May and June have been rough months for K-pop sensation EXO, hit hard by a series of incidents from Kris' departure from the group and fan's anger over Baekhyun's love life.
Only a month after EXO leader Kris filed a lawsuit against the band's label, SM Entertainment, to revoke its exclusive contract with him in early June, EXO has come under the spotlight again after member Baekyun confirmed he was in a romantic relationship with Taeyeon of Girls Generation last Thursday.
The latest news about Baekhyun dating another idol is sending shockwaves through the K-pop scene, spawning speculation over how it will affect seemingly ever-growing popularity of EXO.
Fans of Baekhyun said they felt "betrayed" and "disappointed" about their idol's new relationship, in part due to his latest promise to focus on EXO's activities without having a girlfriend.
"I would like to promise to my fellow members. When I am free, I want to visit home, hang out with male friends or work out. Honestly, I don't think that it is time for us to enjoy ourselves. I cannot see EXO collapse due to such a thing," the idol told his fans on the official website of SM Entertainment.
The timing was also tricky. The news broke when EXO's members were trying to sail a steady course in the aftermath of former member Kris' exit from the group.
The Chinese-born Canadian filed a lawsuit against the nation's biggest talent agency, SM Entertainment, on May 15, demanding his contract be nullified. He took issue with what he said was unfair treatment by the agency.
Despite the fuss, EXO's members stayed relatively calm and pursued activities as scheduled. Without Kris, EXO needed to rearrange dance moves and performances, but successfully wrapped up a string of concerts in Korea and around Asia.
But Taeyeon and Baekhyun had been enjoying a secret love affair all along, which enraged some fans.
Bitter fans turned their ire toward Taeyeon's previous comments and photos on her Instagram that fans later connected to Baekhyun.
The majority of fans thought the couple mocked fans by secretly posting photos, especially when their idols were facing difficult times.
Shortly after the news about Baekhyun-Taeyeon relationship went viral, photos of Baekhyun drinking in a bar when he was underage were revealed, adding fuel to fans' disappointment.
It remains to be seen whether EXO can emerge from the furor and enjoy long-standing popularity.
"For a group like EXO, the love scandal was too premature. Fans see each member of EXO as a man, not as a singer. That's why the latest news will take a serious toll on EXO's popularity," a K-pop critic was quoted as saying.
The critic also noted that EXO could still maintain its status in the K-pop scene but warned that the group should not be mired in any more controversies.