A K-Pop trainee’s debut isn’t guaranteed, even if they’re confirmed as a debut team member for an upcoming group.
It’s common in an idol’s journey to switch companies or planned groups to find a concept or style that best suits them or to speed up their debut timeline.
Here are eight male K-Pop idols who originally trained to debut with a different team before debuting with their current group!
1. SEVENTEEN’s S.Coups
SEVENTEEN‘s S.Coups had one of the longest training periods at PLEDIS Entertainment, training for 6 years before he debuted with the 13-member group.
Before he became a member of SEVENTEEN, he was in a group of trainees called the Pledis Boys. The trainee team was split into two groups, NU’EST and TEMPEST. S.Coups almost joined PLEDIS Entertainment’s first boy group, NU’EST, but after line-up changes he ended up becoming a member of TEMPEST.
TEMPEST consisted of five-members and they were slated to debut around 2012 or 2013. After the success of NU’EST’s debut in 2012, TEMPEST was disbanded before they could even debut.
Thankfully there were greater plans in store for S.Coups and he became the leader of SEVENTEEN in 2015!
2. Kim Samuel
02-Liner, soloist Kim Samuel, has had a long history in K-Pop despite his young age.
Kim Samuel was introduced as a PLEDIS Entertainment trainee on the reality show SEVENTEEN TV. The show followed a pre-debut SEVENTEEN over 5 seasons as they prepared to make their official debut.
At the time, Kim Samuel was only 11 years old, so the other SEVENTEEN trainees, and eventual members, took him under their wings.
In 2013, Kim Samuel left PLEDIS Entertainment and debuted under the stage name PUNCH with Brave Entertainment‘s hip hop duo, 1PUNCH in 2015.
The group was short-lived and disbanded in 2017 after his fellow 1PUNCH member, ONE, left Brave Entertainment to join YG Entertainment.
After the duo’s disbandment, Kim Samuel became a promising contestant on the second season of the idol competition show Produce 101 as a Brave Entertainment trainee in 2017.
While many expected him to become one of the final 11 contestants that made up Wanna One, his final ranking was 18th place and he was eliminated from the show.
That same year, he made his solo debut and has since promoted in Korea and in Japan under Pony Canyon.
In November 2021, Kim Samuel won a lawsuit which terminated his contract with Brave Entertainment.
3. WINNER’s Mino
Before debuting as a member of YG Entertainment’s WINNER, Mino almost debuted with a group under Stardom Entertainment.
After activities as an underground rapper, Mino joined Stardom Entertainment and became part of the debut team for what famously became Block B.
Block B was originally planned to debut with five members, with Mino part of the final line-up. Due to Mino still being a minor at the planned time of debut, his parent helped negotiate his contract. After they were unable to reach an agreement with Stardom Entertainment, Mino’s debut was canceled and he left the company.
From there, he joined Y2Y Contents Company and made his debut as a member of the four-member ballad group B.o.M. in 2011. The group disbanded after two short years.
In 2013, Mino performed BIGBANG‘s “La La La” on the Korean drama The Strongest K-POP Survival, a performance that was noticed by YG Entertainment. He was called to audition and successfully passed to become a trainee with YG.
He then competed on the K-Pop competition program WIN: Who Is Next, which earned him a spot on debut Team A. Team A became the group we know them as now, WINNER.
4. MONSTA X’s Shownu
MONSTA X‘s leader Shownu almost became a member of a completely different group. The now-leader was once a trainee at JYP Entertainment.
Shownu joined JYP Entertainment in 2009 after impressively ranking in first place during the company’s auditions.
From there, he became a trainee and trained alongside Jay B (formerly stylized as JB) and Jinyoung.
While Shownu was undoubtedly talented, it’s reported that he and JYP Entertainment mutually felt they weren’t the best fit for each other and parted ways.
After leaving JYP Entertainment, he remained in the K-Pop industry and appeared in music videos and as veteran soloist Lee Hyori‘s backup dancer.
He auditioned for Starship Entertainment and became a trainee with the company. With Starship Entertainment, he joined the project pre-debut group NUBOYZ with future fellow MONSTA X member Joohoney and former MONSTA X member Wonho, along with rapper #Gun, who is also WINNER Mino’s cousin.
The four NUBOYZ project group members joined the competition show No.Mercy, which solidified the final line-up of the group MONSTA X.
5. Jang Hyunseung
ABLE (formerly known as Jang Hyunseung) was well-known as a member of BEAST and the project duo group Troublemaker, along with HyunA.
Before debuting with Cube Entertainment’s group BEAST in 2009, Hyunseung had formerly trained at YG Entertainment.
He joined YG Entertainment at 14 years old and trained to become a member of BIGBANG.
He appeared in the pre-debut documentary Big Bang Documentary, which showcased the group’s journey to debut. Hyunseung made it to the final round before being eliminated from the debut team.
He left YG Entertainment and became a dancer, eventually meeting his future fellow BEAST (now Highlight) member Yoseob. Yoseob helped convince Hyunseung to join Cube Entertainment, where they debuted together as the six-member group BEAST.
In 2016, Hyunseung formally withdrew from BEAST to focus on his solo activities. He remained with Cube Entertainment until 2021, when his contract expired and he left after 11 years with the company.
In September of this year, it was announced that Hyunseung joined the label Mine Field and will promote under the new stage name, ABLE.
6. EXO’s Suho
EXO‘s Suho became a trainee at SM Entertainment in 2005. He spent seven years as a trainee, the longest out of his fellow EXO members before officially making his debut as EXO’s leader in 2012.
Before his debut, he trained alongside the future members of 2nd-gen group SHINee. It’s long been rumored that Suho was considered for the final line-up of SHINee, but it wasn’t confirmed.
Earlier this year, he opened up to Esquire about the beginning of his career. While he was a trainee, he injured his leg and was unable to dance for a year. Due to the injury, his debut was pushed back, and his fellow trainees debuted as SHINee.
Suho has remained EXO’s devoted and talented leader and completed his military service earlier this year.
7. SEVENTEEN’s Woozi
Woozi and S.Coups had a similar journey to becoming a member of SEVENTEEN.
Like S.Coups, Woozi was a member of the trainee group Pledis Boys and also became a member of TEMPEST, using the stage name Jihoon.
Woozi studied classical music at a young age and became the talented main producer for SEVENTEEN after his debut.
8. Super Junior’s Ryeowook
Super Junior‘s Ryeowook joined SM Entertainment in 2004 after he was discovered at the CMB Youth ChinChin Festival that same year.
On an episode of Yoo Hee Yeol’s Sketchbook in 2016, Ryeowook opened up about his time as a trainee. On the show, he shared that as he prepared for his debut, he heard that SM Entertainment contemplated having him debut with SHINee instead of Super Junior.
Ryeowook was the final member to join Super Junior’s original 12-member line-up in 2005 before maknae Kyuhyun joined in 2006. He stated on Yoo Hee Yeol’s Sketchbook that if he hadn’t joined Super Junior, he would have likely debuted as the leader of SHINee.
Ryeowook celebrated his 17th anniversary with Super Junior on November 6, and ELFs couldn’t imagine a group without him!