Monsta X is, by all accounts, tipped to be the next K-Pop band to crossover into global superstardom. Yet just days after the release of their latest EP, the band has parted ways with member Wonho under cloudy circumstances. The separation has led to a virtual fan revolt online.
While the band has yet to reach the highs of BTS and BLACKPINK, the American entertainment industry has already bet big on their potential appeal in the United States.
In May, Epic Records signed the band, with the promise of handling international distribution as well as any potential English-language recordings. iHeartRadio had booked the band to headline three of their popular Jingle Ball concerts across the country. Collaborations with American artists Steve Aoki and French Montana had already found some traction and made some history on the American pop and dance charts.
By the band's own admission, Wonho had already become one of the most popular members amongst American audiences. Noted for his penchant for swapping out candy colored hairstyles, devotion to fitness, and penchant for wearing harnesses, Wonho also had songwriting credits on many of the band's hits. He seemed pivotal to the band's future success.
In statements posted in both Korean and English, the band's record label Starship Entertainment announced that they had split with Wonho, effective immediately.
"After a long discussion with Monsta X's member Wonho, we have agreed that it's best to part ways amicably at this point,” read the statement. "We greatly respect Wonho's decision, who wants to make sure the recent chain of events doesn't distract from all the exciting things that are happening for Monsta X now and what lies ahead in the future."
In his own hand-written note posted on a South Korean social media platform, Wonho acknowledged his departure, but urged fans to continue to support the remaining six members.
Neither statement directly mentioned a reason, with the record label's statement only mentioning "malicious and distorted claims."
The media has linked the departure to a series of allegations that Wonho owed approximately $27,000 to a former roommate before he joined the band. Yet debt hardly seems like a career-ending sin. Not when Kanye West now regularly claims he's millions of dollars in the red.
Social media is full of additional theories about the exit, but many are hard to follow and decipher.
Mostly, fans have responded by demanding Wonho's reinstatement. Fans in Korea have also left post-it notes outside Starships' headquarters with messages of support for the singer.
While K-Pop bands generally present with a Disney Channel-level of family friendliness to American audiences, previous scandals have broken that facade. Earlier this year a member of seminal K-Pop boyband Big Bang retired amidst allegations that he engaged in shady business practices and was part of a secret group chat that shared intimate photos of women taken without their consent.
Notably, Wonho has not announced his retirement from entertainment completely, but his chances of reaching the global fame that Monsta X appeared destined for now seem decidedly out of reach.