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Niel of K-pop act Teen Top speaks during a recent interview with The Korea Times at a studio in Mapo District, western Seoul. Korea Times photo by Do Hien Thao

When asked about their dreams, many K-pop stars say they want to achieve musical growth and maturity. But Niel, a solo artist and a member of boy group Teen Top, says his long-cherished dream is not all about music.The 29-year-old hopes he can become a billionaire who is blissfully unaware of the exact amount of cash in his bank accounts.But this is not because he is a greedy lover of money who puts his career on the back burner. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. For Niel, musical growth is something he takes for granted — not a dream that may or may not come true — while taking a leap forward in his career is not a matter of “if,” but “when.””The pursuit of musical maturity is the road that I must take,” Niel, clad in red, firmly said during an interview with The Korea Times at a studio in Mapo District, western Seoul. “That is why I cannot call it a dream. Like many other people, I want to be wealthy. But for me, what is more crucial than the dream itself is the process of attaining it and I often contemplate proper ways to realize it.” Niel, whose real name is Ahn Daniel, began his showbiz career as a child actor in 2005 before debuting as a member of Teen Top in 2010. According to him, it was his mother who introduced him to the realm of acting when he was 11 years old.”My mother knew from the beginning that I was not very interested in studying,” Niel said with a playful smile.

“A few years after becoming a child actor, she made me apply for a K-pop audition held by Teen Top’s management company, TOP Media. She brought me to an amusement park in Seoul where the audition was taking place, without telling me what was going on. But luckily I passed it in one go and ended up becoming an idol trainee.”Niel debuted as part of Teen Top after only one year of training, but the journey to reach that milestone was fraught with challenges and obstacles. During that one year, the young boy who lacked a musical background, tirelessly honed his skills day and night, enduring daily reprimands for performances deemed unsatisfactory.”I was a bad singer who could hardly distinguish musical pitch,” he recalled. “I had no sense of rhythm as well. That was why I spent about eight months practicing just one song — Teen Top’s debut track, ‘Clap’ — before my debut.” But the hard-working Niel did not give up and succeeded in making his debut, arriving on the music scene with his fellow members in 2010 with the album, “Come Into the World.” Teen Top was soon thrust into the spotlight thanks to the success of tunes like, “No More Perfume on You” (2011), “To You” (2012) and “Miss Right” (2013). Its catchy music combined with the synchronization in choreography grabbed the public’s attention, propelling the group to become one of the most sought-after K-pop acts in the 2010s. “I am still not good at rhythm,” Niel, a renowned vocalist who went solo in 2015, said humbly. “Maybe I am setting the bar too high for myself, but I think I still have a long way to go. So, I am working hard to improve myself.”Earlier this year, Teen Top made headlines by appearing on the popular reality show, “Hangout with Yoo,” hosted by top comedian Yoo Jae-suk. After being introduced as Yoo’s favorite group, Teen Top performed some of its mega-hits like “To You,” which later reclaimed their spots on domestic music streaming charts about a decade after their release. Teen Top also resumed its musical activities in July, rolling out the new album “4SHO” after ending its three-year break.Asked about the possible rationales behind the team’s lasting popularity, Niel picked the power of its music as its greatest 토토사이트 strength.

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