Don’t you get frustrated when you see some idols being wildly popular but not the same can be said about the groups they are part of? If you don’t understand what I mean, here are three examples: 

Rowoon, Chani and SF9

Kim Seokwoo, more popularly known as Rowoon, has been on a roll as far as his acting career is concerned. While he started his TV appearances just like anybody else, that is by doing bit roles and cameos, he finally got his big break as a lead in the webtoon-turned-drama series Extraordinary You. Since then, Rowoon has furthered his popularity on TV with plum roles in successful series such as She Would Never Know, The King’s Affection, and Tomorrow, with the latter two earning him household name recall and it seems there’s no stopping his momentum. The same cannot be said of his group’s trajectory, though.

Rowoon is a part of SF9, FNC Entertainment’s first legit boy group (as opposed to bands such as CNBlue, N.Flying, and FT Island which the company has successfully launched), a group, which despite having a couple of very popular members, having very interesting concepts and releases, and having the adequate amount of push and support from its company, just couldn’t seem to catch a break. Their songs do appear on the national charts, but they are usually outside the top 100. It wasn’t until four years after debuting that they won their first music show trophy, and their albums have only sold roughly around 100,000 – 300,000 copies. This is okay for most boy groups, but for a group that has been in the business for more than six years already, not to mention that two of their members are regularly seen on TV (Rowoon and SKY Castle’s Chani), the figures should be at least around 300,000 up, not 300,000 down. 

Consider this: Seventeen, a group that only has a year’s worth of headstart from SF9 and has zero members who act (the only visible member of the group outside of idol activities is Seungkwan who does regular variety show appearances), averages a million units sold for their releases since 2019. Their latest album, Face the Sun, has sold more than 2 million units. And they have to work under one of the most incompetent companies in the business, Pledis while playing second fiddle to BTS, whose parent company HYBE absorbed Pledis in 2020. With CNBlue and FT Island being legacy groups and Cherry Bullet being a girl group (AOA was given sufficient support while being successful at the same time as CNBlue), SF9 shouldn’t, and in fact, doesn’t have problems related to company support. So, it is a conundrum as to why the public (both Korean and international) has not majorly caught on to such a talented group. 

And to get your head scratching more:  Rowoon was not included in SF9‘s promotions for their eleventh EP, The Wave OF9, which was released on July 13 last year. This was allegedly due to scheduling conflicts, where Rowoon was too busy filming that he didn’t have time to practice his with the group. As FNC knows the schedule of their talents, it is mind-boggling how they wouldn’t know how to work around those schedules and make Rowoon available for the group’s comeback. Like come on, he is your company’s moneymaker and the most popular member of the group. Is there no such thing as workforce planning in Korea?

Cha Eunwoo and Moonbin of ASTRO

Here’s another idol who cannot seem to pull up the profile of his group. Cha Eunwoo, legendary face genius, and owner of Korea’s most perfectly symmetrical face is someone practically everyone knows. Even if you don’t listen to K-pop, there’s Rookie Historian Goo Hae-ryung, Gangnam Beauty, and True Beauty which featured Mr. Cha’s beautiful mug. Thousands of words have been dedicated to how otherworldly ideal Cha Eunwoo’s appearance is, so let’s not add any more, yes? 

Like Rowoon, the thing about Eunwoo is that despite him being overly popular, his group, Astro, doesn’t seem to have reaped its positive effects. I mean, for someone to be that popular to the point that both men and women are astounded by your beauty, it wouldn’t be that far-fetched for similar amounts of popularity to be present in your group as well, right? But just like Rowoon, Eunwoo’s popularity hasn’t translated into the group. It just seems that people have adapted separate mindsets towards Eunwoo and Astro and don’t really see a direct relation between them. They may like Eunwoo and his perfect face and his improving acting skills, but they just don’t automatically remember him as an idol who releases songs with his group.  

Even with another member emerging in popularity, Moonbin, the group is still somewhat underperforming. The album sales are still averaging 300,000 units per release, which, as also mentioned earlier with SF9, isn’t that bad. But then, considering that THE face genius Cha Eunwoo is a member of Astro, one would expect album sales to be at least half a million on average. 

What a lot of people feel about Astro is that Eunwoo is not really pushed as a member of the group and instead zealously promoted as an actor. Many speculate that the company is caught in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation wherein people will be up in arms against Fantagio no matter the situation, as they will be ridiculed for not promoting Eunwoo enough as an Astro member and at the same time, will also be ridiculed for unfair treatment, favoritism, or overly relying on their “cash cow” should they push Eunwoo too much. 

The thing is, things are the way they are. The sad reality is that Eunwoo is crazy popular and Astro is lagging behind. And if this continues, Astro will be immortalized in K-pop history as being one of those groups with very popular members in an underachieving group, in the company of groups like ZE:A, pre-PD101 NU’EST, and girl groups like Dal Shabet and LABOUM who did not capitalize on their popular members for the group’s cumulative gains. 

Byungchan and Seungwoo of Victon 

Victon, a group under IST Entertainment (formerly A Cube, Plan A, Play M Entertainment, yes, they’ve changed their company’s name four times already), which has Apink and Weekly in their talent stable, is also one of those groups that have been underperforming despite having popular members. IST, with their competence in making Apink one of the industry’s top girl groups, however, seems to be on its way to being another Pledis (of NU’EST and After School fame, not of SEVENTEEN, who are basically self-producing idols and are now reaping the benefits of getting absorbed by HYBE). First, it has lost Son Naeun as one of Apink’s members.  Then, Apink’s 10th-year celebrations became rocky as the company couldn’t seem to put a fitting conclusion to Park Chorong’s bullying issues. Then, Weekly, which experienced viral success with their song After School, has been undergoing a rough patch with a member leaving and a weird concept change. Alas, Victon has also been on a rather prolonged popularity plateau and the company seems to be clueless about how to deal with it. 

Victon, just like NU’EST post-PD101 Season 2 era, seemed to have gotten a new lease on life after a number of the group’s members participated in Produce 101. While everyone in NU’EST except one (Aron) joined the second season of the show; two members of Victon, Seungwoo, and Byungchan, participated in the show’s fourth season, which unfortunately was also the last. As the contest went on, Seungwoo, who was struggling a bit at the start despite being the brother of an ex-idol (Secret’s Sunhwa who also happens to be in the hit drama Work Later, Drink Now with Seungwoo’s company-mate Apink’s Jeong Eunji), caught up with Byungchan’s popularity, and on the episode before the final line-up of the show’s project group would be revealed, Byungchan pulled out, claiming to be injured. 

Seungwoo eventually became one of the members of the show’s project group X1, which despite its tremendous promise, disbanded after only six months after it was revealed that the group’s composition was subject to the manipulation of a couple of the program’s producers who apparently accepted bribes from the companies of the trainee contestants. The public was mostly convinced that Seungwoo was not among the ones that got into X1 because of vote padding, so when he got back to Victon while also debuting as a solo artist, the group’s popularity was elevated, exactly as what happened with NU’EST W and NU’EST after Minhyun’s return after his time with Wanna One

But then, just like NU’EST, it seems that VICTON’s breakthrough was short-lived as they haven’t sustained the momentum they’ve gotten courtesy of the raised profiles of Seungwoo and Byungchan. The former’s solo efforts have gotten encouraging results, with his first two EPs selling more than 70,000 copies each and his two singles charting in Gaon. On the other hand, Byunghan’s acting career has taken off with the three high-profile shows that he has been part of – Live On (with Minhyun of NU’EST), The King’s Affection (with Rowoon, someone we talked about earlier), and Business Proposal (with fellow PD101 alumna Sejeong) all receiving considerable success.  

Alas, observers have also noted that another member, Chan has the looks and charisma to make it big on TV. But alas, bad luck struck the group again when Chan left the group after figuring in drunk driving incidences. So, now, if only time speeds up so that Seungwoo can rejoin his group and have Byungchan do more TV work while both still being clearly identified as members of Victon, then maybe the group can really solidify its presence, eh? 

Here’s to SF9, Astro, and Victon getting more recognition like their most popular members in the coming years! 

Featured Image: Victon Official Twitter