(News Focus) Add or subtract: More K-pop idol groups undergo shake-ups
By Chang Dong-woo
SEOUL, April 7 (Yonhap) -- There used to be a time when the K-pop idol scene had sort of a virtual threshold for the number of team members. From the mid-to-late 1990s to early 2000s, we saw a plethora of hit groups with a line-up ranging from three to four members, such as Seo Tai-ji & Boys, S.E.S, Fin.K.L and 2NE1 just to name a few.
It's probably since the debut of Girls' Generation, which started off with nine members, in 2007 the rule no longer applied. Also record labels have started experimenting with "unit" groups -- sub-project teams formed by members from existing idol bands.
The K-pop scene has also seen its share of pluses and minuses, so to speak, in 2017, as labels and artists, with increased frequency, are betting on whether shake-ups and new permutations would lead to better results.
In this file photo, South Korean girl group WJSN, also called Cosmic Girls, performs during a showcase to mark the release of its second mini album "The Secret" in Seoul on Aug. 17, 2016. (Yonhap)
Cosmic Girl, also known as WJSN, has recently added Yoo Yeonjong to its 12-person roster. Yoo is a former member of one-off experimental girl group I.O.I.
Starship Entertainment, home to WJSN, explained that "Yoo was initially preparing to debut with WJSN" but decided to take part in I.O.I. "The deep trust between Yoo and WJSN's members" was a factor in the member addition, the company said.
Earlier this year, girl group April debuted two fresh faces. The initially five-member group was reorganized into a six-girl team, adding two new members -- Chaekyung and Rachel -- after member Hyunjoo left to pursue an acting career.
Chaekyung competed on Mnet TV's famed idol survival show "Produce 101" in 2016, while Rachel, who was brought up in the United States, was recruited for her exceptional ballet skills.
In this file photo, South Korean girl group DIA performs during a showcase to promote its third album "Spell" in Seoul on Sept. 12, 2016. (Yonhap)
The seven-member band DIA also added two members -- Jooeun and Somi -- to its roster starting Thursday with the release of its new song "Flower, Moon and Alcohol." The team posted a handwritten letter on its fan website, asking fans to "warmly receive Jooeun and Somi who have joined."
MBK Entertainment reportedly added the two to reinforce DIA's vocals. Jooeun is a former "K-pop Star" contestant with virtuosic piano skills, while Somi is expected to add a rich layer of tone to the team's songs.
Some shakes-ups are made not from choice but due to unavoidable and often unfortunate circumstances. The groups though are trying to make the most out of their given situations.
YG Entertainment's WINNER this week made a successful comeback after 14 months with its EP album "Fate Number For." The originally five-member team was realigned into a four-man group following the departure of member Nam Tae-hyun last year due to health issues.
This promotional image provided by YG Entertainment shows WINNER, which on April 4, 2017, made a comeback after 14 months with EP album "Fate Number For." (Yonhap)
WINNER sought to heavily emphasize its new four-person lineup by releasing the album at 4 p.m. on April 4. The comeback was successful, with title track "Really Really" topping seven music streaming services at home and the album clinching the No. 1 spot on 21 iTunes album charts of such countries as Mexico, Colombia, Hong Kong and Indonesia.
EXID, the South Korean girl group of the hit track "Up & Down," also plans to release its third EP album "Eclipse" next week but without member Solji. Diagnosed with hyperthyroidism in December, Solji was advised to take care of her health by her doctor.
Highlight, a South Korean boy band formerly known as BEAST, also made a successful comeback last month through its EP album "Can U Feel It" despite a high-wire act of changing its name and management agency.
Member Jang Hyun-seung quit the group in April 2016, yet remains signed to Cube Entertainment. The five others signed up with Around US after their contracts expired in October and formed the group Highlight.
This composite photo captured from Highlight members' social media show team members thanking BEAST fans and asking for their continued support. (Yonhap)