Current Shifts in K-Pop

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On May 7, Super Junior’s youngest member, Cho Kyuhyun, was discharged from the army. As a Super Junior fan, this is exciting news as we eagerly await for his future projects, both solo and with the group. But the news left me with some interesting feelings.

For starters, this is the first time in nearly 10 years Super Junior hasn’t had a member in the army. Think of all of the idol groups that have debuted and disbanded within that time. I’m sure you could measure how long they’ve been in the fandom by what member of Super Junior was in the army when they joined (Heechul for me). Yes, I’m happy that they’ve all finished their service, but a moment of silence is needed. It was the end of an era, everyone. We must pay our respect.

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Secondly, I’m struck how much the scene of  K-pop is changing. 

1. Lawsuits

It would be hyperbolic to think there were no lawsuits before 2014, but with one of the biggest lawsuits in recent history being resolved, it did change things. JYJ winning their lawsuit against SM Entertainment was a modern-day David versus Goliath. More important, this gave artists the confidence they needed to go up against their companies.

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In September 2014,  ZE:A leader, JunYoung, notoriously aired his grievances against their company Star Empire, releasing income receipts and threatening to release damaging documents. It was resolved within five days. Two months later, B.A.P sued their then company, TS Entertainment, over fair wages and poor working conditions. The lawsuit was settled in August 2015 and the group returned to stage in November of the same year.

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While each case might not be as successful as theirs, it still acts as a beacon. It is possible to win or at least to leave without destroying your career.

2. Starting their own labels

Over the years, there has also been a surge of idols starting their own labels. In the past, artists found various ways to establish their independence, such as merely signing with a distribution company or a sub-label. Now we have more stars launching companies. Zico‘s King of the Jungle (KOZ), Psy‘s P-NATION and Crush‘s unnamed agency.

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But even that is evolving. Taecyeon of 2PM and Ravi of VIXX have all decided to start their own companies but will remain in their respective groups.

While we’re still not sure how any of this will really work in practice or how far it’ll go, it is by no means the end of this evolution.  Time to brace ourselves, gang. 

(Soompi [1][2][3][4][5][6][7] Instagram.)

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