K-Pop idols leave the industry for a variety of reasons: Contracts ending with their company, deciding to pursue other careers, health reasons, and an assortment of others. While some idols remain well-known in the Korean entertainment scene even after leaving their initial idol career, others seem to vanish entirely, sometimes for more mysterious or concerning reasons than others.
Here are 5 K-Pop idols who have seemingly completely disappeared from the Korean music industry, some with rather controversial stories.
1. Kahi (former After School)
Kahi originally debuted as the leader of After School in 2009 under Pledis Entertainment. Though the group originally had 5 members, the company decided to keep adding additional ones after their debut, and it ended up causing issues. Kahi was the one in charge of helping to teach the new members, but they called her “scary” on TV and she claimed that no one was on her side through the ordeal.
She ended up leaving the group voluntarily due to the tensions in 2012, with the company saying she had “graduated” from After School and would go on to pursue a solo and acting career. Unfortunately, however, netizens accused her of acting like a victim in the entire situation and potentially harming the image of other members remaining in the group.
These days, Kahi’s main focus seems to be on her family — including her two children — and her YouTube channel, KahiVibes, where she posts content about exercising and being healthy. Though she hasn’t released music since 2015, she seems to be thriving in her life, which is what matters in the end.
2. I/Cha Yoonji
Cha Yoonji, also known by the stage name I, is the younger sister of former B1A4 member Baro and originally debuted under WM Entertainment in 2017 with the single “I Wish”. A promising rookie, she was chosen to join the survival reality show The Unit: Idol Rebooting Project in October of the same year, but that was where the strange treatment of her started.
Despite earning a passing vote from every judge for the first round of auditions for the show, Yoonji didn’t appear on the first few episodes that showed the process of the auditions and, even when she was chosen as the center for one of the teams after progressing to the second round, she seemed to have barely any screen time.
Viewers noticed how little time she had on screen, and started calling her “The Ghost” of The Unit while demanding an explanation for her treatment. Without addressing the demands, WM Entertainment announced that Yoonji would be leaving The Unit due to health reasons, and in October of 2018, she ended her contract with her company without any further music releases. The mystery of her treatment on the survival show remains to this day.
3. L.Joe (former TEEN TOP)
L.Joe was known as one of the more popular members of TEEN TOP, which he debuted with in 2010 under TOP Media. As the visual and lead rapper, he gained a lot of attention for his skills and good looks, and was part of many well-received releases from the boy group.
He remained with TEEN TOP until 2017, when he announced he would be leaving the group in February. The announcement came as a surprise, and after he filed to terminate his contract with TOP Media, the reason for his departure was stated to be due to the company refusing to let him pursue a solo career. They allegedly also didn’t support him in his interest in pursuing acting more seriously as well.
These days, L.Joe goes by his birth name, Lee Byung-hun, and since leaving TOP Media he has starred in a number of dramas and movies while he focuses on his acting career. He seems to be doing well in his new pursuit, and he doesn’t appear to be planning on rejoining the K-Pop scene anytime soon.
Originally meant to be the leader of Five Girls under Good Entertainment, the group never debuted due to financial issues with the company and G.Na ended up leaving and joining Cube Entertainment, under which she debuted in 2010.
At first, her career took off and she did very well, even earning the Rookie of the Month award at the Cyworld Music Awards in 2010 and releasing a duet with Rain earlier that year as well. Unfortunately, however, after a number of releases between her debut and 2015, G.Na was accused of “providing inappropriate services for money” in 2016 out of seemingly nowhere.
Though the scandal listed her as anonymous at first, Cube Entertainment removed her from their website, confirming rumors that it was her behind the accusations. After several police hearings and meetings with her lawyer, G.Na ended up needing to pay a fine of 2 million won — about $1,800 USD — and led to the termination of her contract with Cube Entertainment as well. Since then, she has been on indefinite hiatus and has even stated that she doesn’t plan on returning to the industry.
5. Dongho (former U-KISS)
Dongho debuted with U-KISS under NH Media in 2008 as the group’s rapper, vocalist, lead dancer, face of the group, and maknae. He was incredibly active in the group, appearing on various reality shows and other productions to help promote U-KISS.
His career with U-KISS lasted for five years, when in 2013, NH Media announced that he would be leaving the group. His reason for halting his idol career was stated to be due to the weakening of his health; he has stated that he realized he didn’t fit the mold of being an idol, and it was so difficult for him that he was seeing a psychiatrist while in U-KISS. In 2017, he also revealed that he was still taking sleeping pills and medication to help with depression.
Even after living quietly for two years, he caught media attention in 2015 when it was discovered that he was getting married, and ended up having a son together a year later. Sadly, the couple divorced in 2018, though he said it was mutual and there was no hostility between them. He has requested that he be allowed to live normally for the sake of his son, who he very clearly loves and cares very deeply for.