It’s not uncommon for K-Pop idols to switch between different entertainment labels before the find one that ends up being a good match for them. However, since SM Entertainment is such a notoriously difficult and prestigious company to get into, they seem to have fewer trainees leave them than others! There are still some exceptions, though, and many of their former trainees have gone on to have successful careers elsewhere. Here are 5 current K-Pop idols who are former SM Entertainment trainees, but who ended up debuting under different labels.
1. Tsuki (Billlie)
Tsuki is currently the main dancer and sub-vocalist of Billlie! Most people, of course, know about her due to her viral fancam of her incredible dancing and facial expressions, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that she was the only one out of 20,000 non-Korean applicants to make it into SM Entertainment at the time of her audition! While at the label, she became friends with aespa‘s NingNing and was known under the name Ravi.
Unfortunately, living in a foreign country at the age of 15 proved too difficult for the young Tsuki, so she returned to Japan after 2 years. She still wanted to be a K-Pop idol though, so she applied for JYP Entertainment‘s audition in 2019, where she was among the 32 finalists. Instead, however, she ended up at Mystic Entertainment and debuted with Billlie!
2. Inseong (SF9)
Inseong is currently the main vocalist of SF9! He actually didn’t plan on becoming a K-Pop idol — he was studying to be a news announcer or a film director — but after having the chance to perform on stage at a festival, he realized how fun it was and changed his mind. Though he became a trainee at a later age than average, he didn’t have trouble getting into SM Entertainment with his vocal skills. He started his training around the same time as NCT‘s Doyoung, and became friends with him while he was there!
Like with other former SM Entertainment trainees, he felt like his debut was being delayed, so Inseong decided to move to FNC Entertainment. He switched at the perfect time and ended up debuting with SF9 in 2016!
3. Chaehyun (Kep1er)
Chaehyun is currently the center and main vocalist of Kep1er! Prior to her time on Girls Planet 999, however, she was a trainee at SM Entertainment for 4 years, beginning in 2016 at the age of 15. When her debut got delayed, she ended up moving to WAKEONE Entertainment, which ended up being the agency she debuted with.
Being friends with aespa’s Karina, the aespa members congratulated her when she debuted in Kep1er, and she also keeps in touch with other former SM Entertainment trainees that she befriended! It’s likely partially due to her training there that ended up earning her first place on Girls Planet 999.
4. Jinho (PENTAGON)
Jinho is currently the main vocalist of PENTAGON! Not only did he train at SM Entertainment, but he even released an album through their ballad project group SM the Ballad way back in 2010. He was a trainee for eight years total, six of which were spent at SM Entertainment (from 2008 until 2014). Due to the extensive training that he has, Jinho has already worked as a vocal coach for other K-Pop idols!
He ended up leaving SM Entertainment after he was taken out of the running to be a member of EXO, and moved on to Cube Entertainment where he debuted with PENTAGON in 2016. He’s still known for his phenomenal vocals, which stand out even among PENTAGON’s many talented members!
5. Yeonjung (Cosmic Girls/WJSN)
Yeonjung is currently the main vocalist and maknae of Cosmic Girls! She had dreamed of becoming a K-Pop idol since she was young, and applied for several different auditions until she was accepted at SM Entertainment in 2014 when she was in 9th grade. While she was a fantastic dancer, she felt that her singing skills lacked compared to other vocalists at the label, and so she spent her time focusing on improving her singing abilities. Because of this hard work, she made incredible progress in her vocals!
She ended up leaving SM Entertainment and moved on to Starship Entertainment about a half-year later. And after a year and a half training there, she competed on the survival program Produce 101, where she ended up placing 11th and made it into I.O.I! Since then, she has returned to Cosmic Girls, who is currently competing on season 2 of Queendom.