are all over the world but America is very special because of the Billboard chart. It has a long history, and everyone in the world has heard of it before. It’s really well known and to be included in the chart, it would be my honor. And I believe the American audience has good ears for good music. So, if I have more fans in the U.S., they would give me more motivation to work harder.

AP: You’re considered as one of South Korea’s most influential celebrities. What does that mean to you?

KANGDANIEL: One thing I felt for sure, even if I want it or not, I think I have more responsibility.

South Korea is my home country and there are many stars from the country … it’s a responsibility because they recognize me as one of the celebrities. So, everything I do, and all the music I make, I feel like I have to do more and be more creative.

AP: Would you ever reunite with Wanna One, even if it was just for one special project or song?

KANGDANIEL: It’s not something I can just (plan) overnight. But of course, I’m very open to it. So, if there’s a good chance, I’d probably do it. And a little (while) ago, there was an awards ceremony. We performed together as a group, and I really enjoyed it. It was so much fun, and I was able to learn a lot.

AP: You recently made your acting debut in the Disney+ series “Rookie Cops.” How was your experience as an actor?

KANGDANIEL: It was really fun … it was a little bit different from what I expected, but then the learning process was very interesting and I enjoyed it.

I love working on a TV series, but next time, if there is an opportunity, I’d like to make a film because I’ve always loved films. So yup, next time, if there’s a chance (to film a movie), I’d like to do it.

AP: What was different about filming the TV show than you expected?

KANGDANIEL: The schedule! (laughs)

AP: K-pop is a global phenomenon and most of the artists are very young. How have you personally dealt with the fame?

KANGDANIEL: We can say it is true that K-pop stars are relatively young compared to other artists in different scenes and different countries … but honestly speaking, age doesn’t really define the artist. It doesn’t really make a difference because in Korea, we say there is no age (limit) when learning things in education.

I don’t really enjoy doing a lot of social media accounts, although I have one, and I don’t look at my phone for hours … I want to communicate and get inspired by others, but not too much information — just right amount because I want to understand on my own, rather than comparing myself with others.



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