“I dols’ idol”, “God Jihyo”, “Mic”, “Mother”—Park Jihyo has been bestowed many nicknames and epithets throughout her career. Better known mononymously as Jihyo, the 27‐year‐old leader and main vocalist of the nine‐member K‐pop girl group TWICE, under JYP Entertainment, has been a beloved figure on the K-pop scene since the act debuted in 2015 with its first single, Like Ooh‐Ahh. And in the nine years since, she has remained the embodiment of positivity, poise and power: her vocals are clear and ringing, her choreography is sharp, she beams and radiates energy from stages and through screens, and she communicates a genuine and thorough love of being a star.

In August last year, Jihyo stretched her wings with the release of her debut solo EP, Zone—becoming the second TWICE member (the group’s lead vocalist Nayeon being the first) to release music as a soloist. “I’ve always dreamed of this career and at one point, I even pictured performing on stage by myself. But I’ve found a great team in TWICE and now, I’m able to be a soloist as well,” she says, “so I can grow as a singer and take my career to the next level.”

Indeed, the seven‐track record reveals a more complex and mature Jihyo—a distinct departure from the bright and cheery idol image she has honed with TWICE through the group’s three Korean albums, five Japanese albums and 13 EPs. “As part of TWICE, I’ve always maintained a bright vocal tone, and now as a soloist, I’m working a lot on presenting a wider range of tones,” shares the singer. “My goal as a solo artiste is to show my voice and my stage presence as being fully me.”

That desire to show her audience a more complete picture of herself comes through in the sound of her debut solo release, which is distinctively less bubblegum and dance‐pop than what we hear from TWICE, and more groovy and R&B. Think the album’s uptempo lead single Killin’ Me Good, with lyrics written by Park Jin‐young (better known by his stage name JY Park), the founder of JYP Entertainment himself; Don’t Wanna Go Back, a soulful duet with South Korean singer‐songwriter Heize; and the fully English, Latin‐inspired Talkin’ About It, featuring American rapper 24kGoldn.

Jihyo also flexed her songwriting chops in Zone—she is credited as the lyricist for five of its seven tracks and contributed to the composition of four. “I wanted my solo album to have a lot of my own touch, so I was involved in the songwriting process as much as possible,” she recounts, adding that that “was the hardest part because I had to prepare the album amid such a busy schedule, but it’s also what I’m proudest about in my solo album”.

And it appears the world is more than ready for Jihyo 2.0. Zone topped South Korea’s Circle Chart (formerly known as the Gaon Chart) the week of its release, and was certified double platinum by the Korea Music Content Association for selling more than half a million copies in South Korea and abroad within two months. Killin’ Me Good, meanwhile, peaked at number seven on Billboard’s World Digital Song Sales chart last September, and earned nominations the following month for Best Dance Performance (Female Solo) as well as Song of the Year at the 2023 Mama Awards. Jihyo herself was also in the running for Best Female Artist at the said show, a major music awards ceremony held annually by South Korean entertainment company CJ E&M.

MARKGONG, Dress, Boot; CARTIER, Earring, Necklace, Bangle, Rings
“I hope that all nine of us [from TWICE] won’t feel so small, and we’ll have even more confidence and self-esteem than we do now.”

She may have embarked on a new chapter in her journey as a K‐pop artiste, but Jihyo will have you know she is still very much part of TWICE, which is approaching its first decade of making music—“Where did the time go,” she muses. “I’m most grateful to the members and ONCE (the official name of the group’s fandom), who’ve been with me for almost 10 years,” shares the star, who is recognised as the versatile and all‐round ace of the group who is a master vocalist, dancer, rapper and artiste in general. “These days, I’m thinking a lot about the second act of my life, and about how I can be more valuable to the group and make TWICE shine, and not detract from it.”

While the group escaped the infamous seven‐year K‐pop curse (referring to the disbandment of a K‐pop group that often follows upon the termination of its members’ contracts with an entertainment company, which typically last seven years) when all its members renewed their contracts, ahead of their expiration, with JYP Entertainment in July 2022, Jihyo candidly acknowledges that “one day, this team might not be as active and as beloved as it is now”. Her wish for when that moment comes? “I hope that … all nine of us won’t feel so small, and we’ll have even more confidence and self‐esteem than we do now.” In the meantime, the idol will no doubt continue to push ahead as both a soloist as well as the leader and a member of TWICE with her characteristic high-energy and dedication that goes beyond professionalism, bringing an indefatigable spark to every stage. (In case you are wondering where she gets all that energy from, she lets on: “I naturally have good stamina, but at the same time, I don’t really know how to give up, so it has just become a habit of mine to challenge myself to hang in there.”)

After all, for Jihyo, who joined JYP Entertainment in 2005 when she was just eight, training first to be an actress and then later as a singer and dancer, being a performer is a dream of hers that had been nearly a decade in the making. While she admits that she cannot articulate specific targets and milestones—“It’s hard to remember things vividly when you’re eight,” she says—she shares that it was almost a visceral sense of mission and purpose that propelled her, adding that she would like to praise herself now for having started out at such a young age and despite knowing so little.

Extrapolating from how she reviews and critiques TWICE’s practice sessions and rehearsals, it is easy to tell that Jihyo is exacting on herself—perhaps even more so than she is on her groupmates—and not one to settle for mediocrity. “My whole childhood was dominated by this dream,” she recalls. “It wasn’t like, ‘I’m going to be a moderately good singer.’ It’s more like, ‘I’m going to be the very type of singer who can do it all.” On her journey to becoming the musician, performer and person she aims to be—“I want to convey my energy to people well, as an artiste who brings a lot of energy to the table and is always there to comfort, empower, cry with and aspire to,” she says—Jihyo nurtures an unshakable belief in herself and what she can be that is independent of how people see, address or describe her. “I don’t feel pressured or burdened by being called by any nickname, because it doesn’t change who I am as a person,” she says. “I’m still young and have a lot to learn, so maybe I’ll earn another nickname for myself in future, right?”

Photography: Kim Yeong-Jun
Creative Direction: Izwan Abdullah
Styling: Kelly Hsu 
Hair: Lim Jin-Hee
Makeup: Choi Da-Som
Producer: Oh Seo-Yul (SY Production)
Videographer: Eugene Siow
Photography Assistants: Kim Ji-Young, Jo Ye-Jin, Eum Ji-Wan, Jang Han-Bit
Video Assistant: Kim Soo-Min