Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Shinhwa's reunion concerts

As the years go by, even the hottest teen idols often disappear into oblivion and make room for the younger generation to bask in the limelight. But one group in Korea has managed to stay relevant and even wildly popular ― 14 years after their debut.

Shinhwa, the longest-running boy band in the country, sold out its two-night concert series “THE RETURN” 40 minutes after tickets went on sale at 8 p.m. Monday, the group’s management announced the morning after.

The performances are scheduled for March 24 and 25 at the Olympic Gymnastics Arena at the Olympic Park, Bangi-dong, at the southeastern edge of Seoul.

“We are grateful to our fans. Thanks to them, we can ensure Shinhwa’s comeback after four years will be celebrated in style,” said Eric Mun, leader of the band in a statement. “We are working on a great performance for the fans who have stuck with us for so long.”

As a concert venue, the arena is the largest in the country, with a typical capacity of around 15,000. While the organizers led by CJ E&M opted for less at 10,000 tickets per night, selling out in such a short period is still no mean feat ― especially with the overabundance of pop concerts in recent months.

Arguably the most influential and popular boy band at the turn of the millennium, Shinhwa can continue to bank on future success, as the key demographic for their concerts are still in their 20s. According to statistics from Interpark, the sole distributor for the two-night affair, 73.6 percent of all ticket buyers were aged 20 to 29, with those in their 30s trailing far behind at 12.2 percent. The 40-somethings bought 10.2 percent of the tickets, while the rest, 4.1 percent, were snapped up by teenagers.

Member of Shinhwa

Women far outnumbered men at roughly nine to one.

Steeply priced at 66,000 to 143,000 won, “THE RETURN” tickets are already being illegally traded online, fetching even higher prices. CJ E&M and Shinhwa Company, which oversee the six members’ activities, said they are investigating this practice. More tickets may become available if those conducting unauthorized resales are caught and forced to return them.

Since 2003, Mun, Lee Min-woo, Kim Dong-wan, Shin Hye-sung, Jun Jin and Andy Lee, have pursued solo careers ranging from theater to film and television on top of music. Mired in a legal battle with their original management agency and industry stalwart SM Entertainment over trademark rights of the group’s name, Shinwha had no choice but to explore other options at the time.

The court ruled in the group’s favor the following year, and the members signed with Good Entertainment. In 2007, the members started their own management firms to shape their own paths with mixed success. Their chart performances as solo acts have yet to match those recorded as the original ensemble.

The six members perform together periodically, with organization and finances overseen by Shinhwa Company. Mun and Lee Min-woo are co-chairmen.

The group has undergone a forced and elongated hiatus, as members were required to do their national service. Last time they performed with the entire line-up was four years ago, for a 10-year anniversary concert. The end of March was chosen for this year, in order to see Lee Min-woo’s discharged from the Army. He is the last of the six to fulfill his military obligation.

Their 10th as-yet-untitled album was supposed to be pushed at the same time, but the release date has not been fixed.

“The members are working on an album project, but no date has been set,” said a spokeswoman of Mun’s agency Top Class Entertainment. “Details are still to be ironed out.”

Shinhwa made their debut in 1998 and counts dozens of hits, including “T.O.P. (Twinkling of Paradise),” “Only One,” “Perfect Man,” “Brand News,” “Once in a Lifetime.”

They are often cited as one of the pioneers of the Korean wave, or hallyu, with a wide fan base across North and Southeast Asia and have recorded sales in the millions.

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