2016 was a year of disbandment and departures in the K-pop circle, and it seems 2017 is not off to a good start either. This morning, news broke that the Wonder Girls are allegedly not renewing their contract with JYP Entertainment and are looking for new agencies.

The members’ contracts are due to expire mid-January and since last year, fans have been wondering if they would stay with the agency that helped them achieve massive fame around the world with their hit track, “Nobody”.

Wonder Girls have seen a few changes in line-up since their debut in 2007. Former 4Minute member Hyuna debuted with Wonder Girls, before leaving for health reasons and was replaced with Yubin. Sunmi left for a short while following their American debut to focus on her studies, and Hyerim took her place. When her contract expired, Sohee decided to join a new agency to concentrate on her acting career. Later, Sunye announced that she would no longer be active as a Wonder Girls member after she got married and had a daughter. Sunmi then rejoined the group, which is now a quartet made up of herself, Yeeun, Yubin and Hyerim.

Although Wonder Girls was already popular in Korea prior to “Nobody”, the breakout track helped them achieve unprecedented success all around the world, even in the USA. Because of that, JYP let Wonder Girls make their American debut, but that meant starting from zero again. From being chart-toppers in South Korea, the girls had to hand out flyers on the streets of America to promote their shows. While many would consider Girl’s venture into the US as a failure, Yeeun doesn’t think so. In a previous interview, she said that she sees it as helping K-pop take a step forward. But meanwhile in South Korea, other groups such as Girls’ Generation and 2NE1 gained massive popularity to become the nation’s top girl bands.

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Over the years, the members of Wonder Girls have ventured into solo activities and expanded their musical talents. Their 2015 album, Reboot, consisted of tracks composed by the members themselves. As their contract expiration looms near, reports have said that some of the members are in talks with other agencies. A representative at one of those agencies said, “It’s true that we talked to one member about the transfer. But it’s difficult to reveal details because her contract is not over and we’re still in discussion stage.”

Likewise, JYP Entertainment said, “No decision has been made regarding renewal of contracts.”

Should any of the members decide to find a new home with another agency, it would be difficult – but not impossible, like in the case of Shinhwa a few years ago – for them to continue as Wonder Girls. Or they might decide to join the same agency, or even start their own like Shinhwa and BEAST. However  it’s unclear if they would be able to use the group’s name or face a similar legal battle like BEAST is facing now.

Like most entertainment companies, JYP Entertainment has seen a number of their artists leave in recent years. Last year, miss A’s Chinese member Jia decided not to renew her contract with JYP Entertainment to focus on her activities in China. The other members are now focusing on their solo activities. Likewise, 2AM, a boy group under the same agency, couldn’t continue group activities after three members decide to sign on with other agencies following the expiration of their contracts in 2013.

JYP Entertainment’s artist roster now include up-and-coming girl group TWICE, boy group 2PM, K-pop Star winner and finalist Park Jimin and Baek Ayeon.

Image: TPG/Click Photos