lee hyuk soo

The Secret To Shinhwa’s Longevity? The Answer is Their Leader, Eric Mun.

Eric Mun, one of the best leaders, if not the best, sets an example of what true leadership is. What has he done for Shinhwa that the group stayed intact, becoming the longest-running idol group in Kpop, with no disbandment & no member change?

Let’s start from the very beginning. After winning a street dance championship in the US, Eric was selected by Lee Soo Man in March 1997 & he debuted as the leader of the 6-member-group Shinhwa on 24 March 1998


In 2003, Shinhwa’s 5-year-contract with SM came to an end. At that time, many 1st generation groups faced disbandment, like H.O.T, Secks Skies, S.E.S. So it was expected that Shinhwa would disband too. Following the group’s contract expiration, SM wanted to disband the group & offered solo contracts to only some members. But Shinhwa’s aim was that the 6 of them would stay together as a group and could not be separated. So, Shinhwa refused the solo contract offers with SM, which was undoubtedly a shock in the industry. So far no artist had ever dared to offend the big boss of the Korean entertainment industry, and they were the first.

So, what did Eric do to avoid disbandment and keep the members together after the contract expired? 

Eric, the leader who chose to keep his group together over money. His first priority was his group. 

He was offered solo contracts that were FOUR times more than the other members. “Honestly, others would think about those offers for a month, but Eric rejected them immediately, just to let the members be together.”


Truthfully, how many people do you know that can make such sacrifice, whether in real life or in idol world?!!!! .. Eric could’ve said, ‘screw Shinhwa’ and then accept SM’s offer to double his contract 4 times on the condition that they disband Shinhwa and he go solo.. But Eric’s genuine love & loyalty for his group couldn’t be replaced by money or securing a place in SM. He turned down the offers IMMEDIATELY & & took Shinhwa to another company, which was even a great risk as they were leaving the big boss of kpop entertainment to start again in another much smaller company. The result didn’t matter to him as long as remained with the members. 
imagine that Eric accepted those tempting solo offers, then we wouldn’t have Shinhwa anymore. The fact that the six of them are able to stay together now, Eric contributed A LOT to it.

and to Eric, his choice wasn’t a sacrifice .. it was the best decision he has made in his life.


After Eric chose Shinhwa over money & suggested moving to another agency, then came the next problem. Leader Eric had to fight for the rights to “Shinhwa’s” name.

After Shinhwa left SM among much controversy & refused to extend their solo contracts, then came a huge problem. The members needed to continue using the same name “Shinhwa”. But since SM still owned the rights to Shinhwa’s name, so Eric had to put himself through a crash course in legalities to resolve Shinhwa’s contract issues. Eric was the one who negotiated with the management and no one will ever know how much hardship he had to endure during the negotiations. Eric went to court against SM to retain the rights for Shinhwa’s name. He even studied law to find a way for Shinhwa to continue being active under the same name. (Bear in mind that he was only 24 years old back then!!) .. He paid a HUGE sum of his OWN money to buy the name’s rights.. Eric really went through hell during that period until in the end, Shinhwa won & left SM with the rights to their name.

Can you imagine that a young man in his early 20s, gave up on massively tempting solo offers and chose to go through hell & fight for his team just to remain with his band mates & keep the group intact?!!! .. who else can do such thing?!! .. what a true leadership & loyalty! 


It’s also Eric who negotiated -alone- with other companies till he chose the best offer for his group. Then Shinhwa moved to Good Entertainment. But unfortunately, not so many people were pleased with that decision & so they tried their best to bring Shinhwa down, asking them to disband like what other groups did back then.

In 2004, a journalist once wrote an article heavily criticizing Shinhwa & blatantly used personal attacks on the Shinhwa members implying that they are failed musicians who try too hard with solo activities. He proceeded to slam Shinhwa with ruthless criticism, leading to a big media frenzy. It was then that Eric stepped up once again as the leader to speak out. He made a powerful reply to the reporter & published it on the Internet, asking for a more meaningful review. That reply of Eric went viral & found its way to the official school books in Korea, marking him as the 1st & only artist to have such feat. He ended the letter with: “It’s not so easy to see Shinhwa. If there’s anything, you can look for me.” & this line became very famous.

Here’s an excerpt of his lengthy letter..


WOW! such powerful reply! Eric might be 4D & act like a cute kid, but when someone or something threatens Shinhwa, he turns into a totally different person. totally dependable & trustworthy leader.

When Eric was at the peak of his success, being the nation’s flower boy after starring in the very popular drama “Firebird” in 2004, & dominating almost all CFs and he was dubbed the “CF King” .. Many thought that he would leave Shinhwa & there were many articles released that urged him to go solo & pursue his successful career as an actor & rapper away from Shinhwa.

“I remember a conversation I had with Eric over drinks back when we were filming Firebird (Phoenix). I said ’“It’s a good idea to go into acting. Anyway, you can only be an idol for a few years, just make acting your lifelong career”. Eric turned serious and replied “NO! I’ll be with Shinhwa for more than 10 years, for a lifetime. Please wait and see!”
- Firebird Director San Ray’s twitter (2012.03)

Eric strictly clarified to everyone what his top priority is, which is the group Shinhwa. Eric: “Shinhwa is everything. Without Shinhwa there won’t be the present me, and I would not meet precious friends and members who love me.”
                 Eric: “Shinhwa is our root and it has to be our core.”


This man’s loyalty & devotion to his group is simply unbelievable!

2008 - The group hiatus due to military service. Eric is always the leader who knew how to keep his word.

In 2008, Shinhwa held their last concert before the 4-year hiatus due to the army enlistment. In that concert, they promised the fans that Shinhwa will come back after all members finish their military service. “Shinhwa will come back, please wait for us”


But .. during those 4 years of military service hiatus, Shinhwa was on the verge of disbandment. So the dependable leader Eric stepped up again to keep their promise to the fans & keep the group together.


and that’s how Shinhwa came back to us again, thanks to Leader Eric who lived up to his position as the best leader & the big brother to his group members and brought them together again. Couldn’t be more grateful to this AWESOME man! he’s truly a man of his words! .. Thanks to him, we have Shinhwa today!

Eric: “Shinhwa must go on forever. Even if there is no company that wants us, we might just form our own company and carry on.”

In 2007, some members left Good Ent. (the company Shinhwa moved into after SM) & many people thought Shinhwa were going to disband. But the loyal leader Eric stepped up again and assured that Shinhwa will go on forever even if there’s no company that wants them, Leader Eric came up with the idea of forming their own company! He’s truly the leader that thinks ahead & seeks for what’s best for his group! to this extend he’s so loyal & dedicated to Shinhwa!


Eric’s efforts to gain the full rights to Shinhwa’s name.

But .. to establish Shinhwa’s company, there was a serious issue needed to be resolved. Shinhwa didn’t have the full rights to their name yet, since SM handed over the full rights of “Shinhwa’s” name to Jun Media Ent. in 2005.
So before establishing “Shinhwa Company”, leader Eric went through a very tough time & had loooong negotiations with Jun Media to use Shinhwa’s trademark. And finally, after reaching an agreement, Eric’s dream came true & Shinhwa Company was established in 2011, marking Shinhwa as the first & only idol group to establish their own agency with their own name & personally run it. 


But due to many legal issues concerning Jun Media, Shinhwa filed a lawsuit and leader Eric went to court against Jun Media in 2012. He went through hell again with many trials & appeals & temporarily changing the company name to “ShinCom Ent.”. Until finally In 2015, Shinhwa won and gained the full rights to their name after 12 years. 
This man, Eric, used to show up in varieties, all smiling & laughing, acting 4D & as 3 yrs old kid, while he had such huge burden over his shoulders, fighting for years for Shinhwa to continue with their name. He makes me speechless!

The members expressed their gratitude & thanks to Eric as he was the one who struggled the most during the the whole process.
Such a dependable Leader! 


The leader that always thinks of Shinhwa as family.

Eric has always been the dependable big brother to all the members. “I always think of the members as my real brothers”. And as a real brother, Eric is always there for the members when anyone of them faces troubles & does his best to help the members out.


Eric, to help Minwoo out, gathered the members & suggested that everyone of them contributes a sum of money so that they help Minwoo overcome his financial trouble as loyal brothers. 
This man continuously sets examples of how true friendship should be.


When Eric earned a large sum of money in CFs, he split up his pay and supported other members who had financial difficulties. When he was dominating CFs, he called the members to his house and gave them bonus money. He’s also filmed CFs originally meant for himself but he got the company to include the rest of the Shinhwa members.

Shinhwa’s appearance for China gag concert in 2015 was originally meant to have Eric as the only guest, but he refused & told the production team that if it wasn’t a SHINHWA segment, he wouldn’t attend. So, Shinhwa as OT6 was casted instead.


One of the things that make other groups disband is when the members care more about their solo work than the group itself.
Then comes leader Eric, who leads by example. For his solo activities, he always thinks of “us” before “me”! his group always comes first.

To Eric, Shinhwa always comes as a top priority even before his solo work. When he does a solo activity, he does it because he knows it will benefit the group itself, not doing solo to shine away from the group. He does his solo work to promote Shinhwa.


  Even when he gets a solo activity, he never decides on it by himself… Eric will first get the agreement of the members if there is something he wants to do for himself. If there is a solo activity that he wishes to do, he would first gather the opinions of the members & seek the agreements of all the members first!!. 
Seriously who ever does something like this?!!!! .. such an attitude of his sets an example of what made it possible for Shinhwa to promote separately and together. 
Eric: “Rather than my solo activities, Shinhwa’s activities are more important.”

 

another secret to longevity? it’s the leader’s genuine care and support to the other members’ solo activities. Eric always sets an example for others to follow. 

Dongwan: “Eric always thinks about every member, and seeing how he helps make us take care of each other.“

Eric has always been a truly supportive & selfless Leader. Not being selfish & focusing only on his solo activities, but he always helps his members in their solo careers, showing ultimate support & encouragement to them & happily agrees to feature in their albums, and always expresses how proud he is as his members are doing great in their solos. While staying at home, he keeps on monitoring their performances & giving them very useful feedback & advises.

Eric: “Aside from our group activities, I’m really happy to see the members do well in their solo careers. If I can offer my help in any way, I’d like to help them continuously.”


  & what does he gain in return for his massive help & as feat. fees in his members’ albums?! .. Pizza or sunglasses :D


Eric, the leader who leads from behind & puts the members in front. He doesn’t like to stand out and always stays away from the limelight, happily giving it to the members. 

and there is always that noticeable thing about Leader Eric. He has always been supporting Shinhwa from the back since debut. Never been bossy. He always stays away from the limelight, happily giving it to the members. You’ll find him standing quietly in the interviews. So humble & quiet to the extend that many people are still not aware that Eric is the leader of Shinhwa. This is because he is a man with few words and doesn’t stand on the front of the group. His true features of taking care of his people shone brightly as him working behind the scenes. But when Shinhwa encounter a problem, he takes the front line, protecting the group & the members.


and after all of this, it’s expected that Eric will be thinking highly of himself as one of best leaders, if not the best ..
but ..this man is so humble to an extend you can’t believe! 

Another thing about Eric is that he never thinks highly of himself!! he’s one of the most humble people you can ever meet!!. Like he’s one of the best leaders, if not the best, the loyal, selfless & dependable leader that has been keeping Shinhwa for such a long time in the industry & still, he doesn’t think that he does something extraordinary!! 


Seriously, how can he even be this humble?!!.. Eric, you’ve been setting standards of how ideal leadership is! 

Whenever someone praises or says something nice about him, he’ll do some funny stuff to cut that person off & move to another subject. Like what he did in Shinhwa’s latest concert when Dongwan thanked him for his great efforts in getting the full rights to Shinhwa’s name back. Eric kept on kissing Dongwan to cut him off.


Or when someone praises his outer looks, & it’s known that Eric is one of the most handsome Korean celebs (he was dubbed Korea’s handsome representative) but he never brags about his handsomeness for even once, and when others tell him that he’s handsome, he’s gets so shy & flustered & tries to change topics. 


and even though he’s the mighty Eric, with more than 20 years in the industry, regardless of his fame, he remains the humble Eric who still bows 90 degrees to even the hoobaes & the fans. Forever humble as Day 1. Eric really sets an example that no matter how famous you are, you should always be humble & down to earth with everyone.


The leader that always thinks of Shinhwa before himself !

& he also doesn’t think he’s doing something extraordinary!!! 


and even during his solo activities, he seizes every chance to promote Shinhwa & the other members’ solo events. 


Then there is this amazingly meaningful quote of Eric, that makes me feel so lucky for being a Shinhwa Changjo ..

“It’s impossible for Shinhwa to disband now even if we wanted to. Shinhwa doesn’t just belong to us, it also belongs to the fans and people who love us.”

To any group, before disbanding, think deeply of this quote. Your group doesn’t just belong to you, it also belongs to your fans & people who love you!


Now.. With every anniversary we celebrate with Shinhwa, the group that debuted in 1998 & still going strong with no disbandment & no member change, let’s forever remember that the main reason behind this is Eric, the best leader we could ever ask for. The leader who knew how to keep his group intact & overcome all troubles they’ve been through since debut. That troubles that could’ve easily made any other group disband.
Eric always puts Shinhwa as a top priority over anything else .. To him, the group always comes first. He really lives for Shinhwa!

“Eric is really like an otaku. If he gets addicted to something he’ll bury himself at home but after we left our first agency, as the leader of Shinhwa, he became the otaku of Shinhwa. Even now, he worries a lot for Shinhwa and is also in charge of dealing with external matters. He is a leader I’m thankful to and can trust.” - Dongwan


Thank you leader Eric for all of what you’ve done & still doing to Shinhwa. Thank you for keeping them as forever six .. thank you for always protecting us, Shinhwa Changjo .. Thank you for always protecting Orange .. Thank you for always protecting Shinhwa Company .. Thank you for always choosing Shinhwa over anything else no matter what the temptation is .. Everyone of us appreciates your great efforts & dedication for Shinhwa. Plz continue on leading Shinhwa for more anniversaries & more success. 2gether 4ever, walking on the same road. Never apart, friends till the end. ♥♥

#HappyEricDay ♥♥  Happiest birthday to our awesome leader Eric ♥♥