Can 2PM and Jay Park Let Go of the Past?
I have a confession to make: I am a scarily obsessed 2PM fan. I’m talking posters, t-shirts, CDs, and a secret journal recounting an imagined love affair I’ve been having with Jun. K for the past few years. My love for them knows no bounds, including the boundaries of sanity. So last week when hosts of MBC’s Radio Star asked 2PM’s maknae Chansung how he felt about former group member Jay Park’s solo endeavors, I nearly fainted waiting for his answer.
Here’s a bit of background information for those who are unfamiliar with the 2PM scandal that rocked my world. Back in 2009, anti-fans of the group dug up old MySpace messages Jay Park sent to a friend back home in America. The messages included comments like “korea is gay,” and “i hate koreans,” all of which served to incite an angry public. Despite Jay Park’s insistence that the messages were written during his trainee days when he missed his family in Seattle and was struggling with isolation in a new country, the public continued to call for him to leave 2PM and some even went as far as to demand that he commit suicide. The situation came to a head when he got on a flight to America in order to escape the backlash and in his absence, the group members continued to suffer the brunt of the criticism, but were vocal in their support of Jay. In fact, the group’s first album was titled 1:59PM, symbolizing that they were still waiting for their seventh member to return. However, Jay Park was eventually dropped from the group.
There is a common misconception that Jay was cut because of the MySpace controversy. But JYP Entertainment has always held firm that the scandal was not enough for them to have dismissed Jay and that it was actually a separate series of past incidents that got him kicked out of the group and earned him the ire of the other six members. These incidents have been kept secret from fans and have been the cause of much contention, leaving a split and warring fan base that didn’t know how to love 2PM and Jay Park at the same time.
Since Jay’s departure, the remaining members of 2PM have been graceful in ducking and weaving questions about their former group mate in the media. So you can imagine my anticipation for Chansung’s response when after almost three years, he was confronted on television about Jay Park.
After a beat of hesitation, he answered: “I hope he does well. Honestly, I really do.” And when asked whether he kept in touch with Jay since his withdrawal, he answered, “No, we haven’t met since then.” Chansung’s answers were simple but they were enough to spark the anger of some Jay Park fans who felt his responses were insincere. The words were analyzed, reanalyzed, and overanalyzed. “Why did he hesitate?” some fans wanted to know. “If Chansung hopes Jay does well, then why hasn’t he called him?” “Why did he have no emotion on his face when he answered?”
There is an interesting obsession some fans have about knowing whether or not 2PM and Jay Park have kept in contact. And if I were honest with myself, I’d admit that I also have a fascination with the answer to that question. While 2PM members have brushed off inquiries surrounding their relationship with Jay (or lack thereof), Jay has been a bit more open. For example, when he was asked the inevitable question about his relationship with 2PM in May of last year, he answered:
If I meet 2PM while recording a program, I think I’ll be very glad to see them again. Actually, during a recent recording of ‘Inkigayo,’ I saw 2AM‘s Jo Kwon again and we cheerfully greeted each other with ‘Hey! It’s been a long time!’…I don’t know how 2PM feels about this but if I see them, I can gladly greet them.
In an interview with Complex Magazine, he even expressed that he’d be open to doing collaboration with his former group. These comments are constantly picked apart and examined to find clues about what exactly led to the souring of a relationship that seemed so strong on the outside.
But what makes 2PM and Jay Park’s break from each other different from other shifts in group rosters? After all, former Super Junior member Han Geng left his group after suing SM Entertainment but still maintains a friendship with some of the members. NH Media terminated the contracts of two U-Kiss members, Alexander and Kim Kibum, who still keep in touch with their former group. Yet despite the successes of Jay Park and 2PM, questions continue to crop up about whether they’ve finally reached good terms. But why? After such a long time, isn’t it time for fans to move on from this whole 2PM/Jay Park business?
I would argue that it’s difficult to move on when there has never been any closure for the fans. The events surrounding Jay Park’s departure were unclear and ambiguous and fans can’t seem to forget or forgive when they’re still wondering what happened. It doesn’t help that he was such an integral member of the group, leading as a rapper, vocalist, and dancer. Unless a reporter or show host prods them, neither party acknowledges the other. And while JYP decided to keep secret the real reason for Jay’s withdrawal from the group, this has only fed speculations. And sometimes, speculation can be more damning than the truth.
There are some fans who still hold out hope that Jay will go back to being the seventh member and leader of 2PM. I’m going to politely stomp on those hopes and assure that that will never happen. 2PM continues to expand their brand in Japan and even managed to make their way onto the Korean Forbes list. And Jay Park’s solo venture has allowed him to share dancing and writing talents that are inhibited when stuck to the confines of a large group. The ship carrying hopes of Jay’s return has long ago sailed.
With Jay Park making his rounds on music shows after the release and success of his album New Breed, it’s only a matter of time before he crosses paths with his former group mates. There may be that awkward moment when they meet backstage during a music show or bump into each other shooting variety, but my hope is that when they do finally meet after being separated for almost three long years, they acknowledge each other. And in the future, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they can get around to being the friends they once were. Til then, I’ll be blasting “Again and Again” while playing with my 2PM trading cards, keeping hope alive.