We have an obligation to do better.
hope doesn't end with a song
an interview with radio dj nam woohyun
Celebrities in their 20s are enjoying their youth and having fun. Maybe because Nam Woohyun found prominence in radio instead of celebrity, known by his voice long before his face, he isn't the youth people expect of a someone born in 1991. Already the owner of three successful restaurants while managing a successful run coming on its fifth year anniversary with the legendary Afternoon Hope Request Song on MBCFM4U the plate is already full for the young personality. But being listened to by a few million listeners a day through Seoul doesn't seem to be enough for the giving greed in the up and coming voice as anyone who ran into the ribbon heart campaign recently came to understand.

"I feel like, there's a lot we ignore as a nation. We're built on this national brotherhood where we are all Korean and we are all family. But we have started to see poverty take a stranglehold of some of the people of our beloved city of Seoul. And I know from personal experience, there are more than enough people living hand to mouth with children that have to live with knowing that lacking is just part of growing up. Maybe I'm still upset I never got a bicycle for Christmas on my sixth birthday but, really, I think there's a lot we could be doing and giving back to kids." It's a direct interview when I sit down with the chairman and creator of the newest philanthropic effort to grace the city: Keepsake Project. While Woohyun is still filled with the laughter his audience has come to admire and, in many cases, love, there's an air of serious to him that says even if he makes light of his youth this is a concern that draws deep from his own heart.

Even if it seems shrouded in mystery. When pressed about his childhood, Woohyun laughs and waves it off. "That's not what's important today. My parents did what they could and that's all I need to be known about that. What we need to worry about are the kids out there today, the kids out there tomorrow. About making sure that every day is a little bit better for the children that come next." It's the closest he gets to discussing it, no matter how many ways I try to approach the subject. Nam Woohyun is a man on a mission and he will not be sidelined.

When he begins to talk about what the goals are for Keepsake Project it's real: there is nothing abstract about what it aims to get done. "Kids need things. Clothes, supplies, hope. It's the simple things that often go ignored in these situations. The idea that a kid wants for toys is great but children want to feel like everyone else before anything. The right clothes, the right books in their hands, and we have before us a generation who are not only equipped for the world but capable of making the world better. How many of us had even one person proving to us we were worth something? And look how far we came. Keepsake Project aims to be not just a teacher or a parent but a community. A whole army of people that are here to say: you are the most important thing in this universe."

"Everyone involved in this project has this singular thought we all agree on: we have an obligation to do better. For ourselves, for our parents, for children. We are strong, valiant people; we are a people who overcome because we can connect to our neighbor and find where we are similar. If we can remember that, if we can look into the eyes of a child and see who they have the potential to be, then we understand that our obligation is not to work for money or goods but for them. For there to be a world that is and will be better than what there is now."

It's dangerous territory to step into and Woohyun does so like a wrecking ball, even when questioned on the flaws of modern society. "Look, we know what's going on, we see it everywhere. We know that people that don't deserve power have it. That people who don't know how to think are easily swayed. It's not an excuse, it's not even a thin defense, just a truth. But the only way I can see to make sure that this nation and every nation is able to recover from the blows we're receiving is to make sure that the future knows this does not break us. We rise up. We come together. Hope doesn't stop just because the leaders run out. We won't let it."

The we he speaks of seems to be as vast as a nation itself. From local shops and celebrities to foreign designers and organizations, Woohyun has taken the place of some Daddy Long Legs reaching out across radio waves to get together a group people wouldn't expect. On this, he almost breaks, seeming suddenly shy beneath his strong presence. "I think we are more defined by the things we choose to do, you know? And it just so happens that people responded to that brilliantly. I'm not a good person, really, I'm just a guy with a big voice and I managed to find a lot of people willing to do good with their own voices, too."

A modest remark. The first launch of Keepsake Project products is a t-shirt designed by Donatella Versace herself, a feat no one saw coming. "When I heard that she was even interested, it blew my mind. But that's the thing, that's what makes this so necessary. You never know exactly who is just waiting to help until you make it an option. You need to pave these roads, to get things done. And so we're doing that. The Keepsake line is going to be a steady rotation of designers offering their own unique take on our logo and we're going to make sure profits go to the monthly events and worldwide charities for it. Of course, the focus is Seoul and its children for now but the long run..."

And it's all about the long run, here. The Project is designed to become a sustaining monthly event for youth; there are already concerts lined up for the next six months that are being supported by both MBC and SM Entertainment, two giants of the industry. With that kind of driving force it's no wonder the launch was such a success, parading around talents from the likes of NCT and Red Velvet to Dynamic Duo and Baek Ji Young dropping by for performances. It seems like a celebration through and through but where does helping them factor into this? That, Woohyun says, is the best part of it all. "It all helps them. The youth doesn't want to be coddled or treated differently and that's what we're here for. We're inclusive. It's just a concert, a party, an event, and all of you are equal here. Welcome. And all of you go home with a little more for it."

With more than 400 teenagers attending the launch and buzzing about it all over social media, maybe he's right.

So, maybe the new Ribbon Heart will become as recognized a symbol as pink ribbons or bracelets for cancer. It seems to be the goal. "Of course it had to be a heart, I am Nam Woohyun, after all. If I wasn't throwing them around, I think some of my fans would wonder what happened to me... (laugh) So, we're starting with t-shirts. And we'll branch out. Pins, sunglasses, hats, whatever we can get a Heart on. And they'll come in different styles and shapes because that was important here. It's not about the Ribbon Heart how I see it; it's about how it feels best for each of us. It's about comfort to the individual, given out from a massive place. The way things should be. A connective tissue that isn't the same in every person but resembles others anyway."
Relentless support for every youth, for individuals and strength. If it's bound to get anywhere in the world then, Nam Woohyun seems ready to face it down. Every question has an answer, as long as it's not about him, and he has a good enough reason for that. "This will always be about what is being done, not who is going it. As great as it is that we have idols and celebrities facing this down together, getting their fans to notice, that isn't the goal at the end of the day. We're not doing this to fluff our ego or build our names. We're doing this because it's the right thing. So, I'll be who I am, I'll be on shows and I'll make sure that I'm still me. But I'm a me who does these things now, a me who remembers that it all has a place, that it has to belong somewhere. It might not work out, it might even blow up in my face one day, but that's okay.

I don't give up. I won't give up. Even if Keepsake becomes a memory, my work for children won't go anywhere. Like Hope Song, I'll stay for as long as it's necessary and when I'm finally gone, I'll be sure there's someone else doing the same things. Probably even better than I do. We're all working together for a better tomorrow but tomorrow? We all work together for a better forever. That's the point of this all. That's where this all ends."

We have an obligation rings and hangs on, even as Woohyun gets up and shakes my hand. His phone goes off as soon as he turns it back on —a courtesy of having turned it off for our sit down interview I was surprised about— and it's proof of his work never being done. For a moment, you can see it, his eyebrows heavy and his cheeks almost drop. But as soon as he speaks up again it's infectious, a laugh that grows through and follows everyone around him. Even if the ribbon heart doesn't get all across the nation, it wouldn't be surprising to know that Nam Woohyun is going to do everything to make sure it does end up in all our hearts just like he's spent years doing in on our Afternoon Hope Song radio waves.

— Jang Woo Chul

NAME: nam woohyun
AGE: 26
GENDER: male
HAIR: black? ㅋㅋ
EYES: your heart~♥
HEIGHT: tall enough =_=
WEIGHT: perfect
BUILD: see above

LIKES: your smile, your laugh, your everything~ ㅋㅋㅋ and cream cheese frosting
DISLIKES: bad guitar playing & zombies
HOBBIES: cooking, wood working, gardening, raising my three dogs, annoying lucia on and off air
MOVIES: bad boys 1 & 2, halloween, shiri, poetry, the beauty inside, butterfly and the diving bell
TV: the leftovers, the office, 30 rock, adrift, girl spirit, i am a singer
MUSIC: the tallest man on earth, faye wong, shiina ringo, mika nakashima, 4men, park hyo shin, lyn, lou.de, vienna teng, too, too many...