I thought the EXO in Hawaii chapter was over when the group’s photobook “PRESENT; gift” was released in April.
Now a second 204-page Hawaii photobook, “PRESENT; the moment” is set to be released on Sept. 10.
SM has already teased a handful of photos. The last outing featured picturesque destinations. The teased photos showed the more mundane, with Chen and Suho pictured inside humble Kaimuki Laundromat, and D.O., Sehun, Kai and Baekhyun standing prettily in silk lei on a residential street. Shades of “EXO Next Door!” If I knew they were on my street I would run out of the house.
I did get a friend’s shared picture when we just so happened to make ourselves useful by hand-delivering bento lunches to EXO while they were at Kualoa Ranch. Unfortunately, they couldn’t hang around because they were headed to Secret Island Beach, and as soon as we got there a staffer grabbed the lunches from us to load onto their boat.
There was only room for a small crew, so they left about 30 other crew members behind. As they were heading out, my friend took a few photos, and below is one of them. I like to say this was the first time my future husband Chen saw me waving him off. LOL!
It’s not like I’m a stalker; I just wanted to see what they look like, how tall they are IRL. D.O., Baekhyun and Chen are pretty short. I think they heighten in their bios. Otherwise they look the same as their photos. The only surprise was D.O. I don’t care much for his looks in 2D—of this group Chen is my bias; if you include Lay it would be Lay—but in 3D D.O.’s features just pop and he is really good-looking.
That said, the second book comes along just at the time EXO-Ls may be missing our EXO members in the military Xiumin and D.O., and this keeps them at the top of our thoughts.
It’s been a hard year saying goodbye to some of the idols who introduced me to the world of K-pop. Between December and March, SHINee members Onew, Key and Minho, entered the South Korean military. It was comforting at least to know they all answered the call of duty to country at nearly the same time, making a possible comeback all the more sooner, just two years from now.
All South Korean men who pass physical and mental eligibility tests are required to spend 21 to 24 months in the military between the ages of 18 and 28. The Military Service Act calls for up to three years in prison for those who refuse to serve. South Korean military enlistment laws changed Aug. 1, 2018, cutting the maximum age a Korean male can delay mandatory service by two years to 28 instead of 30. Previously, men could delay enlistment for reasons such as attending graduate school, serving at the same time as a sibling, or being a ambassador for Korea promotions. Famously, Big Bang’s Seungri is delaying his enlistment due to continuing investigations regarding the Burning Sun scandal.
I underestimated how sad it would feel because I wasn’t very empathetic when others talked about their groups being gone. I would think, “Oh well, they’re kind of over anyway.” But K-pop often leads to cultish behavior and the feeling of a personal relationship with a particular group because of the facade of constant access via live feeds, travelogues and other constant updates. On any day, you can just check VLive or Instagram to find out what the members are up to. So it really feels like the loss of friends.
Now, it is EXO-Ls’ turn to feel the loss. Xiumin was the first to leave for military service on May 7, and it will take much longer to see a full reunion soon because of their range of ages. For instance, with the return of Kyuhyun from the military just two days ago, it’s taken Super Junior nine years to fulfill their service and perhaps return as a full unit soon.
The need to enlist is considered a societal duty so when politicians floated the idea of exempting BTS from military service because of their valuable status as international cultural ambassadors, the backlash was swift. Even though BTS was not involved with this proposal, angry citizens started circulating petitions last year requesting that they disband because of perceived disloyalty to country who did not like the idea that they were perceived as superior to any other idol group. BTS members quickly responded that they would all serve, but the wound was revealed in their tears during the MAMA )Mnet Asian Music Awards) ceremony in Hong Kong in December. The eldest, Jin, will be 28 in Korean age next year and will likely have to enlist by early 2021.
People have been asking me what will become of EXO in the meantime, will they need to stop promoting and will they be able to make a comeback? I can’t predict the future, but in a radio interview, Chen said their contract with SM Entertainment has three years until expiration, taking us to 2022.
Moreso than most bands, EXO may be well-positioned for a comeback after service. For a long time, EXO, which debuted in 2012, has been considered the national group of Korea, recognized by the Korean government and serving as honorary Korea Tourism Public Ambassadors.
In the best-case scenario, Chinese member Lay (Zhang Yixing), who appears only occasionally with EXO, will return from his solo promotions in China to augment the group’s vocal, rap and dance lines as he is skilled in all three areas. I am not sure he will do this because he is very ambitious and has some momentum with his solo career. Without him, they may have some trouble in 2020-21, when their main vocals are gone. Although China also has a mandatory military service policy, it has not been implemented since 1949. Because of the country’s large population, it has been able to rely on volunteers.
Journalists are not known to be good at math, but I have tried to figure this out. Here’s a list of the members birthdays and a possible timeline of members’ enlistment based on their ages, and how it might affect the group’s ability to promote.
Xiumin (Kim Min Seok): Born March 26, 1990, age 29 (Korean age is one year older, which would make him 30 overseas); vocalist, dancer, rapper.
Suho (Kim Jun Myeon): Born May 22, 1991; leader, lead vocal. He will be 28 by year’s end, so he will go by end of the year or possibly extend into early 2020. He will already be 29 in Korean age.
Lay (Zhang Yixing): Born Oct. 7, 1991, 27; main dancer, vocalist. Korean service law does not apply to him, but he rarely performs with the group.
Baekhyun (Byun Baek Hyun): Born May 6, 1992; main vocal. Most fans have been calculating that the ’92 liners won’t enlist until 2021, but with the new age change I am thinking that they will also have to enlist by the end of 2020.
Chen (Kim Jong Dae): Born Sept. 21, 1992; main vocal
Chanyeol (Park Chan Yeol): Born Nov. 27, 1992; rapper, sub-vocal.
D.O. (Do Kyung So): Born Jan. 12, 1993, should be going in 2021.
Kai (Kim Jong In): Born Jan. 14, 1994; main dancer, visual, center, rapper. The ’94 liners should be going in 2022.
Sehun (Oh Se Hun): Born April 12, 1994; lead dancer, visual, rapper.
If they follow this timeline they will be able to reunite as a full group in 2024, five years from now. Depending on the group’s promotional capability without certain members, some of the members might decide to enlist earlier to reduce the group’s hiatus period. In the best case scenarios, those born toward the end of the year may be able to push their enlistment to early the following year.
2019 Seven members, missing Xiumin. Still able to promote well. Although he is a very good dancer, Sehun and Kai can capably fill this void. Xiumin considers himself to not be the best singer or dancer in EXO, but has a strong presence and provides a vital supporting role that bolsters EXO’s group dynamic. Although he is the oldest, he looks like the youngest in the group and also has the role of “fake maknae,” bringing cuteness to the group’s appearances. The real maknae, Sehun, may have to step up his role in this regard.
2020 Best case scenario: Five members, missing Xiumin, Suho and Baekhyun. Vocals: D.O. and Chen Rappers: Chanyeol, Sehun and Kai Dance line: Sehun, Kai In this case they will be missing one main vocalist, but may still be able to promote well with only Chen and D.O., with Kai, Sehun and Chanyeol contributing more vocals.
Worst case scenario: Three members; missing Xiumin, Suho, Baekhyun, Chen and Chanyeol. Vocals: D.O. Rappers: Sehun and Kai Dance line: Sehun, Kai With two main vocalists gone and essentially only one vocal and two dancers outside, they probably won’t be able to promote EXO material. Perhaps they will tailor new material to remaining members. This could work if Lay were to take a more active role the next three years.
2021 Best case scenario: Five members. Xiumin will return in spring. Missing Suho, Baekhyun, Chen and Chanyeol. Lay fills in. Vocals: Xiumin, D.O., Lay Rappers: Sehun, Kai, Lay Dance line: Sehun, Kai, Lay This will give them two vocalists and two dancer/vocalists/rappers, which could sound good with new material tailored to their strengths.
Worst case scenario: Three members (Xiumin, Kai and Sehun) if D.O. leaves. Vocals: Xiumin Rappers: Sehun, Kai Dance line: Sehun, Kai It may be impossible for them to promote as EXO, but perhaps Kai will try going Taemin’s (SM label mate and member of SHINee who is promoting solo while the other members are in the military) route as a solo dancer. I don’t know whether his vocals are strong enough to duplicate Taemin’s success. If Kai and Sehun were to leave this year, a year ahead of their mandatory time, the group would also be able to reunite a year earlier, in 2023.
2022 Best case scenario: Six members. Suho, Baekhyun, Chen and Chanyeol return. Missing D.O., Kai and Sehun. Lay fills in. Vocals: Suho, Baekhyun, Chen, Xiumin, Lay Rapper: Chanyeol, Lay Dance line: Xiumin, Baekhyun, Chen, Lay
Worst case scenario: Three members. Suho and Baekhyun return. Missing Chen, Chanyeol, D.O., Kai and Sehun. Vocals: Xiumin, Suho, Baekhyun Rapper: Xiumin Dance line: Xiumin, Baekhyun At this point they will have suitable vocals, but will be missing their main dancers, center and visuals. Perhaps they would be able to move forward with more vocal/acoustic style concerts.
2023 Five members. Chen and Chanyeol return. Missing D.O. Kai and Sehun. Vocals: Chen, Baekhyun, Xiumin, Suho Rapper: Chanyeol Dance line: Xiumin, Baekyun, Chen They are starting to look like EXO again but missing main dancers. Again, Lay’s presence would help considerably, but Chen, Baekhyun and Xiumin have proven themselves more than capable as subunit EXO-CBX.
2024 Full reunion with the return of the youngest, Kai and Sehun. At this point, Xiumin will be the oldest at 34.
In the worst scenarios, EXO may not be able to carry on with three members, but with four members they could pull it off if you consider what SHINee has done with only four members, three of whom are not as strong vocalists as most of EXO. In the meantime, I think we can try to be happy and enjoy most of EXO intact for the next two years. After that, it gets tricky for them to perform their material as is. Be strong EXO-Ls! Remember, as the chart below shows, Super Junior fans had it worse, waiting nearly a decade!
By Nadine Kam I The arrival of EXO in Hawaii for filming and photo shoots Nov. 27 through Dec. 1 had local EXO-Ls scouring social media to find them, but they were a moving target showing up in some unlikely places, like filming at a gas station, a sports bar and McDonald’s.
It was funny how other international EXO-Ls warned Hawaii fans to lay off the boys and give them space. Haha. If they appeared in their towns, they would probably be the ones giving chase. And besides, they don’t know Hawaii very well. Like anybody else, we like to gawk at celebs, but we’re laidback enough to give them their space and not get in their face. That would be rude in our dominant Asian culture.
Anyway, here’s how their week took shape:
Tuesday, Nov. 27: Arrived at Daniel K. Inouye airport. Appeared at Safeway Kapahulu and in the evening at Champs Sports Bar & Grill on Waialae Avenue.
Wednesday, Nov. 28: Three Tables Beach and Haleiwa McDonalds.
Chanyeol’s version of the butterfly stroke while in Hawaii.
Thursday, Nov. 28: Shell Gas station McCully, Wet N’ Wild Hawaii water park Kapolei, Ka Makana Ali’i shopping center.
Friday, Nov. 30: Kualoa Ranch. Dinner at New Shilawon Korean Restaurant.
Saturday, Dec. 1: Fly back to South Korea.
While sleuthing around, trying to find their whereabouts, I wondered whether their Instagram feeds would be of any help. They were fun to look at, but I got the best leads from people with ties to the Korean community.
Here’s a look at their IG styles. Note that missing in action are Chen and D.O. Chen is one of my biases, so I wish he would get with the program, but I know he’s just not the type because he probably doesn’t deem it useful or worth the effort. I was hopeful when his so-called “wife”f Xiumin came online in September, and again when Suho joined on Dec. 5. One by one, they’re coming ’round!
Kai (Kim Jong-in) On location, Kai is your best bet for giving away their whereabouts because he seems to love a view, including finding beauty in the manmade environment of Wet N’ Wild Hawaii water park, left. The shy one of the group, you could expect him to connect more with nature than with people. On IG since June 5, 2018, @zkdlin. Follows no one.
Baekhyun (Byun Baek-hyun) He tends to shoot lonely solo photos, but while in Hawaii posted the image at the top of this page, plus a square of perfect blue sky. Somehow I thought he would be the least likely in EXO to be on IG, but he seems to crave attention. On IG since May 7, 2014, @baekhyunee_exo.
Chanyeol (Park Chanyeol) By the look of his IG feed, Chanyeol’s life can be summed up as work and promotion, interspersed with a few moody street shots. In Hawaii, he gave away the group’s location while hanging off this street sign on Kapahulu Avenue. On IG since May 6, 2014, @real_pcy. He is fairly active on IG.
Sehun (Oh Se-hun) The maknae of the group has an interesting feed, most notably because it’s full of selfies sans his handsome face. He’s often hiding it behind a camera flash or some other object, giving us only a partial view. He also shows himself from a distance, or as a blur or shadow. He also gave us the image from Kualoa Ranch at the bottom of this page. On IG since May 6, 2014, @oohsehun. He doesn’t follow anyone, not even his fellow EXO members!
Xiumin (Kim Min-seok) A relative newcomer to IG, he has posted a handful of selfies and portraits. The only time he branched out was when he posted a couple of photos of his cat, Tan. He hasn’t posted since Nov. 2 because he has been rumored to have lost his password. It will be moot when he joins the military soon, when he won’t be able to post anything. On IG since Sept. 9, 2018, @e_xiu_min.
Suho (Kim Jun-myeon) Having only recently joined IG, it’s too early to tell how his feed will shape up. Even so, it seems like he has found an outlet and has been prolific at posting selfies and other self images, as well as live stories. His first images were candid shots, but he’s started to add on glossy studio portraits. On IG since Dec. 5, 2018, @kimjuncotton. Hasn’t started following anyone.
Lay (Zhang Yixing) EXO’s last remaining Chinese member rarely appears with the rest of the group while promoting solo projects in China and abroad. He didn’t come to Hawaii, but during a recent Billboard interview said he would love to come to the islands. He’s another of my biases so of course I follow his IG account. Like Chanyeol, he is all about work and promoting. He shows a lot of studio work shots and often posts videos addressing fans with gratitude and in hope that we might take a look at his recent work. Although most of EXO are men of few words or just a single word in their posts, Lay tends to be the most verbally inclined. The image from Paris on the right was accompanied by the caption, “Sometimes you need to take a moment and appreciate the view.” The one on the left read, “Only by going through the forest can I see the light. #nature #thought” On IG since May 8, 2014, @zyxzjs.