The case of DIA is very curious because they seem to have what it takes to become the breakout group of 2016, especially since they had a member from I.O.I: Chaeyeon. She was one of the visual centers of I.O.I who was anticipated to become the next Bae Suzy. These factors certainly beg the question, why had DIA languished seven years into their careers? Why can’t the group seem to catch a break? 

The History of DIA

It was February 2015 and the entire industry of Korean pop music was reeling from a rather eventful 2014. Ladies’ Code met an accident where two of its members passed away; 25 people died after a ventilation grate collapses during a 4minute concert; members quit their groups – Kris and Luhan from EXO, Jessica from SNSD, Thunder and Lee Joon from MBLAQ, and Jiyoung and Nicole from Kara, among others; B.A.P files lawsuit against their agency for maltreatment; the father of Super Junior‘s Leeteuk murders his parents before ending his own life; and alas, Park Bom gets embroiled in a drug scandal. All of these happened amidst the national tragedy of the MV Sewol sinking. By this time, it seemed that the entire country deserved a break from all these unfortunate events. 

So, it was rather auspicious for MBK to announce plans of debuting a new girl group. MBK, the company of T-ara, a group that was still very much detested by the public in 2015 after the “bullying scandal” between Hwayoung and the other members, said that they are planning to stage a reality show entitled T-ara’s Little Sister Girl Group and form a new group. Months after, the company decided to cancel the plan and decided to choose from among their current trainees who the members of the new group will be. MBK announced a line-up with six members: Eunice, Huihyeon (aka Cathy), Jenny, Yebin, Eunjin, and Chaeyeon, with Seunghee added to the line-up before the group’s debut in September. The group released their self-titled debut studio album, Do It Amazing with the single Somehow, whose music video was filmed in Hong Kong. 

The album peaked at number 11 on the Gaon Album Chart and the song charted at #152. The performance was promising for a debut group, which means it wasn’t really considered a flop, but definitely far from the group making a splash. Also, considering that DIA was marketed as the new T-ara, Make It Amazing and Somehow definitely paled in comparison to their sunbaenim’s debut Absolute First Album, which peaked at number 2, and their debut single Lie, which charted in Billboard’s K-pop Hot 100, all amidst of early line-up changes in the highly competitive year of 2009. But then, many commented on the group members’ freshness and Chaeyeon’s beauty, so people were reasonably optimistic about the group’s future. 

But then, as what their senior group experienced, DIA also became subject to line-up changes as soon as their debut activities ended. Eunchae (introduced as Chaewon) joined as a new member in March 2016, virtually replacing Seunghee, who was confirmed to have left the group a month later. Before that, Cathay and Chaeyeong took a hiatus from group activities to participate in Produce 101, which was quite successful for the girls as both gained a following from the show (although Cathy was a victim of the Mnet evil edit) and Chaeyeon finished 7th. DIA‘s first mini-album Happy Ending was released on June 14, along with the music video for the lead single On the Road on the same day. Chaeyeon did return to her group for this comeback while a sub-init of I.O.I promoted Whatta Man, making the DIA line-up complete for this release. Both EP and single outperformed their debut efforts, with Happy Ending selling close to 10,000 copies by the end of 2016 (compared to only close to 2,5000 Do It Amazing sold) and On the Road downloaded more than 81,000 times at peaking at the charts at #48, which remains the group’s highest-charting song up to date. 

In September 2016, the group released a Harry Potter-themed album titled Spell, with Mr. Potter as the lead single. Although the album fared better than its predecessor, the song brought the group back to outside the top 100 in the charts, as Mr. Potter only managed close to 23,000 downloads and peaked at #103. 

2017 saw new members, Jueun and Somyi, who participated in the group’s second studio album YOLO, which was released in April. The album contained fourteen tracks, with the lead single titled Will You Go Out with Me?

YOLO peaked at number 3 in the album charts with more than 18,000 units sold, while Will You Go Out With Me brought back the group to the top 100, as it peaked at #78 with close to 28,000 digital downloads. Four months later, the group released their third mini-album titled Love Generation, with a repackaged version released two months later. Although the album performed better than most of their releases, the singles Can’t Stop and Good Night was nowhere in Gaon’s digital sales charts. 

In May the following year, Eunjin announced her departure from the group, citing health problems. With six members remaining, MBK announced a DIA comeback in July, which was already postponed as the comeback was previously announced to happen in April. DIA ultimately released their fourth EP Summer Ade on August 9, 2018, with the title track Woo Woo. Although the release didn’t do much in terms of the group’s standing, they did receive their first music show win on SBS MTV’s The Show, so at the end of the day, the group still benefited from it. 

The group did not return until March 2019 with their fifth EP titled Newtro alongside its title track Woowa. Four months later, Jenny left the group due to health problems with her knee. 

On May 25, 2020, it was revealed that DIA would make a comeback with their sixth EP Flower 4 Seasons on June 10, marked their first release under PocketDol Studio, which is just MBK rebranded. It was also confirmed that the group will promote with five members as a unit without Chaeyeon and Somyi. Thre was also a bit of intrigue for this comeback as apparently, one of DIA’s former members, Seunghee (as the last member to be included in the original 2015 line-up and also the first one to leave the group in 2016) has returned to PocketDol. However, she has become a producer of the company and only deals with the agency’s boy groups, so she shut down any speculation that she would work with her former group in any capacity. 

Since June 2020, the group has not staged any activities. Moreover, PocketDol confirmed that Somyi, the member who didn’t participate in the group’s last comeback, had already terminated her contract with the company and left DIA. On the other hand, Chaeyeon is still under the company, although she has been very active in her acting career, particularly after experiencing a rise in her popularity after appearing as the female lead in the KBS drama The King’s Affection with SF9‘s Rowoon and Park Eunbin (Hot Stove League, Do You Like Brahms?). She is set to star opposite BtoB‘s Sungjae in the MBC drama Golden Spoon

What went wrong?

With the company finally announcing that the group will release a final album before officially disbanding, we are now left with the question, what went wrong with DIA? Here are some theories that fans themselves have presented as to why the group ultimately flopped. 

No opportunity to display their charms

This can all be attributed to MBK’s general incompetence. They were just zero creativity in terms of the concepts DIA showcased during the years they were active. All their music videos showed a lack of storyline, so it felt like the group’s videos only had the camera operator tail the girls on their day off or in whatever activity they could think of. The only music video the group had that was obviously heavy on concept was the one for Mr. Potter. But even that one had people scratching their heads as there was this person with a rabbit’s head, then the girls doing a dance using their suspenders, then some scenes on a train (still with the human rabbit) that finally make people remember the Hogwarts Express, before finally having some of the members ride broomsticks, which can be a reference to Quidditch. The video ends up being disjointed, as people end up not being sure of what the song is all about. 

The lineup changes are not justified. 

We get it, the group, just like most groups with IOI members, end up being (insert IOI member name) and friends. This is why it was a huge injustice to the group when they added new members to compensate for the departure of a member, only for these new members to not be given the platform to really showcase their talents through a subunit and instead just continue on as Chaeyeon’s back-up girls. Alas, nobody really knew them.

DIA remained a nugu group 

Chaeyeon is one of the more popular idols in K-pop and that became a problem for DIA. That is because the majority of Korean public only knows about Chaeyeon as an individual rather than DIA as a whole. Alas, her popularity did not contribute to the group’s popularity, as it seems Chaeyeon’s identity was not tightly knitted with the group’s, unlike for example, how Eunji’s and Naeun’s acting careers further raised Apink’s profile or how Jisoo is recognized as Blackpink’s Jisoo even in (or despite) her debut acting appearance in Snowdrop. So, the question of whether you should already be famous before joining a group or get more recognition as a member of a group first before getting additional popularity for your group is more like a chicken or egg conundrum. Unfortunately, in DIA’s case, Chayeon’s fame did not rub off on her group.

Alas, with the announcement of DIA’s disbandment, we can only wish all the girls good luck in their future endeavors. 

Featured Image: Screenshot from DIA’s “Mr Potter” Official Music video.