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K-Pop Korner: Spooky Season Becomes More Than Just Spooky

For many fans, October and November have been considered to be possibly the worst two months for K-pop this year. While groups have been breaking records and releasing bop after bop, it is the artists themselves that have been facing problems. Can’t seem to process what’s going on? No worries! Today I’ll be taking you scandal by scandal, step by step, and in chronological order so you understand exactly what is going on. 

F(X) Member Sulli Commits Suicide

This was definitely the most tragic and serious of everything that happened. Sulli, or Choi Jin Ri (25), a member of SM entertainment’s girl group F(X), committed suicide. Sulli joined F(x) in 2009 at the age of 15. However, despite this, Sulli was a target of cyberbullying and hate comments. This was largely due to the fact that she challenged societal norms in a conservative society. In October, Sulli joined Night of Hate comments as the youngest and most outspoken member of the show. On the show, she spoke about how these comments added to her anxiety and social phobia in a country where mental health is an unspoken topic. Some other ways she challenged included live streaming drinking sessions with friends, choosing not to wear a bra in public and dating during her career, which is considered to be very scandalous in the K-pop world.

Hwall Leaves the Boyz and Woojin Leaves Stray Kids

On Wednesday, October 23rd, member Hwall left his group the Boyz. His company, Cre.kerz Entertainment stated that he will be leaving due to “ankle pain and the poor condition [of his health]… Along with this, we have had in-depth discussions with the artist himself and his family regarding his future activities and potential to promote.” 

Hwall also released his own statement to his fans TheB: “‘Our THE B whom I sincerely love, I am greeting you through writing as I have something to tell fans. I am so sad and apologetic that I can only greet you through writing, but I will put sincerity into every word”.

Almost exactly a week after Hwall, member Woojin left group Stray Kids. No reason has been given, and to fans of Stray Kids around the world, this was extremely sudden. On the official fan message board, JYP Entertainment states that “Woojin, who has been with Stray Kids as a member until this time, has left the group due to personal circumstances and terminated his exclusive contract.” Woojin has not released an official statement since leaving, but many speculate that he has tried to reach out to fans using a public group chat in Kakotalk, a Korean messaging app. 

Currently, Stray Kids have pushed back their comeback, “Clé: LEVANTER,” from November 25th to December 9th. 

Stay, the Stray Kids fanbase, trended the hashtag #ThankYouWoojin as an image to his past work in the band. 

The losses of Hwall and Woojin to their respective groups were especially shocking since both groups were so new to the industry. Stray Kids debuted in 2018 through the survival show of the same name as a nine-member group. The Boyz debuted in 2017 as an eleven-member group. Both groups have performed in KCON in the US. Additionally, Stray Kids has also toured in the United States.

Wonho Leaves Monsta X

On October 31st, Wonho’s company, Starship Entertainment, released a statement on Twitter saying that Wonho would be leaving the group. While fans do not know the official reason why he left, many fans speculate that is due to the rumors spread about him by made by former YG Entertainment Trainee, Han Seo Hee and former co-star of the variety show, Ulzzang Shidae Jung Da Eun. 

The rumor sprouted on 29 October when Jung Da Eun shared an Instagram post of Wonho on TV captioning it: ‘Ho Seok, when are you going to pay me back?’Han Seo Hee commented on the post: ‘Give Da Eun her 30 million won (£20,000).’

Wonho also released his own statement. “I carefully ask that you at least give support and encouragement to the members [of Monsta X]. They are people who are too good to stop and get hurt like this because of someone like me,” Shin wrote, as translated by Soompi. “I am so thankful and apologetic to the staff [of Starship Entertainment], members and lastly our fans who have allowed me to enjoy such happiness until this point.”

This is particularly shocking news since Monsta X is a group that has been quite popular not only in Korea but also in the United States. They were the first group to perform at iHeart Radio Jingle Ball Tour, have collaborated with big names such as French Montana and Steve Aoki, and even performed on the Jimmy Kimmel Live. Their latest album is currently No. 10 on Billboard. Fans around the world are petitioning for Wonho to return to Monsta X. 

Voting Manipulation of Produce Members

On November 5th, approved arrest warrants were issued for Kim Yong Bum, creator of Produce 48 and Produce x 101, and producing director Ahn Joon Young. The series is a survival show, where trainees from different companies show their skills in order to get votes from the audience. The top trainees then form a group that permutes for 2-5 years. Produce 48 is forms a girl group at the end of its show, and Produce X 101 forms a boy group. Groups that have been formed by this show are I.O.I, Wanna One, I*zone and X1. The pair were arrested regarding the vote manipulation of the second season of Produce 48 and Produce X 101, which formed I*zone and X1. 

Produce 48 and Produce 101 are shows that rely on the audience voting for specific trainees to make up the group formed at the end of the show. However, Kim Yong Bum and Ahn Joon Young were accused of manipulating the rankings of letting some trainees know songs beforehand and take part in fraud and breach of trust by taking bribery. 


Currently, the appearances of both X1 and I*zone are being edited out, and I*zone’s comeback has been delayed.

That was a lot, wasn’t it? I definitely needed time to process all of this as it was happening. While all of this news was extremely upsetting, and in the case of Sulli, tragic, it does give us a moment to recognize the mental toll the industry can take on an artist. We must remember that while we love it when our idols have comebacks, go on tours and make variety show appearances, their mental health is something that should come first. Be sure to honor Sulli’s legacy and still support Stray Kids, The Boyz, Monsta X, I*zone and X1! 

Aanandi is an Anthropology major at Bryn Mawr college. She enjoys writing about various aspects of the music industry such as K-pop.
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