Dong Bang Shin Ki, a collective of many names — it’s known in Japan as Tohoshinki and is also called Tong Vfang Xien Qi (particularly in China) and abbreviated to TVXQ — is a Korean boy band that managed to score big not just on their home turf, but in Japan as well, rivaling the success of BoA, with whom they sometimes collaborate. The group, whose name means “Rising Gods of the East,” was established by SM Entertainment, a Korean pop industry powerhouse; their music is a typical pop/R&B fare with the occasional rock edge and a tendency for a cappella songs, and all members dabble in songwriting duties in addition to singing and dancing. TVXQ had their live debut in late 2003, when they played with BoA and Britney Spears, and in 2004, they released their first Korean single, “Hug,” which scored number four on the charts, paving the way for the album Tri-Angle, which scored number one on the charts and shifted 242,000 units. In 2005, TVXQ made their first stab at the Japanese market, releasing the single “Stay with Me Tonight” on Rhythm Zone, a subsidiary of Avex. It only charted at number 37, but that did not discourage the band, who continued releasing singles in Japan, though they had more success back home for a while, topping the Korean charts again with their second album, Rising Sun (2005).
TVXQ confirmed their global ambitions in 2006, when they toured China, Thailand, and Malaysia, where they became first Korean band to play. They also continued to pound on the Oricon, releasing their first Japanese album Heart, Mind and Soul (2006) and touring the country. They still had bigger success in Korea, where their “O” from the Jung.Ban.Hap. album (2007), which became the record of the year, allowing them to scoop up multiple music awards, and they’ve also cracked the Japanese Top Five, recorded with Kumi Koda, and had another Far Eastern tour. The toil paid off in 2008, when their release Purple Line scored number one on the Japanese charts. More than half-a-dozen chart-toppers followed in the next two years, including four in a row in 2008-2009. TVXQ sold over 500,000 copies of their fourth album, Mirotic, in Korea despite — or perhaps thanks to — a censorship ban on the title track, which was deemed too sexual for young minds. The band continued their streak of hits with the DVD 4th Live Tour 2009: The Secret Code (2009), which sold 240,000 copies, beating Led Zeppelin’s record for best DVD sales by a foreign artist in Japan, and shifting 256,000 copies in its debut week with their single “Break Out!” (2010), beating another sales record by Elton John. They also made the Guinness Book of World Records twice, as the band with the biggest fan club — Cassiopeia, their Korean community, numbered 800,000 members — and as the most photographed band in the world. However, in 2009, the group hit the skids: Hero, Micky, and Xiag sued SM Entertainment for profits, contesting their long-term contracts, and won (Max and U-Know sided with the company). This effectually forced TVXQ on hiatus, so the three rebels created a new unit called simply Junsu Jejung Yuchun (their Korean names) in 2010, and accepted a deal with Avex. TVXQ released several best-ofs in 2010, including Best Selection 2010, which broke another sales record by a foreign artist in Japan, this time beating Bon Jovi’s These Days. ~ Alexey Eremenko