[EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW] A Conversation with ZANYBROS: Kpop's Industry Leaders

One of the most enticing and mesmerizing things about Kpop, is the visual aspect of it. Those who aren’t in the Kpop world can agree that the music videos can put someone in a trance within seconds. Whether it’s neo-futuristic or just plain colorful, all of these concepts leave their fans yearning for more. 

Ever wondered about the masterminds behind these projects? Well one name that has been snatching titles like, the Soribada K Music Award for Best Music Video and the Soompi Award for Best Hanryu, the name goes to ZANYBROS.  They have generated over 1,000 successful music videos and have become the largest production company in Korea. They have worked with big stars like BTS, Mamamoo, (G)I-DLE, KARD, and even Kpop original pioneers, Seo Taiji.

Kpop Wise had the pleasure to have a conversation with some of the industry professionals that are the driving force behind ZANYBROS at Otakon. Mr. Kim Jun-Hong co-founded ZANYBROS with college friend Won-Ki Hong back in 2001. Today, ZANYBROS has ventured out to commercials and even create their own personal content under ZANYTV, which harnesses millions of views each month. However, it doesn’t stop there. ZANYBROS also own’s ZB Label, which is responsible for the production of Kpop singer, AleXa

Mr. Kim Jun-Hong had some help with the marketing, production, and creative direction aspect of things. This is where Angelina Foss came in the picture. She started with ZANYBROS back in 2014 and is now the head of ZB Label. Her contributions include being the creator of the global Kpop content for ZANYTV, her involvement with Soompi’s “Rising Legends” where AleXa was discovered, and even being her creative director. She has assisted AleXa with anything from training and managing to A&R and visual direction. Angelina was there every step of the way before and after AleXa’s victory on American Song Contest. 

Now who would be responsible for AleXa’s constant trending campaigns? That would be none other than Jenny Zha. She is the CEO of Infinitize, a marketing consultancy, which was founded in 2019 and has worked with a range of artists and entertainment tech companies. Not to mention it has been featured in big publications like Billboard and Forbes. Prior to creating this company, Jenny started working for Soompi, where she later led the Soompi Awards and produced “When You Call My Name”. Which is a Viki Original documentary that featured R&B singer Gallant and Kpop stars MONSTA X.  She even created “Rising Legends” where fans voted for their favorite talent. This competition collaborated with Cube Entertainment and JYP Entertainment.

These intros are just the tip of the iceberg compared to their many accomplishments. 

How did your love for Kpop and Kdramas start?

Jenny:  Oh my Gosh, Wow! That’s a really great question! Actually, It’s not so much of an exciting story. I feel like I actually grew up watching a lot of Chinese dramas with my family and then one day I just started watching a lot of Korean dramas as well because I was watching Full House. And then through Full House, I started looking more into Rain and getting more interested and then I discovered Super Junior. And so, I was listening to a lot of Super Junior. 

I feel like with a lot of Asian Americans, to connect with our own culture, we watch a lot of Asian-orientated content,  especially with our families. I was watching a lot of drama content with my mom and so that's kind of how I started swerving into different lanes of different Asian entertainment verticals. And back then, whenever you search online for news around any Asian entertainment at all, you sort of stumble upon the Soompi forum, which is how I actually got started working with Soompi. So, it's all a very sort of merged together time of my life. I feel like I was just watching so much content. They had subtitling content and so yeah, a very fun time

paker 1 (MM

That's awesome. I feel like we all lived the same life. I know you started on Soompi as a fan. When did you feel like that shift changed from being a fan to actually making this your career?

Jenny: Oh, my gosh. I don't think that I gave it much thought at all. And actually, very luckily, I think right around the time that I was getting really into Korean entertainment, Soompi was starting their news division. And so, I actually worked as a part of the intern team that launched Soompi News. And today, news is actually the main product for Soompi. That was sort of how I got started. Actually,  it's so funny because we were just chatting with Victor from Otakon, and one of my first initial interview feature pieces was on VIXX at Otakon. They performed here in 2012. And so it was kind of like a throwback moment in terms of like, “Wow” you just do a thing which you think is a really small action. Like, for me, it was just hitting a submit button for an internship and now being able to get the opportunity to actually do and work in the field.

So I'm Puerto Rican. And I know you're Chilean, so it meant a lot to hear somebody Latina in Korean culture.  So what advice can you give to others who want to follow in your footsteps and want to work in the industry, but may not speak Korean or be Korean? 

Angelina:   My story was more like I started with studies when I was in university. My parents are Chilean, but I was born and raised in Sweden, so I just wanted to venture out from the forest in Sweden or something. Ikea has a limit for all of that, but I applied to be an exchange student in Korea and I was originally going for one semester, but it was so much fun, so I stayed for twelve years.

So while I was studying, Korea felt so much fun and it was an exciting time in 2010. Kpop was growing abroad and Korean companies were looking into expanding to the global market. When I was in Korea, a lot of companies were looking into the European and South American market, and so they needed global staff to help them to know their audience and all of that. My Korean wasn't perfect, but I just studied a lot by myself and also prepared "predoing" for every kind of work interview that I did in Korean. As I was working, I learned a lot more because there's one thing reading books and going to class, but being in the field and having people correct you, and this and that, I think that as you do, you learn. Also, my recommendation is that not every job out there is announced. So call different companies, email, try to be as active as possible. I did so much volunteer work for different Kpop events in Sweden, and I volunteer working on tours. So it's just like you gather, network, and then you build your own experience. Just try to look for opportunities and don't just wait for them, if that's what it is. And don't be scared, okay? My first day at ZANYBROS, I was like, “I have no production experience,” but they're just like, “just do it and you learn.”

How do you keep up with trends to create so many successful music videos?

Mr. Kim Jun-Hong:  It’s [music videos] like a special box, kind of like a gift box. So, you have to keep thinking ahead. You watch it, you take in a lot of content, like: movies, different music videos, different kinds of content, music all over, and you have to think about the next and what to make and what to build on.

What do you think makes Kpop special to the rest of the world?

Mr. Kim Jun-Hong: Kpop, as I mentioned earlier includes Fashion, Cosmetics, Dance, Music and everything is put in one box.  Previously, Kpop was only focused on the “K” Korea, but now it's different. It's growing up in the industry. So now Kpop is enjoyed everywhere.

The Culture

Mr. Kim Jun-Hong:  Yes, Kpop is culture. Finally, so kpop is popular music. Just pop music.

To me, I feel like Korea, because I've never been, so Korea, to me, feels like Disney World. You watch a lot of Disney movies. Because I like drama and  I watch a lot of Disney movies. And then you go to Disney World to experience what you see in the movies. 

Angelina: Trust me, it’s so overstimulating. It's hard to take a break. To be honest, Korea is very inspiring just to walk on the streets.

I can imagine.

Angelina : So that's why just going to work, I love taking the subway. It's one hour for me, but I love being on the subway, looking at people, their fashion, their everything, their movements. And so much happens.

So it pretty much feels like fantasy, right?

Angelina:  It is very much like over simulating. Things happen everywhere. There's so many screens now everywhere. So I'm like watching all kinds of commercials and everything happens really fast.

Oh I love that. I wish I could go.. I’ll go one day!

How do you describe that feeling of seeing your projects come to fruition?

Jenny: Oh my God, these are such great questions. 

Angelina: Ooo, How do you feel, Jenny, when we press the release?

Jenny:  Honestly, very surreal. Like I can’t believe it’s happening in real-time. but very surreal. Feels like it’s not happening and I don’t think we really think about the after-effects. After one year, I’m like. “Wait, I did that?”

What is your most memorable or favorite project you’ve worked on? 

Angelina: ooo AleXa! I cry every come back. I do! Because it’s like it all starts with one idea or one keyword and then we build a full story and it’s really fun just building her entire universe and her story and every time [we] release a chapter, I really get very emotional because I think Alexa is the perfect person to work with when you want to make a story because she makes everything real that you thought that you had in your head. 

Yeah, then we put it onto paper and we put it into an idea then she executes it and makes it real. So, it really feels like magic. Every project at Zany Bros is really emotional, but especially AleXa. She's like our little baby project. We can work 360 with her. Everything from music to album design, so that's why it’s so much fun.

She has a lot of charisma. I noticed she’s hilarious.

Angelina: She is so fun, so much fun.

Mr. Kim Jun-Hong: We have a lot of experience in the kpop industry, so we just go easily to unique-style kpop artists. So, that’s the reason we could make that AleXa project.

Angelina: Please look forward to our upcoming projects!

I will!

Kim Jun-Hong: Every come back, she [Angelina] always cries. When she [AleXa] come back, I always die.

From exhaustion or Emotional exhaustion?!

Angelina: When we film our last scenes we’re like UGH! And now we have post-production left.

Oh man, post-production syndrome!

Please be on the lookout for AleXa’s upcoming shows, ZANYBROS and Infinitize’s latest projects, and definitely keep checking back with KpopWise for more exclusive content like this!

Yosi Nevarez

Yosi fell in love with Kpop back when Big Bang and TVXQ were on top of the charts. Over a decade later and hundreds of KDramas later, she is still just as obsessed. As of recently, she started a KDrama Podcast called "Confessions Of A KDrama Queen"

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