SEOUL, South Korea - Young K-pop fans may have killed for the chance that we’ve had: to walk backstage on M Countdown, a popular cable television music program.
Inside, we saw immaculately-styled Sung Min, a member of Super Junior, whiz by us.
Then up ahead, in the room with a paper sign showing the group’s name on the door, there was Shin Dong having his violet-colored hair styled up, as Si Won stepped out and with a manner worthy of a world star said hello to his interviewers.
With its 10 members executing dance moves and addictive tunes in perfect unison, Super Junior is topping the charts in Korea, Taiwan and China, and selling out seats in the Tokyo Dome. But that hasn’t stopped the group and its talented members from evolving.
|Super Junior members, from left, Ryeo Wook, Kang In, Eun Hyuk, Lee Tuek, Sung Min, Dong Hae, Kyu Hyun, Si Won, Ye Sung and Shin Dong
When they debuted seven years ago, they were still very much music and fun loving boys with the youngest Ryeo Wook in his late teens.
But up close in 2012, after the July release of their sixth album, the Super Junior we met were confident, suave young men evoking the album’s title, “Sexy, Free & Single.”
“Yes, we thought about slowing down on activities like appearing on entertainment programs, or acting or other things. But it’s our appearances that have propelled us, in a synergistic way with our music, to our current popularity,” said Lee Teuk, the leader of the group. “We want to be able to continue as Super Junior for a long time to come; we would like to be national idols so I don’t think we will be slowing down on non-music activities.”
In Korea, young popular K-pop stars are known as “idols” in reference to their cult-like popularity. Super Junior commands some very devoted fans not only in Korea but throughout much of Asia.
“Allow me to speak frankly. We have no rivals in Southeast Asia, and in particular in China,” said Ye Sung with a deadpan look. There is however a glint of humor in his eye, making one wonder if he’s partly laughing and joking about his own success.
“I think the fans like our approachability and our good looks,” said Lee Tuek.
“I’ve read a lot of what foreign fans write on Internet. That’s what they said, that we’re good looking,” Eun Hyuk chipped in. It’s at this point that they make it obvious that they are joking and bantering among themselves, having a good time in knowing that their hard work over the past several years has paid off.
Since their debut in December 2005, they have worked doggedly not only in music but appearing in popular entertainment programs to increase the group’s exposure. They also performed in Southeast Asian markets, where other big-name groups like TVXQ were cautiously knocking on doors.
“In the early 2000s, not many Southeast Asian nations were open to K-pop concerts. But after our performance, things changed. You can say that K-pop grew as we grew,” Lee Tuek said.
Where does this confidence come from? It doesn’t only stem from knowing when Super Junior visited Thailand in 2006, they wreaked havoc at the airport which their fans deluged to prompt a near-“emergency” crisis. The power of the universality of music, heightened interest in Korea and collaboration with leading world musicians and choreographers also helps.
“We also work with the world-class talent on our music,” the leader added expanding on how the group’s songs gain fame worldwide. The choreography for “Sorry Sorry” was created by Nick Bass and for “Sexy, Free & Single,” the choreography was done by Devin Jamieson.
The fact that they have the most members — a total of 12, but currently only 10 are active as Hee Chul is serving his military duty while Ki Bum is focusing on acting — works to their advantage.
The individual activities of each member is what keeps the fans focused. By pursuing different interests, the members are showing to fans qualities that can get buried in the group.
Members like Lee Tuek, Eun Gyuk, Kyu Hyun and Shin Dong frequently appear in entertainment programs as emcees and also as guests.
“I would like to be a next-generation MC,” Lee Tuek stated boldly, only to laugh sheepishly when we noted how his eyes were burning with ambition. In a separate email answer, Kyu Hyun also did not hide his ambition of becoming the same. Members such as Si Won, Dong Hae and Ye Sung are focusing or want to focus on acting. Sung Min is nurturing dreams of starring in more musicals.
“I would like to represent the face of Korea; so that people know there is a Choi Si-won in Korea,” Si Won said.
Kang In, who has just returned from military service, said he would like to further grow in musicals and music writing, which was also the dream of the youngest member, Ryeo Wook in the separate email interview.
However, they are not hanging up their coats on music in any way. They will perform in Jakarta on Sept. 22 as part of the “SM Town Live World Tour.” For more, visit visit www.enewsworld.com.