All of the Korean media reports are misconstruing Han Geng’s words and taking the things he said out of context.
The articles make it sound like his only reason for being in Korea was greed, but that’s not true. What he was trying to say was that even though he had aspired to become an actor/entertainer in his youth, when he first joined SM and debuted with SJ, he and his family were so poor at the time that his priority was to earn money to survive and support his parents. He wasn’t daydreaming about becoming famous or a hotshot because he had to worry about basic needs. In the full documentary, he talked about how he was struggling so much after graduating that he had to borrow money from his mom in order to buy a sheet for the floor to sleep on in his friend’s apartment. These were his conditions before arriving in Korea. He wasn’t whining about being poor in Korea or whatever.
Instead of making Han Geng sound grateful, the articles are picking and choosing words in order to make it sound like he’s trashtalking everyone who helped him in Korea. Yes, Han Geng did say that he only earned 4000 yuan during his first year because of performance restrictions, but what the articles aren’t mentioning is that he followed that up by saying that “the boss” (i.e. most likely Lee Soo Man) gave each person a bonus of 1,500,000 Korean won that year. For Han Geng, the bonus he was given was double that amount, so he received 3,000,000 won in addition to the 4000 yuan. He gave all of his first earnings to his parents.
In regards to SJ-M, he said that it was fun and that it was an experience to really hone your character. He didn’t rant about the members not being able to speak Chinese. What he was saying was that even though it was a comfort for him to be promoting in China after the debut of SJ-M, he had a lot of responsibilities as the leader and there were a lot of things he had to think about in order for everything to go smoothly. One of the obstacles was translating for everyone. This isn’t anything new; he’s said this in various other interviews as well. Having to translate for so many members was difficult at times but he worked hard to make sure that all the Korean members had something to say and could participate in the shows and programs. The Korean SJ-M members (i.e. Ryeowook, Donghae, Siwon, and Kyuhyun) have mentioned over and over in the past that they were very grateful to Han Geng because he took extremely thoughtful care of them when they were adjusting to living in China. He did everything he could to make sure they were comfortable and didn’t have to deal with the struggles that he went through as a foreigner in Korea. This wasn’t even because he was the leader (Siwon has even talked about how much Han Geng took care of him when he was studying in China pre-debut); it was simply how he was as a friend/brother and person. If he really looked down on them for not knowing Chinese and was irritated by it, he would not have helped them to the extent that he did.
Han Geng was receiving a lot of movie/drama/endorsement offers but SM wasn’t letting him do them. The articles make it sound like he’s whining about how other members got offers but he didn’t, and that’s not true. The issue that he was raising was the unfairness of how the company gave other artists/members the freedom to pursue other interests or side projects, but not Han Geng. He didn’t even go into as much detail as he could have on this issue in the documentary, but it is known that SM declined a lot of Han Geng’s drama offers (some without his knowledge until after-the-fact) even though he had told them repeatedly that he would like to pursue some acting jobs. In the documentary, he only went into this briefly to talk about how these kinds of things were killing his spirit, and this was what led to the lawsuit, which he had to keep a secret because the company restricted access to their artists’ passports, IDs and personal records. He had to ask for permission to get access to these things, and it’s not like he could just tell them he needed them because he planned on filing a lawsuit against them.
The articles are making it sound like Han Geng lacked patience, endurance and gratitude, but there is SO much more to what he is saying. The Korean media is just purposely picking and choosing his words in order to cause a ruckus. This happens a LOT, but judging from the comments I’ve been reading, it seems to be working because a lot of “fans” and Korean netizens are falling for it and saying that they have lost their respect for him.
Watch the uncut scenes with English subtitles here (they aren’t the best but still good enough to get a better idea of what he was really saying):
Watch the full documentary here: