From fan videos to survival shows: How 5 K-pop groups were saved from disbanding

Ji Won Chung, South China Morning Post

Posted at May 16 2022 05:00 PM | Updated as of May 16 2022 08:18 PM

This picture taken on March 27, 2021 shows K-pop group Brave Girls performing during a rehearsal for a YouTube-livestreamed commercial event at a studio in Gwacheon. Jung Yeon-je, AFP
This picture taken on March 27, 2021 shows K-pop group Brave Girls performing during a rehearsal for a YouTube-livestreamed commercial event at a studio in Gwacheon. Jung Yeon-je, AFP

Not all K-pop groups have it easy. Even after you've "made it", there are endless hurdles to overcome, including premature disbandments, which can happen for any number of reasons. But not all K-pop bands have fallen victim to the break-up. Which groups got lucky and were saved from early disbandment?

1. Nu'Est

Though Nu'Est unfortunately disbanded earlier this year after its 10 year anniversary, we can reminisce about its success and the hardships the members had to endure, one being their previous near-disbandment. According to Koreaboo, before four out of five members appeared on survival show Produce 101 season two - which produced popular boy group Wanna One - the group was going through a commercial decline and were on the brink of disbandment.

But thanks to the members' appearance on the show and Minhyun's eventual debut with Wanna One, Nu'Est saw a sudden surge in popularity and was able to continue on as a group; it even earned its first ever award at the 2017 Asia Artist Awards, five years after its debut.

2. Brave Girls

Brave Girls' so-called revival is one of the two cases in this list that are a result of a viral fan video. In February 2021, a video of the girls performing their song Rollin' went viral on YouTube - it has over 25 million views as of writing - which made the song soar up in the real-time music charts.

It was so popular that, after about a year of inactivity, the girls went back on Korean music shows to perform their song, and achieved their first Korean music show win 1,854 days after their debut, which at the time was the longest time between debut and first win for any K-pop girl group. At the 2021 Mnet Asian Music Awards, the group revealed that it actually had been set to disband that year, which made its sudden success even more meaningful. It even recently announced dates for its first ever US tour, which is set to kick off this July.

3. Exid

The second case of a group being saved from disbandment because of a viral fan video is girl group Exid, except the video was a fancam of one member, Hani. After several line-up changes and financial struggles, the group was on the verge of disbandment.

Its song Up & Down was released in 2014, and though it charted poorly, the fancam of Hani performing went viral a few months later - with over 36 million views as of writing - which made the song soar up the charts. Like Brave Girls, the group was invited to perform on Korean music shows again, and saw commercial success with its subsequent releases.

4. Infinite

The second-generation boy group, who is now known for its "knifelike" choreography, was actually set to disband in 2011 (a year after its debut) because its agency, Woollim Entertainment, was close to bankruptcy. In fact, the CEO even sold his house to help produce the group's album "Over the Top", which fortunately gained commercial success and allowed them to continue as a group.

The group earned its first Korean music show win with the title song Be Mine and even the choreography went viral among the Korean public. The members went on to release more hit songs throughout their career and ultimately saved their company from bankruptcy.

5. Dreamcatcher

The girl group known for its dark, rocklike music style actually started off as the complete opposite. Five of the seven Dreamcatcher members originally debuted as Minx in 2014, but amid the saturated market of bubbly girl groups, they didn't manage to stand out.

They soon debuted again with two additional members in 2016 as Dreamcatcher and with a darker, grungier vibe. And this change paid off, as the group saw significantly more success and even earned its first music show win this April - 1,923 days after its debut, breaking Brave Girls' record.

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