Things don’t always go according to plan. A significant example of this is the fact that some idols who seemed like the perfect fit for a group or even a company have had to leave those behind to move on in life and in their creative endeavors. For various reasons, personal or otherwise, there have been quite a number of idols that have decided to leave their groups/companies because that was what they thought would aid them in their career going forward. In some cases, they fared brilliantly and in others, not so much.
Rain’s recent appearance in Mnet 'I-LAND' has piqued interest in his discography for newer fans of K-Pop. K-Pop legend Rain started out as a member of a boy group named Fanclub when he was only 16. Despite releasing two albums, the group could not achieve notable success. In 2002, he debuted as a soloist under the name “Rain” rising to immense success. In 2007, he revealed that he’d be leaving JYP Entertainment to form his own company J.Tune Entertainment. It housed idol groups like MBLAQ and MADTOWN. He later sold these shares to JYP, his mentor and the labels merged. He went on to create yet another label called Rain Company which is responsible for all his needs as an artist. Rain still remains one of the most influential K-Pop stars in the history of K-Pop.
Jay Park debuted in the popular JYP Entertainment boy group 2PM and was the leader of the group. However, he decided to leave the group when controversial posts he’d made in the past resurfaced. He left the group as well as the company and returned to America. There he worked hard until he amassed a global following and returned to Korea as a soloist under SidusHQ. However, after spending some time in the industry, he decided to leave that company as well and forge his own path. He is now the founder CEO of two of the most important and major KHipHop labels AOMG and H1GHR Music Records. He is easily the pioneer of Korean R&B and a stalwart in the Korean hip-hop scene.
Jessica’s infamous exit from Girls' Generation was a subject of much speculation and debate. Tiffany, Sooyoung, and Seohyun also left SM Entertainment and the reason all of them gave was the lack of opportunities and scope for growth. Jessica’s case was, however, a little special. An insider revealed that she had made plans to leave the group anyway but was hesitant when the time actually came. The group and the management were both against her continuing as a semi-active member and therefore, she was asked to leave. This may be the reason why Jessica stated that she was “forced” out of the group. During that time, reports of her being engaged as well as starting a business were doing the rounds. SM finally revealed that her future plans were not in line with the group’s welfare as they believed her fashion line BLANC was profiting from Girls' Generation’s popularity while Jessica wasn’t even an active member at that point. Lack of trust and inner conflict finally led to Jessica leaving. Ever since leaving Girls' Generation, Jessica has built a fashion empire with BLANC & ECLARE, launched a Youtube channel, made music independently as well as authored a book. Her YA novel ‘Shine’ is set to be released on September 29. The book reportedly follows a Korean American girl Rachel, scouted to be part of a girl group under a major label. Sounds quite autobiographical, doesn’t it? Although we haven’t gotten our hands on it yet, Netflix already has plans to make it into a movie. If that wasn’t impressive enough, she also joined Forbes’ 30 under 30 in 2017!
In 2010, Hyolyn made her debut as leader of the popular girl group SISTAR under Starship Entertainment. After seven years as a group, it was announced on May 23, 2017, that Sistar was to disband. On September 9, 2017, Hyolyn uploaded a handwritten letter to her personal Instagram account, stating that she had decided to leave Starship Entertainment and would start anew without an agency for the time being. Not long after her departure, Hyolyn founded and established her own music label Bridʒ (pronounced “bridge”) with the aim to bridge the gap between artists and their listeners. Almost immediately, she achieved huge success. On August 19th, 2020, Hyolyn released her 2nd Mini Album "Say My Name". Hyolyn is a role model to millions with her bold decisiveness and entrepreneurial spirit as well as her brilliant talent in music.
HyunA and Dawn
For newer fans who might not know this, HyunA started out as a member of Wonder Girls under JYP Entertainment. She decided to leave the group shortly after debuting and joined another girl group 4Minute under Cube Entertainment. While promoting with 4Minute, her solo career was on the rise as well. Her popularity soared with her first mini-album ‘Bubble Pop’, establishing her as a force to be reckoned within the industry. On June 13, 2016, it was announced that 4Minute had made the decision to disband. HyunA was the only member to stay with Cube Entertainment as she resumed activities as a soloist. Dawn (formerly E’Dawn) was the main rapper and songwriter for popular Starship Entertainment boy group PENTAGON. However, things changed when HyunA admitted to her relationship with E’Dawn of PENTAGON after rumors had started going around already. Cube Entertainment cited “loss of trust” as the reason for terminating their contracts thereafter. Before anything happened further, both HyunA and E’Dawn decided to leave the company. However, they never stopped making music and keeping in touch with fans. On January 27, 2019, both of them signed with P-Nation, a new agency founded by PSY since he left YG Entertainment in May 2018. On November 5, 2019, she released a single titled "Flower Shower", her first release under P-Nation. E’Dawn debuted once more under the stage name Dawn this time with the single ‘Money’ on the same day as HyunA. The couple is highly adored by fans and their artistic success is only on the rise.
One of the most popular female rappers of the K-Pop industry is the incredibly talented Jessi. She’s a household name in South Korea for her straightforwardness as much as for her talent. She debuted solo in 2005, followed by a 5-year hiatus starting from 2009. When she returned, she was a part of hip-hop trio Lucky J under YMC Entertainment. During her time with YMC, she achieved unimaginable success, mostly due to her appearances in variety shows and ‘Unpretty Rapstar’ where she placed 2nd. In the second season of the show, she appeared in several episodes as a mentor. Jessi's contract with YMC Entertainment ended in October 2018, and in January 2019, she left the company, signing a contract with PSY's record label P-Nation. Every single track she released since then has topped the charts. Her latest single ‘Nunu Nana’ peaked at number 2 on the Gaon Music Chart!
This list would never be complete without the Chinese former members of EXO, Kris, Luhan, and Tao. All 3 of them belonged to the original line up of the immensely popular SM group EXO but all was not well. The Chinese members were paid marginally lesser than the Korean members. Besides unfair pay, the Chinese members were treated poorly, had lesser opportunities as well as lesser promotion. Kris left soon after EXO released ‘Overdose’ and Luhan followed suit. Kris and Luhan both filed a lawsuit against SM Entertainment citing their poor treatment as well as the fact that they were treated more like “machines” rather than humans. Kris was also diagnosed with myocarditis which made the accusation against SM even more potent. In 2015, Tao was the 3rd member to file a lawsuit against SM Entertainment, pointing out his lack of freedom as well as unjust contract terms. It was later revealed that Tao had badly injured himself but SM continued to make him perform, worsening his condition. He was overworked and underpaid. Kris and Luhan’s cases were resolved by a compromise with SM whereas, in the case of Tao, the court ruled in SM’s favor. A series of counter lawsuits continued until it was finally announced that the 3 of them had left EXO but their contracts would remain valid with SM until 2022. Their Chinese agencies would have to share revenues with SM as well. Even though it seems quite unfair that they were in such a position, the boys didn’t let this affect their artistic endeavors. All three of them are now incredibly popular as they promote in China. Kris has expanded as an idol and an actor, appearing in Chinese as well as Hollywood movies. Luhan and Tao are both widely popular and influential as Mano-Pop artists who also appear in TV shows and dramas. All 3 also recently appeared together as mentors in China’s Produce 2020. A always, their chemistry remains fresh and fans, Korean or otherwise loved seeing them together, happy and successful once more.