Whenever the idol group Super Junior is mentioned, the modifier “Yeneung-dol” (idol group members who are showing superior talent on entertainment programs) always follows. Every member of Super Junior is actively participating in various entertainment programs, TV dramas, and musicals, but, at the same time, they have been failing to push their image as singers.
But, surprisingly, their third album entitled “Sorry, Sorry” sold more than 250,000 copies last year, and they ranked atop the album sales. In addition, their fourth album entitled “Bonamana,” which was released recently, also sold 200,000 copies for the first order, and the total number of sales for only one week exceeded 100,000 copies.
Super Junior is differentiated from other idol groups who release mini album and are earning profits from the digital music market. In a recent interview with members of Super Junior, nine members out of thirteen members came out for the interview held in Apgujeong-dong.
One member, Kang In, had been caught in a crackdown on drunk drivers last year, and now he is planning to join the army, and Chinese member Han Kyung is now involved in a lawsuit with his agency SM Entertainment regarding his exclusive contract. Another member, Ki Bum, could not participate in the fourth album due to his busy acting activities. Also, Choi Si Won could not come to the interview as he had to receive medical surgery to remove an infection on his salivary gland.
As there are so many members in Super Junior, they could not have peaceful days last year, and had to go through hard times due to many unfavorable factors and rumors. During the interview, they talked about their feelings for what happened so far and they also said their ambition is to continue their activities until they reach their forties or fifties and host the “Super Junior Show” someday.
Followings are questions and answers with members of Super Junior.
Interviewer: You must have gone through significant distress due to some members’ personal problems.
▲ Lee Teuk: It was hard for me when I had to smile even in a difficult situation when showing up for entertainment programs. In particular, I was shocked when I found out that Han Kyung has gone through a lawsuit. But, since we left his seat empty, I want him back all the time. Kang In is burning to participate in our activities these days, and he always gives us advice after monitoring our performances. I will do my best to keep “Super Junior” together until every member can join again.
▲ Hee Chul: I was in a state of panic when my best friend Han Kyung left for China. I almost thought of withdrawing from the group because I was so depressed. I started getting more famous when I started acting, not as a member of Super Junior, and I was not as good at singing like some other members such as Ye Sung, Kyu Hyun, and Ryeo Wook, and not as good at dancing like other members such as Dong Hae and Eun Hyuk. But, members with whom I used to fight have stood by me and helped me in many ways. Only the fact that they are together with me suddenly became a great help and source of appreciation for me. In particular, Eun Hyuk helped me to change my mind. Thanks to him, I was tempted to do activities for our new album for the first time. I want to go back to the time when we released our first album and want to put forth my best efforts for activities.
Interviewer: Despite many unfavorable factors, your album sales, especially the sales of your third and fourth albums, are outstanding. Does it mean that the number of your fans has increased?
▲ Lee Teuk: I was surprised that people are buying our fourth album as well. There are good things and bad things when we appear on entertainment programs. We may lose our image as singers, but at the same, I think that we can advertise ourselves to the public. Also, besides us, many other entertainers have sung “Sorry, Sorry” on many programs.
▲ Hee Chul: When idol members show up on entertainment programs, it is easier for them to target teenage fans, but usually older viewers seem to like them. I think that appearing on an entertainment program is like a double-edged sword.
Interviewer: The title song of the fourth album, “Bonamama” sounds very similar to your previous hit song “Sorry, Sorry.” Do you think that a certain style of the music has emerged for Super Junior?
▲ Lee Teuk: When we listened to the song for the first time, we also thought that the song is very similar to “Sorry, Sorry.” It is natural that people begin to compare those two songs. We put the name of “SJ (Super Junior) Funky” for songs which combine dance and electronic sounds, and reminds people of Super Junior. I also gave it a five star evaluation on the music website.
Interviewer: But, except the title song, I could find many simple melody songs which require outstanding singing ability.
▲ Lee Teuk: In 2007, when the Super Junior unit “Super Junior K.R.Y.” planned to release an album, Kyu Hyun had a car accident, so many good songs could not be included in the album at that time. And actually those good songs have come together with this new album. So, the portion of songs that require singing ability has been increased. For example, when I listened to the youngest member Ryeo Wook’s solo song entitled “Spring Day” repeatedly while I was driving, I almost felt like crying.
Interviewer: Do you think that you have more interest in music compared to the past, as you have already released four albums?
▲ Lee Teuk: In debut, we just focused on recording songs. But, these days, we tend to present our opinions, saying, “What if we try this part this way?” when we arrange songs. In our previous album, Ryeo Wook’s own song was included, and for the repackaged album of the fourth album, which will be released soon, more songs that were made by other members will be included. I think it is time for our members to show off our talent in music.
Interviewer: Usually, the life expectancy of an idol group is regarded to range from three to five years. As Super Junior debuted in 2005, does it mean that Super Junior has already reached its lifespan?
▲ Lee Teuk: You are totally right. I can imagine that people might look at us with the same viewpoint with which I looked at senior star singers such as H.O.T. and Shin Hwa, who already released their fourth and fifth albums when I was an aspiring singer. Sometimes, I think, “Do we have to stop performing as Super Junior?” But, these days, we perform not only in Korea, but also in other Asian countries, so only four or five years are not enough. We became popular after significant time had passed, so I think that it means that we can last longer.
▲ Hee Chul: I and Lee Teuk are 28 years old now. I know there are many cute and fresh junior singers. But, I want to stress our longevity as we appear on various broadcasting, and at the same, I want to hold many performances whenever we release a new album. I like to perform on the stage because it is very exciting.
Interviewer: How do you think people regard idol groups?
▲ Lee Teuk: I think that it is somewhat exaggerated. People say that the industries of advertisement, drama, and music have been conquered by idols, but actually there are not many programs with more than ten percent viewer ratings among programs in which idols appear. “Idol” means a target of admiration. Actually, many senior doyenne singers such as Cho Yong Phil, Na Hoon A, the group Fire Truck, Park Nam Jeong, and Seo Taiji and Boys used to be idols in their times. As time goes by, people just tend to remember that they were not idols. During any time, there were idols that people admire. The word “idol” is just much more focused and stands out more than before these days. As a member of an idol group, I feel sorry that people do not have an interest in the music, but rather in other additional factors, of idols.
▲ Hee Chul: We wanted to break away from the image of idol groups in entertainment programs. When Shin Dong attaches a fake mustache and dresses himself up comically, he does not look like an idol group member, and moreover I am proud of him. Whenever Lee Teuk, Eun Hyuk, and Shin Dong come on SBS TV’s “Strong Heart,” they brainstorm for ideas like comedians do. But, sometimes I feel bad when I find out that people regard us as washed-up entertainers and criticize us rather than cheering for our efforts on the stage as singers and on the entertainment programs.
Interviewer: At this moment, when you released your fourth album, is it the time that you are trying to free yourself from idol groups?
▲ Lee Teuk: When we debuted, we wanted to abandon the title of idol group. But, we have come this far as the idol group Super Junior, so I do not want to lose the idol title. Rather, I want to keep this title until we reach our forties and fifties and become senior star singers for a long time. As we have thirteen members, if only one member stands out per year, we can last for thirteen years. But, only less than half the members have become popular and have stood out until now. As we were recorded as having the largest number of members when we debuted, we want to break new records in the Korean music industry.
▲ Yea Sung: There are also cultural differences. In the case of Japan, star groups such as SMAP and Arashi, who debuted a long time ago, are still gaining huge popularity. We want to be loved by people like those groups for such a long time for the first time in Korea. Even after we reach our thirties, we want to continue to release albums and have performances. As we see that our members become more acknowledged in various fields and our album sales are increasing, we might already have passed the limit as an idol group little by little as we approach our future goal.
▲ Hee Chul: We want to make the “Super Junior Show,” which enables us to communicate with people, like the program “SMAPxSMAP,” which SMAP has been hosting in Japan.
Interviewer: Shin Dong has become a hot topic, as he proposed to his girlfriend using codes on the album jacket of the fourth album.
▲ Shin Dong: I was surprised to see that fans had broken the codes so fast. I was wrong because I should not have put my personal messages on the album which was originally made for our fans. I am really sorry to the other members and our fans.
▲ Hee Chul: I am sorry to our fans, but I think that he was very brave as a man. But, actually it was a shocking message for me, too. I did not even know that the message was so strong like that. [Marry me. I am proposing to you.]
Interviewer: How do you evaluate Choi Si Won’s acting, who just finished the drama “Oh! My Lady?”
▲ Lee Teuk: His acting, especially his facial expressions, were much better than when he appeared in the movie “Battle of Wits.” He has shown playful looks that he used to show us. When I looked at his acting when he drunkenly kissed a girl in the drama while he left the door of the refrigerator wide open, he looked so greasy. (KBS)