Han Geng (韩庚)
Birth Date: February 9, 1984
Job description: Super Junior’s Perpetual Foreigner who is trained in Chinese martial arts and the dance styles of all 56 ethnic groups of China. Incorporated martial arts into Super Junior’s dance routines. Former leader of Super Junior M. Currently a successful solo artist in China.
First Impressions: 외국인 (foreigner); Quiet; He’s So Nice; He’s So, So, So Hot Hot!; Heechul’s best friend; Can Cook; Pretends not to understand Korean when he really does; Doing Quite Fine on His Own; SJ’s first Chinese teacher; Has a Big Heart
Aliases: Beijing Fried Rice, Miracle of One Billion, Han Three Years Old
The Good: Hangeng is what I like to call an unsung hero. Born and raised poor in a small village in northeastern China, he went to Beijing at age 12 to attend Minzu University (aka the Central University for Nationalities) as one of the Nanai ethnic group (the university is considered the premier university for ethnic minorities in China) to study dance.
Almost a decade later, he debuted in Super Junior as the only foreigner and non-Korean of the group, having undergone intensive Korean language lessons and modern dance training. Visa problems led to a rough beginning, but he was integrated into the group regardless, which included the other members poking fun at his foreigner and Chinese status. He was appreciated, accepted, and loved. Things were going perfectly for him until…
he began contemplating suicide. Then he decided to quietly file a lawsuit against SM Entertainment (the other members didn’t know) for such various reasons as unreasonable contract length, not being allowed to take a vacation or day off for two years, and increasing the drippage speed of an IV and then yanking it from his arm because he had to perform on one of Korea’s end-of-the-year music programs even though he was slightly under the weather. Then he disappeared from all Super Junior activities.
Hangeng may not have said a lot during his time with Super Junior, but his lawsuit drove an important point that still has ramifications today: “Their ideas are old… and their ideas are bad.” Technically JYJ (former DBSK/TVXQ members Jaejoong, Yoochun, and Junsu) did file their lawsuit first, but their lawsuit was about unequal distribution of earnings and contract length, not health and wellness. People dismissed JYJ of being greedy, but people could not dismiss Hangeng of being weak without sounding callous. Hangeng’s lawsuit brought the working conditions in K-pop to light after JYJ’s lawsuit cracked the surface but failed to generate the widespread discussion that Hangeng’s did. A year later, Korea’s Fair Trade Commission called SM Entertainment to revise the length of its artists’ contracts (brought on by complaints from TVXQ’s fanclub); next came each SM artist having to renew a new (read: reduced) contract from the agency. No longer could SM or other entertainment agencies get away with overworking and endangering the lives of their artists.
Despite him leaving such a well-liked and respected group (especially in Asia) as Super Junior, Hangeng is doing quite well by himself- his concerts have sold out and he won the MTV EMA 2012 Worldwide Act Award. He’s still a popular guest on Chinese variety shows. He’s not “barely limping along” as some would hope.
Hangeng, for standing up for yourself when no one else would, and bringing unexpected change to the K-pop industry, you win the Unsung Hero Award. Congrats, or something.
The Bad: He left (it still breaks many a ELF’s heart … and Heechul’s). Legally, Hangeng is an outstanding citizen with no run-ins with either the Korean police or the PRC.
And now, in tribute…
For a basic overview of Hangeng’s entire life and career so far:
For Sun Le (Hangeng’s manager and best friend)’s statement from the lawsuit: http://fuckyeahhangeng.tumblr.com/post/63990008857
Credits: geng-bao.livejournal.com/151190.html, geng-bao.livejournal/76937.html#cutid1, VP Debate Highlights Songified (schmoyoho on YouTube)