I’ve now been promoted as the official penguin of the Soompi network, hence why I have that awesome “Le Penguin Officiel” tag in the comment section. Thanks to our dear leader, soomp, for that amazing addition. You should start seeing the other editors and writers on the team getting their own unique tags over the coming weeks.
Anyway first point of business for the official penguin is to discuss the age old question of when to call it quits, because nothing really lasts forever.
Very Important Disclaimer Stuff: The writer is not really an expert at anything much and is just a mere casual fan of pretty much everything. The writer has been known to be rather weird and cynical at times. The writer’s opinions certainly DO NOT reflect the opinion of Soompi’s news team or Soompi as a whole. Trust me, the rest of the team is quite normal.
Nothing Lasts Forever
Anyone that happened to be on the internet this week most likely came across the news that Korean figure skating legend, Kim Yuna, won the Silver in the Individual Women’s Figure Skating event at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Frankly even if you weren’t interested in the Olympics, it would have been hard to miss given that it got covered nearly everywhere, even on this very site. Now this is significant for two big reasons. One, it showed that a sport that is judged subjectively might actually not be all that agreeable and two, one of the legends of Korean sports is putting up her skates and leaving the sport while at the peak of her popularity.
The second point got me thinking, when exactly is it a good time to quit? Kim Yuna in some ways has a lot of parallels with the K-pop industry. Both start at a young age and reach their relative peaks at around mid 20’s. Both are more than capable of finding future careers paths outside of our their main fields (Kim Yuna in coaching, idols in acting etc) and lastly both could quit now and still live a relatively decent life.
Then the question becomes, do you quit here while you’re ahead or do you keep going, unswayed by the possible concerns of diminishing popularity and relevance. Kim Yuna has decided that continuing any further will have diminishing returns and has decided to leave at the height of her career. But what about extremely popular idol groups in a similar position? What are their options?
The obvious case studies would be the first generation idols from the 90’s to early 2000’s. Groups like H.O.T, Sechs Kies, S.E.S, Fin.K.L, etc etc. Most of them were active for around 4~5 years and the majority of them disbanded around their peaks or just after it. Most of their members stayed in the industry and took on new projects, such as acting and solo singing. Most look back at these groups with fond memories with a tinge of regret that perhaps they quit a bit early. Frankly I think that’s perfect, it’s better to want slightly more then feel like you’ve outstayed your welcome.
Now we enter the 2nd generation/3rd generation idols, the ones that came into existence from around 2005 onward. SM Entertainment groups like TVXQ, Super Junior, Girls’ Generation have been around for around 7 years to nearly a decade (Albeit in different forms for TVXQ). Other agencies have also retained group names for roughly the same period of time as well with groups like KARA, LPG, 4Minute, BEAST, Wonder Girls having been around for at least 4 years now. They’ve already lasted longer than most of the earlier groups and still seem to be going strong.
A proper farewell
Perhaps the issue then isn’t WHEN to quit but HOW to quit. I feel like Sech Kies had the best exit from the industry. Have a massive final concert at the peak of your career, giving your fans something to remember for years to come, with a clear distinct end to give everyone closure. Lately we’ve seen a few groups that have sort of just dropped off the map without any sort of goodbye. Wonder Girls is probably the most recent example of a group that seemed to have come to an end without a proper goodbye. (Until DSP finally admits that the remaining KARA members are better off working solo).
This was amazing damn it!
This isn’t even including the dozens upon dozens of groups that have appeared in the last couple years that have unfortunately failed without even making a dent in the market. These groups don’t even get the chance to say goodbye in any meaningful way. They are just a statistic, a number, something a select few will remember. Larger more popular groups will, fortunately, not meet this same fate irrespective of when and how they disband their groups. But with popularity comes responsibility. An improper farewell is going to leave a lot of fans with a lack of closure, one that might make it harder to move on.
Girls Generation has released their new album, Mr.Mr to much success. They’ve been around for at least 7 years (And more if you consider the year or so of trainee teasing from SM). They are just a handful of groups that survived past the 5 year mark. They constantly state that they hope the group is forever lasting. However the cynic in me says that this is just wishful thinking and they will eventually cease to exist as a group. My only wish is, once the time comes, that the group will make a graceful exit rather than suffer the fate of other popular groups that failed to give its fans a proper goodbye
*Lordbordem is the multi award winner in the grand national Koala fighting championships. He also writes the occasional articles on Soompi to help with Koala shock. 9 out of 10 doctors and readers now regards this to be a bad decision.