A great leader needs to be passionate about what it is he or she does in order to inspire others. This is certainly the case when it comes to KQ Entertainment K-pop boy group Ateez. In fact, if not for the leader of this group approaching KQ himself to join, the rest of the group may not exist — or at least not with quite the same sound. This is definitely one of the more interesting characters in K-pop! So among Seonghwa, Hongjoong, Yunho, Yeosang, San, Mingi, Wooyoung, and Jongho, here is the full answer to who the leader of Ateez is and why he is so interesting.
Hongjoong Is the Leader of Ateez
Hongjoong is not only the leader of the group, but he is also the first trainee that KQ Entertainment ever had. As he explains it, he submitted a mix tape to KQ at a time before it had even begun holding auditions for trainees. He remained the only trainee at KQ for his first six months there. Hongjoong had expressed interest in KQ Entertainment because he admired the label’s successful boy group Block B. Although, his passion for music extended beyond merely wanting to be an idol; from a young age, he wanted to write the music too.
This is where Hongjoong’s mentor at KQ, Eden, enters the picture. Hongjoong has described Eden as the “father” of Ateez’s music, because he is the group’s main producer and also because he has taught Hongjoong a significant amount about song production. However, before Eden would teach Hongjoon anything, Hongjoon had to prove himself worthy — because Eden didn’t actually want to teach him at first!
In order to discourage Hongjoong and cause him to give up on wanting to learn songwriting, Eden gave him what he thought was an impossible task: to memorize 200 vocabulary words from an online encyclopedia about composing, all in one day. However, Hongjoong came back the next day having genuinely memorized it all, and he had not slept at all! That was when his passion and determination became clear to Eden, and Eden explained to MTV in February 2020, “What I highly praise about Hongjoong is that he was below average in every discipline when he started as a trainee. He wasn’t a natural dancer, and he couldn’t rap at all. But he sacrifices rest for practice. Watching him improve, I thought, I should think of Hongjoong as my younger self and help him grow.”
As a result, Hongjoong would blossom into an occasional songwriter and (and along with fellow member Mingi) highly frequent lyricist across the Ateez discography, though Eden and a regular group of songwriting collaborators write and produce most of the music. Nonetheless, this makes Hongjoong more impactful as the leader of Ateez. And of course, he is also valuable in all the other typical ways one would expect of a K-pop leader. To cite one of many possible examples, Mingi has praised Hongjoong’s “ability to connect with the fans through words and body language,” per Teen Vogue from April 2022.
Incidentally, in that same feature with Teen Vogue, the Ateez members selected which food or beverage best described themselves, and Hongjoong selected plain yogurt for himself because “it’s versatile, it can adapt and enhance everything. It’s simple yet multifunctional.” That does indeed seem to reflect how Hongjoong has grown as an artist, starting with little talent but learning from Eden and hard practice what it takes to evolve and become a powerful presence in music.
So in summary, Hongjoong is the leader of Ateez and also a passionate and inspirational songwriter. For more about the group, check out how old the Ateez members currently are, how tall they are, (Hongjoong is the shortest!) and when the group originally debuted. And for more effective K-pop leaders, maybe check out who the leader of Boynextdoor is, since it’s a group produced by Zico, who was in turn a major force in Block B.