These idols all left SM Entertainment, for various reasons, but have continued on to massive success! Let’s see what they have been up to since their departure from one of the largest entertainment companies in South Korea.
1. Kris (Former EXO member)
Kris left SM Entertainment in 2014, sparking massive controversy with his lawsuit against the company, citing health and financial reasons to terminate his contract.
He headed back to his home country of China and promoted as a singer, model, and actor, achieving massive success. He is now one of the hottest Chinese actors and musicians, known around the world for his roles in Mr. Six and Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back, which are among the highest-grossing Chinese films of all time. He is also active in the US and Canada, having made his Hollywood debut in xXx: Return of Xander Cage in 2017. He owns his own entertainment company and continues to make music in the US.
In 2017 he spoke about his decision to leave SM Entertainment, saying it was due to a lack of freedom to create his own music and the stress of being away from his family for seven years.
2. Hangeng (Former Super Junior member)
Hangeng, who was a member of Super Junior and the leader of Super Junior-M, left both groups when he sued SM Entertainment in 2009 for termination of his contract. He revealed later that he’d done this because he wanted to pursue acting and SM Entertainment wasn’t flexible. He told a Chinese talk show: “The agency controls your image and won’t let you do the things you want. An idol must put the agency and the group ahead of himself.”
He’s been promoting as a singer and actor in China ever since and has gained international success with solo albums and movies alike. In 2014, he had a cameo role in Transformers: Age of Extinction. He also has a fixed spot on the Chinese variety show Street Dance of China.
3. Jaejoong, Yoochun, and Xia (Former TVXQ! members)
In a very well-known and publicized lawsuit, three members of the then-five-member TVXQ! sued SM Entertainment for unfair contract terms in 2009. The suit was settled in 2012, but by then the three had already moved on under C-JeS Entertainment as JYJ.
Each of their albums released between 2010 and 2013 reached number one on the charts. The three also had acting success, with Yoochun becoming the lead in dramas like Rooftop Prince and Xia (aka Kim Junsu) becoming especially popular in musical theater. Xia also became an OST legend, appearing in Scent of A Woman as himself.
Jaejoong transitioned so well into acting he won the Top Excellence Actor Award for Triangle at the 2014 Korean Drama Awards.
Meanwhile, they also had successful solo music careers, with Jaejoong releasing solo hits between 2014 and 2016. Yoochun’s rape scandal in 2016 paused his promotional activities but, after he was cleared of all charges and finished military service, he returned to promoting.
Xia is on hiatus as he is currently serving in the military.
4. Luhan (Former EXO member)
In October 2014, Luhan filed a lawsuit to terminate his contract, following in Kris’s footsteps. He called out the continued mistreatment of EXO’s Chinese members compared to the Korean members and also cited his deteriorating health (and SM Entertainment’s lack of care) as reasons for his termination. He was in charge of stunts for the group and appeared on many physically-exerting variety shows at the request of SM Entertainment, frequently injuring himself while promoting and performing with EXO.
Lu Han, as he is now known in China, has acted in several films and dramas since leaving the group. He has also released a studio album and four EPs that have sold more than 5 million copies.
He made a massive drama debut in 2017 with Fighter of the Destiny and Sweet Combat. He stars in the latter alongside his real-life girlfriend, Chinese actress Gabrielle Guan (Guan Xiao Tong).
5. Jessica (Former Girls’ Generation member)
Jessica’s public announcement that she was leaving Girls’ Generation shocked fans in 2014, but she wanted to pursue other activities like starting a business or getting married.
Jessica now owns her own fashion label, BLANC & ECLARE, and opened her first store in New York in 2016. That same year, she signed with Coridel Entertainment and released her debut solo album, With Love, J. She’s since released two more albums to great success and appeared in My Other Home in 2017, a Chinese-American sports biographical starring American basketball player Stephon Marbury.
6. Girls’ Generation’s Seohyun, Tiffany, and Sooyoung
In late 2017, Seohyun, Tiffany, and Sooyoung announced they would not renew their contracts with SM Entertainment, but fans were assured this didn’t mean that Girls’ Generation was disbanding.
Sooyoung and Seohyun decided to pursue solo ventures, while Tiffany wanted to go back to the US and study again. She is currently in LA attending acting classes. She recently released the music video for her first US single “Over My Skin.”
Sooyoung has been acting on and off since about 2008 but, since leaving SM she has been seriously pursing it and was cast in Man Who Sets The Table and People You May Know.
Seohyun starred in the MBC drama Time and continues to sing. She performed in North Korea with the Samjiyon Orchestra.
7. Tao (Former EXO member)
In August of 2015, Tao filed to terminate his contract, the third Chinese member of EXO to leave SM Entertainment. Like Kris and Luhan before him, Tao felt that SM Entertainment’s strict policies didn’t allow him to pursue his dream of branching out.
Now known by his full name with a successful acting and music career in China, Huang Zitao has appeared in movies like You are my Sunshine, Railroad Tigers, and The Edge of Innocence. Zitao also starred in the just-aired romantic drama The Negotiator, which was a massive hit.
He has released a number of EPs and a studio album under the name Z.Tao. His most recent single, released in October 2018, is called “KOC”.
8. Super Junior-M‘s Henry
It was just announced that Henry has decided to leave SM Entertainment after 10 years, now that his contract is expiring. He wants to start his own one-man entertainment agency and will leave the company on good terms.
The singer has already ventured into other businesses in pursuit of his other passions, having opened a restaurant in Gangnam earlier this year.