[INTERVIEW] Diving into K-Pop with ‘Gangnam Project’ Stars Zeboria Peters and Jae Kim

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to step into the world of K-Pop idols, where music, culture, and passion collide to create global sensations? The thought of working alongside these iconic figures is a dream shared by many. 

Filmed in Toronto and South Korea, Gangnam Project is a series that follows a Canadian/Korean teenager named Hannah, who dives head-first into the K-Pop world while reconnecting with her Korean roots. A treat for K-Pop fans, the soundtrack is created by August Rigo who is known for his work with BTS, SEVENTEEN, and Justin Bieber. Based on creator Sarah Haasz’s experiences, the series explores themes of identity and belonging, drawing from her teenage trip to Korea. The series aims to resonate with young audiences, showing them they are not alone in their struggles and can find their place in the world.

As viewers are sucked into the series’ narrative filled with dreams of K-Pop stardom and the quest for identity, they’re introduced to a dynamic cast bringing these themes to life. Among these talented actors are Zeboria Peters and Jae Kim, whose performances illuminate the screen with depth and charisma. In this exclusive interview, we sit down with them both to explore their experiences embodying their characters, the cultural significance of the show, and the impact they hope it will have on audiences worldwide.

KPC: Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with kpopconcerts.com!! For those unfamiliar with Gangnam Project, could you tell us a little about the new series?

ZEBORIA: Gangnam Project follows the journey of Hannah Shin as she transforms from K-Pop fan to K-Pop trainee; the road to her dreams isn’t all flowers and rainbows as she faces challenges of finding her place in a foreign world.

JAE: Gangnam Project is a story following Korean-Canadian Hannah Shin, who doesn’t know that much about her Korean heritage or the culture. However, when she moves to Korea to become an English tutor for some of the top trainees at OME Entertainment, she gains an interest in the industry.

KPC: Given the premise of Gangnam Project, can you tell us about the characters you portray?

ZEBORIA: I play the character Rook who is a straight shooter and a source of positivity throughout the show! Rook is really hopeful to see Hannah reach her dreams, because he understands the struggle of feeling like an outsider.

JAE: J-Diz is a character who is very calm and appears almost cold at first. He’s what the trainees would consider the epitome of idol success – their “goal.” J-Diz grows a particularly fond interest in Hannah’s brother, Leo, after seeing his potential as a dancer, and through this relationship, he shows more of his nurturing and mentor-like side. 

Cr. Gangnam Project

KPC: How would you say you relate to the character you’re playing? Are there any similarities between you and your character?

ZEBORIA: What’s amazing is that this is definitely a moment of art imitating life; outside of acting, I have spent the last ten years professionally in the music industry, and made history as the first black male K-Pop artist in 2022. Playing Rook is so fun because it almost feels like I’m reenacting moments that have happened in my life!

JAE: I’ve been very interested in music (both vocal and instrumental) since I was a child and beyond that, I also grew up dancing a lot. While my own career as an independent musician is not quite as grand as J-Diz’s success, I felt that I could relate a lot to the hard work and perseverance that J-Diz must’ve put in to get to where he’s at. 

KPC: Gangnam Project is groundbreaking in the fact that the main character is of two different cultures! What do you hope the audience will take away from Hannah’s story?

ZEBORIA: Hannah’s story is more relevant than ever now that the world is becoming more connected and cultures are more easily shared. Being biracial myself, I understand the feeling of not belonging anywhere, but also finding power in creating your own space. K-Pop in specific has been a genre of music that many fans (myself included) have been bullied or made fun of for listening to, so this show to me feels like a symbol of hope for the dreamers who dare to manifest the life they live in their heads.

JAE: The biggest thing that I want the audience to take away from this show is that no dream comes easy! Life will throw hardships and curveballs at you, but if you have something you’re passionate about (whether that be in the creative industry or not), you have to put in the dedication and hard work to make it happen. I hope the viewers of the show feel that sense of inspiration and work towards their goals.

KPC: Our readers may be familiar with some of your work outside of Gangnam Project, as you both are musicians! Can you tell us more about your work?

ZEBORIA: As an artist, I go by the name RUSUR, and I make K-Pop! The last year and a half, I had the luxury to create songs with ROKMAN (NCT’s “Lemonade”), Adam Kapit (SHINee’s “Lucifer”), ALAWN (IVE’s “Love Dive”), and YOUNG CHANCE (LE SSERAFIM’s “Unforgiven”), and I have just released my first group album called ROUGIES Club, Vol.1 with songs in Korean, Mandarin, and English! I have been an award-winning songwriter for over seven years now and have been featured on Cyberpunk 2077 as well as the Beyblade Burst Surge theme song. 

JAE: I’m independent singer-songwriter, JAE KIM, and I make a lot of Korean R&B/Indie music. I’ve amassed over 1 million streams cumulatively on my songs, and I’ve written some pretty viral songs such as “Waiting in the Summer Rain,” “in june,” and my most recent release, “Cupid’s Scene.” I’m a very introverted person and work a lot alone or with one or two close people, so I’m very involved in the creative process. I have a new song titled “blue” releasing on March 22nd, 2024 so I’d love it if your viewers could take a listen to it!

KPC: How did you get into K-Pop?

ZEBORIA: I have been a fan of K-Pop ever since I was ten, but I took it to another level in 2021 when I decided to start making English versions of K-Pop songs on TikTok! One thing led to another, and then I started having K-Pop idols reacting and commenting on my covers like Giselle from aespa, Jeon Somi, DKB, and even SM’s Lee Soo Man. That gave me the confidence to start creating songs in Korean with the help of Korean songwriters like Yechan Yun and Rita Kim which led me to visit Korea in 2023 and film the music video to my first K-Pop song “One Way Home.” To my surprise, right when I made it back home to Canada was when I got the audition for Gangnam Project!

JAE: I grew up in a very traditionally Korean household, so I was always exposed to K-Pop at a young age. To me, it wasn’t even necessarily “K” pop, as much as it was the only type of music I knew. 

KPC: What are your favorite K-Pop songs these days? Who is your current K-Pop bias?

ZEBORIA: This year in K-Pop has started so strong with songs like “EASY” by LE SSERAFIM, “DASH” by NMIXX, and “YoYo” by RESCENE to name a few, but I have to say Giselle from aespa is my current bias because she reacted to my cover of “Next Level” and I absolutely lost my mind. Hahaha.

JAE: I think my favorite artist has to be IU. She’s someone who has shaped a lot of my childhood both artistically and personally, and is someone that I would truly call as my role model. In terms of groups however, I’ve recently been enjoying a lot of LE SSERAFIM’s music! 

KPC: How did you prep/do research for your roles? (Ex. Watch a lot of music and dance practice videos, attend K-Pop concerts, seek advice from former K-Pop trainees, etc.)

ZEBORIA: This role was the easiest to get ready for because I’m still currently active in the music industry (especially in the world of K-Pop), but the journey to get here was ten years in the making: When I got back from my trip to Korea, I got a call from my agent, Maya Ritter, asking if I had any footage of me speaking Korean… It just so happened that in the music video that I filmed in Korea, I had a Korean monologue that expanded the story that I’m building for my artist brand RUSUR. The only reason why I was in Korea was because of the promise I made to the fans in my documentary with KOOKIELIT saying, “I don’t know how or when, but I will go to Korea to film the music video for ‘One Way Home’.” The only reason I got the documentary was because I was already an award-winning artist, and vetted by the K-Pop industry… This role feels like it was made for me.

JAE: I felt that I was lucky in a sense that this role involved a lot of what was familiar to me – singing and dancing. However, J-Diz is a rapper and I’m not, and I found that to be the most difficult part. I had to get a lot of advice from colleagues in the music industry that rap, and I spent a lot of time practicing prior to recording the songs for the show as well. 

Cr. Gangnam Project

KPC: In your own words, what makes K-Pop so influential? What about K-Pop is it that makes listeners become such big fans?

ZEBORIA: I think what’s so special about K-Pop is that despite the language barrier in the music, Korea has created a genre that is vibrant, polished, and visually immaculate. Most of all, and the reason why I fell in love with K-Pop so long ago, was the storytelling! To me, K-Pop is a music genre for dreamers who want to create bridges instead of walls between different cultures; you can see in LE SSERAFIM’s latest music video “SMART” they embrace Afrobeats and give it a K-Pop twist! I really love the heart of K-Pop and I hope it never loses that feeling.

JAE: I think what’s so special about K-Pop is the performance aspect. I think that there are now so many groups who put on such grand performances that really make the music stand out more. I think you can really see this with the fact that there’s so many dance trends going around nowadays specific to K-Pop. 

KPC: Is there anything new that you learned about the K-Pop industry and the musicians within it that you didn’t know before this project?

ZEBORIA: Since I’ve been in the K-Pop industry for around three years now, I wouldn’t say that there was much that surprised me, but since I had been working remotely with ROKMAN and Adam Kapit, it was really nice to step into the studio with August Rigo (BTS’ “Black Swan” and “ON”), who composed the original soundtrack for Gangnam Project, and for us to work together in person!

KPC: Have you ever been to a K-Pop concert? Which live performance was your favorite? What were your impressions before and after the concert?

ZEBORIA: I surprisingly have played more live concerts than I’ve been to, and I still haven’t been to a K-Pop concert! If I could, I would absolutely love to see ATEEZ – their songs are so intense and moving that I would love to see how they look performing them live.

JAE: I’ve actually never been to a K-Pop concert, so I’d love to go one day!

Cr. Gangnam Project

KPC: Why should Kpopconcerts.com readers watch Gangnam Project? What should they look forward to? Give us your best sales pitch!

ZEBORIA: Listen, we all want to see K-Pop succeed in the West, and after seeing BLACKPINK’s Jennie for only a few scenes in The Idol, I think we could use some more! What better show than one where the original soundtrack is produced and written by the man behind songs from some of K-Pop’s biggest groups like BTS, and SEVENTEEN?! We got dancing, we got singing, we got visuals… This is like K-Pop’s Glee!!! 

JAE: I think viewers can look forward to the fun songs and performances that the cast has planned. A lot of effort was put into not just singing but also the dancing aspect, and I know how hard everybody has worked!

As the show unfolds, viewers are invited to experience the magic of collaboration, cultural exploration, and personal growth, offering a glimpse into the exhilarating universe of working with K-Pop idols. You can now watch all episodes of Gangnam Project on CBBC and BBC iPlayer, with availability to stream on CBC Gem! Thank you to Zeboria and Jae for speaking with us!


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