Why K-Pop Legend Super Junior Traveled to Manila Despite Tragedy
Veteran K-Pop group Super Junior recently kicked off its Super Show 9 (or SS9) series of international concerts after more than two years since its last live, in-person gig. Following a kick-off show in Seoul in mid-July, the act performed for two nights in Bangkok, and was slated to make a triumphant return to Manila, where its devoted Filipino ELFs (Everlasting Friends, the name of its fanbase) awaited.
A couple of hours before the August 6 concert at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, fans flocked to the venue—excited to welcome the members who had traveled from Incheon International Airport in Seoul. However, there was plenty of speculation even before the members boarded the plane.
Super Junior performs the hit song, "Callin'," at the Impact Arena in Thailand last July 30, 2022
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Three days prior, one of its members, Siwon Choi, had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, and the group regretfully announced that he wouldn’t be part of the Manila show.
But that paled in comparison to what unfolded just before the members left Seoul. Fans noticed the absence of Eunhyuk at the airport. Video of the group arriving in Incheon aboard black vans showed leader Leeteuk frantically running from one vehicle to another, boarding each and closing the sliding door behind him. Many surmised he was delivering some serious news to all the members.
Even more telling was footage of the members waiting on the airport curb. They were away from each other, and were clearly in a somber mood as they crossed the street to the terminal. This same disposition was obvious when they arrived in Manila. Only Leeteuk, who quickly made his way from the NAIA Terminal 1 exit, had said hello to the many ELFs eager to catch a glimpse of their idols.
Fans welcome Super Junior members Shindong, Ryeowook and Yesung as they arrive in Bangkok last July 29, 2022 for a two-night engagement
Super Junior in Bangkok
We were in attendance for the first night of the Bangkok shows, held on July 30 and 31. The Impact Arena Stadium was full of eager fans, and the group did not disappoint. The eight members on stage performed old hits and news songs from the current album The Road: Keep on Going. The Bangkok set list included their breakout hit, “Sorry, Sorry,” upbeat tunes “Black Suit,” “Mister Simple,” and “Don’t Wait,” among others. Some of the older songs were given, in the inimitable Super Junior way, a new spin and treatment. The three-and-a-half-hour spectacle delivered a triumphant message: Super Junior is not slowing down even after almost two decades—the dances, the sub-unit performances, solo acts, and the top-notch production.
In between songs, Super Junior members charmed the Thailand crowd with the signature humor and banter they have been known for. We only wished we understood the Thai translation of the group’s exchanges. It only made us look forward to the Manila stop, where we anticipated enjoying a Super Show with the home crowd.
The night before the concert, we were part of a throng of fans who waited for the arrival of the second batch of members at the Suvarnabhumi Airport. The members (Yesung, Shindong, Siwon, Ryeowook, and Kyuhyun) waved to the fans and even took some photos with them before boarding the waiting vans.
Back in Manila
Again, something was amiss, and many hoped it was nothing serious. But a few hours after the group’s midnight touchdown here, its agency, Label SJ, announced the sad news. Member Eunhyuk’s father had passed away. This explained his absence. Then at around 3 p.m. came the announcement on the group’s official Twitter account:
The concert had turned into a meet-and-greet, but fans were undeterred. In fact, they understood the situation, and felt bad for the group.
Fans dutifully and patiently queued as a light rain pelted the surroundings. People were excited, for sure, but there was an almost palpable uncertainty. What would exactly happen in the Manila leg of SS9?
“We actually went through a lot of discussions whether we should come to Manila or not,” said Leeteuk through a translator. “But eventually, we decided that, of course, we should come because there are ELFs waiting for us. That’s why we’re here.”
Continuing to address the packed venue, the leader shared, “(After arriving) here in Manila, we’ve had discussions with the members since 3 a.m., 4 a.m. Our Super Show is happy, fun. It’s a show that gives you hope. To give you more fun, excitement and hope, this concert is not cancelled, but rather it’s postponed, so I hope you guys think the same.”
“I really did not know that a lot of you would have come today,” Shindong told the crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena, before being overcome with emotion. He and the rest of the members present apologized for not being able to proceed with the concert.
“Gwaenchana, gwaenchana (It’s okay, it’s okay),” the crowd chanted repeatedly.
The legendary K-Pop group dances to its 2009 breakout hit, "Sorry, Sorry" at the Super Show 9: Road in Bangkok
“We really waited for this moment,” main vocalist Yesung said. “It’s been so long since we have seen each other but it’s really unfortunate that we cannot pay you guys back with a very good performance. We will make sure to give you guys a better performance next time.” Also on stage were Donghae, Ryeowook, and Kyuhyun.
Leeteuk then announced that the group prepared a “token” for the fans who still went to the venue knowing it was a meet-and-greet. Super Junior surprised the audience with three songs: “My Wish,” “Callin’,” and “More Days with You,” before exiting the stage. Leeteuk kept bowing to honor and apologize to the fans.
With their voices quivering with emotion in some parts (Yesung had to stop during his solo portion of “Callin’” as he teared up), Super Junior soldiered on, clearly sad that a full, proper show couldn’t be delivered this time. Many in the venue were brought to the tears when the members expressed their gratitude and regret over how the day turned out.
As Yesung waved goodbye and bowed to the Manila crowd, many shouted “saranghae,” (I love you). A meet-and-greet would have been more than enough, given the circumstances, but Super Junior gave ELFs much more.
Super Junior promised that SS9 in Manila would be rescheduled, and everyone who bought a ticket are advised to hang on to it because, yes, it will be honored for that concert.
What a super show that promises to be.