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A look back at the success story of IZ*ONE.

by Helen Bosch

K-Pop Blog > Artists> IZ*ONE

Even if you didn't become a K-pop fan until after 2021, you may have heard of IZ*ONE. The girl group, which was founded by survival show Produce 48, was active for only two and a half years - 2018 to 2021 - but was extremely popular and successful. So much so that fans still miss them today and enjoy every interaction of the former members. In fact, they continue to meet from time to time and sometimes even film shows together!

The former members have since debuted solo or in new successful groups like IVE and LE SSERAFIM.

Because IZ*ONE will certainly not be forgotten so quickly in the future, we would like to introduce you to the girl group and its history:

  • Produce 48
  • The members
  • Debut as IZ*ONE
  • Mnet Vote Manipulation
  • Further albums and successes
  • Disbandment and Parallel Universe Petition
  • Where are the members now?

Produce 48

korean mnet survival show

Produce 48 is a survival show in which 96 female trainees from Korea and Japan competed in several rounds for a place in a twelve-member project girl group. The group was to debut after the show and be active together for two and a half years.

Produce 48 is the third of four seasons of the Produce series, which aired annually from 2016 to 2019. In each season, more than 90 candidates - trainees from different agencies - compete for a place in a new project group. The first season produced the girl group I.O.I, the second the boy group Wanna One, the third the girl group IZ*ONE and the fourth the boy group X1.

The Produce series stood out because here, unlike the usual survival shows, the audience decided which trainees would end up debuting in the project group. Each round they could vote for their favorites and those with the most votes advanced.

Produce 48 differed from the other seasons in several ways. Namely, this time not only Korean trainees competed, but also members of the Japanese girl group AKB48.

japanese girlgroup AKB48 logo

The AKB48 Group consists of the girl group AKB48, which alone has over 70 members, and currently 11 sister groups that are active throughout Asia. These are called for example SKE48, NMB48, HKT48 and so on. So IZ*ONE was going to be a Korean-Japanese girl group that would be active not only in Korea but also Japan.

Also, in the first episode, Produce 48 surprised everyone by announcing that the new project group would have 12 members this time, instead of 11 as in the previous seasons. There were 11 winners again in the fourth season, so IZ*ONE is the only Produce group with 12 members. Produce 48 consists of 12 episodes that aired from June 2018 to the end of August 2028. In the episodes, the trainees worked together in teams and performed covers as well as original songs towards the end to showcase their skills.

Of course, there were also many emotional moments and tears. Throughout the season, the trainees with the fewest votes were eliminated until only 20 of them were left in the finale.

In the finale, it was announced that the new group would be called IZ*ONE; the name was suggested by viewers on the show's official website. "IZ" symbolizes the number 12 and stands for the number of members. "ONE" is the English word for the number 1, so IZ*ONE means that the 12 members will be one together as a group.

After the final 20 contestants performed three original songs again - two in groups of 10 and one all together - the 12 winners were announced one by one at the end of the finals:

The members of IZ*ONE

Jang Wonyoung31.08.2004
Miyawaki Sakura19.03.1998Japan
Jo Yuri22.10.2001Korea
Choi Yena29.09.1999Korea
An Yujin01.09.2003Korea
Yabuki Nako18.06.2001Japan
Kwon Eunbi (Leader)27.09.1995Korea
Kang Hyewon05.07.1999Korea
Honda Hitomi06.10.2001Japan
Kim Chaewon01.08.2000Korea
Kim Minju05.02.2001Korea
Lee Chaeyeon11.01.2000Korea

Eight of the members have already attracted attention before Produce 48! The three Japanese girls Honda Hitomi, Miyawaki Sakura and Yabuki Nako were already a part of the AKB48 Group years before. Sakura debuted in HKT48 back in 2011, followed by Nako in 2013, and Hitomi made her debut in AKB48 in 2014. Over the years, the three have naturally been featured in a number of shows and have been involved in a number of singles and albums.

Kwon Eunbi debuted in a girl group called Ye-A in 2014, but the group disbanded shortly after.

IZ*ONE 2nd album HEART*IZ image teaser: Lee Chaeyeon

Lee Chaeyeon previously competed with her sister Chaeryeong (ITZY) in two other survival shows: K-Pop Star 3 (2013) & Sixteen (2015).

Jo Yuri placed 15th in the survival show Idol School (2017), which formed the nine-member girl group fromis_9.

Minju was featured as an actress in a few music videos and the K-drama Tempted.

An Yujin was also featured in music videos and was particularly known for a contact lens commercial.

Debut as IZ*ONE

In Produce 48, it was decided that IZ*ONE would be active together for two and a half years. After that, the members were to return to their respective agencies.

On October 28, 2019, two months after the finale of Produce 48, IZ*ONE debuted with their first album Color*iz including the title track "La Vien Rose"!

In addition to La Vien Rose, the album also features new IZ*ONE versions of the three original songs from the finals of Produce 48 - "We Together," "You're in Love, Right?" & "As We Dream" - and a new version of "Pick Me", the title track from Produce 48.

IZ*ONE 1st album COLOR*IZ album cover

With their debut, IZ*ONE broke quite a few records, showing right from the start how much potential the group has. La Vien Rose, for example, topped three major Korean charts and earned the girl group its first music show win just ten days after its debut, faster than the debut song of any other K-pop girl group before!

The album itself topped Japan's Oricon chart and ranked #2 on Korea's Gaon album chart. It also sold over 34,000 copies on its first day, more than any debut album by a K-pop girl group before. These and other successes led to IZ*ONE winning the award for "Best New Artists" in several award shows at the end of the year!

In December, Sakura and Nako participated in an HKT48 concert to celebrate their eighth anniversary. For the time being, this was the last activity of the Japanese members as a part of HKT48 or AKB48, because in the following two and a half years they were exclusive with IZ*ONE.

The year 2020 started for IZ*ONE with the official Japan debut. The music video for the First Japanese Single "Suki to Iwasetai" was released on January 25. The single sold over 200,000 copies in the first week!

On April 1, IZ*ONE unveiled their second album Heart*iz, which topped both the Korean Gaon album chart and the Japanese Oricon chart. The girl group also set a new record with this album, selling over 130,000 copies in its first week! No K-pop girl group had ever done that before!

In June, IZ*ONE held several concerts as part of their first tour, "Eyes On Me," where they performed two previously unknown Korean songs called "Ayayaya" and "So Curious." However, it took a while until they were finally officially released on an album. After the tour, two Japanese singles were released: "Buenos Aires" on June 26 and "Vampire" on September 25. Both were very successful like the debut single and topped several Japanese charts!

Then in November, a third Korean album was supposed to have been released, but it was postponed due to the Mnet vote manipulation scandal.

Mnet Vote Manipulation

On October 16, the police began an investigation to determine whether the producers of the network Mnet had manipulated the votes of the viewers. It found that Mnet had indeed manipulated votes in all four seasons of the Produce series! At that time, the fourth season of Produce X 101, which followed Produce 48, had already ended and the winning boy group X1 had just released their first album.

X1 1st mini album

When the scandal came to light, IZ*ONE took a break and postponed the planned album indefinitely. In addition, various events and performances were canceled.

Produce 101 producers often switched rankings on the show, deciding who would debut in each group before the finals of Produce 48 and Produce X 101. In the case of Produce 48, it was later announced that the two finalists Lee Kaeun and Han Chowon would have actually won a spot in IZ*ONE, but were eliminated due to the manipulation of the votes.

lightsum debut single

We can also assume that the rankings of the 12 members who actually won were also switched. So which two members would have actually been eliminated instead of Kaeun and Chowon is still unclear today. The police decided not to disclose the names because the participants themselves could not help it and should not become the target of hostility.

Lee Kaeun decided she didn't want to be an idol anymore and is instead focusing on her acting career. Han Chowon made her debut in the girl group Lightsumin June 2021. Neither of them filed a lawsuit against Mnet.

The same is true for boy group X1, where 3 contestants who should have won were eliminated in the finals. Also in the previous rounds, the rankings were switched so that contestants who would have actually advanced were eliminated instead.

Several producers of Mnet were arrested and the Produce series was officially canceled. Since then, no new seasons have been produced.

As a result of the scandal, X1 disbanded after only one album! But IZ*ONE fans could breathe a sigh of relief: on January 6, the members' agencies came to an agreement: IZ*ONE would stay together and be active as originally planned until April 2021.

Further albums and successes

After weeks of uncertainty and worrying if the album would even be released, IZ*ONE returned on February 17, 2020 with "Bloom*iz" !

It was no less successful than its predecessors and even broke the record again for the most copies sold by a girl group album in its first week, selling over 350,000 copies!

Subsequently, IZ*ONE did not take a break and released their fourth album "Oneiric Diary" including the title track "Secret Story of the Swan" already in June. In September IZ*ONE organized the first online concert "Oneiric Theater", in April the first and last Japanese album "Twelve" was released and on December 7th the fifth Korean album "One-Reeler / Act IV" with the title track "Panorama". One-Reeler was already the last album of IZ*ONE.

This last album also reached some big milestones once again. IZ*ONE topped the physical album charts with it, and for the first time since the second album Heart*iz, it also topped the Korean Gaon album charts. It also reached the top 10 of Japan's Oricon album chart!

On January 26, 2021, fans could once again enjoy a brand new IZ*ONE song, as the girl group recorded a song called "D-D-Dance" for the mobile app "Universe".

On February 13 & 14, IZ*ONE held their last online concerts titled "One, The Story." During the concert, the members sang "Parallel Universe," an unreleased song.

Fans are saddened to this day that IZ*ONE's second half of their short time together was affected by the global Corona pandemic, and they were only able to say goodbye to the group online. Of course, fans would have loved to cheer on the girl group in person, and IZ*ONE was probably also sad to only be able to perform in front of screens and empty halls for the last few months.

On February 15, IZ*ONE's Eunbi, Sakura, Minju, Yuri, and Wonyoung released a commercial song called "Zero: Attitude" for the Pepsi brand together with Soyou (formerly SISTAR).

On March 26, a remake of the song "Rewind: Blossom" by Roo'a, which all twelve members of IZ*ONE recorded together, was also uploaded. It's not an original song, but fans were certainly grateful for everything the girl group ended up preparing for them.

Disbandment and Parallel Universe Petition

Finally, on April 29, 2021, IZ*ONE officially disbanded.

On April 21, the fan community called WIZ*ONE had started an initiative called "Parallel Universe" like IZ*ONE's last song. The initiative raised over $900,000 in hopes of convincing IZ*ONE, or more importantly the members' agencies, to continue the group!

IZ*ONE album

Although it was clear from the beginning that IZ*ONE would disband, the girl group was so popular that no one could imagine letting them go just like that. The amount of money that hundreds of thousands of fans had raised within a few weeks showed that IZ*ONE had an immense impact on the K-pop scene.

The initiative was so convincing that agencies actually discussed the possibility of renewing IZ*ONE's contract. However, on July 6, 2021, it was confirmed that the discussions failed and IZ*ONE would not debut again.

So, unfortunately, the numerous fans had to say goodbye to the girl group and support the members on their own ways from then on.

Where are the members now?

Fortunately, all 12 members have since returned to the stage!

IZ*ONE album

Jang Wonyoung and An Yujin returned to their agency Starship Entertainment and debuted on December 1, 2021 in the girl group IVE.

Miyawaki Sakura and Kim Chaewon signed a contract with HYBE and debuted on July 20, 2022 in LE SSERAFIM.

Honda Hitomi returned to her group AKB48 in Japan.
Yabuki Nako also returned to Japan to HKT48, but has already announced that she will leave the group in spring 2023. Following this, she plans to focus more on her acting career.

IZ*ONE album

Kim Minju and Kang Hyewon are also focusing on their acting careers. However, Hyewon released the special album "W" in December 2021 and a single called "Like A Diamond" in January 2022.

Meanwhile, the other five have all officially debuted solo: Kwon Eunbi (August 24, 2021), Jo Yuri (October 7, 2021), Choi Yena (January 17, 2022) & Lee Chaeyeon (October 12, 2022).

Did you get to know IZ*ONE when they were still together? Which of the members do you follow today?

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