With the rise in Hallyu‘s popularity, the number of people who dream of hitting it big as a K-Pop idol has increased. Today, it is reported that the industry sees around 100 groups debut each year, with a survival rate of just 5%. But two decades ago, the odds were a little lower, with the competition being nowhere as intense as today. However, there was one particular year that seemed to be jinxed against K-Pop girl groups, and that was 2002.
Girl Group Debuts
2002 saw only three significant girl groups debut, LUV, Shinvi, and Sugar. Coincidentally, none of these groups survived even till the five-year mark.
LUV debuted with the single “Orange Girl,” which gained significant popularity in the domestic market. The public was already familiarized with the three members of the group, Jo Eun Byeol, Jun Hye Bin, and Oh Yeon Seo, through their feature on JTL‘s track “A Better Day.” After “Orange Girl,” the group released a second single, “I Still Believe in You,” followed by an album, Story. Within less than a year of their debut, LUV were starting to get compared to the K-Pop powerhouse S.E.S for showing the potential of reaching their level of success.
But despite this success, LUV disbanded the very next year. Each of the members went on to pursue their individual dreams. Jeon Hye Bin became a successful soloist, while Oh Yeon Seo pursued an acting career. Jo Eun Byul went to stage acting and has starred in several musicals in the playhouse district of Daehangno. In 2009, the trio reunited for a showcase, but there are no plans for a more extended reunion as of yet.
Shinvi is another trio that debuted in 2002. Though SM Entertainment promoted the group, it was actually signed to their subsidiary Cid. K Entertainment. The group consisted of Yoo Soo Jin, Oh Sang Eun, and Yoo Na. The group was originally scheduled for a 2001 debut, but it got pushed to 2002, and they finally released their first album, 15 to 30, in April.
The title song of this album, “To My Friend,” featured SHINHWA member Jun Jin in the music video. The group’s following activities were to be decided through a poll on their website, and fans voted for their song “Darling” to be promoted. The group released another single as a part of SM Entertainment’s compilation album, Summer In Love. The trio also participated in the 2002 Winter Vacation album of SM Entertainment. That song became the last song by the group. Though Yoo Na appeared in the music video, the album jacket only featured the other two members. Since that release, Shinvi was never seen to be promoting again, and it was assumed that the group had disbanded.
Sugar was the only girl group that debuted in 2002 and witnessed some longevity. The group’s final lineup consisted of members Ahyoomee, Hye Seung, Park Soo Jin, and Lee Ha Rin, who replaced Jung Eum two years after the group’s debut. Sugar first appeared on a music show in December 2001 with the pre-debut single “Sweet Love.” They later debuted with the album, Tell Me Why and the single “Tell Me Why” on March 13, 2002.
In 2003, Sugar released their second album, Shine. In 2004, Jung Eum left the group to pursue a solo career, and Lee Ha Rin replaced her in the group. With this new lineup, Sugar released its fourth and fifth Japanese singles that charted well in Japan. The group’s third Korean album, Sweet Lips, came out in September 2005, followed by their second Japanese album. However, members started pursuing individual careers that same year, either leaving the group or going on hiatus. This put a halt on Sugar’s group activities, and in 2006, after all the members’ contracts with the agency expired, the group disbanded.
Girl Group Disbandments
2002 also saw some iconic girl groups disband, only cementing its status as a “cursed” year for female idols.
KISS (Korea International Super Star, stylized as KISS) was a South Korean female pop trio that debuted in 2001. Their debut single, “Because I’m A Woman,” became a massive hit in the country. It was followed by a full album, but the group disbanded quickly after an internal conflict took its toll.
T.T.Ma was a five-member girl group that was often compared to the boy group NRG. With members Soy, Queena, Juhae, Semi, and Ujin, the group debuted in 1999.
One of their most famous hit tracks was “Loner,” which got featured on the dance simulation game, “Pump It Up.” The group was scheduled to release a third album when it suddenly disbanded in 2002. Soy remained the only member to continue with the entertainment industry. The band, however, reunited for a Christmas single in 2007.
S.E.S is often referred to as one of the most prominent girl groups of first-generation K-Pop. Consisting of three members, Bada, Eugene, and Shoo, the group sold 650,000 album copies right at their debut in 1997. Their following releases also became massive hits, leading to them being seen as the female counterpart of the mega-successful boy group H.O.T. However, their career was short-lived, as the group disbanded in 2002 following an unsuccessful contract renewal with SM Entertainment.
However, the members reunited in 2016 with an album and a concert. They also released a 20th-anniversary special album, Remember, in 2017, with double title tracks “Remember” and “Paradise.”