K-pop stars want normal lives?

K-pop stars want normal lives?
Nicole Jung (left), a member of K-pop girl group Kara.

Dongho (right), a member of South Korean boy band U-Kiss.

Much has been said about the young generation lacking the tenacity to weather tough times. Total softies. Flighty, irresponsible creatures. The list of negative labels goes on.

If one were to look at the world of K-pop as a microcosm of today's youth culture, it seems that such judgement might not be too far from the truth.

Just last week, to the shock of fans worldwide, boy band U-Kiss' maknae (Korean colloquial term for youngest member) Dongho announced that he is quitting showbiz.

According to an official statement, the 19-year-old explained that his "stamina and health aren't suited to the gruelling career of a K-pop idol" and that he's "eager to lead a normal life".

His sudden departure follows on the heels of the decision by girl group Kara member Nicole Jung (inset) not to renew her contract with the quintet's agency.

The 21-year-old Korean-American posted a long post on Twitter earlier this month expressing her desire to pursue her goals and draw "a line between my personal and work life".

Dongho and Jung are not alone when it comes to putting individual pursuits first.

In April, Yookyung quit cutesy group Apink to focus on her studies, while Ahreum from sassy outfit T-ara left her band mates abruptly in July to go solo.

You'd think that with K-pop's infamous bootcamp training and strict rules during their trainee years, these individuals would be accustomed to a lifestyle where one places teamwork above self.

Perhaps these youngsters should take a leaf from veterans Shinhwa and Super Junior - the former are into their 15th year and the latter, their ninth - with regard to career longevity.

I am particularly upset by Kara's impending dissolution - or rather, their whittling down to a threesome after rumours that another member, Jiyoung, might also quit next year - as these girls are known to be tough cookies.

Kara didn't achieve success from the get-go in 2007. Their first studio release, The First Blooming, was a commercial flop, but failure didn't break them.

With Jung's and Dongho departing when they are at the top of their game, it is like going back to square one.

keeyunt@sph.com.sg


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