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I asked for K-Elf's reasons for wanting him out. Here they are: Sharing so everyone can judge for themselves.

  • “Fans choose to remain happily anonymous and show unconditional love for a star who is beloved by everyone. Even though you can’t respond to each unrequited love, don’t you think it’s too harsh to make them cry by feeling betrayed?”:
  • This is a quote from a Korean TV show ‘Respond 1997’ and I think it describes how Korean fans feel about Sungmin now very well. By now, I’m sure a lot of you read about why (most) Korean fans are angry with Sungmin. I think poor translation and some absurd reasons have contributed to misunderstandings by fans in other countries. As a fan who can speak Korean and has closely followed the Korean fandom, I thought I could give it a try to explain the reasons behind Korean fans’ anger. This will be a very long story, so please read it only if you bother to care.
  • (I don’t feel quite comfortable grouping fans by country of origin, but will do it below for convenience. Please bear with me.)
  • First and foremost, Korean fans are not naive fangirls whose heart is broken because of Sungmin’s marriage. Are they going to ask every member to leave the group every time a member gets married? No, never. The remaining Korean fans have gone through all the crap for 10 years and yet have never given up supporting SJ. When such dedicated Korean fans go this extreme, there must be a reason and you need to think about why they are going this far instead of blaming them first.
  • In general, Korean fans respect idols’ privacy as long as it doesn’t influence their group activities. Dating? Fans let it go as long as idols don’t hint at their relationship while they are working (e.g. on stage, tv, radio, or any occasion that they officially meet fans). So, most Korean fans are actually okay with SJ members’ dating. It’s their privacy and who can say no to that? What they are asking SJ members is to try their best to hide it and not confirm it (at least until the media reports with some kind of hard evidence like pictures). Of course some Korean fans are not ready to hear about their girlfriends, but you can not blame ALL Korean fans for that. I know that a lot of overseas fans leave mean comments on SNS of SJ members’ friends, especially girls, whenever they take pictures with SJ. Would it be fair if Korean fans blame ALL international fans for that rudeness?
  • What made Korean fans upset is how Sungmin mishandled the situation and dragged it this far. This is not about his dating or marriage, but about his disrespect for fans.
  • Quite many Korean fans have known about his relationship with Saeun for a long time (thanks to her big mouth). Fans have kept it secret because they respected his privacy and also because a dating scandal could easily damage SJ’s reputation. (If you ask how this could hurt SJ, you won’t probably understand the rest of the story, so you may stop reading now. In short, not all Koreans appreciate SJ and there are a lot of haters who constantly spread rumors about them.) Whenever his girlfriend tried to hint at their relationship online (around late winter/early spring), some fans left comments on Sungmin’s blog (comments were invisible to others), politely asking him if he and she could be a little more careful. Yet he responded by deleting those comments and unfriending fans on his blog. Those fans were shocked, but remained silent, worrying that Sungmin would be blamed if this is known.
  • In case you think fans don’t have any say in this matter, I will explain a little more. Saeun kept posting her selfies holding or wearing stuff fans gave to Sungmin (e.g., watch/bracelet (I don’t know what it is exactly), doll, jacket, etc.) on her SNS. Because you’re also a fan, I assume you know what fans think when they give a present to a star. They just hope their star likes it and become the happiest person in the world when they get a glimpse of their star with the present. That’s all they want. Then don’t you think it’s too mean and disrespectful that Saeun intentionally took pictures with fans’ presents? This is why fans left comments on Sungmin’s blog. What made fans really disheartened was Sungmin’s reaction. Yes, he deleted their comments and unfriended fans. But there is more. If you remember, Sungmin posted some pictures with belated birthday presents from fans (March 2). Later, Saeun took a selfie with a doll, which was one of them. Mentioning the picture, fans asked him to stop her. Sungmin responded by getting rid of the picture of a doll on his blog. So, while Sungmin has known about Saeun’s behaviors and they hurt fans, he implicitly (or explicitly) endorsed them.
  • During the period of SJM’s Swing promotion, Sungmin celebrated her birthday on Shindong’s radio show twice (April 7): first during the introductory segment and then with a text message to the show. In case you don’t know, in Korea, secretly showing off one’s relationship during media appearance is considered as one of the most disrespectful behaviors that an idol star could show to his/her fans. Those who knew about their relationship were upset, but still didn’t say anything about it.[1]
  • Until sometime in late spring/early summer, Saeun kept posting and deleting pictures that imply their relationship; deactivated and reactivated her SNS account. And at one point, she kind of stopped.
  • When a crappy magazine broke the story of Sungmin’s dating (September 24), there was no picture of them together and it was just full of speculations. It is a monthly magazine for middle-aged women and nobody reads it. Sungmin’s story could have just remained as one of those gossips. Yet, in the very morning that the magazine was released (and probably before anyone read it), Saeun’s agency suddenly stepped out saying “No, we are not dating” and then it became a big scandal. And you know the rest of the story. A few hours later, she reversed her position and SM’s statement followed.
  • Korean fans thought it would have been nicer if Sungmin had talked about his relationship himself, not through SM, or rather, he had denied it. He is someone who we fans wish to shine like a star and to be treated like one by others. Yet, a third-rate women’s magazine (not even (in)famous newspapers or tabloids) broke our star’s story without any pictures. Nobody noticed it and there was no reason to confirm it. As we all know, however, Sungmin is not one of those who would deny the allegation especially when his girlfriend confirmed it first. So Korean fans bit the bullet and still wished him happiness. I wouldn’t say there was no grudge or sadness especially among those who didn’t know about their relationship in advance. Yet, the overall initial response was not hostile at all, which surprised other idol fandoms.
  • At first, fans blamed Saeun and her agency only. As a reminder, their story was released right after SS6 Seoul when SJ members just finished a hectic schedule of three weeks and took a few days’ break. The timing was too bad. All good reviews about the 100th Super Show were just buried under the news about their relationship. As if it was not bad enough, Saeun’s agency kept releasing their stories. It is natural that fans express concerns about how this would influence SJ’s reputation. Around this time, how Sungmin treated fans on his blog began to spread more widely among Korean fans. Shocked, fans wanted him to say something directly to them (on his blog or by some other means).
  • In the meantime, what did Sungmin do? Other than SM’s press release, he didn’t say anything to fans. While he remained silent, he liked a blog post by one of his fans. Because it’s very long, I can’t translate everything, but the main point was, “This might be the end for some fans. If so, let them leave and let’s move on.” And there was some stuff about Sungmin, not SJ, fans. The content itself is okay under normal circumstances, but the timing to like it was bad. At that time some fans might have been disappointed or heartbroken (and resentful of how Saeun is taking advantage of the situation to promote herself), but no Korean fans blamed him and said they would leave because of his dating. They just wanted him to explain his past behaviors and calm them down. Do you think that was too much? He didn’t have time to leave a short message on his blog, but had time to like such a post? Is he saying fans should just shut up and leave? Korean fans were stunned and confused. This made a lot of them believe that Sungmin didn’t want to communicate with fans. After realizing his ‘like’ caused a commotion in the Korean fandom, he cancelled it later. He knew what was going on in the fandom, but didn’t try to reach out.
  • What is worse, the rumor about his marriage began to circulate widely. FYI, the marriage rumor has been around since spring. While his dating was known to quite many fans, relatively few knew about the wedding and those who knew did their best to keep quiet about it, hoping that it would not be true. Yet, they couldn’t just dismiss it as a rumor because more detailed information constantly came out, including his wedding photoshoot in May and the wedding day in December. Fans got worried and wanted to hear from Sungmin about it.
  • Still, Korean fans decided to keep quiet (so that it wouldn’t spread more) and waited for him to say something to fans. Among Korean fans, there were lots of discussions about how to bring this issue to Sungmin: Talk about it online? No, because reporters or non-fans/haters would see. Wait until SJ comes back with a repackage album and ask him when they tape the performance? No, because there will be staffs and reporters. Even until that moment, fans were trying to find a ‘safe’ way to hear from him, worrying that once publicized, this could hurt SJ. In the end, they decided to wait until the day of Tonymoly fan-signing event (October 2) because there would be a few bodyguards, managers, and fans only. On the day of the event, however, a manager threatened fans not to mention anything. Some fans managed to ask him questions, but he just smiled and murmured. Fans gave him letters and printouts from fansites to let him know their feelings and opinions. For example, they asked why he has ignored fans’ comments all along; whether the marriage rumor is true; to give a second thought about the timing of his marriage. Of course, it’s Sungmin’s personal decision about his life, but it ceases to be simply personal when it influences SJ, they thought. (I will explain more about this soon.) Fans were really desperate, but there was no response from him again. Sungmin used to leave messages to some of his fansites and fans have left tons of messages there as well, hoping he would read them. Still no response.
  • By that time, Sungmin’s past behaviors spread out to basically all Korean fans, which made the situation even worse: how he treated fans on blog, how little he cared about hiding his relationship, how he just let his girlfriend showing off their relationship online, etc. And his new autograph with ‘mi’ (which is part of her nickname mimi). An idol star may give an autograph to hundreds and thousands fans. Yet, a fan will cherish the moment that he/she gets it and keep the autograph for many years. That one autograph means so much to fans. As a person who has lived as an idol in Korea for 10 years, did he really have to add her name to his autograph? Going back to the point that I made earlier about fans’ expectations about idols in Korea, all they asked was to draw a clear line between his personal and professional life, but Sungmin failed to do it in so many ways.
  • On the day that his marriage was reported by the media (October 14), Sungmin finally left a message on his blog as if nothing had happened between him and fans so far. It left Korean fans just stunned, and made them feel kind of betrayed. They didn’t find his message sincere at all. I think it was around this time that some fans started using the hashtag #SungminOut. Things went viral. More and more stories about Sungmin’s past behaviors came out. Instead of writing them here, I’d just say they added wood to fire. SJ’s love and respect for fans was fans’ pride and that’s what enabled them to power through all those years. Yet, Sungmin has hurt that pride and shaken fans’ belief fundamentally.
  • As you know, the 7th album has a lot of meanings to both SJ and fans. It is the first album that Leeteuk and Heechul join after their military service. As many as 5 members will enlist this year and next, and we don’t know when (or whether) the 8th album will be released.[2] This album might be the last one that SJ “actively” promotes (as opposed to honorarily like g.o.d.) before the group moves on to the next stage. Two years of hiatus was long. Korean fans had to go through a lot of things during that time. As a result, many fans left the fandom, which SJ members were also aware of and even expressed some concerns about. The remaining fans became more desperate and wanted to show that SJ is still on top. You can say that you don’t care whether SJ is THE top idol group or not. Then think about this: Even until now SM has never promoted SJ properly, and how do you think SM will treat SJ when they are not a top boy band anymore?
  • You might say, some SJ members said they don’t care about awards any more. Yet, other members said they want awards more; this is only a beginning and SJ has not even started yet. Several times for the last two years, Korean fans could sense that SJ members were worried about their career and popularity, so Korean fans wanted to convince them that fans are still with them and they are still the best - by giving them the awards.
  • Do you ever wonder why Korean fans are so obsessed with awards? It is because they wanted SM to know that SJ is still alive and also wanted other groups’ fans and public to recognize SJ’s achievements. A lot of Koreans never want to admit that SJ is a top boy band and criticize them without any fair reason. Despite SJ’s impressive accomplishments, SJ is always underrated. Korean fans wanted to shut those people’s mouth up by giving SJ the unbreakable record. If SJ wins GDA and MAMA one more time this year, that’s record-breaking and remaining Korean fans were so determined to make it happen. The 7th album didn’t do well in digital charts (worse than the 6th album, which is one evidence of how weak the Korean fandom has become. But the remaining fans did their best.), and sales of physical album are lower than expected. Yet, considering how other idol groups are doing, Korean fans could almost see SJ winning the awards and encouraged each other to buy more albums.
  • Since its release, the 7th album has always been ranked in top 10 of the Hanteo daily chart - UNTIL stories about Sungmin’s marriage and his past behaviors toward fans broke out. After the news, the sales dropped significantly and on 18th it was not even in top 30 of the daily chart. This means fewer Korean fans are buying albums. Don’t get me wrong. I’m NOT saying international fans are not contributing to sales of album. Because international fans tend to buy albums in joint purchase, it is easy to point out when it occurs. On the other hand, daily sales on a smaller scale are usually by Korean fans, who just keep buying more and more albums for awards. What I’m saying is THAT number went down significantly because of Sungmin. Many fans say they lost motivations. They say, “When a member puts his personal life ahead of his career like this and doesn’t appreciate fans’ efforts, what’s the purpose of doing this?” Some fans are still trying to encourage others though, it doesn’t seem easy. I am sure many of them will be re-energized once the special edition album is released, but this is the current situation.
  • Do you know what it is like to live as SJ fans in Korea? Even Chinese, Taiwanese, or Thai fans who have supported SJ as long as Korean fans would not know this. If you say you’re a SJ fan in Korea, people often give you a cold stare and there are just so many haters that you have to fight with. Korean fans have endured all those years, with the hope that one day, one day, people will recognize how great SJ is and SJ will become a group beloved by the nation. Yet, even before the day comes, it’s all screwed up by no other than a member. Now on top of all derision and mockeries from the past, people call SJ ‘the first boy band with a married member’ or ‘a boy band whose career ended because of a member’s marriage.’ Public didn’t pay attention to the 7th album at all and yet they responded to Sungmin’s news. When the promotion of the special edition album begins, all attention will go to Sungmin, not SJ’s songs. This is why Korean fans begged Sungmin to consider rescheduling his marriage. Now even public knows about Saeun and Sungmin’s disrespect for fans, and they blame SJ, not just Sungmin. SJ’s love for fans, which has been the pride of fans, became a subject of ridicule.
  • So, this is a long story of how things have evolved for the last 9 months or so. At first, Korean fans wanted Sungmin to be more careful so that a scandal wouldn’t break out - ignored. Then they begged him to reschedule his marriage after the military service or if that’s too far away, after this year’s award season - ignored. The one last thing they wanted was not to announce his wedding before the end of the 7th album promotion - also ignored. And he has never tried to explain his behaviors that hurt fans. To be fair, I think he didn’t mean to announce his marriage this early. The rumor had it that his initial plan was to announce it late October. Yet, SOMEONE spilled the beans again and it’s all screwed up, influencing SJ’s promotional activities.
  • Because of Sungmin, the repackage album is reduced to a special album and SJ’s promotional activities are minimized. Korean fans noticed that SM has changed SJ’s promotional plan several times since Friday (based on news reports, preview on digital chart, etc). Today is October 20. The m/v was supposed to be out today, but now SM says only a teaser will be released. Leeteuk recorded a segment of one TV show on Sunday; fans asked about the plan and he answered he is not sure yet. So we don’t know how long or whether SJ will promote this special edition album yet, but one thing for sure is it’s such a mess now. This is what’s happening to the 7th album that we all have been waiting for 2 years. And the guerilla hug or hand-shaking event[3] for the 10 million views of Mamacita m/v that was supposed to happen last week? Cancelled or postponed. Who knows.
  • In the middle of this ugly mess, Saeun’s agency is still trying its best to promote her under the name of Sungmin’s fiancee. They even announced on Saturday that they will go on honeymoon right after the wedding. FYI, they are getting married on Dec 13; SS6 Osaka is held on Dec 5-7; SS6 Fukuoka is held on Dec 20-21. Did he really need to schedule his wedding like this? In general, Japanese fans are even more sensitive to idols’ dating than Korean ones, and now SJ has to worry about whether SJ can fill the stadiums for 8 shows in 3 cities (which they ambitiously expanded from 4 shows in 2 cities in SS5). A couple of days ago Leeteuk posted a picture of sapphire blue ocean with a comment “This is my dream” on Instagram, which indicates that he is aware of the situation. Some Japanese fans are sharing that picture, saying ‘let’s not give up SS6.’ Can you still confidently say that Sungmin’s personal decision does not influence the group?
  • Also, Sungmin was not really considerate when he was pushing forward his marriage plan. I assume everyone knows the family tragedy that happened to Leeteuk this January. And yet, Sungmin started talking about his marriage late winter/early spring and brought this up to Leeteuk who was still serving in the military after the tragedy. Some say Sungmin wrote a letter to him and others say he visited Leeteuk (source: members’ parents). I don’t know which is true, but both behaviors are simply mean and selfish. To Korean men, military service brings a huge change in their lives. Whatever they were doing in the past (student, idol star, or whatever), they have to take a break of about 2 years. Regardless of their love for the country and willingness to fulfill the responsibility as a citizen, it’s a time of uncertainty and anxiety for them. (If you still don’t understand how Korean men would feel during military service, check out Yesung’s SNS.) In the army you can’t contact others freely, let alone making phone calls. (Yesung is doing public service, which is an alternative to military service and that’s why he can use SNS.) When the leader was going through such a hard time and couldn’t take care of things properly, how can Sungmin drop the bomb like that?
  • At first, SJ members and SM asked Sungmin to reconsider his decision, worrying about how it would affect the group. Sungmin has to serve in the military (which means the couple can’t be together for almost 2 years), so they wanted him to postpone it a little bit. Yet, Sungmin went ahead and started making wedding arrangements even before everyone was completely persuaded. Yes, it’s Sungmin’s life. Yet, when his personal decision influences the group, he should listen to and respect others’ opinions. (If you still don’t agree with this, why do you think SJ members consult the timing of their military service with other members and SM?) There are various stories about how SJ members and their parents expressed concerns about Sungmin’s decision. One member even asked him to reconsider it on radio (implicitly). If you happened to see Leeteuk’s profile messages on Instagram on Friday, which he deleted almost immediately, you can see that he is still worried about this. I’m writing about members’ reactions to show Korean fans’ concerns that Sungmin’s marriage could hurt SJ’s career were not groundless and those concerns were also shared by SJ members. In the end everyone agreed and congratulated him on his marriage. Apart from that, however, worries about its influence on SJ were clearly there and probably still are.
  • Even though I am spending hours writing this to explain Korean fans’ position, I think #SungminOut is too much. Despite their ferocious reaction, I think quite many Korean fans were ready to understand (or forgive, whichever word they choose) Sungmin had he stepped out and tried to explain (or make excuses about) his past behaviors toward fans. And they are still waiting.
  • I’m just sad that things have come this far. It is heartbreaking to see #SungminOut, but also hurtful to see fans in other countries are bashing Korean fans. I hope Sungmin makes a sincere apology for his past behaviors and clear misunderstandings if any. It was Korean fans’ choice to love Sungmin and they never asked him to return their love. Still, he should not have made them feel stupid and betrayed, and he should have stopped his fiancee playing with fans’ love for him. After Sungmin’s apology, Korean fans should also say sorry to him for #SungminOut. Lastly, fans from many different countries, I understand you are just horrified to see the hashtag because I was there too. Even I, who have been following all of these pretty closely, didn’t expect that some Korean fans would react like this. I wouldn’t say you should understand them, but please know that the situation has escalated over the last few months and fans are deeply hurt and feel disrespected. So let’s not force our opinions on others and hope that everyone who is hurt will be healed soon. Thanks for reading my rambling thoughts.
  • [1] On a side note, at the very moment that Sungmin celebrated “Kim Mimi’s birthday” on radio, Saeun changed her name from ‘Chole Kim’ to ‘Mimi Kim’ on Facebook. Probably out of fear that someone might miss the fact that it’s her. And yes, of course she was aware that fans knew her Facebook account.
  • [2] To clarify, this is not because of the lack of belief in SJ, but because of SM. As you know, SM controls SJ’s activities and we don’t know whether SJ will extend their contract (the current one expires soon) or what SM plans for SJ when there are fewer active members.
  • [3] This is another story though, I saw a lot of comments on Youtube, saying the event is unfair to international fans. I’m with you and Korean fans also understood the disappointment by fans in other countries. So if you want to complain about it, please blame SM, not Korean fans, and ask SJ members to reconsider the plan. Korean fans didn’t welcome this plan also because a lot of them can’t participate, either. They have their own lives and when there is only a short notice, they cannot just stop what they are doing and run to meet SJ. Also, not everyone lives in Seoul where the event would occur. If it is really a guerilla event, probably a lot of random people, not fans, would get to see SJ. Thus, Korean fans wanted something for the fans who have actually watched m/v like SJ’s practice video clip. Please stop leaving mean comments about Korean fans. They also watch m/v like you all do, and they think of fans in other countries.
  • cr: scarkyu
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USA ELF is doing mass pre-orders for Super Junior’s This is Love Special Edition Album!

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