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.
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.