I.O.I and Wanna One were the temporary groups formed from the popular survival show franchise ‘Produce 101‘. In the beginning there was skepticism from the public regarding both seasons because there were notions that temporary groups wouldn’t gather fans or the attention of the general public. In addition, because contracts from many different companies were involved, forming the group seemed too complicated.

However, both groups became successful beyond the public’s expectations. I.O.I had a solid debut with ‘Dream Girls‘ in May 2016. They snatched high-end endorsements in Korea, such as Netmarble and Etude House. They also had hit songs such as ‘Very Very Very‘, ‘Pick Me Up‘ (a pre-debut song), and their last song before their disbandment, ‘Downpour’. Their last album ‘Miss Me?’ sold over 100,000 copies, a feat which is very rare for a girl group. It is safe to say that I.O.I was one of the top 5 girl groups in terms of success during their prime. The members were quite popular individually, especially the center Somi, and Sejeong, who was a household name. Both of them had individual endorsements and variety gigs. In addition, Chaeyeon had an acting role, and Sohye had variety show MC positions.

Wanna One became one of the top 3 boy groups from the moment they debuted in August 2017. Their debut song ‘Energetic‘ was a huge hit, and the group snatched high-end endorsement deals and variety gigs. They also had concerts at the Gocheok Sky Dome, which is only reserved for those with massive fandoms, and they were the third boy group in the current generation after BTS and EXO to perform there. They had monster album sales throughout their career, and their first album ‘1×1=1 (To Be One)‘ sold over 1.4 million copies. Their songs also did very well digitally, and their title tracks that were released as comebacks such as ‘Beautiful‘ and ‘Spring Breeze‘ were also major hits. Kang Daniel instantly became the IT boy in Korea, and other members such as JihoonSeongwuJaehwan, and Minhyun were also popular with the general public with a combination of individual endorsements and/or variety show MC positions or appearances.

Leaving behind their powerful careers, both groups have disbanded after their contracts ended (I.O.I in 2016 and Wanna One in 2019). The members returned to their respective companies they represented before they became part of the ‘Produce‘ groups.

How are the former I.O.I members doing now, almost 2 years after disbandment? It depends on the member, but most are doing decently through individual gigs or through group activities even though some of them may not have a sizeable fandom or strong general public support.

The members who are doing decently through individual activities rather than group activities are SejeongChaeyeonSohyeMinaNayoungYoojung, and DoyeonSejeong recently starred in the KBS drama ‘I Wanna Hear Your Song,’ but her popularity has decreased ever since I.O.I‘s disbandment. Chaeyeon has continuously been receiving acting roles since I.O.I‘s disbandment, she recently starred in the web drama ‘My First First Love‘. Sohye was cast in a big screen movie this year with ‘Full Moon‘, which was well-received, and Mina starred in the hit drama ‘Hotel Del Luna‘. While SejeongMina, and Chaeyeon have decent acting careers, they’re not doing nearly as well as when they were in I.O.ISejeong and Mina‘s group, Gugudan, isn’t doing too well with album sales, and they haven’t had a hit song with the general public. Their album sales are mediocre (in the 20k range), and they aren’t showing signs of increase. Chaeyeon’s group, DIA, is in a similar situation as they’re not a profitable group; they have minimal album sales and popularity with the general public. For idols, going into acting can be a good path, because the acting industry in general is more stable compared to the idol industry. Because the music industry definitely moves a lot faster than the TV and film industry, idols usually have a shorter shelf life than actors.

Nayoung‘s group is in the worst situation as Pristin debuted in 2017, but disbanded after two years. Nayoung subsequently left her agency, Pledis, and joined Sublime Artist Agency. Since then she has been involved with a lot of photoshoots. Yoojung debuted in the group Weki Meki, and has been involved in variety show gigs. Her most recent appearance was in ‘V-1‘, a music competition show. She also has an endorsement deal with a cosmetic brand. Doyeon also debuted in Weki Meki and has been involved with a good number of photoshoots. Similar to Gugudan and DIAWeki Meki hasn’t had a proper break yet. They don’t have a hit song, and their album sales have been decreasing with each comeback. PristinWeki Meki and Gugudan are all large groups (with 8 members or more), and being large groups means it’s more difficult for the members to get individual spotlight. In addition, their companies (PledisJellyfishMBK, and Fantagio) failed in managing the groups to keep them in the public’s eye.

The members who are doing somewhat well are JieqiongYeonjung, and SomiJieqiong has a fairly active career in China. She was a member of the group Pristin until their disbandment and is still with her agency, Pledis. Unlike NayoungJieqiong has been receiving work in China so she doesn’t have a reason to leave the company. Yeonjung is a member of Starship‘s WJSN, a girl group that is rising in popularly partly due to their growing Chinese fandom. Their album sales are rising with each comeback — in general, gaining a Chinese fandom is a good way to have a long and profitable career, as the fandom tends to be very loyal and supportive. Somi, on the other hand, left JYP and debuted solo. While her solo had a mixed reception and her debut song ‘Birthday‘ wasn’t a hit, she still has good endorsement deals and hasn’t completely left the public’s eye yet. However, she is also not as popular with the general public as she was when she was in I.O.I. She moved from JYP Entertainment to YG Entertainment‘s subsidiary label The Black Label last year. Her switching agencies doesn’t seem to be a good move as YG‘s image has been tainted by a series of scandals this year.

The one who is doing far well above all the other members is Chungha. She had hits after hits with each comeback. Just this year, her hit songs are ‘Gotta Go‘ and ‘Snapping‘. She had multiple collaborations this year with artists such as Vixx‘s RaviGrizzly, and Mommy Son, and she released an OST for the drama ‘Hotel del Luna‘. She is well-known by the public, has a good number of endorsement deals (this year with Sprite and Clinique), and receives many invitations to festivals. Her company managed her well by giving her regular comebacks and variety show appearances. The companies that manage the other members failed to capitalize on the members’ individuality by placing the members in big groups where they don’t have as many opportunities to shine.

How are the former Wanna One members doing now, almost 1 year after disbandment? It depends on the member, but most are doing well due to their stable fandom. Their companies seem to be somewhat more competent in managing the members, because they learned their lesson from the companies that manage the former I.O.I members. Unlike the I.O.I members, none of the Wanna One members debuted in big-numbered groups. They established their career as soloists or in 5 member groups. Post Wanna One, the members are staying in the public eye by appearing in a variety of TV shows and dramas and/or releasing albums or singles regularly. They also rank high in the boy group member brand reputation ranking that is published monthly and is decided based on media coverage. None of the members has had negative scandals, so it’s safe to say that their media coverage was due to their active careers this year.

Post Wanna One, the members who aren’t doing as well as the others are the ones who were less popular when they were in the group: Jisung and JinyoungJisung, the leader of Wanna One, entered the military this May. Before enlisting, he was the male lead in the musical ‘The Days‘, held a fanmeeting tour, and released the album ‘Aside‘. While in the military he starred in the musical ‘That Day’s Promise‘. He released two albums, but his album sales are roughly around half of the solo album sales of the other Wanna One members.

Jinyoung had a successful debut as a member of CIX whose debut album sold over 72 thousand copies. They’re about to debut in Japan later this year. Both Jisung and Jinyoung are doing well, but not as well as the other members in terms of public recognition and album sales.

The ones who are doing a step better than them career-wise are JaehwanSungwoonJihoonDaehwiWoojin, and Guanlin.
Sunghoon released his debut album ‘My Moment‘ and successfully held a solo fanmeeting in Asia. He is a main cast in the SBS variety show ‘Bistro the noble‘, and sang an OST for the drama ‘Her Private Life’. Well-known as Wanna One‘s main vocal, Jaehwan released his debut album, ‘Another‘, which sold over 104K copies. He continues to gain recognition through his appearances in music programs such as ‘Immortal Songs‘ and ‘Yoo Hee Yeol’s Sketchbook‘. Jihoon had a successful solo debut with his debut album ‘O’Clock‘, which sold over 109 thousand copies. He was also selected for a role in the drama ‘Flower Crew Joseon Marriage Agency‘, which began airing last month. Guanlin has had successful gigs in China. He scored endorsements and was also in a lead in the Chinese drama ‘A little thing called first love’. However, he doesn’t have a successful career in Korea. He and Pentagon‘s Wooseok released an album which only sold 36K copies.

Daehwi and Woojin debuted in Brand New Music‘s group AB6IX. Their debut album ‘B Complete‘ sold over 165 thousand copies, and they’re considered as one of the strongest contenders for rookies of the year. They also successfully held an Asia fanmeeting tour. In addition, Daehwi is the current host of the music program ‘M! Countdown‘.

The ones who are high on the popularity list are Seongwu and MinhyunSeongwu has good popularity with the general public and has a stable fandom. He successfully had a solo fanmeeting tour in Asia, released the single ‘Heart Sign‘, and starred in the drama ‘At Eighteen‘. He also sang an OST for his drama. He gained recognition for his role, and received the ‘New Actor’ award at the 12th Korea Drama AwardsMinhyun is doing well as a member of NU’EST. Their album (released in June) sold over 260 thousand copies and they have successfully held concerts.

As expected, Kang Daniel is the most successful member post Wanna OneKang Daniel has the biggest fandom and is the most popular with the general public. His debut album ‘Color on Me‘ sold over 503,000 copies, and he successfully held a fanmeeting tour in Asia. He maintains a high profile, a good image with the public and has gained many high-end endorsements this year including one from KT Corporation, Korea’s largest telephone agency. He also has had endorsements with SubwayCalvin KleinMexicana Chicken and Givenchy this year. He is currently a promotional ambassador for his city, Busan.

By evaluating the careers of the former I.O.I and Wanna One members, we can see that the public is very fickle. If the company doesn’t promote their idols well, it can result in them losing their popularity — which is why fandoms are important. The Wanna One members had a huge fandom during their career, and most have moved on to their favorite individual members after disbandment. In general, Wanna One‘s former members are doing well as most of them have debuted either as soloists or as part of a group with good album sales. Having a stable fandom is the key to having a good career, and it is also something to rely back on when public is no longer interested.

I.O.I are set to redebut soon (despite delays), with the exception of Yeonjung and Somi. Reunion is beneficial for all members, except Chungha, who has a great solo career and has individual popularity greater or equal to I.O.I’s one.

While the Wanna One members are clearly more successful than the I.O.I members in terms of bringing in profit, they’re not as successful as when they were in Wanna One. They too would benefit from a reunion in terms of popularity. However, profit-wise they don’t have much to gain from it, because it would mean splitting the profit with the third-party company that manages the reunited group. In general, boy group members bring more profit than girl group members due to a bigger dedicated fandom that buys albums, merchandise, concert tickets, etc. We don’t know what the future holds, but as long as they have a stable fandom and maintain decent public recognition, they are set for a long career.