Now, before you all raise your pitchforks in revolt and start your witchhunt for silly ‘ol me, let me be clear: I’m not actually talking about the groups resulting from the Produce shows such as IOI, IZ*ONE, WANNA ONE, and X1 (although it can be argued that X1 got the shortest end of the stick with their disbandment following the vote-rigging scandal revelation). I’m talking about the groups that these trainees / contestants / eventual winners joined after their project groups disbanded. Haven’t you noticed that none of them exploded the way their project groups did?  Let us do a survey of some of these groups that the PD101 girls joined after and see whether indeed there’s a curse concerning the groups they became part of. 

For this article, let’s talk about the group formed with the second placer of the reality show: Jellyfish Entertainment’s Gugudan.


In the middle of IOI’s promotions, several members returned to their home agencies to establish new groups while the remaining members promoted as a sub-unit. One of the groups that were created during this break was Gugudan, formed by Jellyfish Entertainment (which until that time had so far only produced the boy band VIXX) with nine members that included Produce 101 second placer Sejeong, ninth-ranked Mina, and finalist Kim Nayoung. At the start, anticipation was high for the group Jellyfish was going to produce because the three PD101 alumnae were quite loved during and even after the show. People were still on board when the company announced that it would be a nine-member group and not a trio as most originally speculated. However, many were a bit weirded out by the name Gugudan, which literally means “multiplication table”.

So, the explanation the company and the girls eventually came up with was, “Gugudan means that there are nine girls in the group with nine unique charms.” People were willing to give it a pass; however came the debut concept – a mermaid concept reinforced by the group’s first EP, Act. 1 The Little Mermaid and the music video for the lead single Wonderland, where we see the girls performing in a theater located… underwater! Suffice to say people were not impressed by the concept, saying it was boring and does not give justice to the girls’ talents, not to mention this sweet and innocent concept is a dime in a dozen when it comes to girl groups. Haters started asking questions, like “where did they hide Spongebob and Patrick?” and other allusions to the popular cartoon.

Apologists and fans were quick to defend the concept, with this explanation making the rounds on fan pages as soon as the hate started: “The name gugudan is a wordplay. It comes from the Korean word “geuk-dan” which means theatrical performance. In other words, this girl group debuted with the concept that they were going to take stories, movies, and plays and portray them in their own way through their songs. Each album is going to be based on a famous work of literature or art, and it’s going to carry a lot of hidden meanings. For this debut song, Gugudan is portraying how much they dreamed about performing on stage instead of just dreaming about it behind the scenes- just like the little mermaid wanted to become a human and live above water. That’s why the ending is them picking up a shell and bowing to a crowd- it symbolizes them fulfilling their dreams and debuting! ” 

Act. 2 Narcissus, Act. 3 Chococo Factory, Act. 4 Cait Sith, and Act. 5 New Action followed, each having diminishing returns for the group. While Wonderland and A Girl Like Me (off the Act. 2 album) both charted in Korean singles charts, the rest of the singles didn’t, which may have been the fault of the third EP. Seriously, what was Jellyfish thinking when they released the song entitled Chococo

We were already getting to a point where people were willing to forget about the mermaid concept and charge that debacle to debut jitters with the very strong comeback A Girl Like Me. A Girl Like Me had the girls displaying all they had – visuals, vocals, charisma. Then Chococo, which felt like more of an Orange Caramel song, happened. And only Orange Caramel can do Orange Caramel levels of camp.

By the time Act 4 was released three months after, people may have lost interest already despite the very strong concept and song. Then, Jellyfish commits another mistake: Introducing the subunit SeMiNa that had the three PD101 contestants as members before the group comeback nine months after their last one. And that’s basically asking the public to forget your rookie group. Thus, when November came, the comeback thoroughly underperformed, with the EP not even selling more than 10,000 copies and the very strong Not That Type not even charting.    

Then, Chinese member Sally left for China to join a survival show. Finally, after a year of no activities for Gugudan, Jellyfish announced the group’s disbandment. 

So, what happened? Three developments:

The members started getting unreliable.  

Only a year after their official debut, Soyee went on hiatus in order to fully recover from a shoulder injury that she had since prior to her debut. The following year, it was announced that youngest member Hyeyeon would go on a temporary hiatus from all the group activities due to health issues. Five months later, she left the group for personal reasons. For the group to have those problems so early in their careers may mean that either the agency didn’t take care of their talents that well or the members may not have been very committed to the group, after all. When that happens, a lot of people eventually lose interest.

It eventually became Sejeong and the girls. 

Since it is accepted that Kim Sejeong is the most popular member of the group, therefore it may have been inevitable for Jellyfish to milk her for all her worth. In fact, while the company still made efforts to make things like line distribution and music video exposure more on the fair side during their debut, the “favoritism” became more and more obvious as the singles came along. Even with the silly song Chococo, Sejeong still had the most lines and by the fourth and fifth songs were released, there was no doubt that some of the girls were only Sejeong’s backup dancers who only had five to ten seconds worth of exposure.

Yes, the push for Sejeong is very understandable, as her popularity is simply low-hanging fruit and a surefire way for the group to have popularity as well, but this brings us back to when the company was still forming the group. To make the members be mere backup talents to the most popular member is very unfair to all parties, as the members do not get the much-needed exposure to make them more popular (becomes a bit of a catch-22 dilemma). It is unfair for Sejeong as well as it was seen as the members holding her back from pursuing solo stardom. Many have since then commented that Jellyfish should just have made Sejeong a solo star like Somi and Chungha and not capitalize on her popularity for the group that in the end, they still eventually sabotaged. Looking back, Jellyfish really did all parties dirty. 

Jellyfish didn’t know what they were doing. 

I think everyone was expecting Jellyfish to work their magic on Gugudan just like what they did on VIXX. After all, the company hit a goldmine when they cornered a market with their boy group, transforming them into the concept kings that they were when they were at their peak. But then, they kept on committing errors in judgment, such as letting the girls debut with a sweet and innocent “mermaid” concept. You may charge that to the company still groping in the dark as to what would be the best concept to debut a girl group on, but the mistakes that follow, particularly the Chococo comeback cost the group a lot. 

Alas, in 2021, all members except three have announced their departure from Jellyfish. Aside from Hyeyeon who had already left even before their disbandment, Soyee and Mimi followed suit, with Nayoung and Haebin also leaving Jellyfish Entertainment. This means only Sally who is in China, Mina and Sejeong are the members who are still with Jellyfish. And with Mina only signing with the agency as an actress, it’s practically only Sejeong who is still active as an idol in the agency. 

And here’s a bit of real talk: As it should be from the start. 

Featured Image: Screenshot from Gugudan’s “Chococo” music video