On Episode 8 of the Korean Cowboys podcast featuring NU’EST‘s Aron (Aaron Kwak) and BTL‘s Jay (Joel Kim), the former opened up about his mental health while in the industry for a decade.
You know there were periods where I was super depressed, where I was in big slumps, and there were times where I was okay and that went back and forth for a while.
His depression escalated after his members—Baekho, Ren, Minhyun, and JR—joined the second season of Mnet‘s survival show Produce 101 while he had to sit out due to a knee injury.
After my group members went on a show called Produce 101, I was the only member that did not go on the show for a multitude of reasons. They went on and after that our group found success and starting from that point on, I felt like I had a big weight on my shoulders.
The four members all ranked high enough to make it to the finale, with Minhyun even joining the show’s debut group, WANNA ONE. As a group, NU’EST was suddenly one of the most beloved in Korea and around the globe for their resiliency, charms, and passion for music.
Rather than feeling happy about the results, Aron felt burdened about possibly leaching off their fame.
After the show, I actually wanted to leave the group. I didn’t want to ride off my member’s coattails. So I told the company, ‘I didn’t even go on the show for six months. I didn’t do anything. I’d rather not ride on my dongsaeng’s coattails. I think I just want to leave.’
PLEDIS Entertainment assuaged his concerns by saying that he deserved to see the fruits of his own hard work from the years before.
And my company was like, ‘No, you just got to work hard. It’s okay. It’s not like you didn’t do anything for the last five or six years. You worked your ass off too.’
His fellow members also had the same thoughts as the company. They assured Aron that they wanted him in NU’EST no matter what.
I remember talking to my members, I’m sure a lot of our listeners and viewers know, but when I tried to talk to my members, I guess they knew the conversation was coming. They were like, ‘Hyung, shut up. Just follow us. We’ll take care of you.’ To this day, I’m still grateful and thankful to my members for that and my company too. They really helped me through a weird time.
Though Aron was thankful for everyone’s kind words, he still worried about his impact on the group, scared that he might “mess up” their reputation.
But it was during that period where I kind of started seeing signs of social anxiety because I had this huge weight on my shoulders. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I didn’t want to do anything wrong that might mess up my team’s future. And so I just started becoming really paranoid from that point on.
From being able to perform live, he soon began hyperventilating every time he was about to go on stage. Concerns about jeopardizing his members’ hard work nagged at him.
In the beginning, it wasn’t too bad. I had to live a super clean lifestyle. I quit drinking for a short period of time. I didn’t go out and see anyone. I just didn’t want to do anything that could jeopardize my members’ hard work. It just kind of built up from there.
Aron soon after took a hiatus to focus on his well-being. PLEDIS Entertainment announced that “he will be halting promotions temporarily and NU’EST will continue as a 4 member group for the time-being.”
I took a break at the end of 2020 until mid 2021. I took a hiatus for six months because I was having weird symptoms and I was like, ‘I’m not normal.’ So I took a break.
Aron later gave advice to listeners who were dealing with similar experiences. He said, “Don’t keep it bottled in and don’t keep it to yourself. Everyone needs a shoulder to lean on, whether that be a close friend, friends, family, or a professional. I think you should never feel embarrassed about it because I feel like it is something that most people go through to a certain degree.”
Check out the full video below to learn more about Aron’s and Joel’s experiences.