The DBSK “Member Rotation” Scare

11/21/2004 Miduhyo @ SBS Inkigayo

My reflection as an i-fan.

I’ve blogged before about DBSK’s rotation rumors but did so mainly about the Miduhyo inkigayo performance. To be quite honest, I was recently offended by a person’s suggestion that international fans weren’t aware of the whole rotation issue. DBSK’s rotation rumor hit the entire fandom, Korean and International fans alike, with full force and unbelievable speed. If I were to compare the feeling of “fandom crisis” at the time of the rotation scare to when the lawsuit broke out (2009), the rotation scare easily wins. This comparison is the best picture I can give to fans who weren’t there in 2004. Before I go into more detail I want to say that although I’m attempting to write about the rotation rumors, the kind of fandom chaos that occurred can’t truly be depicted in words.

We were rather blissful. It was fall, the boys went to L.A. for the first time to perform at the Hollywood Bowl, Miduhyo mv was released and we happily enjoyed all the Tri-Angle comeback activities. Then on 11/21/2004, it all just happened so fast.

Suddenly there were screencaps of Yoochun crying posted everywhere. Inevitably as international fans, the first thing we understood was that Yoochun cried during a live recording. The screencaps triggered immediate panic because it had been bad enough to make Yoochun cry. I confess, I cried. But it wasn’t until people explained “member rotation” when the real panic set in. “Member rotation” meaning, one (or more) of the 5 boys would be taken out of DBSK and replaced by some other person. Those two words put together without more details became a living nightmare.

The information we received was basically any word of mouth from Korean fansites that was translated and posted on our forums. The first assumption was that Yoochun was in some kind of trouble. He did openly cry and was the catalyst for us assuming the worst. There was even a fancam with fans gasping in shock and then crying during the recording of inkigayo. Putting Yoochun’s tears together with “member rotation” led us to believe it was Yoochun who was going to be rotated out of DBSK. Trying to make sense of everything and looking for motive from SM consumed nearly as much of my thoughts as hoping the boys were okay.

There were news articles with reports not different from whatever fandom already circulated. Seeing the media pick up on it only made it more real, which led to more fandom chaos. To add to all of this, the pre-debut pictures of the boys in various group formations came out. I honestly can’t remember if in those first moments I knew the pictures were from the 3rd Storybook. They weren’t even nice scans; they were just small low quality pictures. Upon seeing the boys split up in these different “could be” groups, it became fandom apocalypse. The timing was everything. It seemingly confirmed that member rotations were real and indeed happening.

Pure confusion made everything excruciating to bear. What would happen to DBSK as we knew them? Why DBSK? How could SM do this? How could any of us, the boys included, move on if it came true? I can’t emphasize enough the words: hysteria, panic and chaos.

Comments posted online escalated with our general understanding of the situation. Fans said things that ranged from heartbreak to threats. We realized the depth of the member rotation situation so our mantra became clear: we wanted DBSK to stay as they were; to stay as 5 and only 5. The speed at which we came to that consensus was near instant. For the first time international fans felt like a seamless part of the Korean fandom. To this day I’m still amazed at our fandom’s efficiency and unity. It was a paradox, it seemed we were in ruins yet we were scarily momentous. We were desperate and determined to let the boys and SM know our stance.

Meanwhile, the phrase: “5-1=0” became the motto and identifier of DBSK fans. “5-1=0” symbolized the significance of keeping all 5 of the boys as DBSK. Meaning, if 1 of the boys were cut from DBSK, then it would be the same as not having DBSK at all. We put it on our forum profiles, in big bold font on our signatures and wrote it everywhere we went online. Because of this, at DBSK exclusive forums and general kpop forums, everyone was aware of our crisis and cause. We had become a fandom with a very vocal mission to save DBSK. The fandom felt incredibly powerful. I think we’ve never felt that kind of power again. I’m sure as some read this, they will think I’m being too dramatic. And it’s true, as a big fan I was hyper aware but I think many can attest it was all too real.

5 of the longest days after the 11/21 inkigayo performance, absolute pandemonium had pushed SM and the boys to hold an impromptu press conference on the sidewalk in the dark. They were surrounded by a street packed full of worried fans. For this blog post I couldn’t find the original grainy fancam that we all had watched while holding our breaths, so I included the M-net news version below. Yunho specifically mentioned Yoochun and denied the inkigayo incident was a confirmation of the rumors. It was them telling us not to worry.  The press conference was deemed a positive sign since none of the boys cried. Of course we weren’t entirely convinced. Regardless, it was a tremendous relief to hear from them directly.

I recount that during all of this, we heard that it was specifically Jaejoong who would be rotated out of DBSK. We also heard of plans for a Chinese member to join DBSK. It fueled our questions for, disappointment in and anger at SM. It was us and DBSK versus SM. We wanted them to know that the five DBSK members weren’t interchangeable or exchangeable. With this mentality and the boys’ attempt to reassure us, we moved onto the next phase.

We agreed that we needed to take drastic action so SM would take us seriously. It was decided that a boycott of SM merchandise would take place. To my understanding, boycotts were initiated among the Korean fan-communities as well. I can better speak firsthand about the petition headed by the largest U.S. fanbase at the time, which stated the boycott details. As with everything else in fandom, the notion of a boycott was met with some skepticism. I personally believed in the cause of the boycott regardless of its impact. And to a degree, we all knew the point of the petition-boycott was to make a bold statement rather than see actual profit loss. Of course the success of the petition-boycott wasn’t empirically measured. However, the history of DBSK staying together after the rotation scare now speaks for itself.

As we welcomed the new year (2005), the anxiety from and energy spent on the rotation scare subsided. The announcement of DBSK going to Japan and re-birthing as Tohoshinki became the next fandom hurdle. In hindsight, I think we felt secure DBSK would promote in Japan because it cancelled out the “Chinese member rumor”. What remains is that we never had much closure about this issue. Aside from the sidewalk press conference and SM’s press release which stated the addition of a Chinese member was indeterminate, we were left to just carry on. I guess we couldn’t be too greedy for answers because it was already enough that DBSK remained unchanged. The boys have never spoken of member rotations since then. I do admit it was so scarring that even today, I would like some answers.

It seems there barely is explanation for why the situation exploded so out of hand. On the outside it appears to have started like any other rumor in fandom. I don’t recall pinpointing which fan first said this or that, when and why-it wasn’t important at the time. The only thing that mattered was the happiness of the boys, in which we strongly believed would be with each other as DBSK. Despite the circumstances as of 2009, I think we were right to believe so.

Cassiopeia was a young fandom and DBSK wasn’t even a year old when the member rotation scare happened. I think despite the devastation it’ll always be a proud moment to look back on. We believed in the boys and we believed in ourselves as a fandom. I wish none of it ever happened, but because it did, our fandom recognized its fierce potential. Most of all, we realized how precious the boys truly were to us. It gave us new meaning as fans of DBSK, and new meaning of what and how much Junsu, Yoochun, Jaejoong, Changmin and Yunho meant to us.

*The sidewalk press conference: (Look for partial translation of Yunho in the comments by Alifa Alimin 준수)

Like usual, what I write is based on my personal perspective of things at that time. I don’t claim to know every detail that happened because obviously I’m limited by language barrier. If you’re reading this as a fan who also lived through it in 2004 and disagree or want to add things, I look forward to your help.

+I don’t tolerate unwarranted bashing of SM–especially if prompted by what I have written here. Please consider fandom context.


34 thoughts on “The DBSK “Member Rotation” Scare

  1. wow your words brought back so many memories of that time. thank you for expressing it again. my memories are now hazy but the emotions are still so strong. i think it defined the fandom and helped hint to sm what they were in for messing with dbsk or the fans. the measure of love for them has sustained all of us thru all the challenges and changes up til now. it brought a new stronger bond between dbsk and their fans that remains til today.

    1. koreamom, you’re amazingly fast, thank you for your thoughts as usual. ahh, that’s what i was looking for “defined”, i also think it’s a defining moment that forever changed the bond between dbsk and their fans.

  2. thanks for sharing your memories of the events. It seemed to be really dramatic back then but at the same time it’s amazing to see so much strengh in fandom. I wish people were more united when the lawsuit broke.
    Why did Micky cried? was this just a rumor which escalated? was it jaejoong or yunho who was supposed to be rotated like yunho’s father implication suggested? I feel like we will never know what happened which is ok but sad at the same time. Just thinking about what those boys must have went through break my heart sometimes

  3. Initially i wanted to translate the vid but i was scared that my korean is still not good i will leave it to the pro..but to answer the above question, U-know said that in the street press con video that at the Inkigayo performance it was a misunderstanding,..i’m gonna quote and translate what he said “When we were about to went up the stage, we saw a placard by the fans,wrote “Dong Bang Shin Ki was destined to be 5″ and all of our names were written in a yellow font, we keep seeing it so the tears keep wanting to come out, we were so touched”
    I hope i get that one right at least <3 so if u don't know what to believe, leader at the end of the video also said that " Don't ever trust these rumors, unless the words was to came out from our mouth ourselves, other than that don't ever believed it, you get it right?"

    1. Thank you so much for your translations! I do remember reading translations of those quotes, and was so touched because it was the only comforting thing we heard at that time. I hope others find this helpful.

  4. thanks for writing this, it’s really important to have tvxq-fan since 2004 like you around to explain things to us newer fans. I was fan since 2009 and i always hear it was JJ who will be replaced but after i read several Kcassies blogs, JYJ3, Black_Tortoise tumblr, your post and watch the video i can take conclusion that basically the truth is, who was the member that would be replaced, whether it’s Jaejoong, Yunho or Yoochun, all of them are just fans’ speculations and we will never know this matter fully, unless JJ, YH, JS, YC or CM themselves speak and tell the truth to us.

    1. I think that’s such an important point, up until today, we have had no confirmations of the specific member who would be replaced. Though I want to emphasize, compared to Jaejoong and Yoochun, Yunho was never part of the rumors in 2004.

      1. So, this part from JYJ3
        “5) When SME attempted member rotation after TVXQ’s debut, YH’s father contacted a major fansite 2카동 (ikadong) and asked the administrators to upload a document on fans’ alliance’s webpage to stop the rotation. Here’s the link to ikadong’s announcement that mentions that event: galldcinside. There were a lot of fans who stated that YH is the one who was supposed to be rotated out. A lot of fans witnessed how YH’s fansite 그라티아 acted really quickly to stop the rotation. However, this all hearsay and there’s no direct evidence except fans’ statements that YH was supposed to be kicked off the group.”
        is complete bullshit and you never hear something like this around rotation crisis? Coz it’s impossible to contact ikadong admins now to verify the truth, because that site already declared to support only JYJ so their stance must be biased.

        1. It’s true that we heard their parents also contacted fan sites, not only just Yunho’s father. However, I repeat that during that time, fans did not fear that Yunho would be rotated. It was always about Jaejoong and Yoochun. (That’s not to say we didn’t worry about Junsu, Changmin and Yunho–we did but we didn’t see them as the members “in danger” of being rotated etc.).

        2. I got it. The whole “Yunho was supposed to be replaced” rumor never be the main issue in 2004 rotation crisis.

          So, it was mentioned for the first time during SM-JYJ trial, a claim by JYJ’s lawyer, then picked by JYJ-stans as a “proof” to change the real assumption of fans during rotation crisis and at the same time use it as a reason to bash Yunho as ungrateful man. -__-‘

        3. Ah yeah it’s sad they had to do it to Yunho but.. well from JYJstans POV that’s the most effective way to defend Jaejoong. A consequence of split-fandom i guess. Sad, because Yunho is such an admirable figure in Kpop, even outside of Cassies fandom.

          And it’s not only JYJ3 who changes the real speculation of rotation rumor to Yunho. DCGall, DNBN, Ikadong and several other JYJ-fancafes did it as well. Again… sad.

        4. XDD I should have included “all” those sites too. But definitely, many of the vicious things said have infiltrated from those sites and sensationalized via JYJ3 to the international fandom.

          I also have come to understand that bashing Yunho is a tactic to defend Jaejoong. Such cruel and fail logic.

  5. You don’t mention Yunho kicked out of dbsk rumor. Read at JYJ3 with real proof. OT5 fans living in delusion keep ignoring Yunho’s flaws.

    1. It’s sad but I was expecting this kind of a comment. I can only hope that you read what I have written and consider it, so you don’t continue to say foolish things elsewhere. Insulting me by calling me: “delusional” while attacking Yunho at the same time is just so typical of the ignorance from that side of the fandom. I stand by what I have written. If “proof” driven by hate is your preference, then don’t waste your time leaving such a comment here. Go hug the “proof” at jyj3 that you so affectionately love.

  6. I’m quite a new Cassi and i heard about this before.But i didn’t know much detail about this. So, thx so much for writing this out.
    These past moment shows that our bond between TVXQ is very strong.

  7. Thanks so much for this post, I cried watching and reading your post, on such young age they have been through a lot T_T..
    no one can replace Yunho, Changmin, Jaejoong, Yoochun, Junsu in our heart ~~
    I always envy to cassiopeia who know DBSK since the beginning (I know them in late 2006)
    AKTF Cassie

    1. Haha yah I really envy the cassies who walked down the memory lane with them for the past 7-8 years, even late 2006 is early! I only got to know them recently because i’m not a fan of Kpop and even till now so their is the only one i will listen to :) and as much as i am a big fan of them now, i’m more impressed by the the cassies and bigeast because you guys are such a united fandom! And i’m really touched that there are more fans who are mature enough to support all five of them and believe in DBSK instead of taking sides even with the current circumstance! What got me hooked was Homin but cassies made me fall in love with all five because you always make each of them sound so special in their own ways and yet only complete when they’re together! Cassies are truly the best fans! Always keep the faith!

  8. Thank You So Much for this-I cant begin to tell you how much I appreciate knowing the real facts from someone who has been a fan way longer than a lot of us-I cringe when I think what JYJ fans put Yunho through last year with rumor mongering-Every day they dehumanized him, made him out to be villain and a nobody in the whole TVXQ space-It easy to say logical fans understand the core that makes up Yunho and its worth admiring for sure. Respect for you once again went up a notch!

    1. No need for thanks ^^. I think as fans, we all treasure and like to share our memories.

      “Every day they dehumanized him, made him out to be villain and a nobody in the whole TVXQ space…” — I want to hug you. Those are my exact thoughts, they tried so hard to sabotage Yunho in every way. I’m happy that Yunho has a fan like you supporting him!

  9. Wow…I’m a new fan, and I hadn’t heard much about this before. As a new Cassie, people always talk about the split (maybe because it actually happened), but hardly about this scare. I suppose this was a long time ago too. Thank you for sharing. Reading this, I was very touched by how supportive and genuinely caring you seem to be about each member. It’s very heart-warming to see a fan who’s been with them for so long and cares for them like you do.

    Anyways, whenever I hear about controversies surrounding them, I feel very sad and upset, because to me, these boys (men) are the best. I already adore them, even if I’m a new fan. And I admire them so, so much. I feel like they’ve had to go through so much. They don’t deserve any of the awful things they’ve been through.

    The sasaeng controversy earlier this year was the first scary experience with DBSK I’ve had, and it was so heart-breaking. I was so horrified about everything I heard. And it made me want to be a good fan and protect them. I tried to think of what I could do to help. I really wanted to help. It made me feel like a more loyal fan. It’s hard to accept that sometimes you just have to wait to know if something is happening. You have to trust DBSK…

  10. Thank you for your thoughts. I appreciate you reliving the moment and giving clarity to the situation.

    I have couple of questions. Sorry, hope you don’t mind.

    First, I know you said that you still want some answers re: the rotation crisis…so, was it just a rumor or was there a real danger of it happening or what? I’m not quite sure I understand. Did SM change its minds?

    Second, I’m confused about something else. So, what JYJ fansites write about Yunho being the one is a lie? If so, how could they do that? And, why did people like you (long time fans) that know that Yunho was never one that was in danger of the rotation, not correct them? I swear I’m not even Yunho biased but those sites that put out lies like that did much damage to the whole fandom. D:

    1. Hello~

      What I was trying to convey is that it was never clarified officially by SM, specifically about which member(s) would be rotated. It was not a totally baseless rumor because SM did not deny the Chinese member allegations but also did not say when such plans would take place. So yes, there was a “real danger”.

      How JYJ fansites tied Yunho to the rotation rumors is a lie. As for your question, “How could they do that?”, my only answer is that they wanted to sabotage Yunho’s character despite shamelessly lying. In short, saying Yunho was “the one” was just another attack among the rest of their attacks. And like you said, it was very damaging.

      I did my best to “correct” and protect Yunho when those sites brought up the “rotations” again last year. I’m always regretful when others and I haven’t reached the fandom as widespread as those sites.

  11. Thank you for your answers. I read the long entry on the JYJ site that accused Yunho of being the one that was suppose to be the one rotated but all I see were attacks on Yunho. I didn’t see anyone protesting but I suppose they deleted the person’s comments because I do see some comments deleted by the mod. I guess that would be you or some others trying to correct them. Ah. That’s really disheartening to know that those sites actually flat out lied to try to harm Yunho.
    But thank you for trying, at least. I guess this will all be ending soon since they announced that the verdict will come in July. I hope you stay well, whatever the final verdict. Thank you again.

    1. LOL. Did you read the sentence at the end of her post?

      “Like usual, what I write is based on my personal perspective of things at that time. I don’t claim to know every detail that happened because obviously I’m limited by language barrier. If you’re reading this as a fan who also lived through it in 2004 and disagree or want to add things, I look forward to your help. ^^”

      Dude it’s her personal perspective influenced by her bias towards Yunho. Of course she had to clean the man’s name. So sad that this is happening.

      1. @Clare: First, don’t insult another fan by paraphrasing my disclaimer for her, I’m sure she understood it clearly.

        Secondly, you commented 4 times today. You must really like reading my blog, a blog written by a “Yunho baised” fan. All your replies insinuated just how wrong I am yet you offer no counter points–because you can’t.

  12. LMAO. You must be so butthurt about JYJ3 that you have to include the site in your answer. Just accept reality that that place is not for some delusional-minded like you.

  13. I have been TVXQ fans since they released Triangle. And only heard about Yunho’s rotation after the lawsuit. It was either Yoochun and Jaejoong back then, and the rotation rumor was so short-lived and never proved exist.

    I found it funny that anyone could even think it’s Yunho. At least for one obvious reason, SM has been promoted DBSK through the appearance of Yunho in variety shows since day 1 till, well, even now. He always appear more than other members in variety shows. It doesn’t matter that he is always polite and respectful, knows how to talk, and does anything the MCs ask. If SM planed to rotate him out, they will have to switch that role to other DBSK members.

  14. Oh the memories. I remember crying over the phone when the rumor broke out. My friend couldn’t understand a thing I was saying but I was sobbing and sobbing. It was too painful at that time to think of one member being replaced. I’m not sure what prompt you to bring this up again, but it’s still nice to see that one point in time, Cassiopeia is strong and united. I wonder if we’ll ever see that again.

  15. This day of the year again :c A lot of thoughts about DBSK always come into my mind on this day (lol not that my mind isn’t already occupied by them 24/7 but you know what I mean..)

  16. I remembered the chaos back then too. Wasn’t a fan then but the rotational and split news was too huge to ignore.
    I can’t believe people thought that Yunho was one of the members to be rotated out.
    The worries back then was for Jaejoong and Yoochun.
    Just those two alone.
    Crazed fans twisting things up are ridiculous.
    Don’t they ever think that those who followed the news back then would know the true story?
    Or are they just aiming at new fans?

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