Every once in a while, the K-entertainment rumor mill churns out breaking news of a celebrity couple born amidst the tumult of raging late-adolescent hormones, schedules packed to maximum capacity, and the watchful eye of fans who somehow manage to infiltrate their idols’ lives even at the most inappropriate moments (really, I want to know how someone managed to capture EXO-M‘s Tao singing in the shower). Sometimes, these rumors turn out to be patently false (see: Wonder Girls‘ Sohee and 2AM‘s Seulong); occasionally, they hint at true relationships that fall victim to the aforementioned packed schedules and dissipate quickly (as was the case with SHINee‘s Jong-hyun and actress Shin Se-kyung); and yes, there is the odd relationship or two that manages to survive the gross odds and endure for a considerable amount of time (KARA‘s Goo Hara and B2ST‘s Jun-hyung still seem to be going strong). While there certainly must be a greater deal of romantic interaction between South Korea’s young and impossibly good-looking idol men and women than gets leaked or reported to the media (I hear that the Tiffany/Nichkhun/Khunfany rumor is making the rounds again), confirmed relationships between South Korean celebrities are still fairly few and far between. The number of individuals who have either been caught in the act (thus prompting a bashful confession) or bravely come forward to announce that they have begun a romantic relationship with the object of thousands of fanboys/fangirls’ affections is still paltry compared to the number who likely date in secret.
The newest idol couple to crush the dreams of fans everywhere, you ask? None other than Jun-jin of first-generation idol group Shinhwa, and Park Joo-hyun, a member of Lee Hyori‘s labelmate rookie group SPICA. The couple confirmed their relationship in mid-September, though it appears as though they have been dating since early 2012 after being introduced through a mutual acquaintaince. Jun-jin is rumored to use a picture of himself and his ladyfriend as his ID picture for the popular mobile chatting app KakaoTalk. Cute much?
News of a new couple nearly always causes a stir, and not usually a good one. Indeed, netizens haven’t exactly welcomed Jun-jin and Joo-hyun (JunHyun?)’s news with open arms — and for once, it isn’t just because of fans on the warpath eager to slay the harlot who has forever ruined their already-infinitissimally-small chance of marrying their beloved oppa. Aside from the fact that idol couples are a rarity in and of themselves, the most obvious oddity about Jun-jin and Joo-hyun would have to be the surprising age gap — Jun-jin is 32 (teetering on the very edge of ajusshi status, it might be said, and already well into his marriageable years) and Joo-hyun is 26. Admittedly, it could be worse; six years is not that much, and really, once you’re well into your twenties, it becomes even less of an issue. However, the age gap does to some degree reflect the very obvious senior-junior relationship that will probably color most fans’ understanding of the new couple. SPICA has been active for less than a year, while Shinhwa is a seasoned, legendary idol group with over a decade of experience in the biz. To say that the two are an unlikely pairing is perhaps an understatement; it would probably be difficult to find two celebrities in such different stages of their careers in a relationship anywhere else in the K-entertainment industry.
Additionally, netizens have called into question the announcement of the relationship’s seemingly random timing. As mentioned, the couple reportedly began seeing each other seriously in early 2012, and there seemingly wasn’t any real prompting or reason for the abrupt decision to go public — no pictures of incognito idols drinking coffee in a parked car or sneaking out at 4am to take a stroll around the neighborhood ever emerged. In fact, there have probably been more pictures of SNSD‘s Jessica and 2PM‘s Taecyeon out together than there is or was evidence that Jun-jin and Joo-hyun had a thing going. However, there was a SPICA comeback looming on the horizon — in fact, their latest single “I’ll Be There” became available online precisely one day after news of the couple broke, and SPICA began promoting the single on music programs just a few days later. Add to that a slew of articles that seem to have come out of nowhere regarding Joo-hyun’s past photos — which, coincidentally, also came out right after the couple’s announcement — and you’ve got a recipe for netizen anger and accusations of media play. Whether or not Joo-hyun and Jun-jin are a serious couple, have been a serious couple, or will continue to be a serious couple has been pushed to the back-burner; the most popular comments on news articles related to the pair have largely accused SPICA’s agency, B2M Entertainment, of using the relationship to stir up publicity for SPICA’s comeback. Understandably, the idea that Jun-jin might be the victim of B2M’s latest round of promotional tricks (recall how hard they piggybacked on Hyori’s success when they debuted) hasn’t left a positive taste in the mouths of Shinhwa fans.
So why did Jun-jin and Joo-hyun go public when they did? Most likely we will never know the truth. We’ll never know if it had anything to do with SPICA’s comeback, we’ll never know if B2M somehow bought off Jun-jin or the media in order to get the news out there, and we most most surely won’t know if Jun-jin was “used” by SPICA as a tool to get them ahead. But maybe now we know a bit more about why idol couples would like to keep their mouths shut about their relationship for as long as possible.