What's behind the "7-year curse" that hits K-pop groups?

by Helen Bosch
gfriend kstyle pictorial photoshoot image
gfriend kstyle pictorial photoshoot image

K-Pop Blog > Overview > 7 Year Curse

The "7 Year Curse" is a term that always comes up when a K-pop group disbands after several years in the music industry. Perhaps you have also come across the term and wondered what it was all about.

If you do a little research, you will quickly notice that many well-known groups that have disbanded were active together for pretty much exactly seven years. Coincidence? Probably not. In this article you will learn what the "7 Year Curse" is all about and why it is also mentioned in connection with groups that are still active and successful.

former tvxq members jaejoong junsu yoochun current jyj

Until 2008, it was not uncommon for idols to sign a contract before their debut, which sometimes tied them to their agency for more than 10 years. After three members of the boy group TVXQ sued their agency SM Entertainment over their 13-year contract, the Korean Fair Trade Commission issued a new rule in 2009 that contracts in the future could run for a maximum of seven years. That's why most idols today have a 7-year contract.

When that contract expires, the idols must decide whether to sign a new one or go their own way. After seven years in an idol group, it is understandably not uncommon for at least one member of the group to want to do something else. Some would prefer to continue solo; usually those who have released solo music during their time in the group and have been successful with it. Others may want to focus more on other areas such as acting, and still others may not want to be an idol at all anymore. In some cases, age also plays a role, because especially girl groups with an innocent image lose popularity over time. Popularity is another keyword: many groups simply disband because they are not successful enough and either the idols or the agency come to the conclusion that it is not worth renewing the contract. Of course, there are also cases where the idols and the agency cannot agree on a new contract. Then the end of the group is usually sealed, because it is difficult to continue with the complete group at a new agency.

So basically, the 7 year curse is about whether groups renew their contracts or disband.

Victims of the 7 year curse

miss a hush image

The curse has become a big issue in the K-pop world, as more than one popular group has fallen victim to it over the years. These include, for example, 2NE1, 4Minute, Sistar, MissA, Kara, and B.A.P.. Each of these groups was very successful until their disbandment; accordingly, fans were shocked by their end. More recently, in May of this year, the popular girl group GFriend also disbanded after their contract expired. K-pop fans undoubtedly still think back to these groups longingly, but perhaps it's a consolation that more and more groups are surviving the curse unscathed.

Among the countless K-pop groups that debut every year, there are of course some that disband after only two or three years. So it's quite an achievement to even reach the 7-year mark.

shinee five album cover fanclub edition

Among the "survivors" so far are mainly second generation groups like Apink, 2PM, Big Bang, C.N.BLUE, F.T. Island, f(x), T-ara, Girls Generation, Super Junior and SHINee. All of these groups have been active for over 10 or even over 15 years now!
The absolute leader, however, is Shinhwa, the longest-running K-pop group in history. Shinhwa debuted in 1998 and thus still belongs to the first generation. The boy group is now 23 years old!

Also third generation groups like NU`EST, EXO, BTS, GOT7, Mamamoo and Winner could not be harmed by the curse. By the way, GOT7, 2PM, Mamamoo, SNSD are the proof that even groups whose members are with different agencies can still be active together!

In July, all of Seventeen renewed their contract, which is particularly impressive considering the amount of members. The boy group has just started its seventh year, but with the new contract they have probably agreed to at least two or three years of further joint activities. Recently, the girl group Laboum also announced that four of the five members have renewed their contract and will continue to be active. However, since Yujeong has left the group, it can be said that Laboum has still been hit by the curse, although not fatally.

It is likely that groups such as Red Velvet and Lovelyz, which debuted in 2014, will be faced with a choice this year as to whether they will continue to be active as a group or disband. Then, in the following years, many more third-generation groups will be put to the test.

Did your favorite group survive the 7 Year Curse? Let us know!

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1 comment

  • MariAug 10, 2022

    BTOB should be included in the list as they have been an active group since 2012

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