Shinhwa: The Boy Band that Rescued Us

L-R: Hyesung, Eric, Jun Jin, Dongwan, Minwoo (in back), Andy

K-pop and K-dramas came into my life in a sly way. I’d been somewhat dismissive of pop music in general since high school, though I always told myself that I liked a little of everything. Then Covid happened. My friends and I, like everyone around us, lost our means of spending time together.

One of my closest friends, who had Netflix long before I did, started watching a South Korean series called Another! Miss Oh (aka Another Oh Hae Young on other streaming services) in the spring of 2020. Little did she know that this melodrama encompassing acts of sabotage, mistaken identity, and even prophetic visions, would take her down the radiant orange highway of superfandom!

As my friend recalls, she took one look at the romantic lead playing opposite Seo Hyun-Jin as Ms. Oh, and thought to herself, “Who is THAT?”

My friends, that man was Eric Mun (or Moon, depending on where you look).

Eric pops up around 45 seconds into this trailer:

A quick search found that Eric has about 16 acting credits to his name. He’s an excellent actor, as it turns out, but he’s best known as a pop music idol. Eric is one of six members of the K-pop boy band Shinhwa.

The word “Shinhwa” translates to “myth” or “legend.” Eric sings and dances alongside bandmates Hyesung, Jun Jin, Andy, Dongwan and Minwoo. They are the longest running band in K-pop history, having started in 1998 and continuing to this day. They have made dozens of TV appearances and even hosted their own variety show. All of this and more my friend discovered and transmitted unto me. Little did I know that her seemingly inauspicious introduction of Shinhwa into my world would be one of the main things helping me survive the challenges of social distancing over the next year and a half.

Mind you, we were watching these much of the time in each of our own homes while talking via the Signal app, or while physically distanced in our backyards (projecting onto a folding screen from a laptop). We needed this lift so badly. I could spend a year posting clip after clip of these delights.

Let’s start with a link to the first music video we viewed together:

“Venus” – The Return, 2012

There’s no arguing that their talent is immense, and they bring EVERYTHING. THEY. HAVE. to each performance. Here’s one of my personal favorites:

“Level” – Heart, 2018 (fancam concert footage)

They all have solo musical careers and most of them have several acting credits to their names. Here’s Kim Dongwan portraying the title role of the melodrama Cheer Up! Mr. Kim:

Over our weekly viewing dates (kindly aided by the recordings my friend supplied on a thumb drive), we each sat in our own living rooms and coordinated the Play and Pause buttons over the phone so we could enjoy watching, separately but together.

What I realize now was that it wasn’t just their talent that kept us there. It was their endless ability to have fun no matter what and to laugh at themselves.

Shinhwa Broadcast, episode 19 (“Shinhwa’s Dignity”)
Shinhwa Broadcast, episode 39 (partying tutorial with comedian Kim Shin-Young)

It’s getting easier to find these same videos and more with subtitles, often edited in by fans.

Their friendship particularly endeared me to them, after watching many interviews and other appearances:

Only recently I observed, after we had watched many of Shinhwa’s concert videos together, that they end their performances unlike anything I had ever experienced from another band. Instead of a swift post-encore farewell, the guys take their time walking from one end of the venue to the other and speaking to their Changjo: their dedicated fans.

“Thank you. We love you. We couldn’t do this without you. We’ll keep coming back.”

It’s a very small thing to be a fan, a seemingly inconsequential pastime. As someone who has worked in a grocery store for the entire pandemic, however, I can attest that the time we’ve spent watching and listening to Shinhwa has given us something to look forward to, a sense of discovery, and some of the community we missed. After nearly 24 years, Shinhwa’s constancy has a warmth we’ve needed. I feel pure gratitude to them for everything they do.

by DJ Wuxtra – Host of Wuxtra’s Ghost every other Wednesday 4 am – 6 am