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SJM without Han Geng still draws screaming masses of girls

(Global Times)

13:08, January 09, 2013

(Xinhua Photo)

"Back off or I'll literally kick you out," shouted a forceful guard as he manhandled two rabid, young, female Super Junior-M fans. The two backpack-clad students had managed to penetrate the all-female human barrier that separated them from the posters of their highly androgynous-looking teen idols.

Monday at 4 pm China local time, K-Pop (Korean Pop) sensations Super Junior-M, or SJM, celebrated the online release of their second album Break Down by holding a press conference at the CGV Star International Movie Theater at Beijing's Olympic Center's sub-branch in Chaoyang district.

There's nothing new about young teens being fanatical over a boyband.

However, what's interesting about SJM (the M is for Mandarin) is that they are actually a sub-group culled from the larger Super Junior, a Wu-Tang Clan-esque move. Put together in 2005 by entrepreneurial producer Lee Soo-man - chairman of Seoul-based SM Entertainment, which is also the band's management - the group has, at its peak at least, consisted of up to 13 members.

Formed in 2008, SJM is essentially a manufactured Chinese-Korean Mandopop boyband originally consisting of seven members. Since its inception, and benefitting from the unique selling point that is their mixed pedigree, SJM has won numerous awards in the Chinese music industry.

It hasn't been all squeaky-clean boyband fun for Chinese fans along the way. SJM's previous leader - Chinese-born Han Geng, now 28 - filed a lawsuit against SM Entertainment in December 2009. He left the group soon after, citing opposition to what he felt was a highly "unlawful, overly restrictive and unfair" contract, according to his lawyers.

"SJM lost so many fans after Han Geng quit. Partly because, obviously, Han Geng, as a Chinese singer, attracted the most attention in the first place," said 15-year-old Hu Yuanxin, who came all the way from Shandong Province in the hopes that she would catch a glimpse of one of her idols.

Showing off the numbered wristband denoting her place in line - No. 517 - Hu, who is traveling with her mother (also an SJM fan), said she officially got leave from school just to be in Beijing for Monday's press conference. Hu was visibly excited to "breathe the same air as SJM, in the same building," but a little disappointed about the organization of the event.

"It's so unfair that those showing up later than me are getting inside. We didn't even know where to get the tickets," she said with obvious dejection.

"We got here around 7:30 am," said another fan. "The guard said just now that we might get a glimpse of SJM in the downstairs parking lot. Maybe I will go there later."

As the crowd swelled back and forth, there was still no sign of any real-life boyband member. Representatives of SM Entertainment flatly refused Metro Beijing entry into the theater. Overhearing the exchange, one onlooker remarked that she was surprised that a national newspaper was being refused entry. Previous attempts to contact the band's Seoul-based management team proved fruitless.

In a text Monday evening, Hu, in a hotel room, wrote that she had been crying for the last hour. Despite her (and her mother's) long-distance pilgrimage, she was not able to see any of SJM. "I know it's the company (SM Entertainment) that is to blame," she said.

Thoughts return to the two struggling fans from Monday, who at one point franticly screamed at the guard, "Have you seen them already? Would you tell me which hotel they are staying in?"

"I don't. Now get back," retorted the guard as he methodically placed them back into the crowd like a couple of Tetris bricks.

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