Do Fans Overreact to Members Leaving Groups?

In just two weeks, three more idols are, or are rumored to be leaving their groups. While I am not a fan of either of these groups whatsoever (though EXO’s “Overdose” is still one of my favorite songs of 2014), I can’t help but want to talk about the situations and voice my opinions on here, since many people who are fans seem to be seeing the situations a bit more irrationally.

To be fair, SNSD is the first group that I’ve been a fan of during their member-leaving crisis. Jessica was my second favorite member (after Sooyoung) but to be honest, I feel like the group is going to suffer more from Jessica leaving than they would from any other member besides probably Taeyeon leaving. Jessica ups their hot factor, she’s so charming, and despite being passed over for TiSeo as of late, is the groups’ second main vocal. While we still don’t know the full story about her departure, I know it’s going to be hard for me to support the group simply because I don’t understand why she was removed for starting a business. I understand that businesses are time consuming but multiple members have missed schedules for their individual activities before, so I’m struggling to see how this is any different. I also was disgusted to see someone compare this to Sunye and the Wonder Girls. While I fully support Sunye’s decision to want to have a personal life, she left her group in limbo because she couldn’t bring herself to cut the ties. At least with Jessica’s leaving, the group is still free to carry on.

And while I am a Super Junior fan, I discovered the group in 2011, two years after Han Geng filed his lawsuit and left the group. The sad thing is, I found myself really starting to stan him, and I honestly do like him more than every other member besides Kyuhyun. Leaving JYJ out of it as they are all Korean, you think SM would have learned about proper treatment of foreign idols from the Han Geng case. Apparently not.

SM Stock on October 10, the day Luhan’s departure was announced.

First, EXO’s Luhan – another Chinese member who has filed for contract nullification and will be using the same lawyer as JYJ, Hangeng, and Kris. This news came out early last week, and honestly from what I saw on my tumblr dashboard, most people were simply making jokes about it. Considering EXO was made up of 8 Korean and 4 Chinese members, at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if the other two Chinese members sue for contract nullification within the next few years. EXO-M has essentially been cut in half, so I’m not sure what SM plans do to about this. Are they going to be still promoting this subunit? Is SM going to try to replace Luhan and Kris? Or are they going to just promote EXO as a full group from now on to attempt to mask empty members on the stage? Considering EXO is essentially made up of two subunits, I don’t think they’ll try to put existing members in the dying subunit like they did with Super Junior M (which I still think was unnecessary). It was revealed that Luhan is suing SM for 50 Million KRW, which is less than $47,000 USD. To be honest this is not even that significant an amount of money. While yes, it looks like a lot, I’m in way more student loan debt than that. Therefore, if these are the fees SM owes him, it’s pretty pathetic the former largest monetary Korean Entertainment Company can’t even pay this kid a reasonable salary.

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 9.57.22 AM

While Luhan is an example of a member filing for contract nullification, over at J. Tune Camp, MBLAQ is essentially going to be having a JYJ/TVXQ situation without the legal battle. MBLAQ to me, is that one group that you think is a lot more popular than they really are. I honestly do not care for any of their songs. I have a cat named “Smokey” so “Smoky Girl” is obviously the dumbest song ever to me.

Most of MBLAQs popularity to do with how prominent Lee Joon is in the K-Pop community. Everyone knows who he is, and he’s recognized as a lot of fan’s ideal type, plus he was in Hyuna’s “Bubble Pop” video which went viral. To be honest, the only MBLAQ member I can point out in the group is Lee Joon. MBLAQ have had multiple number 1 albums, which really isn’t very hard for male idol groups to accomplish, but their singles actually never did very well. “Y” was their highest charting single, reaching number 5 on Gaon. While their song “This is War” was relatively highly acclaimed, MBLAQ was always just kind of there. They have their group of fans, and it seems like international fans really do like them, but overall they’re just not a top group. While this is not a problem inherently, considering the circumstances, you’d think they’d be much more popular.

Rain, one of the top stars in Korea, founded the group – and then he ended up selling the company to JYP in which J. Tune Camp then ended up becoming its own entity, followed by Rain jumping ship to Cube, thus fully abandoning MBLAQ. At the same time, Rain’s name being connected to the group should have propelled them to greater heights than MBLAQ ever did reach. Considering Lee Joon is also extremely popular, it’s also easy to think his group is very popular as well – which is not the case. As a netizien alluded to, Lee Joon is basically to MBLAQ as Suzy is to Miss A. This one member propels the group to reach the moderate success they do reach, and without said member the group will probably flop.

Which is a shame for MBLAQ, because Lee Joon and Thunder are both rumored to be leaving after their contracts expire. Instantly when I heard about Lee Joon, I thought “wow, I don’t blame him.” From what I read, he was pushed into the group by Rain, despite wanting to act more than be an idol. Now that Lee Joon has established himself as an actor (and has been well received in his roles), I can’t blame him for wanting to leave the group to pursue his dreams. This is in a way similar to how I feel about Jessica wanting to have a fashion business – there’s nothing wrong with a career change. And as I stated, it’s not as if MBLAQ is a high-in-demand group. They’ve been around since 2009 and in 5 years, it seems as if their songs are doing worse than when they first began. Thunder on the other hand, released a solo song earlier this year. It’s rumored that he wants to begin a solo career or even begin writing/producing for others.

It seems as though netizens are actually taking this news relatively calmly, and are respecting Lee Joon’s decision. Thunder isn’t mentioned too much in the linked article. I agree with many of the comments. Lee Joon and Thunder are both doing this the right way. They aren’t being selfish at all. They waited until their contracts expired, and are simply not renewing their contracts. Once a contract expires, you are no longer tied to the conditions of it. If you know it’s not something you want to do, why would you resign it? In a way, it’s similar to what happened with Sohee of Wonder Girls; she did not re-sign her contract with JYP and now she is with another agency focusing on her acting. I’m assuming Lee Joon will be doing the same thing. However, Sohee’s new agency has stated she is free to return to the Wonder Girls if/when she wishes to. I honestly have much respect for this agency, because they’re showing that they care about their client’s wishes.

Member GO posted some shade on his Twitter account, but this situation honestly deserved no shade whatsoever. Both of the members leaving are doing it the right way. They don’t want to be part of a sinking ship, which is unfortunately what MBLAQ is at this point. They have other career aspirations, and now they are free to pursue them. There’s also been talk about the boys going into the army, which is something all Korean males must do, but if they were all to enter at the same time, it would probably end up making people forget about the group since they aren’t in the news much as it is.

While I understand why some fans are upset about their faves leaving, whether it be through suing for contract nullification or waiting until their contract ends, are they taking it too seriously?

I think I’m honestly the most unlucky person in the world when it comes to my favorite groups breaking up or going through line up changes. I remember I saw Maroon 5 on their first major US tour, just as their original drummer was being phased out of the group (due to injury, but still). I don’t remember taking it this hard. Fleetwood Mac is my favorite non-K-Pop group and they’ve been through more line up changes and disbandments than probably any other group in history. Each line up has produced music with their own flavor. While I do think their albums without Lindsey Buckingham were much lesser in quality than the ones with, the group functioned without both Lindsey and Stevie Nicks who propelled them to stardom, similar really to what Lee Joon did for MBLAQ. Should the group carry on, they’ll likely still function well, and can probably try to regroup and release music more to their own flavor, similar to what happened with the TVXQ/JYJ split. The two groups do not produce similar sounding music at all, and have really found their musical stride as two groups. While neither have had a song as wonderful as “Mirotic,” both individual groups have grown musically and have taken more chances that they wouldn’t have been able to as a 5 member group.

There can definitely be positives to groups splitting, and while it can be hard if it was one of your favorite members, it seems as though many K-Pop fans take members leaving groups personally. The entertainment business is just that – a businesses, and if people are being treated unfairly by their company, they deserve to have their employment agreement terminated. If a contract ends and one party doesn’t wish to renew it, the contract doesn’t get renewed. While yes, idols in the same group can have bonds with each other, friendship and business are two different things. What may be good for your personal life may not be good for your business life. A member leaving a group does not mean that a friendship between members was not real. In the case of GO’s shadey tweets, I do think they were completely unnecessary because it’s not as if the group’s image has been ruined, and Lee Joon and Thunder leaving is giving MBLAQ more press coverage than their 2014 comeback did. Should the three remaining members choose to regroup, they have a chance to come back with a bang. Plus Lee Joon and Thunder will both be participating in the November MBLAQ concert, which shows that the two do care about the fans they made during their time in MBLAQ. In the case of contract nullification, I’m honestly disgusted when I see fans call idols selfish. I understand many idols do know what they’re signing up for when they become an idol, but unfair treatment, withheld wages, and being pushed to injury are not work conditions that anybody deserves.

Honestly as we continue into 2015 and beyond, I’m sure more second generation idol groups will be losing members and groups will be disbanding as contracts begin to expire. At this point, I doubt Super Junior will all resign with SM Entertainment, and I do believe some will stay. I’m sure Big Bang will not last past their YG contract expiration date, nor will Miss A survive their JYP contracts expiring. Just because someone enters a contract in year X, it doesn’t mean when it comes up for review in year Y they’ll still want the same things.

I’m not saying it’s not OK to be upset, it definitely is, but acting as if it’s the end of the world and that the individual(s) leaving are traitors who never cared about the group is outrageous. People’s interests and life goals change as they get older. This is especially true for those who have been at a company since they were teenagers, still in the formative years of their lives. What you want to do at 15 is likely not what you want to do at 22.

The most you can do is still support your favorite groups and their members – past or present – in their endeavors and hope that ends up succeeding in the paths they have chosen.

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