[Herald Interview] Music, beauty, fashion…video maestros say videos deliver the complete K-pop package

Kim Jun-hong (left) and Hong Won-ki, co-CEOs and co-founders of Zanybros, pose for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald at the headquarters of the K-pop music video production company in southern Seoul. (Im Se-jun/The Korea Herald)

The popularity of K-pop has skyrocketed in recent years, becoming one of the major influences in global culture, and the powerful dance performances and beautiful visuals featured in music videos are two hallmarks of the scene.

While an ever-growing number of artists have come and gone over the past two decades, two veteran creators behind some 1,500 music videos have remained strong through it all.

And they’re quick to proclaim the huge role music videos have played in K-pop’s success.

“Music videos not only include (the artists’) music, but also their beauty, fashion, choreography, artwork and everything. It’s like a gift box that contains everything in it,” said Hong Won-ki, co-CEO and co-founder of music video production company Zanybros.

“At the time, they were the only source through which overseas K-pop fans could get a taste of local artists’ music, as live broadcasts were not available there,” a- he said in a recent interview with The Korea Herald. .

He estimates that the influence of videos is enough to account for about 70% of K-pop’s success overseas.

Hong and his longtime partner Kim Jun-hong, who is also CEO and founder of Zanybros, met the Korea Herald at the company’s headquarters in southern Seoul. Their confidence and taste for production work shone through in their somewhat brusque manner during the interview.

The 46-year-old producers met in college and shared the same vision of filming and producing music-related videos. Hong and Kim founded Zanybros in 2001 and have collaborated with some of the biggest names in the industry, including Seo Tai-ji and BTS.

“The name ‘Zanybros’ comes from the original Korean meaning of the word ‘zany’ meaning ‘clown’, combined with the English word ‘brothers’, which means ‘scandalous brothers’ as a whole,” Kim said with a smile. “Like the name of the brand, we tried a lot of new, completely original things that people didn’t expect to see on the pitch.”

Kim Jun-hong (left) and Hong Won-ki, co-CEOs and co-founders of Zanybros, pose for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald at the headquarters of the K-pop music video production company in southern Seoul.  (Im Se-jun/The Korea Herald)

Kim Jun-hong (left) and Hong Won-ki, co-CEOs and co-founders of Zanybros, pose for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald at the headquarters of the K-pop music video production company in southern Seoul. (Im Se-jun/The Korea Herald)

Zanybros was not a K-pop focused company at first. The producers started the business with just 2 million won ($1,500) and no established industry network. As Hong was part of a rock band from a young age, the two started out by making music videos for free underground indie bands.

The duo’s journey began with the production of the music video for Lazybone’s “Do It Yourself” and the search to showcase talented musicians. Hong said, “It was an effort to help a relatively less popular genre of music become mainstream.”

A big turning point in their career came after they shot the music video “Moai” for K-pop icon and unofficial “culture president” Seo Tai-ji in 2008. The unexpected project was the end goal. producers at the time, according to Kim. He described the feeling of having to face the ultimate boss after reaching the final level of a video game.

Hong and Kim launched K-pop video projects just as K-pop was beginning to take off in the 2000s. Impressed by Zanybros’ videos, executives from several K-pop labels contacted the two and told them asked to work with their musicians. The first K-pop video project they were involved in was with the now defunct SS501, Hong said.

When asked to name some of the K-pop idols they have collaborated with, Hong replied, “It will be quicker to name who we haven’t worked with.”

They have achieved international fame through their quality video production, working with groups from all K-pop generations, including Super Junior, EXO, Girls’ Generation, Mamamoo, and BTS.

Kim Jun-hong (left) and Hong Won-ki, co-CEOs and co-founders of Zanybros, pose for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald at the headquarters of the K-pop music video production company in southern Seoul.  (Im Se-jun/The Korea Herald)

Kim Jun-hong (left) and Hong Won-ki, co-CEOs and co-founders of Zanybros, pose for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald at the headquarters of the K-pop music video production company in southern Seoul. (Im Se-jun/The Korea Herald)

Although they are veteran video producers, they have had to learn to keep up with the constantly changing K-pop trends. With the kitsch vibe of Zanybros, the producers still shoot about 10 videos a month, in addition to other K-pop music-related videos such as documentaries and reality shows.

“We could showcase our unique colors and styles in the videos. But since music videos prioritize the music itself, we try to focus on what the songs are trying to tell the audience. We also try to include as many memorable scenes in their videos,” Kim said of the secret to their longevity in the industry. Hong also mentioned that “the answers” ​​are all in the music, regardless of genre.

On its 20th anniversary last year, Zanybros began to expand, aiming to become a global entertainment content production company. Hong produced the 2020 Netflix drama “Goedam: Collection” and directed the horror film “Seoul Goedam,” which hit local theaters in April. Kim, who saw potential in rising American K-pop artist AleXa, has been promoting the musician under the company’s music label ZB since 2019. AleXa won NBC’s “American Song Contest” in May .

Kim said “being unafraid” to take on challenges is what has shaped Zanybros, and added that they will continue to “carry on our frontier spirit and apply it to a wider range of entertainment content from high quality”.

Revealing that his personal goal was to become someone’s role model, the co-CEO said the company was also considering an initial public offering.

“By entering a new market, I want Zanybros to become a legend,” Kim said.

By Jie Ye-eun ([email protected])

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