After seven years together, the internationally successful K-pop quartet 2NE1 will become a trio.
On Tuesday (April 5), the group’s label YG Entertainment revealed that 2NE1’s youngest member Minzy (Gong Min Ji) opted to not renew her contract, which expires next month. 2NE1’s other members — CL (Lee Chaelin), Dara (Sandara Park), and Park Bom — will remain with the company and currently have new music in the works.
YG Entertainment apologized for revealing the news after a long wait for the return of 2NE1, who have been all but absent as a group from the K-pop scene since the release of 2014’s Crush. The news followed reports of 22-year-old Minzy searching for a new agency ahead of her contract expiration on May 5.
As the youngest member of one of the most popular Korean girl groups of the past decade, Minzy has a reputation as a talented dancer and rapper. She debuted as a member of 2NE1 at the age of 15 in 2009 and spent 11 years under YG Entertainment prior and during her career as part of the foursome. She made her first appearance as a member of 2NE1 alongside labelmates Big Bang in the LG phones promotional song “Lollipop” and debuted formally with “Fire.”
YG Entertainment said that no other artist would be added to supplement 2NE1’s loss of Minzy, but that CL, Dara, and Bom plan to release new music this summer.
Minzy’s most recent and final performance as a member of 2NE1 was a surprise performance at last year’s Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA) tagged onto CL’s solo stage at the award ceremony. It was the first time the quartet performed on Korean television since a 2014 legal issue led to member Park Bom taking a break. During that time, CL has pushed into the American music market while Dara focused on television appearances; Minzy opened up a dance studio.
The quartet is one of the most recognized K-pop acts internationally. 2NE1 became the first K-pop act to appear on the Year-End World Albums Chart in 2014 and the group was featured on American television shows like The Bachelor and America’s Next Top Model. Their most popular song, “I Am The Best,” was featured in Microsoft Surface Pro commercials. Their positive girl power attitudes and innovative musical concepts paved the way for a new generation of K-pop stars.
2NE1 joins a variety of other senior K-pop girl groups who have seen lineup changes in the past few years. Girls’ Generation, Wonder Girls, and Kara have all witnessed multiple lineup changes during their tenures as some of the most popular Korean female idol acts.
Billboard has reached out to YG Entertainment for an official statement.