March 24, 2013 marks the fifteen-year anniversary of Shinhwa. With a total of fifteen full albums, and countless other titles under their belt (including the longest-running boy band in South Korea, the original variety-dols and beastly-dols), Shinhwa has proven to live up to their name as they embarked on their tenth concert tour. In light of their anniversary and upcoming comeback, let’s take a walk through the milestones of this legendary group.
March 24, 1998. Six teenage boys donned in oversized shirts and pants stepped onto stage for the first time, waiting to take the music industry by storm. Eric Mun, Lee Min Woo, Kim Dong Wan, Shin Hye Sung, Jun Jin and Andy Lee were eager teens waiting to win the hearts of young fans like their seniors H.O.T and S.E.S did.
Instead, what awaited them was a year of hardship. While The Resolver did achieve moderate success by effectively roping in a group of fans, the profit from this album was in the red, having spent more money than they had earned. It did not help that their follow up song Eusha Eusha brought in controversy for being a happy-no-go song, with the beach as a backdrop during the period when Korea was experiencing their worst ever flood, criticizing them for promoting such a song during a sensitive time.
Of New Beginnings
After a ‘not so successful’ first album, the boys faced the cruel possibility of having to disband. With a new-found determination, Shinhwa set out on the preparations for their new album. With little help from the company, they handled everything themselves, bringing in composers and lyricists. After all, their second album was a make or break situation.
Selling over 370,000 physical copies, the title track T.O.P was their first song to have won the number one spot on music shows.
“[T.O.P is the] track that let us feel we’ve found Shinhwa’s color for the first time. If this album didn’t make it on the charts, we probably would have given up and returned home.”
– Shinhwa, 120328 Radio Star
The Original Beastly Idols
From their third album onwards, Shinhwa started having more mature concepts. In ‘Only One’, which was also another song that topped the charts (which went on to become Shinhwa’s first album to top the charts), the boys were seen dancing topless.
And in their fourth album ‘Hey, Come On’, Shinhwa participated in a nude photoshoot, becoming the first and only Korean boy band to ever release such a photobook, with all 10,000 copies of this limited edition sold out, proving the group’s popularity.
“Never-changing Line-up” & Guerilla Concert
As the one of the boy bands that has not undergone any changes in member line-up despite the number of years in the industry, Shinhwa promoted without member Andy during their fourth album as Andy’s mother had fallen ill. In addition, Andy was involved in a suicide controversy, a misunderstanding arising from his excessive drinking coupled with taking of aspirins, in an attempt to ‘curb’ depression at that time.
The band’s participation in the 2001 television programme Guerilla Concert remains to be one of their most well-known events to their fans. With only five members, the boys shed tears when they hit their target, as they thanked their fans. The members also took the chance and did a shout-out to their missing member, and Andy admitted years later that he was moved to tears when watching the concert on TV, and stated ‘friendship’ for the reason of his return.
“If only Andy could be with us. Andy, we’ll be together forever.”
-Minwoo, Guerilla Concert
Staying or Leaving
Their sixth album ‘Wedding’ officially marked them as the longest running boy band in South Korea. However, Shinhwa ran into their second disbandment crisis as their contracts with SM were coming to an end. Receiving different contracts, the boys were faced with a tough decision: to stay with SM as soloists, or to remain as one by leaving SM?
“There were 2-3 contracts offers with Eric’s price being 4 times higher than our price. We were aware of that too. Each of us was priced differently by management companies. Even though other members did made sacrifices, Eric made the biggest sacrifice. He had to bring down his price to 3 times lesser than his own price. That’s why, the fact that the 6 of us are able to stay together now, Eric contributed a lot to it.”
-Kim Dong Wan, 080209 OBS – Korea’s Idol Group Shinhwa
However, the move wasn’t without its fair share of troubles. Just before Shinhwa signed on with Good Entertainment, member Shin Hye Sung released a full-length album with SM artistes Lee Ji Hoon and Kangta under the unit ‘Group S’. If any, the release only served to bring about panic amongst the fans as the idea of disbandment reigns near.
“Group S are my friends, but Shinhwa is family.”
-Shin Hye Sung
Even after signing on with Good Entertainment, the boys had to file a separate lawsuit in order to use their original name ‘Shinhwa’ and gain the rights to sing songs from their previous albums. Not only that, Shin Hye Sung’s disappearance from the press conference, that addressed their move, had also ignited rumours about members’ discord, which was of course, proven to be untrue later on.
The Win for Fans
Signing up with a new agency, Shinhwa made their comeback with an album, appropriately titled ‘Brand New’. Just as the whole world waited to watch them break, Shinhwa lived up to their name, ultimately winning their first ever album daesang at the Golden disk and MKMF (now renamed as MAMA).
Not expecting the win, the boys stood there oblivious to their win as their names were repeated three times, before slowly realizing they had actually won the grand prize. After the win, Shinhwa showed their appreciation to the fans, opting to meet their fans first before going to the scheduled press conference.
Branching into Solo
Shinhwa was also the first idol group that had members doing solo activities while the group is still active. Starting with Lee Min Woo in 2003, the other members gradually went into their solo careers in 2005. Besides Eric, the rest had released an album; besides Shin Hye Sung, all other members had delved into acting before.
Among the members, lead vocalist Shin Hye Sung had a more successful solo singing career, winning several Bonsangs. On the other hand, Eric had a relatively active acting and modelling solo career, winning MBC Best Actor and SBS Best Actor award in 2005 and 2006 respectively. Other members also delved into different areas such as Kim Dong Wan who hosted a radio show, Andy who tried emceeing and various musical projects, and Jun Jin who tackled the variety sector.
Birth of Shinhwa Changjos – a Love-Hate relationship
The relationship between Shinhwa Changjos (SHCJ) and Shinhwa has always been an interesting one. Being together for nearly fifteen years, SHCJ did their best to live up to their name: creating legends.
All too often, fandoms have heard of the many hilarious stories between SHCJs and Shinhwa; the time when a fan painted her face white and drew heavy eyeliner to imitate Dongwan’s getup during the ‘Yo!’ period at a fansign and another occasion when the boys chided their fans for losing a debate with G.O.D fans, are just some of the tidbits on an endless list.
“Shinhwa isn’t responsible for your lives.”
Yet, the fans that sometimes get into arguments with their oppas and are bold enough to point out the boys’ flaws as they deemed fit, are also one of the strongest and most loyal fandom. Strongly protecting the colour orange for the last fifteen years, helping the boys pull through their toughest times, believing and always waiting, supporting the boys in their many little ways, SHCJs have also created their own legends alongside Shinhwa, such as being the first fandom to donate rice wreaths to support their idols.
In return, Shinhwa kept their promises, returning to the music scene last year as a complete group after fulfilling their military duties. The song ‘On the Road’ from their latest album is also one of the many songs dedicated to their orange princesses for their never-ending continuous support.
“The day we separate is not decided by us. As long as you (fans) are here, the fantastic performances and good albums that we will do has become our mission”
— Eric, Japan 2012.
The Legend and their Promise
2008, March 24-25. The six of them gathered in the orange-filled Olympic Park Gymnastics Stadium for their tenth anniversary concert, which also acted as the ‘goodbye’ stage as Shinhwa (with the exception of Shin Hye Sung, whose knee deemed him unfit for duty) would be serving their mandatory enlistment. Promising to return as six once more, the boys put on their best performance to the loud applause and cheers, as well as the promise from SHCJ that they’ll be waiting.
And so, the waiting game began as the members enlisted one after another.
It took the boys four years to finally return to the limelight in 2012, with a brand new album and a brand new image. No longer the fresh faces or the young playful boys, the six returned as dashing men ready to take on the fierce competition in the booming K-pop scene.
Selling out their limited edition albums and tickets to their Asia tour, Shinhwa and SHCJs have realised their promises to each other.
“Compared to the past everyone looked more matured. But to me this is something that I’m happy about. Those that have been waiting for us the whole time, those that have grown up with us…the looks of those that have come back to us no matter how long we took, I think it’s beautiful. It’s an unforgettable concert, and one that I will remember for life.”
-Shin Hye Sung, Shinhwa Broadcast E06
Shinhwa has been acknowledged by idols and media alike as the original Variety-dols, a term coined with the rise of idols being active in the variety scene. Having ranked first as ‘Gods of Variety’ by Netizens, Shinhwa is unlike most of their peers and seniors where upholding an image is important; in fact, their ‘image’ has long been known to be that of unpredictability and down to Earth-ness.
The difference between Shinhwa and most idol groups lies in the fact that instead of having a residential representative in the variety sector, all members have been active in the Variety circle – of course with Jun Jin being recognized as the most active with his participation as a member of Infinity Challenge, and Andy’s participation as a permanent member of New X-man.
As a group, Shinhwa has made a name for themselves in early TV programmes such as Shinhwa X-files, X-man, even having their own season of Love Letter. And in 2012, the boys became the first group to have their very own variety programme on channel jTBC, in which they are both the hosts and participants, Shinhwa Broadcast. Having just ended its first run with 49 episodes, the next season is expected to run sometime in April.
The Legend Continues…
Successfully wrapping up the two-day concerts on 16 and 17 March 2013 at the Olympic Park Gymnastics Stadium, Shinhwa continues to show that they are still on top of the game by selling out the tickets. With plans on unveiling their new album sometime in April and embarking on their Asia tour before rounding it off with an encore concert in August, the boys will also be kept busy with the second season of their very own variety show – which till today, has been the only variety show hosted and revolved around an idol group in South Korea – Shinhwa broadcast.
Seems like the 15th year is only another mark as the legend continues…
“SHCJ must always receive love and protection from Shinhwa. Shinhwa will continue to stay together for SHCJ.”
-Minwoo, 15th Anniversary Concert
“In the beginning, in order to become singers, we debuted as Shinhwa. But now, in order to remain as Shinhwa, we continue promoting as singers.”
“Without Shinhwa Changjo, we are nothing.”
*Photos used in this article are via various sources.
Something special from (x)clusive!
What better way to celebrate Shinhwa’s 15h Anniversary than some unreleased pictures when the boys were in Singapore last year for their concert?
Check these out: