Five Years Of Dreamcatcher: Gahyeon’s Growth As Dreamcatcher’s Diamond In The Rough

Five Years Of Dreamcatcher: Gahyeon’s Growth As Dreamcatcher’s Diamond In The Rough
Gahyeon from 2017 - 2021. Source: Dreamcatcher Company

K-Pop Special — Five Years Of Dreamcatcher

Dreamcatcher’s youngest member has matured before fans’ eyes into a performer with many dimensions and a distinctly assertive personality.

One advantage of having a K-Pop group as long-lived as Dreamcatcher is the fact that you’re able to see members change over the years, to grow and shift themselves into newer and better versions of themselves, and to hone their singing and dancing craft into something much more refined than when they were in their debut year. In groups, seeing the “maknae”, or youngest member, change and grow in this manner is most common, as they are obviously starting out at a younger point in their lives.

In Gahyeon, Dreamcatcher Company (at the time still known as Happyface Entertainnment) saw in her a budding artist with a ton of this aforementioned growth potential — so much so that they chose to take her and Handong, another promising trainee, and place them into Dreamcatcher for a debut with five other members who’d had challenges getting visibility as a more traditional girl group in MINX. The rest, of course, is history, with Gahyeon helping to contribute to the unique identity and respected place in the industry that Dreamcatcher now occupies.

Given what I’ve observed from Gahyeon’s on-camera presentation over the years, I think the best way to describe Dreamcatcher’s youngest member and the way that she’s grown these past five years is as a “diamond in the rough”, an expression used to refer to someone or something with great potential that needs a bit of time and process to reach or exceed it. Discovered, scouted, trained, and added as a member of a re-debuting group in a short period of time relative to her fellow older Dreamcatcher members, Gahyeon, like many maknae, had a lot of room to grow.

There are many common expectations of youngest members in groups, and while Gahyeon has certainly met those, she’s also come into her own with many of her own projects and content contributions. And that’s not even really mentioning the fact that her performance role has shifted and changed, the result being a member who can do just about anything and slot comfortably into any part of a song or choreography. Though Gahyeon will always be the youngest member of Dreamcatcher, she has garnered the respect and affection of her fellow members snd fans for growing into someone very much independent and poised beyond her relatively younger years. Here’s five thoughts on how I’ve felt Gahyeon has polished her diamond image in Dreamcatcher into a bright and noticeable light.

Gahyeon’s evolution of musical and choreographical talent has allowed her to morph into a versatile artist who has been prominent in much of Dreamcatcher’s discography.

More than anyone in the group, I feel like Gahyeon has shown the most visible and obvious growth over the past five years. That’s not to say the other members haven’t improved — on the contrary, all of Dreamcatcher has practically perfected the singing, and stage presence required to pull off their unique concept — but moreso that it’s most obvious when it comes to Gahyeon. From playing her parts as given, to being a noticeable part of the performance (as she does in “YOU AND I” in the above fancam) to changing her role and most recently, being an oft-used visual point in “BEcause”, you can actually see and perceive the changes and improvements made to Gahyeon’s skill and ability, and by extension, the greater trust her fellow members and the company have placed in her to execute on those.

The most prominent example is the role addition that Gahyeon managed to pick up starting in 2019 with the group’s “PIRI” promotions. Gahyeon surprised fans by moving into a Lead Rapper role in addition to her Vocalist one, pairing with Main Rapper Dami to create a duo rap line that has been present in much of the group’s recent discography. This change, aside from adding to Dreamcatcher’s depth of skill, showcased how far Gahyeon had been willing to go to improve herself. Rapping, whether done in the West or the East, requires a sense of rhythm and flow to ensure that when you’re doing it, it feels natural and not dissonant to the accompanying song’s composition. That Gahyeon no doubt learned from Dami and SuA (who had ceded this secondary role to her) as well as worked to improve on her own shows how dedicated and driven she is to her craft.

Dreamcatcher’s summer 2021 comeback for Summer Holiday’s title song “BEcause” showed the latest level in Gahyeon’s continuing evolution and improvement as an artist. While not rapping in this song, Gahyeon’s visual presence and presentation of the group’s doll-like choreography were on full display, and along with her bright red hair, served as a way to draw the eye to the stilted motions being communicated from the doppelgangers the group were trying to portray. Along with her storyline presence as one of the last to be “converted” to a doppelganger in the music video, the song really did Gahyeon’s hard work justice, showing that this was not the same person who dutifully (and excellently) performed the high octane choreography of 2017’s “Chase Me”, but one that had come into her own entirely. The best part is that Gahyeon can probably get even better — and likely will.

Gahyeon has exhibited some of the typical expected “youngest member” behaviors but has also become a mature and assertive person that belies her young age.

Certain expectations, both in general Korean culture as well as in K-Pop groups, tend to follow maknae/youngest members in a group. Some of these include being a bit more cutely innocent, providing a bright and happy persona, and needing a bit of mentorship and care from older members, among others. We’ve seen plenty of this from Gahyeon over the past five years, starting from the beginning with her “cute” introduction of herself on Lee Hongki’s Kiss The Radio, from variety appearances such as the above one on MOMO X, from covering IU’s “Dlwalrma” (an artist she frequently goes back to the well for from a cover perspective) and from a very distinct time during a Dreamcatcher part switch where Gahyeon got loud enough to put a baby to shame when she tried to tell her fellow members something went wrong when getting parts. These are just a few examples, but it’s fairly clear that Gahyeon has met standards in this regard.

But if you thought that Gahyeon was only capable of performing and acting within the maknae box, you would be seriously mistaken. Over the years, Gahyeon has added snippets of decidedly more mature and assertive elements to her performance and her skill, such as her cover of Park Ji Yoon’s “Coming of Age Ceremony” during a fan meeting in 2019, or her decision to go with the more adult content of GAIN’s “Bloom” dressed as Mera from “Aquaman” during a concert in 2020. These sorts of decisions that put Gahyeon outside of a stereotypical role in the group take a bit of confidence to pull off, and that kind of assertiveness is what leads to someone being able to show off different sides of themselves, something that Gahyeon has been able to do over these past five years with a decent amount of success.

The best part about the confidence and assertiveness gained from getting out of her comfort zone and doing new things is that it has easily transferred to Gahyeon’s performance and stage presence as well. Comparing Gahyeon from 2017 to Gahyeon in 2021, what you see is a much more sure-of-herself performer that you can’t help but notice when she takes center stage. In a group of already-talented performers in Dreamcatcher, that’s a big plus for someone who has the fewest years age-wise and thus started out with less life and career experience and is a testament to her dedication. Additionally, Gahyeon’s maturation as a performer has the splash effect of just making her performances with other members a lot better, from a team-up with eldest member/leader JiU to cover “Someday” by IU on Idol Radio, to a trio subunit of her, SuA, and Handong to tackle SNSD subunit TTS’s iconic song “Twinkle”, and more. These sorts of leaps aren’t possible without Gahyeon being decidedly not the maknae, and her willingness to do so has simply made her a magnetic presence during Dreamcatcher’s performances as a whole.

Gahyeon’s prolific contributions to Dreamcatcher’s non-music content have served as a big part of allowing fans to get to know the group as a whole a lot better.

Part of the consequence of the aforementioned assertiveness that has become prevalent in Gahyeon’s on-camera personality is that she has been able to contribute to other content that isn’t music-related in the Dreamcatcher YouTube and vLive channels. The Dreamcatcher VLOG series, meant to provide a candid behind-the-scenes outlook on many of Dreamcatcher’s activities, has a significant majority of content from Gahyeon, who has been all-too-willing to vlog about the group’s tours and travels, vacations, and work over the years. Though the COVID-19 pandemic has lessened the vlog content somewhat on the Dreamcatcher official channel on YouTube, you can still see that Gahyeon has taken every opportunity to provide her own outlook on Dreamcatcher’s literal worldwide work.

Some of the best reasons for consuming a K-Pop group’s non-musical content is to get a better sense of what it takes to make everything happen and come together for someone in a group to get “camera ready”, so to speak, and that’s a large part of what we see in Gahyeon’s many Dreamcatcher VLOGs. A good example, as someone who’s only really dyed their hair for charity purposes, is the vlog put out about how Gahyeon gets her hair dyed in a comeback-ready color for promotions. Sure, you have an idea if you do any kind of research about how long it takes to get it this way, but there’s reading about it and then watching it happen, especially through the eyes of the performer themselves. This partially educational, partially endearing vlog content is exactly the kind of footage that makes a group easier to appreciate, especially with someone who’s a natural at candid presentation like Gahyeon is.

And of course, the other consequence of having so much vlog content is that by extension, any other member that features in it gets to benefit from being shown in a casual setting and with someone assertive and confident enough to include them in what’s going on. Gahyeon’s team-ups with other members for vlog content, whether they appear only in a few short appearances as part of an account for a tour, or as a tag team for a fun activity, as Gahyeon did with notorious homebody Siyeon when they went to Cherry Blossom Park and Lotte World, show not just Gahyeon but other members in a fun and entertaining light. Gahyeon’s ability to draw Siyeon out of her mostly stay-at-home shell, for example, has created some of the best vlog content as the two play off of each other and their friendship to create neat filmed moments. This content is timeless and enduring, and Gahyeon’s contributions ensure that anyone looking to catch up and get to know the group’s on-camera personality a little more can do so easily.

And it isn’t just through VLOGs that Gahyeon has contributed, either. Gahyeon’s solo vLive appearances, for example, are the most of any other member’s, per the Dreamcatcher vLive database (54 as of this writing), and while her Special clip contribution is a bit modest, extras such as Gahyeon’s 2021 four-episode “Stay-At-Home” series make up for it in spades. If it’s candid, casual, or friendly, you can almost always find Gahyeon’s fingerprints (and bright, confident personality) all over it.

Gahyeon is the Dreamcatcher member who breaks down barriers, on multiple levels.

There’s a distinct culture surrounding age in Korea, and to a decent extent this manifests itself in K-pop groups as well, including Dreamcatcher. But if Gahyeon’s interactions with her fellow members are any indication, the boundaries that surround that age difference and communication can get a bit fuzzy — but it that’s the case, things have simply appeared to work out that way due to how close everyone is. On their second appearance on Weekly Idol in 2021, Gahyeon was pointed out to be the member that swaps between formal and informal speech when talking to her fellow members in the group — a distinction that, according to Gahyeon is inadvertently done at times because she considers her fellow members to be family, like sisters.

This sort of familial-ish barrier-breaking is, to her fellow members and her fans, part of her charm, and a result of her feeling comfortable and closer to them. It’s likely why, at least to a certain extent, nobody minds as much, leading to a few sisterly-type, humorous reactions. Roasting Yoohyeon for being forgetful about prior engagements during ga variety appearance, telling SuA she doesn’t want to repeat doing an acrostic poem out of the word Dystopia on stream, telling JiU in informal speech that she thinks JiU won’t have any problem running for a music video shoot — the list goes on. In the end, at least from what we can see, Gahyeon’s ability to ease barriers (if not break them) appears to have had a net positive on the group’s cohesion and ability to get along, and that’s not insignificant. We’ve heard Dreamcatcher refer to each other as family quite frequently, so if Gahyeon is helping that along a little with her somewhat casual interactions, that's likely a good thing.

But this barrier-busting isn’t just limited to her fellow Dreamcatcher members. More than anyone else that I have seen, Gahyeon seems to have a way of breaking down traditional walls between her and Dreamcatcher fans as well. Though always done with a modicum of care and guidance from Dreamcatcher Company staff, it seems to me that Gahyeon certainly makes her interactions with fans seem more of a good friend sharing portion of her life with you. VLOGs depicting daily life such as Gahyeon getting her driver’s license, Gahyeon getting Siyeon to go along with her and getting to independently hit the snow sledding scopes without too much supervision, Gahyeon sharing her occasional appearances with her seemingly endless friends in the K-Pop industry, such as Arin from Oh My Girl and Dayoung from WJSN and more show this.

To the extent that she’s able to, Gahyeon’s openness about herself and her day-to-day feelings and interactions makes fans respect her even more. Based on what I can see, this sort of honestly seems to come from a place of empathy for Gahyeon — she keenly feels the things people say about her and has a sensitivity to how much fans feel she means to them, and while that can sometimes be a double-edged sword (trust me, I’m in the same boat in this regard as someone who cares and perceives others’ emotions), for Gahyeon, it’s a part of one of her strengths. Anyone who would not be afraid to look a bit foolish trying extremely spicy food on one live stream, or who would go so far as to secure permission from company staff to start a custom PUBG game for fans to join up with her on another certainly cares deeply about others being happy. If that means some traditional barriers between idol and fans get a bit transparent, if only for a little bit, that’s totally fine with Gahyeon. It’s a testament to the courage and assertive attitude she’s garnered as she’s become more confident in herself, with an emotional honesty about her feelings that has won many to her side of the bias fence.

Watching Gahyeon grow (and her sharing that growth) as an artist and continuously want to improve is a microcosm of how everyone in Dreamcatcher is encouraged to do the same.

It’s pretty common for K-Pop fans of groups that are long-term sustainable, as Dreamcatcher is, to have the privilege of watching members grow as people and as artists, especially those that are youngest in the group. This is certainly the case with Gahyeon, whose personal sharing of her journey coming from her late teens til close to her mid-20s has resulted in watching her evolve mentally and physically. Whether it’s healthy diet and exercise (including the pilates routine above), or finally achieving a long-time dream of doing MC work at 2021’s JUMF, or ensuring that she continues her trend of dressing up as and showing off her charms through years of performing as princesses (Jasmine, Snow White, Mera, and in 2021, Cinderella being the latest), Gahyeon has always had a drive to grow, improve, and get better, and has set high standards for herself — standards we have seen her meet and many times exceed in her continuous development as an artist.

The thing with Gahyeon, though, is that even though we’ve seen her grow so much, from “cute” youngest member to that plus so much more (rapping, visual presentation, vlogger, constant livestreamer, to name a few), she’s not satisfied with just sitting on her laurels, or on Dreamcatcher’s. She wants to do better, reach higher, get to new heights. She said a couple times, perhaps mostly jokingly so, about being “rich” (the most recent being on the back of her 2022 Season’s Greetings wish photocard). Whether or not that means money or being rich with talent and fulfillment is anyone’s guess, but even if that’s meme-worthy for Gahyeon being so decidedly straightforward with her English, it points to a desire to do more and be more. I can’t help but be impressed by that kind of drive, since Gahyeon has honestly done so much already to change and add to her skill as a performer and artist.

The nicest thing about seeing Gahyeon get so much better (and get more noticed as a result) is that what she’s gone through is a member-specific version of what Dreamcatcher Company appears to do in terms of supporting the group. By all public accounts and impressions, the group is given relative freedom in terms of what they might want to do, is able to provide a decent amount of input into company decisions about how to best promote them, and allows them room to grow into themselves and find their own individual charm. In this respect, Gahyeon has hit all of these points over her time as Dreamcatcher’s youngest member. If Gahyeon’s journey as an artist is anything to go by, Dreamcatcher is likely to be in very good hands no matter how long they decide to stay together — especially with a youngest member like Gahyeon right there to keep them sharp and always hungry for more.

I hope you enjoyed all this Five Years of Dreamcatcher content as we roll toward their 5th anniversary in January — clap, follow, and signal boost this content to your fellow fans so that more people can read about how and why Dreamcatcher remains one of K-Pop’s most interesting and sustainable groups with a great story in the industry!

Want to read the rest of the series? Check out the rest of the members in the Five Years of Dreamcatcher series of articles!