Rant #1- Only 13 Controversy

If you haven’t seen it yet, please check out “Don’t Don (Money, Insanity)- Super Junior” in the Korean MV section. If you don’t know anything about the song it will fill you in and give you an idea what is going on. If you don’t want to, I’ll explain it all here in pretty good detail so you can each form your own opinion. But to explain the controversy I have to go back a ways and give a lot of back story (wikipedia, learn to love it), so bear with me please! Also, as an apology for it being so long- LOTS OF PICTURES!

Super Junior entered the market at the end of 2005 as a 12 member group. The theme behind the group (Then named Super Junior 05) was that each year 6 members known as “Graduate Members” would leave and the “Undergraduate” members would become “Graduate” members, making way for 6 new guys. Each rotation would be a “Generation”, and the name would change (For example, Super Junior 05 would be followed by Super Junior 06).

What Super Junior’s managing company, SM Entertainment, did not realize at the time was that the groups popularity would not just come from the names, but from what each individual brought in. They named the “Graduate Members” and were preparing for the change (6 new members had been selected) when suddenly fan pressure changed their mind. They scrapped the idea of “Generations”, added one new member (Kyuhyun), and sealed the group as “Super Junior”, removing “05” with the promise of having no further “Generations” and no members planning on being removed.

Fans accepted the 13th member readily and the group released their first major hit song “U”, which won them some of their first awards.

Now we come to Don’t Don, the “cursed” second album of Super Junior.

After the song “U”, SM Entertainment announced the formation of two “Sub Groups”, Super Junior- K.R.Y., which featured the three lead singers from Super Junior Kyuhyun, Ryeowook, and Yesung. This group was focused on ballad songs and more emotionally-based singing. Super Junior- Trot was also formed with members Leeteuk (Super Junior’s Leader), Heechul, Kangin, Eunhyuk, Sungmin, and Shindong. This group was based in the increasingly popular market for “Trot” songs ( I don’t think there is an english equivalent to this genre).

This was understandably confusing to the fans. Rumors began that the Sub Groups were ways to break Super Junior up, eliminating the massive 13 member “Super Junior” altogether. SM assured fans that was not the case. The Sub Groups are active between CD promotions of “Super Junior”, and are more like extensions of the band while they record and work on the new music.

Heechul, who was injured severely in the first accident in late 2006

Super Junior’s second album was all the more important to show the unity of the group after the turbulence and rumors. However, two car accidents delayed the MV. The return of two members was in serious question- Heechul (who was injured severely in the first accident), and Kyuhyun (the most seriously injured member of the second accident months later). Heechul had broken a leg badly and nearly bit his tongue in half to keep from passing out, which required numerous stitches to repair. His singing and dancing career was in doubt. He returned, however, though he did not take on harder dances for a long period of time.

Kyuhyun, the most severely injured of the early 2007 car accident

Kyuhyun was injured so severely in his accident that it was unknown for a couple of days if he would even survive. He had suffered a fractured hip and a broken rib which punctured a lung among other injuries. For a member of a singing-dancing group this could be fatal to the career. Kyuhyun recovered and managed to return to the group for the release of their second album.

Which brings me to Only 13 (finally) and my rant.

Don’t Don features a “Guest Member”, Henry Lau. He appears in the Music Video and in very nearly all live performances as a violin player/ dancer (all at the same time). With the addition of Henry to Don’t Don performances, SM announced he would later be joining Super Junior- China (later re-named Super Junior- M before debut). Fans took this as a sign that he would be added to the main group, and protests began.

Now I don’t know why the fans took this news so badly. Perhaps they thought he was replacing the injured Kyuhyun or they believed another member would be removed. Fans protested outside the SM Entertainment building  with signs saying “13 + or – 1=0”, saying they would not support the group if a member was removed or added. When live performances started, fans chanted against Henry during his solo, or suddenly refrained from cheering, resuming when he was finished.

ZhouMi (left) and Henry (right) from the promotions for Super Junior- M's debut album "Me 迷"

Only 13 protests settled down somewhat after the debut of Super Junior- M (though initially they increased due to a second non-Super Junior member, singer/songwriter ZhouMi, being added to the group). This sub-group featured, in addition to Henry and ZhouMi, full-time Super Junior members Hangeng/Hankyung (SJM’s leader and SJ’s only Chinese member), Siwon, Kyuhyun, Ryeowook, and Donghae.  Super Junior returned with their mega-hit Sorry Sorry as 13 members, without any changes (Though one member no longer performs with the group, so technically they were 12).

L-R: Kyuhyun, Henry, and ZhouMi, from the promotion for Super Junior- M's recent hit Mini-Album "SuperGirl"

Recently, during a live concert in Shanghai, China earlier this year, Only 13 acted up again, in a big way. They shouted protests and insults against Henry and ZhouMi during songs, which led to tears on and off stage and the first response by Henry directly to Only 13 (not an angry one, a sad one). During the final bow, when Henry and ZhouMi were brought on stage, chants against them (and in favor Super Junior member Hangeng who was not present and  is in a lawsuit over SM Entertainment’s controversial and restricting contracts), reached such a volume and intensity that Super Junior and Super Junior- M member Siwon grabbed a live mic and yelled “Everyone Be quiet!”, silencing 20,000 fans instantly (Super Junior members Heechul and Shindong started chants FOR ZhouMi and Henry respectively).

Now the rant part:

It shouldn’t matter if Henry and ZhouMi are in Super Junior or just in Super Junior- M. What the Only 13 fans did was nothing short of cruel. It cannot have been easy for Henry to debut with Super Junior shortly after arriving in Korea from Canada, and the protests against him for no reason must have made it very difficult not just on him but on the group itself (SJ members all responded at some point to this controversy supporting Henry and ZhouMi). And for ZhouMi, who had been in Korea longer, to see Henry’s reception and know he was going to be facing the same kind of jabs must have been frightening to say the least.

Henry (left) and ZhouMi (right) at the filming of a Taiwanese variety show at the end of 2009

There is no denying they are both extremely talented at what they do. ZhouMi is an expert singer (despite one rather hilarious slip-up, which he apologized for very professionally and re-performed perfectly (Though Kyuhyun fell to his knees on stage laughing about it)) and his songs are some of the most popular on Super Junior- M’s CDs. Henry is a brilliant dancer and a talented violin player, who also writes songs (very well!) and mixes music.

So my point is this: It doesn’t matter if they are added to Super Junior or stay in Super Junior- M. Both members should be recognized for their talent and ability. I hope soon they are either included in Super Junior as members, or that they debut in another group (though still appear in Super Junior- M between CDs). Either way, they both have great personalities on camera (and off), and I would like to see more of them.

To summarize my point I’ll make one statement:
I found this whole story fascinating because of the fans response to the thought of a possibility of a new member in the group. They totally forgot what was important (are they talented or not, I think they are), and instead became completely obsessed with what wasn’t. I would understand it if they thought a member would be removed, no one likes it when that happens to their favorite band, but come on girls, it isn’t like they are adding any hack into the group. SJ is already a soccer team, what’s a couple of extra players?

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