On Episode 43 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Alexis Hodoyan, Tamar Herman, and Stephen Knight look back at Kpop releases from June 2019. We discuss Chungha’s “Snapping,” Sulli’s “Goblin,” Yesung’s “Pink Magic”, Monsta X’s “Who Do U Love,” NCT Dream’s “Don’t Need Your Love,” and Stray Kids’ “Side Effects.”
For some time prior to the actual announcement, fans were wondering where Sulli was. While idols sometimes miss a promotional cycle due to injury or illness, it is extremely rare for an idol to just disappear without any warning.
When Sulli stopped appearing with f(x) to promote Red Light, fans assumed that it was a temporary thing. But then it became apparent that f(x) was in an awkward position when, after winning first place, the members didn’t mention Sulli’s name at all.
After SM Entertainment announced that Sulli would be taking time off from f(x), a lot of rumors were flying: she’s pulling another “Kris,” she’s embarrassed by her rumored relationship with Choiza (her picture was found in his wallet, found by a fan), she was jealous of the success of the other members of f(x), etc.
The list goes on, as do the questions regarding Sulli’s absence. But one question is really at the forefront of everyone’s minds:
Will f(x) disband?
The simple answer?
Even if Sulli doesn’t return as an active member of f(x), f(x) will most likely still thrive. Five members used to be ideal for idol groups (TVXQ, SS501, g.o.d, NRG, Baby V.O.X, Big Bang, The Wonder Girls, SHINee etc.) but SM Entertainment proved with Super Junior and Girls’ Generation that size wasn’t everything. Even though four member groups are uncommon nowadays, it’s not unheard of- especially with four members like Amber, Victoria, Krystal, and Luna.
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Each member of f(x), Sulli included, has their own unique set of traits that they bring to the group. Luna as the singer, Krystal as the actress, Victoria as the dancer, and Amber as the MC provide a well-rounded group of girls that doesn’t really need another. Add to the fact that Krystal, Amber, and Victoria are immensely popular overseas means that the group won’t really lose international popularity if Sulli leaves. (In comparison, if Amber or Krystal left, f(x) would suffer horribly abroad.)
In Korea, Sulli was definitely the most popular member of f(x) for a long time; she was a child actress and model. After deciding to become a singer, Sulli still acted, appearing in dramas like To The Beautiful You, and set to appear in an upcoming movie, The Pirates. But her fame as an actress hasn’t really spread to the rest of f(x)’s members – f(x)’s members tend to promote extremely successfully as individuals.
Which means that Sulli’s identity is more of her own than as a member of f(x). So if she decides to withdraw from the group, Sulli herself will be fine.
And the rest of the group, still filled with a lot of talent and personality, will also be able to function, especially since Sulli’s role in f(x) was never truly clearly defined.
Originally, Sulli was touted as the acting member of f(x), but since then, all of the members, excluding Amber, have appeared in dramas. Krystal’s success in The Heirs may have overshadowed Sulli’s own acting career, making Sulli’s role in the group a little bit less solid.
Sulli wouldn’t be the first SM Entertainment artist to take a break from her group in order to focus on acting – Super Junior’s Kibum took a “break” and never returned to the group. Although he never officially left the group, or even really took off on his acting career, neither Kibum nor Super Junior were extremely harmed by his absence from the group.
Based on the facts, that Sulli is good in f(x) but not entirely necessary, it seems unlikely that f(x) fans really need to worry about Sulli’s departure from the group.
The rest of f(x) was able to promote Red Light without Sulli, and the only awkwardness was the fact that they didn’t mention Sulli’s absence.
So should f(x) fans really worry? Not really; f(x) can manage with or without Sulli. If she really is just taking a break, which could still be an option, then she’ll hopefully be welcomed back with open arms. And if she leaves, with minimal drama, it’s unlikely that f(x) will suffer.
In fact, it’s even unclear why SM stopped f(x)’s promotional cycle. Perhaps the biggest threat to f(x) right now isn’t Sulli’s absence, but SM’s desire for upcoming girl group, Red Velvet, to be successful…