Male Group JYJ has finally completed their one-year long World Tour with concerts in Chile and Peru. Starting in April of last year, JYJ held a world tour which was true to it’s name; beginning in Thailand and encompassing Asia, North America, Europe, and South America, with over 210,000 fans mobilizing to see the shows. JYJ became the first singers to hold successful, exclusive concerts in many of these stops, a feat that other internationally known groups in the Kpop category have not even achieved.
Starting from around 1 to 2 years ago, newspaper and media started to rapidly use the term “Kpop Fever”. The general public saw these words and believed the hype, especially after watching the extensive coverage of SMTown in Paris. However, though they were not the first to hold concerts [overseas], JYJ has been getting much attention because they did not perform as part of a company’s joint concert, but rather held an exclusive concert with just songs from their one group, JYJ.
In Japan, the recent surge in Hallyu is being led by a crowd of newer groups such as KARA and Girl’s Generation. Because of this there are naturally many joint K-pop concerts held. Most of these concerts, however, only use the “K-pop” brand name to sell expensive tickets that range from 7,000 to 9,000 yen and feature performances by groups that are neither popular in Korea or Japan. Of course, most of the seats in concerts such as this remain empty. Seeing occurrences such as these, many comments were made by the Korean public on SNS sites about how they were ashamed to be part of “Hallyu”. JYJ, however, did not fall on this path. Instead they became the first group ever to successfully perform in North America, Asia, Europe, and South America by using nothing other than their own music and names. After the South American concerts were confirmed, there were even many demonstrations held by fans requesting a JYJ concert to be held in Mexico as well.
However, in reality, we are not able to see JYJ’s performances in the countries where they should mainly be active in; Korea and Japan. That is because their ex-companies, SM Entertainment and Japan’s AVEX, are covertly (though a bit too obviously) interfering with their activities. In a recent fan meeting, the JYJ members stated “We want to hold a concert in Korea at this time, but there are too many restrictions holding us back, including renting a venue, employing staff, and more”. Also, the members have felt troubles in trying to release albums because there were few distribution companies that would readily take them.
In addition, because of frequent cancellation of Japanese concert venues, JYJ had to hold their concerts by hiding the venues and only announcing it to the audience that would be attending, as though it was a ’007 secret mission’. For example, the “JYJ Unforgettable Live Concert” which was held in Japan last fall faced many problems even during the preparations. There were many incidents, such as the ticketing website being hacked and the sudden cancellation of the bus rental company services, that caused even the skeptics to see that AVEX truly was interfering with the concert. (Also, after the concert many letters were revealed showing that the Ibaraki mayor, government officials, police, and even employees from the sound and concert equipment companies were threatened.) As they started to realize that it would be difficult to hold concerts in their usual home bases of Korea and Japan, JYJ started to look towards places that no others have before.
Because of this, the members decided to hold concerts in North America, Europe, and South America. JYJ even held a free showcase tour in the USA after releasing their 2010 album “The Beginning”. After seeing the great amount of popularity they had in the USA, they decided to put North America as their second stop after Asia during their 2011 World Concert Tour.
All the concert venues and tour locations were decided through AEG Live, an international promotional company, and were mainly sponsored by Samsung. After hearing their news, it was plain to see the difference between those concerts and the ones that were held in Korea and Japan, because there are no large sponsors or promoters for concerts here [t/n: meaning, usually the group’s own entertainment companies serve as the sponsors and promoters for concerts in Korea and Japan]. JYJ, who gained much confidence with the popularity of their North American concerts, held shows in Korea during June. However, the locations of these concerts were not in Seoul, but rather Busan and Gwangju.
In actuality, most singers never hold concerts located in these provinces unless it is part of a full scale nationwide tour. Even when JYJ were part of TVXQ, they never held full concerts in any province or city in Korea other than Seoul. Whenever they held full concerts, fans from other provinces would rent buses to come to Seoul and then go back home. However this time, fans from the whole nation came to Busan and Gwangju. This showed that there were no places in the metropolitan Seoul area which JYJ could rent to hold concerts. But the popularity of JYJ couldn’t be contained as 24,000 fans from all over the country came to see JYJ’s concerts in the provinces.
After the World Tour concerts in Korea were completed, two new surprises shocked the fans; one being a new JYJ album and the second being concerts held in Spain and Germany. The level of awareness of Korean singers in Europe remains very small. Up until that point, the only idol singers who performed in Europe were part of SMTown. That concert was a well-veiled, vain effort made by the Korean government which sponsored them and over-hyped by the Korean media, who used phrases such as “Kpop Fever” many times in their reports. Korean residents abroad stated that the concerts were filled by mostly Asian and Hispanic fans.
But rather than a large-scale concert with tens of thousands of people, JYJ have started with small concerts. They had the first solo concerts in Europe in Spain and Germany with 3000 audiences each concert. In a sense, it might have been a small stage to them, who have stood on Dome stage filled by more than 50,000 people. However, to the JYJ of today, every of such small stages were precious. Thus, at that time when JYJ had performs in Europe, on the internet in South Korea, a controversy was aroused, that unlike some reports from media, JYJ’s European concert was empty. Those controversial photos were taken when the concert has ended, after most of the audiences have left and there were only the fans that were still waiting, wishing for an encore. Anyway, JYJ, the first Korean artist who successfully completed solo concert in Spain and Germany, have come back to Korea and prepared for their individual activities such as musical and drama.
However, some months later, we got surprised again that they would hold concert in South America. In the case of South America, before JYJ, groups such as BEAST, 4minute and other Cube artists had a united concert in Brazil. Once again, JYJ pioneered the way that other singers haven’t taken. JYJ’s members and the staff have left for South America with great expectations, far from reporting their departure, Korean media made a noise about the video and audio files which were taken 2~3 years ago after the lawsuit. It was the sasaeng controversy.
Also, this problem popped out after they have left for South America. Although the majority of the media used the term ‘sasaeng fans’ to report about the controversy which was as big as the name value of JYJ, what sasaengs have done to JYJ’s members were so unimaginable that they should be called ‘criminals’ instead of ‘fans.’ They hit the members, took picture of a member who was sleeping in a male-only sauna. They even intentionally caused car accidents, etc. It was time for the pus that has festered in the fandom since their debut until now to burst. JYJ’s fandom even created the word ‘sasaeng criminal’ and spread the brutality of ‘sasaeng criminals’ via SNS, blogs, etc.
(Note: PrinceJJ doesn’t feel comfortable re-posting sasaeng photos of members at their most vulnerable even though these photos were placed in the article to provide examples of the extremes of sasaeng behavior.)
[Photo #6: Jaejoong sleeping in the sauna]
[Photo #8: Jaejoong visiting Park Yong Ha’s grave]
No matter what the intention of the very first media that reported [about sasaeng issue] is, the majority of the media gave remarkable reports on the problem of ‘sasaeng’ instead of stating that it was JYJ’s fault. The term ‘sasaeng criminal’ was even used.
Sasaeng’s behavior is like “a prison without bars”
JYJ’s members, who have arrived at Peru after twists and turns, entered the press conference hall with a heavy expression instead of excited expression with anticipation for the concert. Along with the talk about the concert, they also talked about the ‘sasaeng’ controversy in Korea. The members used the expression ‘a prison without bars’ when talking about sasaeng’s acts. JYJ’s members said, “No matter how we tried to avoid them, we were stuck in the place and the mental pain kept increased. In the beginning, we tried to endure it, comforting ourselves that it was the love from fans and they are the fans who liked us. But day by day, the level has gone up high and our daily life collapsed. In such indescribable pain, we wanted at least to break away from the torments.” In the end, they said with heads lowered, “We would like to apologize for our wrong acts in the past.” The press conference, where JYJ should have expressed their expectations and aspirations about the concerts in South America that they have never visited ever since they were born, has become a place of explanation and apology for the controversy in Korea.
However, in such controversy and criticism, JYJ have finished the concerts in Chile and Peru in great success. They have mobilized about 9000 people for their concerts in Peru and Chile. Especially in Peru, the last stop of the concerts, the airport side had to let them leave through VIP passage because so many fans have gathered when JYJ arrived. Featured in a special broadcast on Korean TV, their visit and concert were largerly reported by even Reuters and CNN Chile. JYJ did their best in South America concerts, even singing ‘Intoxication,’ Kim Junsu’s solo single released in Japan.
As a result, the local fans were very excited and many fans even fainted during the concert. Fans told the reporters that went to Peru to cover the event that for South American fans, being able to see JYJ and their group was the ‘Event of a Lifetime’. In this way, the first world tour brought many memories. At the end of the tour, CEO Baek Changjoo from JYJ’s agency, C-JeS Entertainment stated: It is because they are JYJ that they were able to do a World Tour. They are extremely popular so it makes it possible for them to have an exclusive concert in any country in the world. We have now gained confidence and experience. Because of this reason, we are looking forward to next year’s world tour.
Korean press reported on the success of these concerts using phrases like “Kpop Fever” and tried to attach the term ‘K-pop’ to JYJ’s achievements. That should not be the case, however, since JYJ’s World Tour was done using exclusively JYJ’s music and name, unlike the many joint concerts that are done around the globe. Many fans describe the outcome of this World Tour as being one fueled by ‘JYJ-pop’, and not ‘K-pop’.
However, even with their successes, Korean media is cold when it comes to the fact that JYJ were the first Korean artists to complete this sort of World Tour. Even the names of the members cannot be brought up on entertainment TV media because of pressure from a large entertainment company. In reality, JYJ are like the Voldemort character from the ‘Harry Potter’ books [t/n: They-who-must-not-be-named]. It has been over a year since the courts issued an injunction allowing JYJ to freely take part in entertainment media. However, JYJ only appeared as singer at celebrations such as Drama Awards and IAAF World Championships in Daegu: events which were not dictated by the entertainment departments of the broadcasting companies.
Although JYJ have an unreachable amount of popularity, they are treated more like important state guests in their own country. They are recognized as actors or musical actors more than singers in Korea. It is saddening that they cannot release an album and appear on weekly music shows even though they are the unquestionably popular singing group, JYJ. Although no one knows how long the lawsuit with ex-company SM Entertainment will take, we all wish that the day where the members can freely sing on the stage and on television will arrive soon.