In the middle of an increasingly young idol-centric industry comes one of the most anticipated comebacks of a first-generation Korean pop idol group. Shinhwa, consisting of members Eric, Lee Minwoo, Shin Hyesung, Kim Dongwan, Junjin and Andy, recently made their comeback on the music programme M!Countdown after a four-year hiatus.


This return comes as no surprise for their fans – known as the “Shinhwa Changjo” – as the group had promised in 2008 to be back after each member had served in the two-year compulsory military service. Thus, the final discharge of member Lee Minwoo marked the beginning of the group’s preparations for its impending return.

The long-awaited comeback of the legendary group kicked off with a press conference held at the CGV Theatre in Seoul on March 5. This marked the first time in four years that all members were back together as Shinhwa, and all fans were given the opportunity to stream the press conferences through Mnet’s “Global Website”.

During the press conference, there were hints of the title of Shinhwa’s comeback album, such as the music would have a “modern style with an electronic twist” to keep in trend with the current K-pop style.

The band’s 10th studio album, entitled The Return, was released on March 23 and comprised 11 songs featuring a few composed by the Shinhwa members themselves, and other notable composers like Jun Jaeyoon and Kim Dohyun.

The first single from The Return, Venus, topped major online charts like Olleh Music, Bugs, Naver music, Soribada and also Daum music. The song was composed by Andrew Jackson and lyrics were written by Lee Minwoo.

Following its triumphant return to the K-pop scene, Shinhwa held two concerts at the Olympic Gymnastics Arena in Seoul from March 24.

Tickets for the concert were released on Feb 13, and a press release by Shinhwa Company on Valentine’s Day stated that all 20,000 tickets to their concert “2012 Shinhwa Grand Tour in Seoul: The Return” were sold out within 40 minutes of its online release. That set a new sales record on the Interpark ticketing website.

Shinhwa was greeted by a stadium covered in orange (the groups official colour) lightsticks as each member took to the stage once again to greet their fans.

It’s first performance was the song T.O.P, which was from its second album. The group members showed no signs of slowing down as they performned a total of 24 songs including hits like Destiny Of Love and Once Again.

Shinhwa also performed Venus, much to the excitement of all those present, which included other popular Korean celebrities such as members of SuperJunior, Wondergirls and 2PM.

The concert also featured a special video put together by Shinhwa members. The video included clips from old shows and pictures taken with some of their fans prior to their hiatus. It was Shinhwa’s way of thanking loyal fans for sticking with them since their debut, 14 years ago.

Shinhwa was one of the pioneer groups to come under SM Entertainment, which currently manages popular idol groups such as SuperJunior, Girls Generation, SHINee and f(x). In 2003 SM Entertainment’s five-year contract with Shinhwa had expired, giving the group the opportunity to scout around for other talent companies. After much thought, Shinhwa signed a deal with Good Entertainment, a company that was fairly new at the time.

However, the move was plagued with controversy as the head of SM Entertainment, Lee Soo Man, refused to allow the group to continue using the name “Shinhwa”. After many months battling it out in court, Shinhwa finally won the rights to use and perform under the name “Shinhwa” with their new company.

From then on, the group continued to release several music albums through Good Entertainment. In 2007, a few of the members of the group took on solo projects, and even moved on to different talent companies to come up with their own albums.

In 2008, Shinhwa decided to take a break as a group as each member had to start serving in the military. Three years later, the members established their very own Shinhwa Company, to prepare for their comeback.

In Shinhwa Company, Eric and Minwoo hold the joint positions of CEO, so that members attached to different companies could perform under the name of Shinhwa. This move made Shinhwa the first ever K-pop idol group to own their own company.

(Although Shinhwa Company is owned by the members, Open World Entertainment still holds the rights to international promotions of the group under Shinhwa, while heads of Top Class Entertainment and Liveworks company function as the directors that control promotion, management and support of the group.)

Since its comeback concert, Shinhwa has announced plans to release a “thank you edition” album following the incredible albums sales of The Return.

The upcoming album will feature the same tracks as The Return, but will include a 70-page photobook and a newly designed cover dedicated especially for their fans.

In addition to that, Shinhwa is currently preparing for its Asian Tour, which kicks off on Arpil 30. At the moment, Taiwan, Japan, Guangzhou and Singapore are on its list of tour stops.

Touted as the “return of legends”, Shinhwa’s comeback definitely has set high standards for other first-generation K-pop groups that wish to make a return into the industry.

*Natasha is currently studying in Japan.

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