A writer once said, “to have faith is to have wings.” In the recent events following the departure of Park Jaebeom from 2PM and consequently from Korea, this quote seems to have taken another level of meaning. Hottests all over the world have tried to express their sentiments by sending boxes of letters, signing petitions, joining silent protests, organizing flash mobs and in many other means. But on September 28th, at exactly 2PM, the Hottests have taken this dedication up to the sky. All the way from Australia, Briar Francis, 19, one of the main organizers of the Sky Banner Project, tells it all.
Disclaimer: Briar, along with Tiffie (who was tasked to “collect funds and help liaise with people in the US”), worked together to make it all happen. The one who answered the interview questions is Briar (whose answers will be in italics). This article does not, in any way, aim to implicate other groups or any affiliations related to 2PM or Jaebeom, but rather simply trace the developments of the project from the moment of its inception, leading to the issues that arose from its aftermath. I edited the piece by writing narrations, but basically the quotes were taken word for word.
Fans from different countries gave an overwhelming support and contribution for the project: from the US, Australia, the UK, Canada, Thailand, Korea, Mainland China, Taiwan, The Philippines, Indonesia, Germany, Poland, Vietnam, Malaysia, Italy, Brazil, Lithuania, France, among many other countries, with age groups ranging from high school students, university, office workers and mothers. Throughout the whole process, Briar and Tiffie were aided by people from Twitter, soompi and the 2OD forum. They experienced the good, the bad, and the weirdest instances—from people e-mailing them stuff like “my sister knows a friend in high school who walks a dog for a person who used to know Jaebeom’s great uncle;” to Briar ending up “doing embarrassing things, like writing songs and posting videos on youtube.”
“I came up with the idea first as sky writing, and contacted the 2OD forum to suggest it. But it was rejected, and I had a good think about it and agreed with the 2OD staff. At the time it was an unrealistic, disorganized group of thoughts. The sky writing wouldn’t last very long for the amount it would cost. I had a search on the internet and thought maybe a banner would be more interesting. By this time I’d gotten excited about it, so I made a Twitter page, emailed around for the best quote, and then left a post at soompi and the 2OD forum again. The quote was around $2000 at first, but it increased to $2500 after suggested changes to the plan were taken into consideration. People were starting to get interested, and that’s when Tiffie heard about the project and contacted me to help. Tiffie is my angel, she seemed more enthusiastic than I was at times, and practically went door-knocking around her neighborhood to collect donations.”
“After going back and forth and back again between consulting our Twitter followers and each other, we decided on the necessities: the banner would fly for two hours starting at 2PM with the message ‘J. What Time Is It Now?’ written in black and maroon, the colors on 2PM’s second mini-album. The time was originally meant to be on the 26th, a Saturday, which would have enabled more Seattle followers to watch. But at that time we were contacted by the K-hottest group, UNDERGROUND, who offered us a deal if we moved to the 28th. We did this, but the deal was pulled due to differences in political stances. Basically, I couldn’t agree to signing the Skybanner Project’s name to the boycott, not because of my own beliefs, but because it didn’t represent the whole of the followers who’d put their trust in me. I’d already informed the flight company of the date, however, and so couldn’t change it even after the deal fell through.”
“We were uncertain where Jaebeom lived at the time, so to cover all regions that had been previously mentioned on the internet, we decided to fly from downtown Seattle to Mountlake Terrace, to Edmonds and then back.”
Did you contact anyone close to Jaebeom and tell them about the project, like his church, his friends or family? Did they give any response? If so, what?
“Funnily enough, I didn’t have to personally contact many people, really. A lot of the followers seemed to know friends of friends of friends of Jaebeom, haha~
I think we ended up letting Junior and Jaehan know about it through friends, although I’m not too sure whether the latter eventuated. There were many other potential ways of letting Jay’s friends know, but not many of them were successful. The two people I contacted were another one of those “might be in contact” people, and the pastor of Jay’s church. Tiffie and I seemed to have some encounters of the third kind with this project, hahaha. We were given lots of details we weren’t supposed to know by email (Jay’s hometown, JYP’s upcoming visit to Seattle). Before either of us was able to confirm the authenticity of the information or the identity of the source, they’d already deleted their email account and we had no way of knowing whether what we’d received was reliable. This is not information we disclosed to anyone else, and I still have mixed feelings about this issue. Tiffie and I are both flattered that we were trusted with this information among a few others, but at the same time we said ‘we can’t do anything with this information anyway…’ People already seemed to know [about the project]. We’ve been told that even Jaebeom’s mother knew… although I’m not too sure about that.”
What was your GOAL/INTENTION? Why did you choose the words “J. What time is it?” to write on the banner? (A lot of people misinterpreted this as “asking Jay to come back, because of the wording. Some commented, why not “J, we love and support you,” or simple messages of support?
“Ah, the important question. I’d always stated right from get go that this was to support Jaebeom no matter what his decision was. If that was to stay in Seattle and start again there, no matter how heartbreaking it was, we would still respect that decision. It was to show our love, nothing more. I wanted it to be a neutral event that everyone could contribute to no matter what they believed – something that was positive, not placing any blame on anyone, but just making Jaebeom and the fans smile.”
“We wanted it to be something like ‘Jaebeom, fighting,’ but it quickly became obvious that this sort of message would only bring unnecessary attention and hurt his family. I came up with “What Time Is It Now?”, and later followers requested the “J.” at the beginning. We were strongly against the American media being involved: it was too close to Jaebeom. So we warned our followers that the American media was not to be contacted at any point in time.”
[Aside from support from groups/countries already mentioned] “There was one lady who donated a large sum of money, saying that while she wasn’t a young fan girl, she never wanted to see what happened to Jaebeom happen to anyone ever again, and if it was her son, she wouldn’t know what to do. That lady still keeps in contact with me to see how everything is going, and still offers to donate more money if I need it, despite the banner having already flown.”
D-day: The day the Sky Banner flew over Seattle
Briar and Tiffie were not in Seattle at the time of the event, so what they did was they sent a message to Jay via Twitter to look up to the sky during the time, updating fans and compiling videos, photos and screencaps Seattle Hottests have sent them, and sending a couple of photos from the flight company.They encountered difficulties and they weren’t able to pay the company in full. In the end, with their coordination they were able to pull the project through.
A lot of people in different blogs/ Kpop news portals had mixed reactions towards the Sky Banner Project for Jay. These are just general NEGATIVE reactions and not taken word for word. What are your reactions to this?
“The money could’ve been used for something else.”
I replied only once to one of these comments. I said that just because we wish to spend our money on this, doesn’t mean we haven’t been involved in other charity events, and it’s wrong to assume that without knowledge otherwise. In my case, I regularly donate to charity. Is it so wrong to spend a little money on this one project? Some people spend their monthly wage/allowance on new clothes they don’t need, should we also tell them they should instead use it for something else? I must also point out that all leftover money donated to the Skybanner Project is being redirected to the support of underprivileged children in Korea under 2PM’s name. This amount is in excess of $1000… what else could you ask for?”
“The whole ordeal was ‘creepy’/ going overboard.”
“1500+ fans seem to think differently. Of course, people are entitled to their own opinions, and this is why we did not ask for donations from these individuals. I often tweeted and asked followers for their own opinions, and offered refunds if they wanted to withdraw. Of course, occasionally an idea is going to be outside the box, and this can be perceived as crazy and creepy. I agree with the crazy comment – I also thought I could never accomplish this, but the awesome thing about this is that Hottests from all over the world have come together to support one crazy cause. Creepy? Hmmm… I’m not really sure how to react to that. Do they mean creepy as in stalkerish? I’m in Australia, I can’t physically do anything. Honestly, I really don’t understand this comment. Only people who didn’t try to understand our initial intentions would misinterpret the project that much, so I don’t really mind.”
“Jay may not have wanted or agreed with the whole project himself.”
“There seem to be a lot of those things going around, don’t you think? I believe we all just try our hardest to follow what we believe in, especially when we’re given little facts about the situation… but in all honesty, how will we know unless Jaebeom actually comes out and truthfully says ‘stop, this is not what I want.’ The simple truth is that he hasn’t, so we can only continue doing what we hope is right.”
“Leave Jay alone.”
“I think this is mostly because of the Kpop articles that came out in English and then were translated into Korean for the Korean media. Unfortunately, these reports were slightly wrong, due to the fact that we had never wanted to ask Jaebeom to come back.”
What can you say about the POSITIVE support you’ve received?
“There’s been so much of it. From people tweeting to us and thanking us for completing the project, to some saying they cried when they saw the photos, to others actually going to the trouble of thanking Tiffie and I on every forum we’ve ever advertised on so that we see their messages. It’s been overwhelming, and has really helped enforce our belief that it was right to continue on despite everything.”
P.S. Please take out with credits. Major thanks to Briar for the hard work and for agreeing to do this interview with me.
Coming soon: More on THE AFTERMATH OF THE SKY BANNER PROJECT, and the LETTER SENT TO THE PASTOR OF JAY’S CHURCH.
Love, respect and PEACE for Jaebeom.