K-pop icons Super Junior have won countless awards and achieved multiple records. But this week, it was time for their fan army ELF, or Everlasting Friends, to shine, and they came out on top of this year’s Billboard Fan Army Face-Off.
With millions of fans around the globe, it’s no surprise that SuJu’s ELF came together and dominated the vote. But for those who may not be as familiar with the legacy Korean group, here are some things to know:
1. Super Junior has been around for 13 years
Formed in November 2005, Super Junior is one of the handful of K-pop boy bands from the ‘00s to remain active nowadays, and continue to push boundaries in the industry. They most recently made a major impact on the state of K-pop with the April release of their single “Lo Siento,” a collaboration with Leslie Grace and Play-n-Skillz. The tri-lingual track was the first-ever K-pop song to appear on a Latin Billboard chart when it debuted at No. 13 on the Latin Digital Song Sales chart — a lucky No. 13 in their thirteenth year.
2. At their height, 15 men have had the “Super Junior” title
Formed as a rotational group known as Super Junior ‘05 with the expectation that each year, they’d simultaneously retire and add members, the act started off with 12 members and later added Cho Kyuhyun to finalize the main lineup. Zhou Mi and Henry Lau then joined to exclusively work within sub-unit Super Junior M, which released music aimed at the Chinese music market. Over the years, the group has seen several departures or hiatuses due to personal reasons and/or for members to fulfill their mandatory enlistment period in South Korea’s military. At time of publication eight members are actively promoting: Leeteuk, Shindong, Eunhyuk, Donghae, Ryeowook, Siwon, Yesung, and Heechul.
3. They were the first Korean group to feature a Chinese member and dedicate a sub-unit to the Mandarin market
Nowadays, it’s commonplace for K-pop acts to feature members from different countries, but back in 2005, Han Geng (known as Hankyung in Korea) was the first-ever Chinese national to debut in a K-pop group. Though he faced major issues throughout his time in Super Junior, including being unable to appear on certain South Korean televisions channels due to legalities that didn’t allow for Chinese visa-holders to appear on air, Han was a pioneer who helped K-pop shift into the Chinese market. In 2008, he became the leader of Super Junior-M, a subunit of the act featuring both Korean and Chinese members, and the team saw popularity throughout the C-pop world.
Han left the act at the end of 2009 through a contract termination lawsuit with SM, but his impact on the Korean music scene is undeniable, and nowadays there are numerous Chinese K-pop stars working in the industry. SM Entertainment acts have since featured several other Chinese members and China-focused units, and the company recently announced an upcoming China-oriented NCT team.
4. They’re multifaceted entertainers and creatives
As much as Super Junior are a boy band, they’re a team full of diverse personalities and skills, too. Along with members pursuing solo careers as singers, several have seen success and earned recognition in other entertainment fields, including acting and MCing. As a group, they’ve had many of their own reality shows and many of the members are known as comedic television personalties. They recently began hosting their own show Super TV, which has morphed into a platform through which the senior act highlights younger K-pop groups.
Recent years have also seen members increasingly participate in a variety of creative fields, such as songwriting and music video directing.
5. Who needs diamonds, when you have Sapphire Blue?
Like most K-pop acts, Super Junior has a distinct color utilized by both the artists themselves and their fans. The bright, jewel-inspired hue has distinguished ELF for over a decade now, and the boy band has released several songs dedicated to their fan army that reflect the color’s name, such as 2007’s “Sapphire Blue” off of their Don’t Don album and their 2013 Japanese single “Blue World.”
6. Super Junior is the first SM Entertainment group to have their own dedicated label
Label SJ was established in Nov. 2015 as an exclusive label by SM Entertainment designed to manage Super Junior’s joint and solo activities. It marked the first time a team signed to the K-pop powerhouse set up a subsidiary dedicated to a single group. All Super Junior productions since then have come out of Label SJ, and the group regularly uses the hashtag #LabelSJ on social media to distinguish its work from that of SM. Though they have a distinct brand of their own, Super Junior still operates under the auspices of SM and participates regularly in SM-wide ventures, including regular appearances at SMTown concerts.
7. Come for the dance-pop, stay for the ballads
Though they’re best known for their addicting singles, the act has leaned-in heavily to smooth electro-R&B and soft pop throughout their career. Super Junior’s discography is full of sentimental tracks that thrive on the group’s mix of vocal colors, with even their rappers maturing over the years into talented singers. Though they typically focus on hook-filled dance tracks as singles, last year saw the group release the emotive, Donghae-written pop-rock ballad “One More Chance” as a pre-album single from Play.
8. There’s a sub-unit for that
As a large group with members who pursue many of their own career paths, sometimes it’s hard to get all of SuJu together so the act has utilized multiple smaller teams over the years. Along with the earlier-mentioned Super Junior-M, the act’s early days saw the likes of Super Junior-T, which focused on Korean trot style music, and Super Junior-H, which released “happy” bubblegum pop. Currently, Super Junior-D&E is the most active, with the duo of Donghae and Eunhyuk releasing multiple albums this year in Japan and Korea; they released their new song “‘Bout You” earlier this month. The group’s ballad-focused trio K.R.Y — featuring lead vocalists Kyuhyun, Ryeowook, and Yesung — is expected to make a return once Kyuhyun completes his draft service next year.
9. “The Last Man Standing” or “Supermen,” it’s all Super Junior
Over the years, the group has come to associate itself with several nicknames, most notably the iconic superhero Superman. The connection is to the degree where their official fandom light stick features a logo that mimics that of the Man of Steel. Another popular one is “The Last Man Standing,” a reflection of their far-reaching, long-lived career. Though they’re not the only active K-pop boy band from the early ‘00s, Super Junior and ELF alike have long taken pride in the group’s historic impact and continued relevance in the industry despite numerous ups-and-downs — they have been affected by multiple car accidents, personal issues, and frequent line-up changes — but still remains dedicated to their career and fans, resulting in the title.
10. They are largely responsible for the state of K-pop as we know it, and not “Sorry Sorry” about it
It would be enough that Super Junior pushed K-pop into the Chinese market and is now shifting directions to work in the Latin scene, but they are most recognized for having one of the industry’s most prominent viral hits, which helped solidify the K-pop world’s international growth. A propulsive dance track with contemporary R&B and funk elements, the suave, apology-inspired hand movements and swaggering roundabout gestures of “Sorry Sorry” propelled the music video’s popularity in 2009. It was one of several Korean MVs that year that resulted in increased interest in the industry from around the world, leading K-pop to its current state of global awareness.