Idol-Turned-Actor Gets Honest About How Careers Can Take A Hit After Military Enlistment
In South Korea, all non-disabled males must complete mandatory military service before they turn 28. Most men in the country usually plan their futures around this service period, including celebrities. But how do months of inactivity in the entertainment industry potentially affect a public figure’s career? Is it ever the same?
Cha Sun Woo, also known by his stage name Baro, is a former member of the boy group B1A4 and an actor who has starred in popular K-Dramas such as Reply 19994 and Reborn Rich. In a recent press conference for his upcoming movie The Pinwheel (alternative English title: Windmill), the actor dished on some not-so-glamorous aspects of his job(s).
Cha debuted as an idol in 2011 when B1A4 released their debut track, “OK.” He made his debut as an actor two years later, in 2013, with reply 1994. After juggling both jobs for quite a while, he departed from the group and its agency WM Entertainment in 2018 when his contract with the company expired. That same year, he signed a contract with a new agency, Hodu&U Entertainment, and started focusing more on his acting projects.
B1A4 members CNU, Sandeul, and Gongchan still promote together under the group’s name. Still, fans are very much hoping for a group reunion with all its five original members, including Jinyoung, who didn’t renew his contract with the agency like Cha. But during his movie’s press conference, Cha spoke honestly about the possibility of a reunion, admitting that even though the members want it too, they can’t be sure about it.
He also confessed that going solo after being in a group for so long was not easy. He said that not having his members by his side made him feel an emptiness, and it was “lonely and burdensome” to face all the difficulties alone, especially when he had to start from scratch in his new agency.
The actor also got very real and raw about how his military enlistment affected his career. He was not hesitant to disclose that after returning from service, he struggled to find work, as newer and younger talents were already there to replace him.
To be honest, after completing my military service, I wanted to gain experience by working on various acting projects. However, things changed, and there were younger and better actors pouring out.
—Cha Sun Woo
During this period, Cha said he would often leave the house even if he had no schedule because he felt uneasy sitting idly at home with his mother around him. The sudden change from having no time to spare in the first ten years of his career to having nothing to do put him through a uniquely difficult situation.
At that time, I had a lot of free time. Since I live with my mother, I felt burdened and went out even when I didn’t have any schedule. I never had a moment without being busy during my 10 years as an idol. It was difficult for me to spend time with nothing to do, especially since I didn’t have anyone around and I had to manage everything myself.
—Cha Sun Woo
But Cha said that this period taught him to value the opportunities he got later on, and in the end, contributed to his happiness.
I didn’t know how to spend that time well, but as I continued to experience it I developed my own ‘know-how’…I feel like I’ve become healthier as I began to appreciate the value of opportunities. I fell in love with what I do and became happier.
—Cha Sun Woo