Most fans never have the opportunity to see their celebrity artists perform live, let alone have the opportunity to come face to face with them back stage… so as a super fan of TVXQ, I am humbled, grateful and fully acknowledge how blessed I am to have had several of these such experiences. I own custom-made Tshirt that say, “My Heart Belongs to TVXQ,” and another that says, “TVXQ is My Life.” As a long time fan since 2007, these past ten years in the fandom have afforded me with precious memories, and this weekend I was able to lighten my life with song and dance, once again attending a Shilla Duty Free Fan Festival with TVXQ!
This is my 4th Shilla Fan Meeting, (the first one was in 2013), and each time I worry about the expense of the affair, the long flight times, the time off from work, and the fact that since it’s not an actual concert but a two hour fan meeting, most of it is talking in Japanese, which I don’t understand much. But then the insurmountable desire wells up within me, and I scrimp and save by not attending movies, eating out too often, and cutting down unnecessary expenses so that I can spend my money saved on what truly makes me happy, and that is Uknow Yunho and Max Choikang Chanmgmin, who are TVXQ!
So as a long time fan, I’d like to share a few insights … most fans have read recaps and seen photos that were shared on SNS, but for those that want to get a better feel of the experience first hand, please read on!
My job requires me to fly from Los Angeles to Dallas, Texas twice a month, and like most fans, I lead a busy life with home, family and job to juggle. But when I’m on planes or in a ride-share headed to the office, I have my bluetooth headphones tuned in to TVXQ music from my iPhone. My alarm in the morning is set to TVXQ ring tones… and my walls at home are covered with TVXQ photos. Like I said, I’m a super fan.
As a super fan, I attempt to attend as my live concerts as possible. I knew I wouldn’t be able to fly to Korea while they were in the military so I set three goals for myself during their hiatus: 1) Save money for their comeback, 2) Learn to speak Japanese 3) Lose weight. LOL Very lofty goals … I downloaded apps to learn Japanese and have to say that I ended up with 2 out of 3 … failing to learn Japanese, but managing to save and lose close to 50 lbs!
So when their Korean “YouR PresenT” fan meeting was announced, I had no doubt I would attend, and rushed to join the SM Global Package. In the lottery I drew first row seats right up next to the main stage. It was heaven to have TVXQ! right in front me, singing, dancing and speaking so closely that it felt so personal, intimate… they had prepared so deeply that I felt like it was a private concert just for me. EVERY FAN in the building felt that way, I’m sure. Because that’s how Yunho and Changmin treat us. They are so grateful that we waited for them that they worked extremely hard to deliver the best artistry possibly. September 2017 was remarkable, as they truly gifted us with their presence, their hearts, and their talent.
Fast forward to the present, December 2017; Shilla Duty Free Fan Meeting is not inexpensive. It is also very exclusive, in that the application, the JTB Tour agency and the focus are all in Japanese. There is no doubt that this was strictly targeted at Japanese only fans, but I was able to ask help from a few of my BigEast friends who kindly helped me complete the application. Since the tour was limited to a specific amount, I was greatly surprised that I was chosen! Turns out that only 800 fans were selected to attend.
Because of work, it was going to be a very fast trip, spending almost as much time in the air (13.5 hours each way) as I spent in Korea! I landed late Thursday night at midnight, which is too late to catch an airport bus to any hotel, so I stayed in Incheon and the next morning on Friday went to Myeongdong and checked in at Super Junior Cho Kyuhyun’s family run Guest House “MOM HOUSE.” Many fans go to 85st Cafe as it is owned by a close friend of Yunho’s and he sometimes goes there… this guest house is similar I think. Super Junior’s Kyuhyun is best friends with Changmin, and even though I am a TVXQ super fan, I enjoy many of SM’s artists including SuJu and especially Kyu’s velvety voice! Knowing that he’s actively serving in as a civil serviceman for his military service, I knew there wasn’t any chance of actually seeing Kyuhyun there, but I had popped into the cafe on a previous visit to Korea and wanted to experience the guest house! So imagine my surprise when I was able to meet Kyuhyun’s parents!
— Katdiva ٩(^♡^)۶ (@kokenes) December 8, 2017
After breakfast, I quickly made my way over to the Shilla Duty Free Stores (about 15 minutes from Myeongdong by taxi), in order to register and pick up my packet, along with a red badge, a message card, and a 200,000 KRW gift card for shopping at Shilla. After meeting up with some BigEast friends, we went to Myeongdong for shopping, lunch and then met other friends for dinner. Probably one of the best benefits of attending these concerts and fan meetings is the chance to to meet with very dear international friends from around the world that I usually only get to see once a year or whenever there is a concert! True friendships are forged!
Shopping spree included going to four different 7/11 stores in order to find these TVXQ Cashbee cards. These cards work much like an ICOCA card in Japan, you can use them to purchase things at 7/11 as well as train and bus tickets. Each card is $5 USD. It was difficult to collect them because most stores are sold out! They fly right off the shelves!
The next morning, December 9th, is the day of the event and after shopping at Shilla, I went back to the hotel to make sure I had enough red items on, since the registration paperwork said to wear red!
Once we arrived at the venue at Korea University, we are greeted with a huge banner up at the top of the concert hall on top of a hill of stairs! Once we get to the top, there was a Christmas tree on the right, where fans could write a message on the card provided in the registration packet and attach it to the tree. The tree was so completely full that I had a difficult time selecting a spot to attach my card! Especially with the attendants counting down the time!
After we attached our messages on to the tree, we got to take photos next to the time capsule before entering. This time capsule contained letters that Changmin and Yunho wrote to themselves, two years ago, at a previous Shilla Fan Meeting. Along with several selfie polaroids that were autographed and would be revealed and given out to special winners tonight!
Not sure how it could’ve been any better, but it was! My heart is so full!!! We all got to go backstage to meet TVXQ and I love how they always remember fans! pic.twitter.com/owfVWxly7V
— Katdiva ٩(^♡^)۶ (@kokenes) December 9, 2017
Once we entered the all, we had lots of opportunities to take photos with standees, and IG cut-outs to share on SNS, since we would not be allowed to photograph or video the actual event. We proceeded to a desk where we could draw a wristband that revealed the seat location by lottery! My section was D, and one of my BE friends happened to draw her seat right next to me so it really helped me with the translation! Another of our friends selected section A, 4th row! Which was very close to the stage and I was extremely happy for her! She later caught a ball thrown by Yunho!
Getting ready to start !!!! Shilla Fan Fest with TVXQ!! Super excited!!! pic.twitter.com/4fwMvTHhKc
— Katdiva ٩(^♡^)۶ (@kokenes) December 9, 2017
— みち🍓🍑 (@aramayunho3n) December 9, 2017
An MC came out and joked around a bit to liven up the audience and then helped us sing along to “I LOVE YOU” from the TREE album. Of course I could only sing the English parts of “I Love You… I Love You…” which was so appropriate for me! Then after we sang along a few times, he had us practice saying “SARANGHAEYO TOHOSHINKI!”
Then the main event, when the MC called up TOHOSHINKI, the boys appeared with beautiful white and golden tuxedos! Changmin had on an ivory jacket with white dress shirt and Yunho had on a golden jacket with black dress shirt. Their first number and most iconic, “WHY, Keep Your Head Down” appeared to lip-synced in my humble opinion, but it didn’t make it any less effective, and all the other songs were live: “Always With You, Dream, How Can I and Catch Me.”
Yunho focused fancams:
HOW CAN I
The event was two hours long, and I would like to mention of a few highlights: Changmin and Yunho played games with us and also spoke of recent events and happenings. Two games included a “True / False” Quiz game which we had to answer with a “O” or “X” paddle.
– Shilla Duty Free fan event poster shows Changmin holding a microphone (TRUE)
– Yunho woke up at 9am (FALSE, he work up at 10am because he was playing billiards until 4am with friends).
– Changmin’s first call of the day was to his manager? (TRUE)
– Changmin can beat the MC for three shots on Foosball (TRUE) and they played.
– Yunho can make 3 of the 5 rings on a ring toss (FALSE) he only made one of the 5… and he wanted to throw all five at once until Changmin dissuaded him! LOL
The second game was “Best Dressed,” where the boys took turns stripping off tapes to reveal ten RED items that fans should be wearing.
This included: BigEast Watch, Red Bracelet, Red Hairpin, Red Shoes, Red muffler, Red bag/purse, red fan or banner, red earrings, Yunho Swarovski bracelet, Changmin’s Jestina necklace from Shilla and red badge! I had ALL of the items except RED EARRINGS! OMG I almost was one of the winners! Changmin joked with fans as he saw how many of us were dressed in all red and asked if it was difficult walking around, inferring that we looked like red traffic lights. >.< Other memorable moments included a photo of Changmin and Yunho at the SMTown Halloween party this past October, and Changmin was dressed up as a pilot holding a SHILLA DUTY FREE shopping bag. He said the Shilla staff were very happy with his costume. He also mentioned that when they go to the airport, Yunho frequents the Shilla shops often. Yunho mentioned it took hours for him to get ready because he had to dye his hair green... meanwhile Changmin said his was very fast. When asked about their plans for Christmas their responses were similar: Changmin said he wants take a break and spend time with his family.... meanwhile Yunho stated, "We will be rehearsing for our concert, but I want spend time with someone special to me." Fans responded with a resounding WHAT??? And he joked with us: "What！Someone special like my family!" Probably one of the most touching moments was the opening of the Time Capsule which happened toward the ending of the event. When both members read their letters they had written to themselves, the audience was silent and then burst into applause ... aside from the time that Changmin physically nudged Yunho back into the spotlight as he read his letter, which brought a rousing chuckle from fans. Yunho's Letter - OnlyOneUknow
Changmin’s Letter –
Everyone, I’m back. I’m sorry that I had to make you wait for so long. During the past 2 years, I realized again about how much I loved you all. From now, since I’m going to work hard, please keep giving me your support. (Changmin mentioned his handwriting has improved since the military, and he was having difficulty reading his writing from 2015).
Changmin told Shilla, “Thanks to them and you (fans) for this wonderful event… thank you for coming to this place even when it’s really cold. From now it will be even colder, so be careful not to catch cold. Even though we only have a little more time this year, let’s make this year a good year,” and Yunho waved until the very end.
After the last song, Catch Me, streamers popped out of the ceiling scaring us with a big BANG but the streamers make a nice momento with Changmin’s writing of “Merry Christmas,” and Yunho’s “Happy New Year.”
After the song we all remained seated as the members left the stage, a few moments later the MC came back and surprised us with the announcement that we ALL be able to greet TVXQ backstage, one at a time. Exclamations of excitement and disbelief burst through the air, and fans quickly pulled out mirrors and began re-applying their make up! I don’t wear make up, so I just chuckled at how cute these fans are getting pretty for Yunho and Changmin.
Each section, starting with section A, made their way to the stage, single file, then we proceeded to line up and go up to the stage and behind a partition. I’ve done this a few times before at other Shilla fan meets, but it never prepares you for the excitement and thrill of meeting Yunho and Changmin face to face.
We know we will only have 3-4 seconds maximum so we must mentally prepare ourselves. A thousand thoughts ran through my mind as to what to tell them. But it never fails, when in their presence the mind empties and is filled with butterflies and sunshine as you see their smiles.
Changmin comes into sight first, with his beautiful bright eyes and gentle smile. His smile grew as I approached and waved at him, made a heart sign with my hands and said, “HI Changmin! I love you!” He giggled immediately and smiled then bowed to me. I know his giggle was most likely because of my hat! Next I saw Yunho, and waved again, saying, “HI Yunho!” and he immediately recognized me and with surprise he said, “OHHH!” to which I replied, “Please come back to LA!” I made a Shaka Sign and he immediately gave me a thumbs up and smiled and bowed.
— Katdiva ٩(^♡^)۶ (@kokenes) December 9, 2017
Meeting them face to face is like no other experience!
Before I end my fan account of this event, I want to thank Fesha, a special Native American Indian from the Yakama Tribe who hand beaded two necklaces which were given to them, along with a card and her hand-written note. I didn’t give these to them at the event, I gave them to a close friend who knows them personally and works closely with SM Entertainment on projects. The necklaces (I am also wearing one in the photos above) are very special, rich with Native American culture. I don’t think many Koreans or even K-Celebrities have every received such a gift, so it makes it all the more special for their 14th Anniversary since their Debut!