Chained to the Rhythm: Krystal Jung Fronts Our Dec ’23/Jan ’24 Cover

She stuns in Ralph Lauren.

Critically revered albums, impressive awards haul, and a major Asian tour. F(x) had the K-Pop scene, as the kids these days are calling it, in a chokehold—circa 2016 and was en route to becoming the next global phenomenon. Some would argue it already was. Their near-revolutionary take on dance music—a bizarro blend of electropop, synth-pop, art pop, and EDM—put it in a league of its own and landed the five-piece girl group on a number “Best of the Decade” lists by reputable international titles. 

But then the unthinkable happened.

The group was put on hiatus shortly after the release of their fourth studio album and had only reunited once since, for the SM Town Live concert in Tokyo in 2019. It was a decision that blindsided not only the MeU—that’s what f(x)’s fandom is called—but the team members themselves as none had expected 4 Walls to be their swansong. Years went by and although the fate of the group remains uncertain, fans are still holding out hope for a comeback, a wish shared by team member and our cover star Krystal Jung

Her recent interview further fanned the flames as she disclosed having a group chat where the members regularly talk about their whereabouts. Admitted to getting choked up seeing other acts getting another shot at performing, the South Korean-American singer however does not seem to be in any rush to pursue a solo music career either, citing her packed schedule and not having the right materials as the reasons why she has not made her return to the stage yet, no matter how badly she wants to. 

Jung, instead, has been keeping busy embellishing her filmography. After taking over the small screen with scene-stealing turns in The Heirs, My Lovely Girl, and The Bride of Habaek, among others, she pivoted to the world of moviemaking three years ago with Choi Ha-Na’s directorial debut More Than Family. Jung’s multi-layered performance as a pregnant To-il who goes on a mission to track down her biological father landed her the Best New Actress nomination at the 57th Baeksang Arts Awards.

And that shall not be the last time we’re seeing Jung at such events, rubbing shoulders with cinema’s finest creators if her follow-up projects are anything to go by. Her latest endeavour, Cobweb, for instance, sees the 29-year-old teaming up with prolific auteur Kim Jee-woon. The riotous, film-within-a-film feature centres around a director who is fixated on the idea of reshooting the ending of his finished film but interference from the censorship committee and the protesting actors throw the set into pandemonium. 

Here, Jung goes toe to toe with screen legend Song Kang-ho and comes up trumps, delivering a committed, full-on meta performance as an aspiring actress in the 1970s South Korean entertainment industry. But playing the feisty Han Yu-rim comes with its own set of challenges. In preparation for the role, Jung had to study old movie clips and work in tandem with a coach to emulate the acting style of that era, particularly the accent and the body gestures. There was also stunt work that demanded a lot from the star.

But all the hard work paid off in spades as the film received a 10-minute standing ovation and rapturous critical reception upon its debut at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. There to witness it all and celebrate with fellow cast members, Jung arrived in an opulent pink satin gown from Ralph Lauren, bringing that old Hollywood glamour to the red carpet. It marked her first appearance at the prestigious event—a head-turning one, no less—and signalled the bright future for Jung as the starlet rose to claim her thespian status.

Photography: Chee Wei
Creative Direction: Ian Loh, Izwan Abdullah 
Hair: Kyung Min Jung 
Makeup: Lee Sook Kyung
Producer: Oh Seoyul 
Styling Assistance: Manfred Lu, Laura Louis