This is like a SUPER long interview of the boys, but it’s so worth the time to read through it. The whole thing is just so touching and gosh, I love the boys so much ♥♥♥♥♥.
Super Junior | Super Junior, Reveal Your True Identity
MBC’s “Radio Star” talked with 4/9 of Girls Generation; 10 Asia met with 6/13 of Super Junior. Both are groups that one can actually use the terms “4/9″ and “6/13″ to refer to. Yoona began acting before debuting with Girls Generation and Super Junior created units like K.R.Y. that are composed of only a few members. As if Girls Generation and Super Junior were office workers in a company, they each do activities as MC’s, solo artists, and actors. Ryeowook, who says he has participated in every Super Junior [main group] performance, has performed on “a stage with only 8 of the members,” and Kibum has been unable to participate in this 3rd album’s promotions because of separate activities. In places where these 3rd generation idols are doing individual rather than group activities, they mention their groups’ names often, like “Super Junior’s Kangin.” They have clearly shown that they are being marketed as entertainers rather than just idol singers, and ever since, the management of idol stars in the music world has definitely changed.
Super Junior was the first to show this kind of activity, and they have also been the most extreme. To the members, the group’s name seemed like a brand name that helped their individual activity. Through Super Junior, they were able to show themselves individually to the public, and also, as members like Heechul and Kangin gained popularity, Super Junior as a whole gained more fans. This might be the reason that after their song “U,” Super Junior chose to promote an SMP (short for S.M Music Performance. It refers to SM Entertainment’s performance based music) that consisted of “lyrics that criticized the society + metal guitar + screaming + formation choreography” like “Don’t Don” as their title song instead of a more widely appealing song. As the members became more accepted by the public by individually appearing on various broadcasts, Super Junior continued the music “for SM fans” that had began since HOT days.
Idol office workers under the”SuJu” Entertainment Company
There is a reason that Super Junior’s decision over which markets to target was more important than how much popularity they gained as a group. It has been unclear how to describe Super Junior as a group. The members’ ages, as well as their areas of activity are different, but it is because of this loose connection that they were able to infiltrate whatever they faced. If they wanted to try a youthful style of trot, they could sing “Rokkuguh,” and if variety shows needed “talkative idols,” a few of the older members could appear on the program. The entertainment business needed the popularity of idol singers, but rather than cast idol stars who had set concepts and images, the market sought after Super Junior, whose members could play freely on the shows. For example, even though Shindong is an idol, he appeared on MBC Golden Fishery’s “Radio Star” with malicious speakers like Kim Gura, and Eeteuk MC-ed and even joked around on the infamous M.net’s “Love Fighter,” a reality show that couples would argue on.
The way Kangin would slyly say, “Oh, but I’m an idol,” whenever he talked about drinking alcohol shows exactly Super Junior’s strange position as idols. They gather attention as an idol group, but they are more liberal and liberated than other idols are. The entertainment business is hard to conquer, whether as an adult or an idol, and as a group, Super Junior was unable to release greater hits than TVXQ or Big Bang. However, through mass media, they were individually able to penetrate almost all the domains of entertainment that reach the population. In the way the SM-produced film “Vacation” starring TVXQ targeted fans, so did Super Junior’s “Attack of the Pin-up Boys.” However, in this movie, the Super Junior members are not cool, impressive men. Instead, they create a caricature of themselves by appearing as “ulzzangs [internet stars that become famous for being really good-looking] that want to become famous.” They have been unable to dominate the music industry, but because of that, they are more approachable and they can show various sides of themselves as entertainers.
Like differently shaped pieces that eventually assemble into one puzzle
Super Junior’s third album title song, “Sorry Sorry,” is a turning point for the members. This is not only because Yoo Young Jin did not give them an SMP like those of the past, or because, as Eeteuk said, they performed “better than expected on the music charts.” Unlike Girls Generation’s “Gee,” “Sorry Sorry” is not a song that presented new potential by emphasizing and imposing a trend. This song, which used the musical techniques of some of Justin Timberlake and Rihanna’s hit songs, caught the trend and followed it. However, during the process of following the trend, “Sorry Sorry” finally showed the characters of the Super Junior members through song. The repetitive beat and melody actually showcase the individual styles of the members as all 13 sing in rotation. Sungmin’s voice, which has electronic effects added to it, shows his slightly feminine image, and Siwon, who is clearly handsome even by the standards of those who are not fans, shows a different side of himself and helps create a sexiness in the first part of the song. On that point, Super Junior is showcased better on stage rather than in the actual song “Sorry Sorry.” The members express themselves differently to the same beat and perform a complicated choreography that follows the current trend but presents them as one unit. They play and promote themselves individually, making it unclear what concept they are aiming for, but they eventually create one picture, which one can say is the Super Junior now.
Super Junior’s true colors are still unclear. Even the group’s leader worried that “people would say [Super Junior] is not an idol group,” but Super Junior has gained the most mobility among all idols, and after participating in 19 albums through separate activity, they finally released as a group their most widely appealing song. Even now, they cannot know if they will be able to become the trend in the fiercely competitive idol market. However, even when the members’ individual activities became more prominent, even when “people who weren’t fans remembered ‘Rokkuguh’ the most,” and even when “Sorry Sorry” became their “first widely appealing hit song,” they were Super Junior. In this way, as they worked, worked, worked through individual, unit, and group activities, they solidified Super Junior’s place. Who knows if the group will “be able to continue into [their] 40’s” the way Donghae wishes, living in their “Super Junior World”?
Super Junior | “Nineteen Albums in Four Years of Activities” – 1
In the history of Korean idol groups, Super Junior has a unique place. Not only are they an idol group with more individual than group activities, unlike most idol groups, they have shown the funny and light sides of themselves without reservation since their debut. Rather than appearing like an ordinary team, it is as if 13 entertainers were gathered into one group. How is it that they were able to become like this and solidify their place in this way? Super Junior’s Eeteuk, Donghae, Siwon, Ryeowook, Sungmin, and Kyuhyun answered those questions.
After Super Junior won 1st place on a music show with “Sorry Sorry,” fans posted with the heading “Kibum, your hyungs did it” on the fansites.
Eeteuk : Yes, they did that after we won.
You’ve won 1st place before, but it seems especially meaningful this time. Eeteuk even cried, no? (laughs)
Sungmin : Teuk hyung always cries. He has a lot of tears. (laugh)
Eeteuk : I was very uncertain and insecure because it had been a year and six months since we did activities in Korea. It had been a long time, and I was also worried that we wouldn’t be able to adjust to the changes in music trends. The members that were in China when we were preparing for the album would call and always ask, “Hyung, how’s the situation?”
“We were confident ever since hearing “Sorry Sorry” for the first time”
Seeing the video of the choreographers dancing that was released before the album came out made it seem like you were confident. You were cheering watching the choreographers dance.
Eeteuk : Yes, I uploaded it. (laugh) When we heard “Sorry Sorry” for the first time, the majority of the members said, “Hyung, I think this song will do it.” I don’t listen to a lot of pop music, so I don’t know about music trends, but Donghae told me, “If it’s this song, I’m really confident.” While we were practicing the choreography and as the song was being completed, I kept thinking that I wanted to show [fans] as soon as possible.
Donghae : When “Sorry Sorry” was completed, the members were all sleeping, but when we received a text message from the company saying the song was finished and that they had sent it to us by email, all the members gathered in the living room. We were saying to each other that “With this song, we can really be confident.” With that thought, we practiced the choreography together, and because we had missed each other from being apart for so long, the atmosphere was really good.
Lately, it seems that everyone is very worried about keeping up with the trend.
Eeteuk : It’s because the music industry changes quickly. We worried whether we had to keep pushing on with our own style or adjust to the current trends. Also, we worried whether or not we had anything more to show because even though this is our 3rd studio album, it’s actually our 19th album if you add up all the albums we’ve worked on. I don’t know if it’s because the choreographers were from abroad, but they helped us break that fixed idea.
The choreography is complicated and parts of it are difficult technique-wise , and it requires each member to do different moves. Wasn’t it difficult learning the dance?
Eeteuk : The first day the choreographer came, the better dancers of the group went to learn the choreography first, and after becoming familiar with it, they gave their opinions and helped edit the dance while the other members learned it. This was so that when the better dancers did the difficult moves, the other members could cover what they needed to. Because Donghae, Eunhyuk, and Shindong dance well, when we practice, we follow whatever they say. When they want to do the choreography one more time and the other members complain that they’re too tired, Donghae says to me, “Hyung, tell them that we should do it once more.” Then, I say to them, “Hey, let’s do it one more time. I’m doing this even at my age; let’s do it once more.” (laugh)
Ryeowook : We can’t not do it. (laugh)
We should be able to see the members that dance more and the members who cover [support] them. (laugh)
Eeteuk : When we were learning, we also thought that there would be a difference, but after completing the choreography, it seems empty if even one of us is missing. For example, at the very end, when the members are sitting and just moving their hands, Siwon’s expression and gestures….
Donghae : It’s very empty without them.
Eeteuk : Slightly… because it has an American feel. (laugh)
Siwon : (laugh)Truthfully, it was very hard practicing. Still, Nick and Trent (the choreographers) were thankfully very considerate.
Eeteuk : Siwon tries very hard… But one day, he snuck out while practicing. I followed him to find him sitting in the hallway. He asked me, “Hyung, am I doing well?” Still, Siwon ultimately did well. He sets the mood in the beginning of the song.
“As we continue performing, it seems that our light image is changing slowly”
Siwon sets the mood very well in the beginning of the song. He gives it a slightly sexy feel as well.
Eeteuk : He’s really chic. Middle aged women really like him. (laugh)
Siwon : Before recording, I had a discussion with Director Yoo (Songwriter Yoo Young Jin,) who wrote the song. This time, I felt that I should sing more feebly. Director Yoo also said that it would be good to sing in a sexy, light, feeble manner.
“Sorry Sorry” is a song that depends more on how well one brings life to the feel of the song like Siwon did, rather than how well one sings the notes properly. A lot of effects are used and the flow and force of the song have to be maintained; how was it singing keeping those things in mind?
Sungmin : The part I sing has a lot of electronic effects in it, so Ryeowook and I worried a lot. I could have sung regularly, but I thought it would be weird.
Ryeowook : The melody is repeated, and the pitch is easy enough to reach that one would even be able to sing the song right after waking up.That’s why there are a lot of people who think the song is very easy to sing, but it was hard to get it right while recording. The feel of the song changes immensely depending on whether you emphasize the first or second syllable of the lyrics. It’s not a song that requires outstanding singing ability, but we tried to bring life to the feel of the song as much as possible.
“Sorry Sorry” came out after such a thorough process, but how do you feel about the current results? It feels like Super Junior’s most widely appealing hit song has come out.
Eeteuk : You’re right. There are a lot of songs that our fans loved, but in terms of widespread popularity, most people remember the song “Rokkuguh,” which was one of our unit songs. As a result, we wondered whether we needed a more relaxed approach in order to gain popularity from both our fans and the general public, and this time, I think we were able to do that to some level. These days, the music charts are really important, and we’re happy because we’re getting higher rankings than we expected on the music charts.
This time, it feels like Super Junior’s strength as a team is really being expressed.
Eeteuk : Yes, that’s true in some ways. To tell the truth, because Super Junior goes on a lot of variety shows and sings a lot of bright songs during unit activities, most people just see us as a bunch of fun and talkative kids. I think that going on stage together is helping us change that image.
As Eeteuk said, Super Junior had an unusual concept from the beginning. Even your greeting was, “Hello, we’re Super Juni-or,” and as soon as you debuted, members had individual activities. How did you gather as one group?
Eeteuk : At SM, there is something called a “presentation conference.” Trainees form their own groups and sing and dance in rotation once a week in an imitation broadcast. One day for the presentation, Heechul and I performed a New Kids on the Block song. The younger trainees did H.O.T or Shinhwa songs, but the company people who saw us said, “You each have unique charms. How do you feel about coming together as a group?” From then on, we continued our individual activities and then gathered as a group, and did individual activies and in this way, came to this point.
“We wanted to break the mold of the usual idol”
That’s not the usual formula for an idol group, but did you have any concerns about the concept? For example, that you would lose the idol image and that your popularity would suffer.
Eeteuk : At first, we weren’t very worried. We wanted to break out from the general idol mold, but as we continued like that, we started worrying that we weren’t being treated like idols. Super Junior wouldn’t be mentioned when idol groups were being discussed. We were also stressed because we had to keep changing from being cool and charismatic on stage and then funny and amusing on variety shows. At first, fans would say, “Oppa, [don’t forget that] you’re an idol,” but if we didn’t talk on variety shows, they would say, “Oppas, why aren’t you talking? Why are you being edited out [for not being entertaining enough]?” (laugh)
Donghae : Still, rather than being trapped in a mold, by doing individual activities and solidifying our positions, we shine even more when we come together as one. Even when we’re in our 40’s working individually, I want to keep the name of Super Junior’s Donghae.
Eeteuk : I think things like this help our group’s long term success.
But weren’t you worried being apart from each other for so long? You must have wondered when you would come together as one again.
Eeteuk : We had lots of worries like that. There’s a saying that if you gather, you live, and if you fall apart, you die, but for us, we live when we are gathered and we live even when we are apart. (laugh) I was also stressed when I first MC-ed for M.net’s “Love Fighter” because the fans really didn’t like it. The show’s known for being provocative, and there was talk that the team might suffer by my putting my name on the show. [As in, Teuk taking responsibility over the show by being the MC and literally having his name on it; it was “Eeteuk’s Love Fighter”.] However, after MC-ing for almost a year, it actually became the program that fans remember the most. The show was so provocative at times that I tried to look at it by taking one step back. I think I learned from that in many ways.
Eeteuk, do you have aspirations for MC-ing? You’ve even become the MC for KBS’s “Road Show Quiz Expedition.”
Eeteuk : Yes, I was able to join a KBS show. (laugh)
Siwon : Wow~ As expected! [This is the closest translation I could make. Siwon says 역시, which pretty much means, of course, I couldn’t expect less of Teuk hyung.] (claps)
Eeteuk : When I see senior idol singers, some act and some are in musicals, but there aren’t any who MC. I think that I would be able to do well in the long run in that area…
You’ve been focusing your attention on long term success [throughout the interview.] (laugh)
Eeteuk : Short term success is not good (laugh)
It seems that individual activity really influences the members.
Sungmin : It becomes something to learn from, whether it’s radio DJing or acting. I even went on a talk show with Shindong. I don’t talk very well, so it would have been hard if I went alone, but Shindong made it very comfortable and I learned a lot.
Ryeowook : I haven’t done radio DJ-ing, but when our members DJ, they have control over all the main broadcasting stations from 8pm to 12am. I was proud seeing things like that. In my case, I did promotions for Super Junior K.R.Y, and in the future, I want to continue showing my singing abilities through K.R.Y.
Super Junior | “We Want to Broadcast Across All of Asia A Show Completely of Our Own” – 2
Ryeowook, you participated a lot in the ballads on this album; what do you think has changed compared to before?
Ryeowook : As we began preparing for the 3rd album, I began thinking that I should create a style of my own. I was supposed be showing my own colors, but I seemed to be imitating other singers. I worried about it a lot with Yehsung hyung and Kyuhyun, and because Kyuhyun and I had to record during our free time while promoting Super Junior M, I kept thinking about it whenever we went to Korea to record. That’s why I would go to the recording studio before going hom, and I slowly found my own style.
Ryeowook, you’re a vocalist, but the fans say that your acting was most memorable in the movie “Attack of the Pin-up Boys.”
Siwon : He’s a hidden talent. (laugh) I also asked Ryeowook how to act while we were filming. He responded to me in one sentence, to follow the feel.
Siwon : I learned a lot. (laugh)
Ryeowook : Actually, many of our members act, so I learned a lot watching them.
“I’m in my mid-20’s, but my passion is still as strong as it was when I was in junior high and high school”
In “Attack of the Pin-up Boys,” the narrator says “We are high schoolers,” but weren’t your lives different from that of ordinary high schoolers?
Donghae : Truthfully, we don’t have many memories from high school. I wasn’t able to attend school regularly since my third year of junior high. When I woke up, I would go to school, and when school ended, I would go to train. I’d go home at 1 or 2 am. Things were like that until we debuted.
Sungmin : For several years.
Donghae : Even then, we didn’t have any complaints, and when we were told to go home, we said we would practice more. We would lock up by ourselves and even practice with only our underwear on. I wish I had more memories of high school, but I think that because of the time spent practicing then, we were able to get where we are now.
How did it feel filming “Attack of the Pin-up Boys” altogether?
Donghae : Kyuhyun wasn’t able to participate because of an unfortunate event, but it was great being able to do something together. All 13 of us seemed to feel, “Yes, we should definitely do it.”
You’re busy individually when you’re not doing activities together as a group, but do you have time to spend together?
Donghae : We do at night. When it’s really late, past midnight, we eat together first. We go to the sauna too. (laugh)
Ryeowook : Teuk hyung goes to the sauna.
Donghae : Because he’s old. (laugh) Before we go to sleep after eating, I have to blend him strawberries and milk. (laugh)
Eeteuk : I tell him “Donghae, put in honey for me.” (laugh)
Ryeowook : In the morning, we have to feed him ginseng. (laugh) I’m just kidding.
No matter how busy you are, you do sleep at home [the dorm].
Eeteuk : Because there’s nowhere to go. My house is actually in Eunpyeonggu, which is on the close side, but it’s been over 6 months since I went home. The dorm is more comfortable than home now. When I go home, there’s nothing there and there’s nothing to do.
Donghae : If we don’t eat together, I have to eat by myself. We’re not the type to go out and play, and if we’re not together we get bored or depressed, so we always suggest eating together to each other.
Eeteuk : At the dorm, Ryeowook makes food often. He asks, “Do you want strawberries?” and washes them for us.
The members seem very close.
Eeteuk : Donghae, Eunhyuk, and I have known each other for 10 years. I’ve known Sungmin for 9 years. We’re in our mid-20’s, but because we met in junior high and high school, we’re still the same as we were then. That’s why we still think that we’re not mature enough at times, and we still have the passion we had back then.
Sungmin : We’re immature. (laugh)
I saw Eeteuk crying when Kyuhyun sang on SBS “Star King,” and it showed how attached he is to the group.
Eeteuk : I was with Kyuhyun when the car accident happened, so I know the exact circumstances. Knowing that and seeing Kyuhyun made me emotional like that.
Sungmin : He’s crying again. Why did you make him cry? (laugh)
“It’s really funny conversing abroad. When I don’t know a word while speaking English, I’ll use Chinese.”
Kyuhyun, are you recovered now? You were injured badly, and everyone must have been really worried.
Kyuhyun : I’m completely fine now. At that time, I wasn’t in the condition to promote the 2nd album, but while lying in the hospital for three months, I kept wanting to perform, so I had surgery and started participating in group activities again.
Siwon : That’s why we were nervous whenever he performed. One time, he came on stage tottering. I was going back to my spot after finishing my part when Kyuhyun staggered. For a second, I wondered, “It’s a live show, but should I carry him and run?”
Eeteuk : The doctor even said that it was a miracle that Kyuhyun recovered. Kyuhyun and I were in the same hospital, and the doctor said both our recovery speeds were quick and good. He said it’s because I’m youthful, and Kyuhyun is young… [The word that the doctor used to describe Teuk is to describe adults as being young; the word he used for Kyuhyun purely means young, and it is used to refer to children or teenagers.]
Eeteuk : (laugh) So he said it was very good.
Siwon : It must be good to be youthful. (laugh)
If the 13 of you are together, you must argue often. How do you handle each other’s opinions?
Donghae : Because there’s 13 of us, if we keep talking, good suggestions are made, and we accept them fairly. We argue, but we also play, and cry. It’s always good being with the members. That’s why I think we were able to do well in Asia.
How was it at first in China? The environment is total different from that of Korea.
Kyuhyun : It was fascinating. I’m a foreigner in China, but it was moving having people from another country welcome us.
There must be situations in which you speak Chinese one day and Thai the next. Were you able to handle such varied activities?
Kyuhyun : Yes, because I felt that I receive a lot of love when I see these fans who like me.
Eeteuk : When we were promoting Super Junior T, we did activities in Japan, so we were learning Japanese. We went to China for the Asia tour, and I said “hi” [in English] without realizing it. (laugh) After staying in China and going to Thailand, I kept confusing whether I should say, “Ni hao” or “Sawadikap.”
Siwon : It’s really funny conversing. When I didn’t know a word while speaking English, I’d use Chinese.
I’ve been to Thailand before, and there was a picture of Super Junior covering the entire wall of a shopping mall.
Eeteuk : The thing that makes us really happy is that they treat us really well when we go, even more than we expect. It’s like how late 1980s Hong Kong actors were treated when they went to Korea to film commercials.
If you say things like that, it makes you look old. (laugh) Pretend you don’t remember. (laugh)
Eeteuk : Than should I just say I heard it from my grandma? (laugh) Anyway, even if we go abroad, people cheer hard for us. We filmed a motorcycle commercial once, and I heard that in Thailand, that model of motorcycle was sold the most. We went to Thailand two days ago because a motorcycle was released with our name. It was really moving.
Sungmin : It’s embarassing to say it myself, but we have a lot of chances to meet Korean fans when we do promotions in Korea, so they don’t always follow us. However, because we go to Thailand infrequently, the fans there keep following us the few days we’re there, and there’s so many people, to the point that we can’t move when we go to the mall.
Eeteuk : That’s why, if it’s possible, I want to learn languages more fluently so that we can create a variety show just for us across Asia.
“We’re really happy now, and we hope we can keep moving forward like this”
Siwon, you were abroad by yourself while filming “A Battle of Wits.” How did you feel?
Siwon : First of all, I became more responsible, because if I made a mistake, that would be a minus for our entire group. Also, there was a lot of psychological stress while filming “A Battle of Wits.” It was hectic because I was hearing different languages everywhere around me. That was also the time when we were preparing for debuting as Super Junior, so I would stay up all night filming and sleep a little on the way to the airport, and then sleep again on the airplane. When I woke up, it would be Korea. Living like this for a month and a half was really stressful psychologically.
How was it filming a movie with legends like Ahn Sung Ki and Andy Lau? Did Ahn Sung Ki give you any special advice?
Siwon : In Ahn Sung Ki sunsaengnim’s [teacher] case, he just said in one sentence… “(imitating Ahn Sung Ki’s voice) Just do it comfortably.” (laugh) If that were now, I wouldn’t have been able to, but at that time, I told him my situation and told him, “I don’t know what I should do.” Whenever I did that, he would be eating sunflower seeds from his left hand and say, “Just do it comfortably.” It felt unreal that I was filming a movie with Andy Lau sunsaengnim until we filmed the first scene. After we filmed the first take of the first scene, it finally felt real to me and my legs began to shake. Actually, that scene that I filmed with him was the most important, and when I think about it now, I’m disappointed. I could have done better.
You’ve shown us a lot doing individual activities. Do you each have your own plans for the future?
Eeteuk : I can’t know the thoughts of the other members, but I want to make the team sturdy. Rather than focusing on the individual, the roots have to be strong. Super Junior has to succeed in Korea in order to succeed abroad. That’s why, like Donghae says he wants to do, I want to continue releasing albums into our 30’s and 40’s. For myself, I have a lot of interest in MC-ing.
Sungmin : If I get the opportunity, I want to show people my acting.
Ryeowook : A singer-songwriter. I majored in music composition in high school and I’m still writing songs now.
Donghae : I want to try acting, and I want to give each of the members a song as a present. It doesn’t matter if those songs would be released on official albums or not.
Kyuhyun : Because I’m young (laugh,) I want to try everything.
Kyuhyun, your past as an olympiad winner [I’m pretty sure it was a math olympiad] created a stir. Do you have any plans to start studying again?
Kyuhyun : No, I don’t. (laugh)
Eeteuk : Kyuhyun’s had owns a very big college entrance preparation academy. [a hakwon, or cram school]
Oh, an idol star who operates a prep school? (laugh)
Kyuhyun : I’m the next director. (laugh)
You wouldn’t need to advertise. (laugh)
Kyuhyun : The director of the prep school filming the commercial… (laugh)
Siwon : I think making plans is fine, but if they don’t go the way you want, it can be disappointing, so I want to be a Choi Siwon who works hard and is acknowledged no matter what he does.
This is the last question. I think it would be good for Eeteuk to reply. What kind of team does Super Junior want to be in the future?
Eeteuk : I’d like for it to stay the way it is now. We should work hard individually and when we gather together, we should work hard together. I wish this would continue for 10, 20 years. Because I’m so happy now, I wish we can keep pressing forward like this rather than have things change.