For many K-pop fans, 2015 proved to be a very fruitful year for both veteran and rookie acts. EXID continued their streak of success with their song "Up & Down" back in 2014. Girls' Generation found success as an eight-member group with Lion Heart. GFriend became internationally popular when their hit song "Me Gustas Tu" went viral thanks to a live-performance video. And last but not least, JYP Entertainment's newest K-pop idol girl group TWICE is being dubbed the "new Girls' Generation."
The year 2015 was a huge year for K-pop and draws plenty of parallels to 2009, a year the K-pop community (fans, artists, and industry) deem as K-pop's best year. Before they could experience heaven however, they had to go through a hellish 2014, a year disgustingly known as the "Kpopcalypse." The K-pop community never wants to go through such an ordeal ever again. Unfortunately, with the upcoming contract expirations and looming mandatory military services, as reported by KpopStarz, 2016 might possibly become the second "kpopcalypse."
For those who never experienced the misery and agony known as the "kpopcalypse," it was a year when a lot of things seemed to go wrong for K-pop. This includes numerous departures of members from K-pop idol groups mostly through contract expirations. Going down the line, Lee Sem and Eunji left 9MUSES on January 29, and Sera would follow five months later, Cheska left Fiestar on March 19, Myeong Ji left Tiny-G, Jessica Jung left Girls' Generation (though it is said she was kicked out by the other members), and Nicole and Jiyoung left KARA.
This year, many K-pop group members have their contracts expire, especially certain groups considered high-profile. Earlier this week, three of the four members of KARA have their contracts expire this month. If Gyuri, Hara, and Seungyeon do not renew their contracts with DSP Media, KARA will officially be no more given that the only one left will be Youngji. BEAST and 4Minute also have their contracts expire this year too. CUBE Entertainment will have to do what they can to renew their contracts given their huge fan bases and multiple hit songs. This is especially true for BEAST because they are the talent agency's representative act.
Probably the K-pop group most eyes will be on is 2NE1. With the exception of the K-pop idol girl group's leader CL, who renewed her contract right before her American debut, as announced by YG Life, the remaining three members have their contracts set to expire this year. Despite the fact they are probably the most-popular K-pop group among contract expirations for 2016 so far, 2NE1 technically hasn't done much for over a year. As a matter of fact, the last (and only) thing they did was a surprise stage comeback at the 2015 Mnet Asian Music Awards.
The reason for 2NE1 being inactive for so long has a lot to do with Bom. Coincidentally back in 2014, Bom was in the midst of a drug scandal. As a result, she took time away from the public eye to reflect. YG Entertainment, 2NE1's talent agency, has made it known they will wait until Bom is ready to come back before doing anything new with 2NE1. That might not happen if Bom, along with Dara and Minzy, do not renew their contracts though.
Contract expirations that were never renewed were just part of what made 2014 the "kpopcalypse." Numerous K-pop groups were put on hiatus because of South Korea's conscription, better known as mandatory military service. Though such happens to K-pop idol boy groups every year, 2016 has some notable groups on the list. The remainder of Super Junior (Ryeowook and Kyuhyun), as well as the last member of JYJ (Xia Junsu) are expected to start their duty this year. The biggest names however are the oldest members of the most-popular K-pop idol boy group of all time, Big Bang. Both T.O.P. and Taeyang have reached or will reach the maximum age (28) they can hold off serving their duty. According to conscription standards, they will have to serve up to two years, depending on the military branch, before turning 30.
All the aforementioned are just part of a whole that might cause a second "kpopcalypse" to occur. It should be noted a lot of other situations during the first "kpopcalypse" contributed to 2014 being a horrendous year for K-pop including lawsuits, scandals, Korean netizens interfering in K-pop idol relationships, and deaths. Let's just hope the K-pop community will only have to deal with contract expirations and conscription services in 2016.
[Image via Gallery Hip/Digitally Edited by Jan Omega]