Members leaving K-pop bands: Not irreplaceable

Members leaving K-pop bands: Not irreplaceable

If you take a boy or a girl out of a band, will it still thrive in the K-pop world?

That question has become increasingly relevant as the past months saw some members of popular K-pop groups leaving.

Jessica Jung of Girls' Generation was kicked out in September, leaving fans in shock and despair.

Chinese idol Luhan withdrew from K-pop supergroup EXO and filed a lawsuit against the band last week, becoming the second member to leave EXO since its debut in 2012. Member Kris left in May after filing a similar lawsuit.

Just two days ago, MBLAQ members Lee Joon and Thunder revealed that they will leave the group after their contracts expire. But fans of these groups need not worry about the bands suffering as they most likely won't.

In the K-pop scene, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is especially true for groups that just debuted.

Fans usually support the bands as a whole and know them by the band names and their hit singles before getting to know the members individually.

For example, most people know 12-member EXO for their sleek, synchronised dance moves and powerful tracks, but not all K-pop fans can identify each member by name.

When a member exits, he or she can be easily replaced from the pool of countless hopefuls. Even without a replacement, the groups continue with their promotional activities as planned.

Mr Alan Chan, chief executive officer of Alpha Entertainment Group, the home-grown agency behind K-pop group Skarf, told The New Paper: "In the K-pop scene, the concept comes first. Talent agencies come up with the concept for the K-pop group before they cast the members and choosing the group name.

"If a member drops out after the debut, he or she will be replaced. It is very common. Just look at Wonder Girls, T-ara and Kara, they have gone through several changes to their members in the past few years, but they are still around."

Even K-pop A-lister Super Junior is not spared.

The then-12 member superstar boy band had some changes to their line-up in 2009, but that did not stop the group from releasing new albums to overwhelming commercial success.

That only goes to show that fans still support their favourite groups as long as they do not completely break up.

This is vastly different from Western pop groups, where each member's personality counts towards the popularity of the bands.

When Geri Halliwell left Spice Girls in 1998, four years after their debut, the girl band's new albums released in the following two years received lukewarm response. Spice Girls eventually took an indefinite hiatus in 2000.


Mr James Kang, marketing director of Warner Music however, said of K-pop groups: "It depends on whether the member who leaves is a leader of the group or an outstanding member.

"If they are not outstanding, or if they don't have a special skill in the group, they are pretty much replaceable.

"Fans may be affected for a while with the change in members, but normally after some time, they will adapt to the new members."

It is also noteworthy that the backlash from someone leaving increases with the popularity and fame of the group, as they tend to have a much larger fanbase, which means more fans will be affected by such sudden news.

EXO fan Li Meixian, 23, said: "I might still continue to support EXO, but this kind of news makes me lose faith in them. It makes me feel lost as I don't know what is going to happen next."

This article was first published on October 15, 2014.
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