SINGAPORE – Debuting in 2005, Super Junior are one of the undisputed legends of K-pop.
Trailblazers in many ways – they were the first large group with 13 members and their 2009 song Sorry, Sorry is one of the first viral K-pop hits – the ups and downs and behind-the-scenes secrets of the boy band’s 18-year career are recounted in the docuseries, Super Junior: The Last Man Standing.
Super Junior comprise nine active members – Shindong, Kyuhyun, Leeteuk, Donghae, Heechul, Eunhyuk, Siwon, Ryeowook and Yesung.
In an online conference with regional media on Wednesday that was hosted entirely by leader Leeteuk with vocalist Ryeowook at his side, the duo shared five things to know about the two-part series, which is available on Disney+.
1. Crying to a big screen
Both Leeteuk and Ryeowook admitted they shed tears watching the show alone at home, which chronicles the group’s journey from their debut to present day.
Leeteuk, 39, was particularly eager to see their story played out on a high-quality screen, recalling: “I went out to buy an Apple TV, so I could watch the docuseries on a big screen. I watched it four times, and every time, I cried.”
In the episodes, Super Junior talk candidly about the difficulties and controversies they experienced, such as two major car accidents – one which gave Heechul a long-term leg injury and another that nearly killed Kyuhyun – and the departure of former members such as Han Geng, Kibum and Kangin.
Ryeowook, 35, was brought to tears revisiting history. He says: “It encompasses our entire past, including all the crises and conflicts. I didn’t know that everything would be in there, so I was quite surprised by that.”
2. Embarrassing rookie years
One of the docuseries’ highlights is the amount of archival footage it features, with rare clips of Super Junior in their earliest days and prior to that period.
On what they would like to tell their younger selves, Ryeowook says: “I’d like to tell myself that I’m going to be the best and to be less afraid. Watching the old clips, I was pretty scared – I couldn’t even introduce myself properly.”
Leeteuk adds: “Yes, there is an old clip in which a reporter asks Ryeowook to introduce himself, and he replies only with, ‘I’m the youngest.’ And the reporter had to ask for his name again before he says, ‘I’m Kim Ryeo-wook‘, so I think he was really nervous.”
He adds: “I will tell myself that I’m doing great. There are things I can improve on, but I think what I gave was the best I could give at the time.”
3. Ryeowook treated as outsider at first
The Last Man Standing features solo and small-group interviews with the various members, and Ryeowook was surprised by something Eunhyuk was captured saying.
It was revealed in the docuseries that Ryeowook was once considered as a possible replacement for fellow vocalist Yesung, who had been training under Super Junior for a longer time.
Ryeowook was the last to join Super Junior before Kyuhyun entered the line-up after their official debut, and his appearance sparked resentment in other members.
“Eunhyuk said that when I first joined, the other members would intentionally not say hi to me. I was so surprised – I never knew,” Ryeowook says.
4. Grand gestures of love
So what is Super Junior’s secret to maintaining a happy and harmonious relationship after 18 years? Leeteuk and Ryeowook joke that it all comes down to being “very showy“ with their love.
“Whenever any of our members have solo concerts or events, I would always want to go there as a fellow member. Congratulations have to be given in a very showy manner so that the members and our fans know that we are there. That’s how we maintain our bond,” Ryeowook says.
Without missing a beat, Leeteuk chimes in: “Exactly. If I give Ryeowook a cookie every day, no one will know I’m being nice to him, but if I fork the bill for a big dinner, then everyone will know.”
5. Last men standing
In a notoriously oversaturated industry like K-pop, where groups come and go and sometimes fade away without ever making a mark, Super Junior are the rare veterans who still actively tour and release music. In fact, the Latin America leg of their Super Show 9 concerts kicks off next week in Chile.
Of their staying power, Leeteuk says: “I think we ventured into different fields and genres, and threw ourselves into different challenges when other idol groups of our time did not, and that’s why we have received so much love from our fans.”
He adds: “In my free time, I sometimes search fan sites to see what fans of other groups say about us, and one of the comments was that Super Junior are the only group that have been around for so long and still stay competitive, and I want to keep doing that.”
Super Junior: The Last Man Standing is available on Disney+