EXO’s Future as Eleven

Editorial by: 
Hannah Waitt
moonROK Founder and Editor-in-chief


On May 15, 2014, pigs flew, hell froze over, and the four horsemen of the apocalypse came riding in all on one day for EXO fans. The K-pop community received a massive shock when it was suddenly rumored that Chinese-Canadian EXO member Kris was seeking nullification of his contract with SM Entertainment. After a great deal of misinformation, attempts at sorting gossip from fact, and some passive-aggressive Instagram posts by fellow EXO members that have since been deleted, both Kris and SM’s representatives acknowledged that the rumors were true: Kris had filed for the termination of his contract with SM Entertainment.

This is not the first time that this has happened in K-pop and it certainly will not be the last, but it might just be the biggest, most gravitational departure from a K-pop group that we will ever see. I say this because out of any group in K-pop right now, EXO is without a doubt the one with the most potential. The members of EXO are the most intensively trained, highly developed, and most well-prepared boys that have ever debuted. They are the result of the SM Academy training system that has only gained more and more knowledge of the global consumer market after making H.O.T and Shinhwa into the hottest acts in Korea, BoA into a conqueror of the Japanese market, Super Junior into the kings of Hallyu, and Girls’ Generation into the globally representative super group of K-pop. With the sort of skill, knowledge, and expertise that SM Entertainment has provided them through years of training, EXO is poised to take on the world in a way that no other group has the ability to. In fact, the music video for their newest single, “Overdose” is a testament to their skill, and is perhaps their best performance piece to date.

At this point I’ve probably irked a few EXO fans by implying that the members owe all of their talent and ability to SM. Note, however, that I said that SM provided them with skill, not talent. This distinction is very important: talent is something you are born with, while skill is something that you can develop through time and hard work. The boys of EXO are talented for sure, but it is the years of intensive training, discipline, and preparation that SM invested in them that made 12 boys of varying origins and interests into one united group of incredible performers.

The dance practice video above perfectly exemplifies the result of EXO’s intense training and discipline

It is perhaps because of that intensive training and discipline, that EXO has gone from 12 members to 11. I am not saying that SM is too harsh on or inconsiderate of their artists, and I am not saying that Kris is a crybaby or a traitor. What I am saying, is that if you are going to debut in a K-pop boy group under SM Entertainment in the year 2011, you better know what you are getting yourself into. Whether or not SM was treating Kris fairly will be decided in court, but Kris should have realized that training and debuting with his fellow EXO members was not going to be easy. In fact, to say it was going to be hard would be the understatement of the century.

Of course, you can never know how hard something really is until you actually do it. I may sound all high and mighty now, but I will never in a million years be able to feel anything close to the experience of what it is to be a member of EXO, or any idol for that matter. Despite the amount of research you do to realize the implications of your career choice in this particular field, it doesn’t really hit you until…well…it hits you. Fame is a monster – especially in an industry where obsession is the norm and idolization is part of your actual job title – and some are simply better than others at grappling with that beast.

My inability to fathom what Kris went through as a trainee and then after debut as an idol would make me sympathetic to his actions if not for one thing: he filed the suit just 8 days before EXO’s first ever solo concert. To me, this sort of inconsiderateness towards the other 11 members of his group surpasses anything that I imagine SM could have done to Kris. The fact that most of his members seemed just as surprised as the public at his departure only proves the size of the massive lurch that he left them in. If you’re going to quit, at least stick it out for ten more days to see the concert through to the end and then quit. To change the choreography and singing parts for a 2+ hour long concert is no easy feat, and for a member to leave consciously knowing that his absence would result in a colossal realignment of the entire performance – and to do so just a week beforehand – is messed up, to say the least. His 11 teammates went through the same training, hardships, and sacrifices that Kris did in order to elevate the group as a whole to success, and to show that sort of blatant disregard and disrespect for them is pretty crooked.

Alas, like most celebrity scandals we, the public, will never know what really happened or why, but what I do know is this: adversity can make you bitter, or it can make you better. I think that it has been evidenced already by their incredible concert performance and their choice to continue their weekly promotions as 11, that EXO will take this adversity and use it to become a better, stronger group than ever before. EXO still has huge potential, and I don’t see a problem with them fulfilling it one man down.

All visual and audio media courtesy of S.M. Entertainment
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  1. sevens 8 years ago
    I agree that Kris’s timing was terrible all around. I’d like to think Kris didn’t intend for the timing to happen as it did, given how he did seem to care for his fellow groupmates during his tenure as EXO-M leader. (Possibly the situation was exacerbated by the fact the news was leaked in the first place. Who honestly knows?) In the end though, it is all speculation on we the public’s ends.

    But as callous as it is for me to say it, Kris was one person out of twelve. Especially since EXO has been promoting as one group rather than -M and -K lately, it’s not going to be as huge of a work division shift as, say, losing half the group. Even if he was the main Chinese rapper.

    (Incidentally, I’m actually surprised, listing all those SM groups that have made an impact, that you didn’t mention DBSK at all? Just made me blink, because you mentioned Super Junior but not even DBSK.)

  2. Exo 8 years ago

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