Exposure, in K-pop, is very important that even before their official debuts, companies utilize their trainees one way or another. Some of the famous ways include making them perform as backup dancers for senior artists, act in another artist’s music video, and more recently, create SNS accounts for them and upload content. However, since they are training to be musicians, what’s a better way than to expose them in singing, right?
There are companies who let their trainees feature or have singing parts in company seniors’ songs — some launch them through pre-debut projects and some even give them full-length songs. Sure, this is a very good way to gain experience, but this doesn’t always work out in the end.
Here are some trainees who released music before ultimately leaving their respective companies.
Yoo Jia Woollim Entertainment
Before Lovelyz was formally announced, Woollim started revealing the members of their girl group through solo debuts. The first was Babysoul (who is currently the leader of Lovelyz) and second was Yoo Jia. She released a song with Babysoul called “She’s A Flirt” in 2012. She left because she had no longer wanted to become an idol.
Yoon Soyoon Woollim Entertainment
After Lovelyz’s debut, Yoon Soyoon was the only non-Produce 48 trainee to gain popularity. She featured in INFINITE member Dongwoo’s solo song “Embedded In My Mind” and collaborated with then trainee and now Golden Child member Joochan in W Project 1’s “No One Like You”. She left Woollim around 2018 but has still been supporting Rocket Punch (which she could’ve been a member of) and other artists with whom she had spent time in the label.
Ahn Lena JYP Entertainment
Before Twice was made, JYP was supposed to debut a group called 6Mix consisting of current Twice members Jihyo, Jungyeon, and Nayeon with former trainees Minyoung, Lena, and Cecilia. Lena, assumed to be the group’s leader, featured in Sunmi’s “Full Moon” as a rapper. She gained buzz because of her rapping skills since the song was such a huge hit. She and Cecilia left JYP around 2015. In the same year, JYP launched the survival show SIXTEEN which assembled Twice and caused 6Mix member Minyoung to not debut in the end.
Jinho SM Entertainment
In 2010, SM Entertainment debuted a project group called SM The Ballad which consisted of Jinho, TRAX’s Jay Kim, Super Junior’s Kyuhyun, and the late SHINee’s Jonghyun. They debuted their song “Miss You” on Inkigayo and generally received successful results. He left the company and some even said he was supposed to be an EXO member. Instead, he debuted as a member of Pentagon in 2016 under Cube Entertainment. When asked about the reason he left SM, he said it was because of differences between what he and the company had in mind for his debut.
Kim Kyungmin Pledis Entertainment
After School followed a pretty different direction and structure back when they were active. They had a graduation system similar to Japanese girl group AKB48 where members leave and trainees get added to the group freely. The trainees who were next in line for their After School debut were called Pre-School Girls, and one of them was Kim Kyungmin who released a song with After School members Nana and Lizzy called “Funky Guy” in 2011. She left Pledis the following year and has since then debuted in girl group FLASHE after changing her name to Kim Goun.
Shownu JYP Entertainment
It’s been a pretty popular story on how current Monsta X member Shownu was a trainee under JYP Entertainment. Along with JJ Project and GOT7 members JB and Jinyoung, the three were supposed to debut as a group together. As a trainee, he released “Now I Know”, an OST for SBS Drama “Protect The Boss” under his birth name, Son Hyunwoo. He left JYP late 2011/early 2012 and then debuted as a Monsta X member under Starship Entertainment in 2015.
Lee Sungjun Woollim Entertainment
After using W Project to introduce Golden Child (and one supposed-to-be Rocket Punch) members, Woollim Entertainment revived W Project in 2019 with a song called “1M1S”. The group consisted of Lee Sungjun and now Drippin members Hwang Yunseong, Lee Hyeop, Joo Changuk, Kim Dongyun, and Kim Minseo. The same year, he left Woollim Entertainment and trainee life in general.
Looking back, this only reaffirms that I have been religiously following Woollim Entertainment since forever! Where’s my paycheck, Woollim?! Kidding aside, while it may be seen as sad, how some may have been bigger stars or could have added something different to a certain group had they debuted under their previous companies, everything is in the past. What we can do is hope they are happy with their decisions and support them in their different paths.