20130707_seoulbeats_superjuniorm3The latest chapter in Super Junior‘s Only13 Saga gives some interesting views on how fandoms tend to overreact and how an organized and extremely prolonged rally such as “Only 13” can alter the power structure between fandoms and their relationships with agencies.

What is your reaction to the announcement regarding the status of Henry and Zhou Mi at Super Show 5 in Singapore? What does this say about K-pop fandoms as a whole and their relationships with idol agencies?

Mark: I was sort of on the fence about the whole “Only 13” thing, but after reading Nabeela’s article on how CCM is playing musical chairs with its idols, I’m beginning to view the “Only 13” movement as a novelty — fans taking a stance against the interchangeability of their beloved idols and declaring Super Junior a safe haven for the 13 members which they care most about , albeit at the expense of the other 2.

After all, it’s getting harder and harder to expect group member consistency nowadays with all the shuffling of idols between groups: 3/4ths of Bestie were formerly in EXID, Yeonkyung is going to be promoting simultaneously with both 5dolls and The Seeya (wtf?), and these are just the recent ones I can name off the top of my head (can anyone else name more?). I think the original T-ara members see that this is going on and secretly formed their own “Only 6” movement.

20120720_seoulbeats_super_junior_hangengLeslie: To be honest, I find this whole “Only 13” concept rather ludicrous, not the argument itself but the fact that we’re having it. For one, these protesters are counting Han Geng and Kibum as part of Super Junior when they really aren’t. Han Geng settled his dispute with SM by dissolving his contract. He’s obviously doing much better in China so it’s unlikely he’ll return. Kibum has shown no signs of wanting to go back to Super Junior, so again it’s also unlikely he’ll return. Plus, the original “Only 13” argument came from when Super Junior was supposed to have rotating member changes, but they don’t.

With more and more coming military enlistments, it would be in their — as in both SM and Super Junior — favor to add Zhou Mi and Henry as official members. The group could promote with two members who won’t be enlisting, which will give them some stability, and with two “new” members that could give them a boost in popularity because no one else in Korea really knows who they are besides ELFs.

But my opinion doesn’t really matter, nor does that of any other fan. At least, that’s how I feel about this, which is the larger question at hand. S.M. may be answering the cry for clarity on Zhou Mi and Henry’s standing as members, but it’s not because they actually care, though it may seem that way by using Eunhyuk as the messenger. More than likely, they are just worried that the money that they rake in might be affected so they’re nipping this in the bud before it becomes a larger issue.

Companies do what they want with little say from the idols and even less say from fans. If idols who are the moneymakers are thrown in and out of groups so carelessly, then fans are just common, talentless people with blind love and faith and free flowing pockets of money for their oppas and unnis to the companies. Unfortunately, even though they treat their groups and corresponding members as disposable, I don’t think fans have the power to change that, as much as we wish we did. It’s rather cynical, but K-pop is a machine with powerful, money-hungry people in control who just don’t care what us mere fans have to say. We can have the arguments all we want, but I don’t think they change anything with companies.

20120403_seoulbeats_sm_store_taiwanGaya: One of our readers brought up the point of whether Henry and Zhou Mi even want to be part of Super Junior proper. Definitely, both would naturally prefer solo promotions, but having the Super Junior name backing them would no doubt be of help to their careers too.

Super Junior itself stands to lose the most from this decision, in terms of member numbers and musical quality. But perhaps the risk of letting Henry and Zhou Mi in was too great? Not in terms of fans abandoning the group, but what they might do in retaliation. Antis are scary, man.

But the big winner in the end is still SM: Only13 supporters are happy, there is fiercer support for underdogs Zhou Mi and Henry, and all of that equals more cash in SM’s bank.

Patricia: Honestly, I think the people with the biggest (or even the only) real stake in this whole Only13 business are the fans. Apart from what Gaya mentioned about how having the Super Junior name would help boost Henry and Zhou Mi’s hypothetical solo careers, I really don’t think it matters either to Super Junior or to SM whether or not Henry and Zhou Mi are “officially” part of Super Junior. All of the members are probably good friends outside of the Suju moniker, and that’s not going to change if Henry and Zhou Mi are part of the group greeting or not. Fandoms of any group are always going to be hung up on the “togetherness” and “unity” of the group (I did my time in the DBSK fandom during the lawsuit; believe me, I know), so it’s no surprise that this issue has always been a Big Deal amongst Super Junior fans, when in fact it doesn’t really matter. Sure, it probably sucks to be functionally disconnected from the main group, but I’m pretty sure that Henry would prefer the chance to become a great producer over the chance to be an “official” Super Junior by name.

20120814_seoulbeats_superjunior_eunhyukWhich is why it kinda pisses me off that SM decided to have Eunhyuk make that announcement at SS5 Singapore. Not only was it completely unnecessary, but it didn’t demonstrate any signs that SM actually thought this through and consider what a statement like this would do to the fans. If you look at the wording of the statement, it’s obvious that SM’s (and arguably Suju’s) principal concern was that the fans were unhappy. Not that there was this group of crazies intent on making sure that Henry and Zhou Mi would be ostracized from the main group in every way. It was a lazy and inconsiderate thing for SM to do — because to SM, it doesn’t matter what they say in response to the conflict. But for the fans, it could spell even more conflict and infighting.

20121220_seoulbeats_superjunior_eunhyuk_rice_donationSubi: For me, the issue of fairness always goes back to the issue of entitlement. Because this is an issue with a fan movement, I can’t help but wonder what fans are entitled to. K-pop fans are definitely a special breed who can be, among other things, spoiled and as a effect, very entitled. Fans on both sides of the argument make it seem like the company/artist owes them something and while that may be true to a certain degree, I don’t think this is one of those situations. Like Patricia said, it really doesn’t matter. The only thing at stake here: the fans. But going back to what Patricia said, it doesn’t matter. Henry and Zhou Mi are still active, part of the over all Super Junior experience. Maybe Eunhyuk’s statement and SM’s hand in it were crass but its really just a label issue and I just can’t help but think and feel that there are more important things than rallying behind how SuJu’s wiki page would be officially organised.

K-pop fans are great. They have a lot of energy and a lot of passion. And when they go, they go hard. But sometimes, I wish they would concentrate on things worthwhile. Only13 movement? I mean really, who cares? Can we focus our energies on, I don’t know, better working conditions for idols? Creating better opportunities for women in the entertainment industry? Etc, etc, etc.?

Nicholas: I might sound like a devil’s advocate here, but I am perfectly alright with the announcement. Basically the whole thing has ceased to be about Henry and Zhou Mi’s careers anymore, but more of how they feel about “being in” Super Junior. Honestly I think they have no problems with being not really seen as part of Super Junior, as long as they knew what they were signing up for back then.

In some ways I also think that Henry and Zhou Mi are not exactly complaining about their concurrent arrangements, as being both part of Super Junior (at times) and having a solo entertainer career. They get the recognition that comes with being a part of Super Junior, they have fewer commitments than the typical Super Junior member and they have the rest of the time to go develop their personal careers.

Anyway as long as the general K-pop listener accepts the arrangement, and I do, anything goes in my book.

20111020_seoulbeats_elfMiyoko: What it did for me was call into question what kind of fan “activities” companies pay attention to and why. If we go on the assumption that the Only 13 thing is pointless and confined within the fandom (as pointed out by Leslie and Patricia), I really have to question why SM chose to address the issue at all. Their announcement literally did nothing, on multiple fronts. It didn’t change anything with the structure of SJ, it didn’t calm the Only 13 fans and it didn’t take a strong stance on the issue. Maybe that’s why they chose to address it; to give the appearance of listening, without much consequence. The only consequence it’ll have is within SJ fandom, where a certain set of fans feel validated. Throwing the problem back to the fans, so to speak.

Would they pay attention if fans rallied behind a different issue within SM’s structure? (Would any company?) Companies can address ultimately worthless issues because it doesn’t cost them anything — but I still wonder why they would want to at all, except to perpetuate an idea of a two-way connection between idols and fans.

20110228_seoulbeats_superjuniorm2Ambika: Running on what Patricia and Subi said, the whole issue really shouldn’t have mattered. Henry and Zhou Mi were probably content with being a part of Super Junior-M, having their own activities, getting to do what they wanted, even if it wasn’t to as great a scale as Super Junior gets. It’s just that the fans feared that change was coming and thought it to be their right to express their discontent with it. And it’s not even a lot of fans backing it. Last I heard, even with Eunhyuk’s statement, the petition, with only 6,508 signatures according to that Twitter account, is still going to be submitted to SM Entertainment. I doubt there’s going to be an additional response to it since it has already been somewhat addressed.

I don’t think fans should have much of a say with member changes. Since investing in an idol group is a large effort, it’s doubtful that members are chosen without thinking through what they could contribute. And if a change has to happen, there was probably some sort of reason behind it, especially since those changes are met with some sort of resistance initially, particularly if it involves the removal of others. Often enough, what goes down behind-the-scenes doesn’t quite make it out to the public, so what is there is just small enough for irrational judgments to be made. And like the others have mentioned, it frequently doesn’t change what is going to happen anyways.

Like Leslie mentioned, the biggest thing that companies will listen to is money, and unless fans somehow gather together and use (or not use) their money to influence a change in a group, it’s unlikely that their desires will be listened to.

superjuniorm_sep22_seoulbeats3Shweta: It’s pretty much futile for me to add more to what everyone else has mentioned in the analytical sense, so I’m just going to try to spin the perspective on the issue a tad. I agree that “Only 13” (or “Only 15” for that matter) is totally ludicrous for the reasons everyone outlined in great detail, but I also find the concept rather hilarious in the context of what Super Junior is. The whole basis of “Only 13” all the way back in 2007-ish (my dates may be wrong) was to prevent member changes in a boy band that was fundamentally created to change members at the whim of entertainment company executives. However, when it comes to the Super Junior of 2013, everyone and their mother knows adding and removing members at this point from the executive vantage is just not going to happen. Super Junior is iconic for the members it has, and it would be stupid for SM to change them. Furthermore, the “requests” that “Only 13” petitioners are making seem to be nothing more than Henry/Zhou-mi hate. Nothing they’ve demanded has anything to do with saving the group from the clutches of SM execs, and it’s not like ELF hadn’t accomplished that years ago already by just being devoted fans of the group.

I may be asking a stupid question at this point in the game, but why is the magic number 13? Super Junior promoted an entire album without the existence of Kyuhyun, so one would assume that people should be arguing for Kyuhyun’s “non-importance” in the group. At least in my perception of the “preservation” argument from “Only 13” supporters, I think that that fighting for no member changes would imply preserving the original Super Junior(05). In other words, “Only 13″s should really be “Only 12″s.

…Okay, it’s painfully obvious that I’m totally having my tongue in my cheek with the “Only 12” business to the point that it just sounds outlandish, even as a joke. Hopefully that gets the point across that I don’t see any validity for the “Only 13” movement, not just because I don’t believe in it, but for its inability to accomplish anything that’s in the spirit of what “Only 13/Only 15” means to most E.L.Fs: protecting the Super Junior members they love.

In any case, SM’s “statement” was entirely unnecessary and is only adding fuel to a dying fire. All I can do is roll my eyes at all the people involved in this mess, both from SM’s end and the petitioners’ end.

(Images via: Twitter, Yue Hua Entertainment, SM Entertainment, Numero. Only13 image: credit to owner)