ESQUIRE: We're interviewing you via email from Korea. Please tell us about yourself: where are you now, what clothes and posture are you in, is there music or videos playing in the background?
Son Heung-min: I am home now and typing my answers very carefully on my laptop. (laughs) No music or video is playing. I enjoy the silence sometimes.
ESQ: What were you doing just before responding to this interview? And what's your daily routine like before the English Premier League starts?
SHM: I just got home from training. I have to do a lot of training ahead of the season, so these days I go to the training center early in the morning and come home in the late afternoon a little later than usual.
ESQ: Do you have a unique habit when you're on the Internet? A minor habit that you keep to yourself without telling anyone, such as typing with two fingers, or making it a point to use a wired mouse even for a laptop.
SHM: Well, I don’t think I have a peculiar habit. If I have to share one, though it’s TMI, I'm not good at multitasking. I would rather focus on one task at a time, concentrating on what I do when navigating the web or doing something with my mobile phone or tablet. I find it incredible that some people do several things at once. (laughs)
ESQ: You participated in Tumi's “Built for the Journey” film campaign this season as part of the brand's TUMI Crew. Were there any memorable episodes?
SHM: Rather than a special episode, I think I felt more comfortable during the filming as it was the second time. I think I was more relaxed.
ESQ: You are the first TUMI Crew for the “Built for the Journey” campaign. I wonder what position you play when you are with a crew you feel comfortable with. Are you a leader or a good follower when making plans with your family and friends?
SHM: I do not particularly see myself as a leader or follower. Rather, I think my role changes naturally under different circumstances. I'm the youngest in my family, which did not allow me to be in a position to lead. (laughs) Growing up, my household was a bit strict, but I had the most aegyo (cute charms) and played a role in creating a positive energy. Even now, I try to balance among my family or friends to help things go in the right direction, where everyone is happy as much as possible. Of course, I don't hesitate when I need to speak up and take the lead.
ESQ: The film features your story with the TUMI’s flagship product, the 19 Degree Aluminium Packing Case. As a brand ambassador, please introduce the features of the collection.
SHM: The 19 Degree Aluminium Packing Case is full of features because it has both style and solid durability. The colour and texture appealed to me at first, and as I used it further I found that it protected my items inside without damage. It's very strong. Also, I heard that the exterior and lining of the 19 Degree Polycarbonate was made with recycled materials. I was impressed by the brand’s commitment to making environmentally sustainable products.
ESQ: I know you have a keen interest into fashion. What kind of luggage design do you usually prefer?
SHM: I prefer simple designs and colours to overly flashy ones. I frequently use the silver 19 Degree Aluminium Packing Case, which is luxurious and sophisticated with its moderate lustre and subtle colour. So I'm equipped with the whole collection in all different sizes. (laughs)
ESQ: Can you share your packing tips and tricks? Do you have any must-have items that you put into your luggage for short or long travels.
SHM: I prefer traveling light, so I tend to carry only essential items that I must have. I travel with a smaller luggage for short trips and a slightly larger one for long trips. When I go on a short trip for away games or need a carry-on bag, I've always relied on my TUMI Alpha Bravo backpack. It's large and easy to store things in, with a lot of pockets for a backpack. When it comes to some tricks, I organise my stuff by putting items into assigned pockets and using TUMI packing cubes. It's convenient because I can find what I need quickly.
ESQ: In an interview in 2018, you mentioned your pillow as a must-have whether on away-games or travels. Is that still the case?
SHM: No, I don't carry it with me anymore. (laughs) It's not easy to carry around since a pillow takes up a lot of space, so I gave up. (laughs) But I still feel that sleep has a huge impact on my physical condition the next day.
ESQ: The English Premier League season has begun. What are your goals for this season?
SHM: I had good results last season thanks to the support of my fans. So I want to pay them back with a better performance this time. As always, I want to work toward the team's goals rather than my personal goals, and afterwards, I am sure that my progress will follow.
ESQ: The World Cup will be held in Qatar this November. What are you planning to pack in your luggage when you leave for the Games?
SHM: The items I bring to the World Cup are not much different from those for other travels. My team prepares the necessary items for the games, so I only need to bring my personal belongings. Basically, I'll take my soccer shoes, passport, wallet, tablet, toiletries, cosmetics, and a few light clothes that are suitable for the weather. What else… ah, I guess I should not miss my sunglasses. Most importantly, my firm ambition to play well will be at the top of the list.
ESQ: You've said that you are very ambitious and driven to improve yourself at every moment. If your life were a suitcase, what would you want to pack inside it?
SHM: You might be thinking of jerseys or trophies from meaningful games in the past. But, if possible, I would like to capture the memories about soccer that I've had and will have and keep them in the suitcase, so that I can take out those precious memories when I have a hard time.
ESQ: TUMI's campaign this season is titled “Built for the Journey”. What do you think is the most basic but crucial thing to move forward in life?
SHM: In order to move forward, you need to keep improving in what you want to do and it takes a lot of effort to make those improvements. It may sound cliché, but nothing comes without hard work.
ESQ: How do you feel today? Please select from the following options—extremely good, very good, good, or somewhat good.
SHM: Without hesitation, extremely good!
This interview was first published in Esquire Korea, and has been translated and edited for clarity.