South Korean boy band Shinhwa is back in the scene

Over the last four years, South Korea’s oldest surviving boy band Shinhwa nervously watched as K-pop’s popularity exploded, but it could not do anything about it.

The six-member group, credited with helping to start the idol group trend when it was formed in 1998 by SM Entertainment, was on hiatus for the members to serve their mandatory military service.

While they took turns to embark on their two-year-long army stints, each member took on solo activities such as dramas and releasing solo albums.

The group comprise leader Eric Mun, 33, lead dancer Lee Min Woo, 32, main vocalist Kim Dong Wan, 32, lead vocalist Shin Hye Sung, 32, vocalist and rapper Jun Jin, 31, and main rapper Andy Lee, 31.

Together forever: K-pop industry veterans Shinhwa is making a comeback and the members have loads of advice for the younger idol groups.
In an e-mail interview, Kim confesses to feeling envious of other groups while he was pursuing solo activities: “I thought a lot about gathering six new members and launching a new album together, meeting our fans using the name of Shinhwa, and I think my members were thinking the same thing.

“The last four years were indeed a long break without certainty.”

Now that the group is back – it released its 10th full-length album aptly titled The Return in March, and performed at a concert in Singapore last weekend – one thing is for sure: It is feeling the heat of returning to a highly competitive K-pop industry.

Having outlasted other early idol groups such as H.O.T. and g.o.d. that have long disbanded, Mun says: “I feel more pressured to show what the real Shinhwa are than to be proper seniors to the junior K-pop groups.

“The title of ‘first idol group releasing 10th album after 14 years of their career’ adds even more pressure and raises the expectations of the public.”

Shin, who was exempt from military service due to a knee injury, adds: “We are now actively promoting our 10th album, yet the public thinks of Shinhwa as just an old group which had a long break of four years.

“This time, I’d like to deliver a refreshed image of Shinhwa to many people.”

The group’s comeback concerts in Seoul, South Korea, and a few Japanese cities were sold out, and they will be heading to China next, including Beijing.

As K-pop industry veterans, the band members have lots of advice for younger idol groups.

It is the first idol group to have set up its own entertainment company – Shinhwa Company – last year to manage themselves as a group.

Lee says: “The most important parts are communication and trust. Males do fight a lot. However, communicating after the fight is more important in solving misunderstandings.

“If you want to be like Shinhwa, do converse a lot, and understand more. Trust is the power.”

Seeing how it is now the norm for members of idol groups to engage in solo activities even while they are part of a group, Shin adds: “Even if you become No.1 on your own, please don’t think that all the fame came because of your ability – it comes from the support of your fellow members.”

And while the members might have toyed with the idea of forming their own groups during their break, that is the furthest thing from their minds now.

Mun says: “Our goal is not about running to the top place, but keeping our team together forever.” – The Straits Times Singapore/Asia News Network


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