Shinhwa is a popular South Korean boy band and hip hop group. The group has six members (with 3 vocalists and 3 rappers), and debuted on March 24, 1998. It has enjoyed massive success alongside the likes of Sechs Kies, g.o.d., Fin. K.L., H.O.T. and S.E.S. Shinhwa is the Korean word for myth or legend. Initially formed under SM Entertainment, Shinhwa signed a new contract with a new record label, Good Entertainment, in July 2003. While still under Good Entertainment as Shinhwa, each of the members have all left the entertainment to start their own to concentrate on their solo activities, from acting to going solo. Aside from singing and performing as a group and individuals as well as acting, the members of Shinhwa are also mentors to the Korean boy band Battle.
Towards the turn of the century, many pop bands at the time became popular, due to the success of boy band H.O.T. and girl band S.E.S., both of which were created by Lee Soo Man, producer and co-founder of SM Entertainment. To capitalize the success of the two, Lee wanted to create another band to match up to their standards. Thus, he began scouting for possible candidates.
The first member to be scouted was Shin Hye Sung after a stand-out audition in Los Angeles, California. He also attended Granada Hills High School located in Granada Hills, CA. Andy Lee was later chosen to join the group because he was once known to SM Entertainment as a candidate for H.O.T. Although his parents prohibited him from joining H.O.T because he was too young at the time, he did not abandon his dreams. Eric Mun joined not long after Andy. Eric attended John Burroughs Middle School located in Los Angeles, CA and Sunny Hills High School located in Fullerton, CA. Following Eric in joining the group came Lee Min Woo, who was discovered by a SM scout when he won 1st place at a student dance competition. Kim Dong Wan was spotted by a scout on the street and was initially in acting, but joined after he saw a preview video of the existing members. Finally, Jun Jin made it as the final member through an audition backed by his high school friend, Kangta. Among the six, only two had had previous exposure to the media; Eric and Andy were introduced in 1997 as rappers to fellow SM group S.E.S.'s song I'm Your Girl.
With the formation complete, the six-member group, named Shinhwa, debuted under SM Entertainment on March 24, 1998 with a performance of their first single also known as problem solver on KM Music Tank, with their first single. However, their debut was met with accusations that Shinhwa was just another copy of H.O.T.
Despite these criticisms, the group's first single was a major hit, and gained significant ground on numerous Korean music charts. Their second single, ("Eusha Eusha"), a more light-hearted single than their first, was among the top 10 positions on various charts, and Shinhwa adopted a "cute" image to match the concept of the song, even having a complete outfit of white and blue colors. Shinhwa's third single, Chun Il Yoo Hon also charted well for the band, but was not as successful as the previous two. However, the road to stardom for the band was hard to achieve. When they first started to perform "Eusha, Eusha", which was about taking a fun trip to the beach, a tragic water accident had occurred making it hard for people enjoy this song, thus many use it only as a reminder of the accident.
Shinhwa's second album, T.O.P., was released on April 19, 1999. It garnered considerable success with its title song. The album debuted at #4 and peaked at #3, selling 377,500 copies and charting for 24 weeks on the Korean monthly chart. With the release of T.O.P, Shinhwa began to move away from their "cute" image to an edgier image concept. Riding on the success of their second album, the group received the "1998's Best Music Video from a new male pop group" award from M.Net, their first major music award.
Shinhwa's third album, Only One, was released on May 27, 2000. The album was as successful as Shinhwa's previous two albums, selling approximately 423,873 copies. It debuted at #1 and was the band's first #1 album. The album contained three successful singles: Only One, All Your Dreams, and First Love. The album spent approximately 24 weeks on the charts.
With the success of Only One, Shinhwa won three awards that year: the SBS Gayo "Popularity Award", the KMTV song "Bonsang Award", and the "Popular Singers Award". Their revised dancing style also garnered them much popularity, as it took after the likes of popular American boy bands N'Sync and Backstreet Boys. The group once again underwent a drastic change in appearance, taking on a distinctly gothic image, with most of the members bleaching their hair. On January 13 and January 14 of that year, Shinhwa also held one their first concerts ever, entitled First Mythology.
Shinhwa's fourth album, Hey, Come On!, was released on June 8, 2001, debuting at #3 with the lead single "Hey, Come On!" rapidly climbing up the music charts. The album's release coincided with the rise of the Korean Wave, spreading the group's popularity overseas. The album was a strong seller and managed to sell 430,706 copies. Though a success, Shinhwa promoted the album with only one single. In yet another change in appearance, the members took on a cleaner look, moving completely away from the goth image in the previous album. "Hey, Come On!" charted for 28 weeks on the Korean monthly chart. and ranked #11 on the 2001 year-end chart.
While their album was a stronger seller, Shinhwa was associated with major controversies at the time, giving the group a heavy publicity with the absence of group member Andy and the alleged copying of Shinhwa's popular single, "Hey, Come On!" by Taiwanese boy band, Energy.
On January 31, 2002, Shinhwa released a compilation album entitled, My Choice. The album featured some of the members' favorite songs and some of their most popular tracks as well. In contrast to Hey, Come On!'s strong sales, My Choice was met with moderate success, selling more than 171,368 copies and debuting (as well as peaking) at #4 before it was dropped from the Korean monthly Chart. However, when the yearly chart was released, My Choice ranked #31, selling a total of 183,098 copies.
A few months after the release of My Choice, Shinhwa released their fifth studio album, Perfect Man, on March 29, 2002. The album also marked the return of member Andy Lee. The album was accompanied with another change in the group's appearance as they moved away from their "clean" look into a more preppy style by sporting trendy clothing and styles. Perfect Man debuted at #1 on the Korean monthly chart, becoming Shinhwa's second #1 album. The title track became popular among their fans, letting Shinhwa promote the album with a second single, "I Pray 4 U". The album was once again a strong seller, selling 355,333 copies and was #14 on the year end chart "Top 100 Albums in 2002" where the album sales was 362,639 copies. It charted for approximately 23 weeks.
On August 25, 2003, Shinhwa experienced one of its first international breakthroughs in Asia when Perfect Man was ranked #10 on the Singapore-Mandarin chart. With this recognition, they were chosen to be Korea's representative in the POP Asia 2002 ceremony in Japan and were later invited to be Korea's representative in Japan's Asia Dream concert (ABU award ceremony).
Towards the end of 2002, Shinhwa made history in the Korean music industry by becoming the longest running Korean boy band in existence with the release of its sixth album, Wedding, on December 6, 2002. They also became the second artist in South Korea to release two albums in a single year; Sechs Kies being the first to do so. Wedding debuted and peaked at #3 and sold 273,714 copies.
With the news that Shinhwa almost broke the record for being the longest running boy band and that their contract with SM Entertainment would end the next year, fans worried that the group might disband. SM Entertainment quickly offered Shinhwa a second contract and though it was rumored that they would sign it, the group rejected it. With the rejection, Shinhwa was offered contracts from various entertainment groups and finally signed with a new company, Good Entertainment.
The movement from one company to another while still using the name Shinhwa sparked some controversy over copyright issues. However, after going to court, Shinhwa won the case, thus moving completely from SM Entertainment to Good Entertainment. Because the contract they signed with Good Entertainment would not begin until 2004, Shinhwa members pursued solo activities in 2003.
Shinhwa released a compilation album entitled Winter Story 2003-2004 on December 30, 2003, which sold over 100,000 copies. The lead single "Young Gunz" was often requested at radio stations. Because it was a success, Shinhwa began releasing Winter Story every winter afterwards.
Shinhwa had another live concert from April 18 to April 20, 2003 named The Everlasting Mythology. They also went on their Winter Story Tour, which traveled to a total of six cities: Seoul, Pusan, Daejeon, Incheon, Daegu, and Kwangju as well as going to Japan with a concert call SHINHWA First Live in Tokyo, where they also held a Japanese fan meeting called Have Fun With Shinhwa On M.Net Tour.
The members of Shinhwa pursued solo activities in 2003. Min Woo went solo under the name "M," releasing his first album entitled Un-touch-able, while Hye Sung collaborated with Kangta and Lee Ji Hoon for a project group S. Jun Jin branched out into acting with the drama Forbidden Love alongside actress Kim Tae Hee. Andy and Jun Jin also participated in a Korean sitcom named Nonstop 4 as well as Banjun dramas. Eric also began acting in dramas soon after acting in several CFs.
Shinhwa's first album with Good Entertainment was entitled Brand New. It debuted at #3 and peaked at #1 in November, selling 320,337 copies. Unlike their previous albums, Brand New had a different beat, transitioning from bubblegum pop to dance songs. The group heavily promoted Brand New with four singles: "Angel", "Oh!", "Crazy", and the title track. The album was ranked #4 on the 2004 year-end chart.
On December 10, 2004, Shinhwa was awarded the Daesang for Best Artist of The Year for the first time at the Seoul Gayo Daesang Awards. Several weeks later, on December 29, Shinhwa was awarded their second Daesang at the 2004 SBS Gayo Daejun Awards, winning two of the possible 4 Daesang in that year with Rain and Lee Soo Young receiving the other two. In 2004, of all musical artists and groups, Shinhwa received the most awards, totaling thirteen or more, from various places: the m.net KMTV Music Video Festival, Seoul Gayo Daesang, Golden Disc Awards and MBC, KBS, SBS Gayo Awards. The awards other than Best Artist of the Year included Best Male Artist, Best Dance Artist, and Overseas Choice Award.
Shinhwa went on hiatus after the success of Brand New and began touring. In August of that year, they held a Korea-China-Japan summer camp called Shinhwa Summer Story 2004. The camp was dedicated entirely for their non-Korean fans. Hundreds of non-Korean fans flew to Korea from all over Asia for the opportunity to spend a few days with the band. They also toured in Japan and held a concert, selling 13,000 tickets within a week.
In yet another change in appearance, Shinhwa's image matured from the preppy style in Perfect Man to a more sophisticated look. They began wearing black suits, which was rather uncommon among boy bands at that time. Although they previously dyed their hair in various colors (from purple to silver), in Brand New they stopped completely, leaving their hair in either brown or black. They also trimmed their hair to a neat style or cut it short, which was uncommon among boy bands because "shaggy hair" was in style.
Though they have written lyrics for their music before, Shinhwa took more creative control over their music and began writing a majority of their lyrics. Eric wrote some rap lyrics for some of the songs while Minwoo Lee took charge and began writing full lyrics. Some songs that he had written are: "All of My", "Oh", and "U". He later went on to write the song "Superstar" for the group Jewelry, which became a hit. The other members also co-wrote various other songs.
Although, Shinhwa was mostly on hiatus throughout 2005, they released two popular singles, "How Do I Say" and "Hey Dude!". They also held the Tropical Summer Story Festival concert. For a majority of 2005, Shinhwa hosted a reality show called Let's Coke Play Battle Shinhwa!. The show was almost identical to the American reality show, American Idol where people audition and sing, hoping to become singers. (see Notable Achievements below.) To end the year, Shinhwa released their second Winter Story album, Winter Story 2004-2005, selling in excess of 102,345 copies.
On January 14, 2006, Shinhwa renewed their contract with Good Entertainment for another 3 years and on March 24, 2006, they celebrated their 8th anniversary, making them the longest running boy band in Korea.
On May 11, 2006, Shinhwa returned to the K-pop scene, with the release of their eighth album, State of the Art, which debuted at #1. Brand New and State Of The Art became Shinhwa's first consecutive #1 albums in a row. Heavily promoted, the album sold approximately 215,641 copies domestically, with their lead single "Once in a Lifetime" being #1 on the Hottracks Sales Chart, followed by SG Wannabe's "3RD MASTERPIECE". Their second single, "Throw My Fist" debuted at #1 with Zhang Liyin's "Timeless" at #2. State Of The Art became the third best selling album for the year of 2006, behind SG Wannabe's 3RD MASTERPIECE and TVXQ's "O"-Jung. Ban.Hap. ("O").
After State of the Art, Shinhwa began working on their first Japanese album and single. To prepare for their Japanese album release, Shinhwa held a press conference in Japan on April 14, 2006 and performed at MNET's anniversary celebration in Japan on April 15, 2006. The press conference came as a result of Shinhwa's effort to break into the Japanese market, with the release of their first Japanese language single This is the Sun in Our Hearts on June 14, 2006, which debuted at #9 on the Oricon Chart, and their first official album, Inspiration #1, in Japan on August 16, 2006, which debuted at #4. Both sold in excess of 100,000 copies each. Shinhwa also had their first Asia tour that lasted 5 months. The tour started with their first concert on May 13, 2006 at the Olympic Park, Seoul, and reached Shanghai, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, as well as others locations for a total of 9 cities throughout Asia. Shinhwa also did concerts at Budokan Hall in Tokyo, and Osaka-jo Hall on September 24 and 26th as the part of their Asian Tour.
Their concert in Shanghai was successful; all tickets were sold out. When Shinhwa landed at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, almost 1,500 fans were waiting for them, causing a traffic jam around the airport and setting a record in China for having the most fans greet them in the airport. The members had to be escorted one by one out of the airport with personal bodyguards, including 40 policemen and 10 other personal bodyguards. At the concert, a sea of orange and balloons filled the concert. To underline Shinhwa's Shanghai concert as a success, the Chinese media stated that Shinhwa was "hotter than Bi or Lee Junki", two Korean celebrities who are very successful throughout Asia.
In 2007, Shinhwa went on hiatus again. They also celebrated their 9th anniversary on March 24, 2008. With Shinhwa on hiatus, the members expanded their solo activities even further, including the members leaving Shinhwa's management company to start their own: M Rising (Min Woo), New Dream Entertainment (Andy), JF Story Entertainment (Jun Jin), H2 Entertainment (Dong Wan), and Top Class Entertainment (Eric). Dong Wan also released his first album entitled Kim Dongwan is on July 5, 2007. Min Woo released his third album on July 10, 2007 and though he had intended to release his third album in the U.S., he released it in Korea instead. Hye Sung released his second album on August 8, 2007. The three solo artists were successful and consider themselves friendly rivals.
The other members manage to have pursued their own solo activities as well. Eric finished his drama Que Sera, Sera and although he is currently the only member in Shinhwa who hasn't pursued a solo singing career, reports have mentioned that this is a possibility in the near future. Jun Jin, who released his first single the previous year, finished promoting it and was supposedly preparing for his first album, with the help of Min Woo, which would be released around September. However, he did not release an album or single from him. Andy starred in the musical, "Music In My Heart (Season 3)."
In the midst of their solo activities, Shinhwa was said to be working on their ninth album. Originally set to be released on October 2007 with tours from October to December, their ninth album was then push back to being released in December. However, due to each of the members having hectic schedules, the album release date was pushed into March 2008. While Shinhwa was not expected to release an album in 2007, they released their compilation album Winter Story 2007-2008 on December 6, 2007, which debuted at #1 on the Korean monthly chart.
Shortly after the release of Winter Story 2007-2008, Shinhwa staged their Asia Concert with a two-day performance on the 8th and 9 December in Saitama, Japan followed by a concert in Shanghai. For the concert, Shinhwa sang three songs that would be featured in their 9th album. The concert's theme was "Forever Shinhwa" to commemorate Shinhwa's 9 years of activities and to announce the beginning of their 10th year together.
Despite members Eric, Dong Wan, and Min Woo (who actually now is to be enlisted at the beginning of February 2010 instead) enlisting for the military soon in 2008 (Jun Jin will enlist in 2009, Andy in 2010, Hye Sung is exempted from military service due to serious injuries on his knee from a concert in 2001), Shinhwa raised awareness throughout South Korea and among their fans when they reached their 10th anniversary on March 24, 2008. In addition to reaching 10 years, many boy bands look up to the members of Shinhwa as their idols. Celebrating their anniversary, Shinhwa staged a 10th anniversary concert and released their 9th album. Because the concert was the last concert before the members left for the army, all 22,000 seats available for the concert were sold out.