Like many successful seniors before them, New Radiancy Group (N.R.G) was another five-member group of the 90s. Although they had the talent and the looks to form another epic unit, they debuted around the same time as the legendary unit, H.O.T and somewhat lived under their shadows. Despite poor management by their agency and a few challenges and heartbreaks along their roller coaster of a career path, NRG still managed to leave their mark in the industry.
The group was made up of Lee Sung Jin & Chun Myung Hoon, both previous members of 'Hamo Hamo', with two of their backdancers Noh Yoomin & Mun Sunghoon. Towards the end, Kim Hwan Sung, previous member of 'KKebi KKebi', was added. The five grouped up to form a new band, and released their first full album simply titled, 'NRG (New Radiancy Group)'.
They debuted on KBS Music Bank with their title song "I Can Do It" in 1997. The track quickly became a fan favorite, as the high-energy dance beat was catchy and different. They sold over 200,000 copies of their first album and was even awarded the 'Newcomer Award' by Inkigayo in 1998. They were nominated alongside S.E.S for #1 song on a popular music program, but Korea's economy suddenly plunged and the show was forced to come to a close. N.R.G never did get to seize the #1 spot with 'I Can Do It', but their nomination was still considered quite the achievement for a new rising star in the industry.
2nd Album & departure of members
Their second album 'Race' was also released in 1998 with more energetic dance songs like "Messenger", and "Making Love". 'Race' sold over 300,000 copies just in Korea alone, and the boys were quickly gaining popularity in other parts of Asia. NRG started actively marketing themselves in China, busily traveling back and forth. They became the first Korean artist to ever promote themselves anywhere outside of Korea, and some credit them as the 'pioneers' of the K-pop Hallyu wave. They did well with their second album, except the boys were constantly being outshined by their seniors of only a few months, H.O.T. They needed a new game plan- and fast. But talk about change- both leader Lee Sung Jin & fellow member Chung Myung Hoon left the group, leaving just Mun Sung Hoon, Noh Yoomin, & Kim Hwan Sung. Fans argued that the leave was not out of their own choosing, but the boys were actually cut by their agency because they were the 'least popular' of the five.
Before NRG formed, Myung Hoon worked as a backdancer for SOLID and had a good fanbase, though he was not yet a celebrity. Rumor has it that he was even offered a spot in the very group they were constantly going up against- H.O.T. But despite his many talents, his management failed to recognize his potential and could not market him well, as proven by the failure of 'Hamo Hamo', and his ban from NRG. Chun Myung Hoon decided to focus on producing music. He wrote two songs for NRG, but did not perform them with his former band. Lee Sung Jin on the other hand had an outgoing, witty personality and found that he was probably better-suited for variety shows and entertainment programs. He pursued a career as an all-around entertainer, working as an MC, a VJ, etc.
After being down to three members, their third album 'NRG 003' unfortunately did not do as well as their previous two. They attempted the rock genre for the first time, but it was not suiting for their still-youthful voices. It was obvious that their fans preferred their former music style, and NRG was slowly becoming forgotten in the industry. However, this would be an album the boys would never forget, as it was the last with member Kim Hwan Sung.
Soon after their promotions for their third album came to a close, member Kim Hwan Sung suddenly passed away in June of 2000. He complained of a fever and a headache, and was admitted into the hospital after his symptoms became suspiciously more severe than that of the common cold. It's unclear as to what exactly he suffered from, but his doctors believed it was viral pneumonia, or that it had something to do with the SARS breakout, as the boys were frequently in China to perform. Three days after being admitted into the hospital, Hwan Sung developed an extremely high fever and had trouble breathing. He was transferred to the ICU unit where only 24 hours later, he lapsed into a coma and doctors pronounced him brain dead. His distraught family made the difficult decision to remove him from life support, while the other members had to painfully watch over the helpless situation. Kim Hwan Sung passed away on June 15, 2000 at only 19 years of age. Thousands of weeping, heartbroken fans were at his funeral in disbelief, and his fellow NRG members tearfully carried away his coffin.
The members held a concert in China in honor of Hwan Sung a month after his sudden passing. They tearfully performed NRG's greatest hit songs in front of hundreds of lamenting fans. After the concert was over, they took some time to mourn their member's passing and considered disbanding altogether. Hwan Sung's father, however, knew that disbanding would not be what his son wanted and convinced NRG to continue. Their agency somehow persuaded Lee Sung Jin & Chun Myung Hoon to rejoin the group, and NRG once again became a 4-member unit, sans their beloved Hwan Sung.
NRG gained more publicity following Hwan Sung's death and with the addition of the two former members, they were back in the spotlight. Their new song 'Rain' from their fourth album 'Sorrow' was written for them by H.O.T's Kangta, in remembrance of Hwan Sung. In 2001, the song reached #1 on the music charts before the album was released, and they experienced an explosive reaction from fans. At the same time, leader Lee Sung Jin's career also took off as a successful entertainer and as an MC, thanks to his witty personality and great sense of humor. His fame sky rocketed, which helped when they released their next album.
All good things must come to an end
In 2003, N.R.G released what would be their most successful album yet. Not only did Lee Sung Jin's newfound fame help contribute to their success, but their title track "Hit Song" was written by their very own Myung Hoon and the song earned them their first #1 win. They were named MVP by SBS Inkigayo, as well as earning the #1 spot on Music Camp for several weeks in a row. N.R.G also won the award for Best Mutizen Song on SBS, along with Artist of the Year, as well as being named one of the top ten Korean artists of 2003. The group dedicated their win to Hwan Sung, relieved that they were able to finally make his dream a reality. N.R.G continued to promote 4 additional songs off of their fifth album including 'Friend', 'Forgiveness', 'A day', & 'What do I do'.
Their sixth album would be their last with member Mun Sung Hoon who left the group without specific reason. Though their energetic title song "Daehan Gunah Mansae" was fitting for the World Cup season & reached #4 on music charts as soon as it was released, it never did climb to the top. Some blamed the long gap in-between their fifth and sixth album, while others blamed poor management. Their last and final 7th album was released once again as a trio without Sung Hoon, and it was apparent that the boys had lost some of their fire. Lee Sung Jin was in his prime, featuring more on various variety programs while Myung Hoon & Yoomin made drastic physical transformations that were not such a hit with the fans. Though their music was still trendy, due to the lack of better management on their agency's part, their career was pretty much over. The three of them would also soon join the Korean military, giving them a good excuse to disband in 2005.
So where are they now?
Lee Sung Jin was arguably the most successful member of the group. But after making a few wrong decisions, he got himself caught up in a scandal followed by a legal battle. In 2009 Lee Sung Jin was arrested for an alleged scam. In short, he borrowed tens of thousands of dollars from acquaintances and gambled it all away in the Philippines. To this day, he has failed to pay the money back in full. He has been in and out of court, even sentenced time in prison. His court case has yet to come to a close.
Noh Yoomin suffered from depression after so many close to him refused to support his relationship with long-time girlfriend Lee Myung Chun because she was six years his senior. The two decided to wed after Lee became pregnant with child, but unlike other star-studded celebrity weddings, Noh Yoomin's wedding was small and private due to lack of support from those around him. His wife is currently pregnant with their second child.
Chun Myung Hoon did what many idol singers before him did after disbandment- he took up a career in acting as well as pursue a solo career in singing. After a few small roles, now he mainly makes appearances on variety shows, and is known for his humorous physical antics.
Mun Sung Hoon recently wed in April of this year, and he is currently working as a bag designer, personally designing and manufacturing his own bags, as well as teaching others how to start similar businesses. He has honestly admitted that he was too young during his N.R.G and lacked ambition, but that he would step on stage again if he were given the right opportunity.
N.R.G's rise to fame was rather quick, and although they were unable to steadily maintain their stardom, props to the boys for making a strong comeback after the loss of member Hwan Sung. They fought hard for everything they earned and deserved every last win. Take a trip down memory lane and listen to a few of their greatest hits below!