Random Musings: Shinhwa, The Old Work Horse Returns, Popular K-Dramas, Talking About SNSD Heights Again and Kara Figurines Freak Me Out


Well here we are again. It’s a cold rainy day here in the land of spiders and kangaroos, and I sit here on my desk looking through the large swath of articles that have come out over the week, trying to pick the ones that I think deserve a bit of extra attention. Frankly, there is plenty of articles to cover, and I have a whole stack of glorious caffeine-containing soft drinks by my side to keep my eyes in a perpetual state of “open” in my quest to once again cover all that was interesting over the last week. Let’s get started shall we?

Shinhwa, the old work horse returns, and I’m glad to see them back.

An old work horse is a dependable thing, it’s something that has matured with age and can be trusted to get the job done, for some an old work horse could literally be an old horse, for others it could be a laptop that they’ve had for years and for others it could the car that got them through university/college. But like all things in this world of ours, the years eventually creep up on them and eventually all good things come to an end. Yet sometimes that is not the end of the story, sometimes they can be returned to their formal glory, like an old car restored to their former glory with some TLC (Tender loving care), an old work horse can rise once again and provide years of further service and enjoyment.

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Here is a picture of Shinhwa nude to get back on topic.

So where was I….oh yeah Shinhwa, they really are the old workhorses of the Korean entertainment world and they return once again to show the world that they are still the Shinhwa of old. We’ve had announcements that Shinhwa was going to come back with a Vampire concept, along with announcement of their new album release date, a teaser for their new song “Venus,” along with stills from the MV. We’ve also Shinhwa make quite a showing on TV, with numerous appearances where they talked about how they regret the fact that they publicly revealed their past relationships, discussing the story behind their nude photo album, a picture from their MBC “Golden Fishery – Radio Star” recording and a press release about their new variety show jTBC “Shinhwa Broadcast.” Slow build up? No, Shinhwa doesn’t care for such concepts and are coming out of the gates at full tilt.

We used to think this was coo. Sorry, everyone younger than 16.

So what do I think about this? Well let’s get the worries out of the way first. It’s been nearly four years since their last official album and four years is a long time in a market where trends and styles change on an almost monthly basis. It’s also a much more competitive scene with a lot more groups to contend with compared to when Shinhwa was at their peak. We have groups like 2PM that have arguably continued off from where Shinhwa left off four years ago and groups like Super Junior, JYJ, DBSK, MBLAQ, Infinite, etcetera, that offer something different for everyone. Shinhwa fans have also mostly grown up, most of Shinhwa’s fans at their peak would now be in their mid-20s to their 30s, with pesky real life stuff like work commitments and families to take care of. Want to feel really old? Shinhwa debuted in 1998, which was a full year before “The Matrix” aired in cinemas, and Google was just an idea being thrown around by Larry Page and Sergey Brin.  Fourteen years is a long long time. We probably have a substantial amount of readers here on Soompi that was born AFTER Shinhwa debuted…sigh all this nostalgia is starting to make me look really old.

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Some of the members are starting to show their age, especially Andy.

Anyway, the point is that the other more recent groups have a head start over Shinhwa in the current market. They’ve had a few years now to build up a fan base made up of people that have naturally replaced the fans of the 90s that have grown old and moved on. This is the market that Shinhwa will be entering into, a market that is not necessarily familiar with them and a market where their prior niche have been filled by other groups, often with great success. Okay, I’ve written my weekly quota of negative whinging so now so let’s get on to some positives, and there are plenty of positives to consider.

It’s great to see Tony Ahn working with a new idol group.

For one, it’s great to see an older group come back to the scene even if it’s just for nostalgia purposes. A well-oiled industry is always filled with a nice mix of young up-starts and a group of wise veterans, providing competition for each other and helping the young ones gradually fit into the marketplace. An industry filled with just passionate young greenhorns is an unstable industry for the most part, you need the veterans there to provide guidance and reel them back in if they go too far out of place. Unfortunately the mix of Young blood and Old blood in K-Pop has been rather eschewed in recent years. The Idol Group boom of the last few years have seen a great number of new idol groups enter the scene yet the number of veteran singers still active amongst these idols have decreased at a steady rate. They are still there of course but these days it does feel like they are greatly outnumbered compared to idol groups. If I was to take this argument to an extreme, I would say this eschewed ratio of new and old is one of the reasons why we’ve had issues with idol singers like Block B. It could be argued that events like that might not have happened in the past when senior singers were more prolific in the industry and therefore kept a tighter control over the actions of their younger peers. It’s hard to prove of course, but I don’t think it’s an extreme idea considering how important seniority is within the K-Pop industry.

Wouldn’t it be great to see these 3 perform together again?

Also this isn’t a reason but a hope. I really do hope Shinhwa does well; no, they have to do well. I believe the success of Shinhwa this time around will determine whether other older veteran groups will make a return and there is plenty of other groups that could make a return if Shinhwa proves that such a return is a viable venture. There have been rumours for several years about a possible H.O.T. return, seeing S.E.S or Fin.K.L back would be great, a possible return of Cool? Click B reunion? We’ve had a few attempts before of older groups trying to return like RooRa and Koyote but they didn’t really have that much of an impact but Shinhwa definitely has a better chance of shaking up the market a bit, and I’m all for it. I for one am greatly looking forward to Shinhwa’s return, and I really hope that they well. Their success will be a great boost to the industry while their failure will prove to be a rather sad moment in the history of K-Pop.

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Top 6 K-dramas picked by a rather small set of voters, the results are still pretty interesting though.

We had an interesting article during the week, Arirang TV’s “Showbiz Korea,” ran a survey on their website, asking netizens to vote for their favourite K-drama and the results were interesting to say the least. To be honest thou an international survey with only 2,024 respondents is a bit poor and it’s arguable that this is a good sample size in terms of age groups, country representation etc but it’s all we got to work with so I guess I can’t do anything about it.

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Hardly unexpected, I guess.

Anyway Secret Gardentook 1st place, followed up by Boys Over Flowers,” “You’re Beautiful,” “Coffee Prince,” “Goong” (aka “Princess Hours”), “Sungkyunkwan Scandal,” and “Full House.” I guess most of those results were expected and it perhaps also shows that old stalwarts like “Daejanggeum,” “Winter Sonata,” “Autumn in my Heart,” and “All In” that started the expansion of K-drama into international markets were perhaps not as well-loved in countries outside of Japan and Korea.

I really thought this drama would do much better.

Personally I thought there were a few dramas that could have been in that list as well. The spiritual successor to “Coffee Prince,” “Coffee House” with T-ara’s Eun Jung was a fun drama to watch personally. It definitely didn’t get a lot of attention in Korea when it aired which was a shame but it seemed liked something that the international community would love. There was also “Dream High,” which I really did think would be in that list but seems to be strangely absent but that could be because the age group for that drama would have been fairly narrow. One of the “High Kick” sitcoms is another one that I thought might have perhaps ranked in the list but I guess it’s not really counted since it’s a sitcom.

Ah yeah…we’ve run into some minor technical difficulties.

So rather than talk about bygone results, how about we do some peering into my magical time-travelling kitty and see what the kitty thinks will be winning surveys like this in the future. Obviously time travel stresses the space-time continuum and the fact that the all-knowing kitty has made their thoughts known changes history already, which means that all of this is just random guess-work. But if i do happen to be correct then well…what happened here stays here or time travelling kitty will not be pleased and you don’t want to displease the cute little kitty now do you?

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Warning – Extremely addictive for girls, no idea why

Well the obvious contender for 1st place would be “The Moon That Embraces the Sun,” which just finished to great success in Korea, with the final episode getting ratings of 42.4%. It’s an obvious choice if we were to talk about the domestic market but internationally? I’m not 100% convinced. It didn’t seem to be that popular internationally perhaps due to the fact that it had much stronger historical overtones compared to other similar dramas like “Sungkyunkwan Scandal,” which strayed more towards the contemporary drama styles with a mild historical skin over the top of it. Another contender could be Love Rainwith Jang Geun Suk and YoonA, mainly due to the cast since we don’t know what the drama will be like on the account that it still hasn’t aired yet. “The King 2hearts” with Lee Seung Gi (Probably his last drama before going into national service) and Ha Ji Won looks interesting as well. Anyway I’m sure I missed some other dramas so what do you think? Any other dramas that could have a decent stab at winning an international popularity match? I would say “History of a Salaryman,” but I think that is one of those dramas that will only stay popular in Korea due to it’s deep reliance on Korean-specific social referencing. 

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Ah~~~ we’re talking about heights again! And other SNSD related news.

Ah~!!!! I’m about to flip several tables ((╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻) in my local vicinity, then quickly apologise to the numerous poor souls that have had their meals and work ruined by my vicious table flips. This is now the third time I’ve talked about heights in the K-pop world, mentioning it once during my Random Musing article about Jang Geun Suk, and then again when I was talking about Sohee in another Random Musing. And once again we have to come trundling back to this unfortunate topic to comment on an article about Girls’ Generation’s height ranking.

I should be an expert at this game by now.

Lets just be honest with each other and cut this short. Sunny is the shortest and Sooyoung is the tallest, the end, can I move on now? No? Eh…fine let’s talk about it for a bit longer if only so that people don’t look at my first paragraph and actually think I’m really seriously angry about this. First of all, no I’m not angry nor extremely annoyed, it’s not like I didn’t know Sunny was short or that Soo Young was tall or that Taeyeon is actually technically taller than Sunny despite the futility of arguing over a 1cm difference. 

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I’m pretty sure I saw this picture a few years back as well.

No I’m more amazed that certain fans are digging up pictures from a few years back to re-affirm the realities of this world and cause our expectations to come crashing down to reality again. I’m pretty sure this picture was a popular thing a few years back but it’s come into media attention again recently, both domestically and internationally. Every time we have these height comparison pictures, it’s usually Sunny that is flipping tables while Sooyoung gets to once again to breathe in the glorious higher altitude air. Anyway all this talk of heights bore me, it’s not like the results will change if we were to do this again tomorrow, next month, next year or a few years down the line. Sunny will always be the shortest, Sooyoung and/or Seohyun will be the tallest and Jessica gets to get away from any comparisons because she’s smack dab in the middle. So how about we move on and talk about some other Girls’ Generation news.

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I don’t think that’s edible.

We’ve had Tiffany holding a big fat Chupa Chups on White Day, Jessica posting a new self-shot in that strange 4-shot composition where none of the photos actually show one’s face in its entirety, Taeyeon having a strange look on her faceGirls’ Generation doodling on their own posters for laughs and giggles, Girls’ Generation actually being serious and doing a CF shoot, a new preview video for YoonA’s new drama “Love Rain,” Girls’ Generation being mentioned in “The Guardian,” What YoonA looks like in real life (Here’s a hint, pretty and really thin) and a press conference for Yuri’s new drama “Fashion King.” A nice mix of light hearted and serious news items then. Now how about we talk about another busy group?

Kara figurines, uh yeah I’ll take all 5 please but keep it a secret.

Kara Kara oh Kara, your quest to dominate the Japanese market continues on mercilessly with nary a hint of slowing down. Perhaps they are making up for all that lost time during the Kara crisis but they are definitely busy, with Kara releasing another Japanese commercial. They have also been in the news again recently with (From a really old scene I might add) some comments they made on Japanese TV gaining attention again, Nicole’s injured ankle recovering after rehabilitation and Ex – Sugar member Ayumi looking somewhat similar to Kara’s Goo Hara. However the piece-de-resistance of Kara news this week was the announcement that Kara was going to go after the famous otaku market with a new line of look-alike figurines…yeah…not weird at all.

The resemblance is …uncanny… besides the abs, that is.

Talking objectively, those figurines are rather well made. They have a striking similarity with the actual members, with the artists being perhaps a bit generous in terms of figure since their body figure and abs aren’t THAT great. Their faces thou are a bit freaky and that is easy enough to explain since it seems to be smack dab in the middle of Uncanny Valley, the hypothesis that if something looks almost human but doesn’t look perfectly human then people have a natural repulsion to it. The Kara Figurines definitely seem to match this case, they are really good copies but they aren’t perfect and thus I feel quite freaked out about it.

This is something that I would buy without feeling out of place.

And another thing, does anyone else find the concept of buying a figurine that looks really similar to an idol that you like a bit perverted? I’m sure I’m not the only one that took the clothes off a barbie doll the first time I saw one…no? Um…forget I said anything then, but it does seem a bit weird doesn’t it? Frankly if I saw figurines that were much stylised and didn’t look as similar to the members then I would have no hesitations about buying them and displaying them as a display of fan-ness. But a figurine like the one they announced is something I would be wary of displaying in public. It’s like one of those full body pillows with a picture of an anime character or idol. You could argue all you want that you bought it just as a fan, but I’m still going to give you a stare of disapproval. Obviously the figurines aren’t that extreme on the otaku-o-meter, but I personally wouldn’t place it too far behind. Objectively, I would buy it as it seems to be a very well-produced figurine but I think I would purchase it with cash, ask to have it put in a black plastic bag, and then hide it in a closet somewhere, to look at on the rare occasion when no-one else is at home and…okay, this is starting to sound really perverted.