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10 Reasons Why Idols Leave their Group

Updated on July 13, 2015

As much as we want our favorite idol groups to stay together forever, the reality of the situation is that they will eventually disband. What’s more common is for individual members to leave their group even if they are still at their prime. There is no single reason for idols leaving their group, but here are the ten most common ones:

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#1. They Grow Up Artistically

Many Korean idols start training in their early teens. They know very little about the entertainment business and, like most of us, are fixated on the glamorous part of the business. As they grow up, they start getting exposed to different artists, genres, and cultures so they start to develop a yearning to find their own style and expand their horizons artistically. With solo artists, the change is easy because they only need to worry about their own creative direction, but for artists belonging to an idol group, they can’t suddenly veer away from their established direction, especially if it’s not in line with what the management wants.

One example of an idol who left because of a need to grow artistically is Kim Kibum. Kim was a prominent member of the idol super group Super Junior, juggling careers as a singer/dancer and a model/actor. In 2009, he went on an indefinite hiatus from the group and eventually started focusing more on his acting career.

#2. Change of Priorities

Make no mistake about it, majority of the idols are having the time of their lives and are probably living their dream, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t have a change of priorities later on. After all that time under the spotlight, some of them may start looking for a quieter way of life. This is especially true for artists who gained enough success and saved up. When money is no longer an issue, the idea of settling down.

This is what happened with Turbo member Mickey, who left his group and moved to the U.S., where he is now working as a real estate agent. Another example is Wonder Girls’ former main vocalist Sunye, who in 2013 left the group in order to marry her Korean-Canadian fiancé.

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#3. Management Doesn’t Want Them Anymore

This is most likely the saddest reason, but nobody ever said life is fair. A group could have a large fanbase and could earn decently, but if the management doesn’t want a specific member anymore, they have the power to remove them from the group (or even disband the group altogether, if push comes to shove.)

A great example of this is the boyband SS501. The group wanted to stay together as a 5-member unit but their then management company only wanted to keep 3 of the members and let go of the rest, leading to a trio version of SS501. They have since reunited under different management.

#4. Money

Of all the reasons on this list, this may be the one that people tend to think of first when coming up with reasons why idols leave their groups. However, it should not be a negative thing because there really are cases when artists aren’t getting what they rightfully deserve. But there are also cases where artists are simply wanting more than what they already have. It’s best to not make assumptions which one is really the reason unless we’re privy to the actual incidents, but the bottomline is that the artists left because of money disputes.

The most notable example of this reason is DBSK, particularly when 3 of its members left and fought SM in order to get out of their contract. The trio then went on to form their own group, where they were finally able to write their own songs and benefit directly from their fame.

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#5. Preparation for their Future

Idols are aware that they are working against the clock. The idol industry itself banks on youthfulness, and by the time they hit their 30s, they will be considered “old.” Some acts do manage to retain a fanbase even in their 30s, but they’re more of an exception rather than the rule.

Sechs Kies disbanded due to this reason. They know they couldn’t hold on forever, so they decided to disband while they are still popular, instead of trying to maintain the group and be seen as a bunch of has-beens.

Big Bang’s G-Dragon also made a note of this reason, when he stated that he knows the group will eventually disband as all of them will have to enter the army and grow old.

#6. Artistic and Business Control

Idol groups are treated as products and investments, and they are specifically groomed, packaged, and marketed by their management. This is all fine and good if the management’s vision and direction is always in line with the artist’s, but in cases where it isn’t, the artists can feel their creative freedom being restricted. They tend to leave and pursue careers where they will have more control over their career path.

This reason is what occurred when Jay Park decided not to return to 2PM. He instead started his own company, which lets him control his finances, his projects, his image, and everything else. As a bonus, he is also now able to groom other artists instead of being the one subject to grooming.

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#7. Unable to Sustain the Idol Schedule and Lifestyle

Anybody who says that idols have an easy life doesn’t know what he or she is talking about. Idols have really hectic and demanding – both physically and mentally – schedules that is admittedly not for everyone. There are artists who may be talented and have the right looks, but can’t keep up with the fast pace and so choose to leave.

Former Mblaq member Leejoon is a famous example of an artist breaking under the pressure of the idol lifestyle. He has publicly admitted that the busy schedule caused him to have bipolar disorder, and it was made worse by being unable to get enough sleep, as well as being forced to do things he doesn’t want to do like guest in variety shows.

#8. Personal Matters

As much as fans want to indirectly fantasize about idols living exclusively for the purpose of providing entertainment, the truth is that these idols are people who have personal lives as well. They have private lives and families to consider, and when it comes to family matters it doesn’t matter how popular you are or how much you’re earning, they have to be first.

In what is the best example of this reason, Shinhwa’s Andy went on hiatus for several years because he had to take care of his ailing mother.

#9. Scandals

Idols are role models, and so they must maintain their image for their fans. It’s one of the things that made them that much more commercially viable than other genre artists, because parents are safe in the knowledge that the artists that their sons and daughters look up to aren’t bad influences. So when an idol is embroiled in a scandal, the marketability of the group is affected. It’s not like in some countries where negative publicity is still considered good publicity.

A good example of this reason is when the girl band Glam was disbanded after one of their members, Da Hee, attempted to blackmail Lee Min Jung’s husband Lee Byung Hun over a recording of lewd conversations.

DMNT’s Daniel is another one. He left the group after being found out to have sold marijuana.

#10. They Are Becoming Too Big for the Group

It’s normal for a large group of artists to have varying degrees of success. Sometimes fans will gravitate more towards a single member. In cases like those, it may be beneficial for all parties involved (the artist, the group members, and even the management) if the most popular artist goes solo. This way, he can have his own fanbase without overshadowing the rest of the group.

A good example of this is Seo Taiji of Seo Taiji & Boys. He left the group because he became popular enough to sustain a fanbase on his own. It’s also a blessing for him because it allowed him to return to his rock roots.


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