Formed by DSP Media in 2007, KARA celebrate their 15th anniversary this year. Listed among the most famous groups of the second generation, KARA left their mark on the K-pop industry. The group’s name comes from the Greek word “chara”, which means “joy”. The group later interpreted it to mean “sweet melody”.
The original line-up was composed of four members, but the members kept changing throughout the years. Members Nicole Jung and Kang Ji-young officially departed from the group in 2014, while Kim Sung-hee left in 2008. KARA’s final line-up was composed of Park Gyuri, Han Seungyeon, Goo Hara and Heo Youngji, making Gyuri and Seungyeon the only members to stay in the group from the beginning to disbandment.
Throughout their career, KARA recorded 9 studio albums, 7 EPs, and 27 singles. They also released soundtracks for various dramas, animes, and commercials. Despite being together for a long time, KARA disbanded due to some members departing in 2016.
Source: 1theK (원더케이)
KARA made their debut as a quartet consisting of Park Gyuri, Han Seung-yeon, Kim Sung-hee, and Jung Nicole on March 29, 2007. They released their first album titled “The First Bloooooming” in 2007 which included their debut single “Break It.” The single displayed a strong female image and had a mature R&B sound, just like their senior labelmates Fin.K.L. KARA was promoted as successors to Fin.K.L, the legendary first-generation K-pop girl group, so the expectations for KARA’s success were quite high. Unfortunately, KARA’s debut was not well received by the public, and the album was a commercial failure.
FIRST LINE-UP CHANGE
In 2008, just one year after KARA’s debut, member Kim Sunghee left the group due to her parents being unhappy about her neglecting her studies and her developing health issues. Upon her departure from the group, two new members were brought in. Now the group consists of five members: Park Gyuri, Han Seungyeon, Jung Nicole, Goo Hara, and Kang Jiyoung. With the addition of the two new members, the group’s image changed to a “pretty but natural” appeal. This new image helped the group achieve their first #1 hit, “Honey”.
RISING POPULARITY IN SOUTH KOREA
Source: DSP Kara
They released their first mini-album titled “Rock U” on July 25, 2008. The album had a “pretty and cute” concept. Though it was quite different from KARA’s debut image, people received it well.
In Jan. 2009, KARA’s official website held a commence voting for their upcoming singles. The song titled “Honey” won 60% of the votes, and the music video was released on Feb. 16, 2009. “Honey” went on to become a commercial success. Being the group’s first number-one single on Gaon weekly singles chart, the single earned them their first music show award on M! Countdown for staying at the top of the list for three consecutive weeks, as well as the Mutizen award on SBS’s Inkigayo, and the “Best Dance Award” on Mnet Asian Music Awards 2009.
In July 2009, the group made a comeback with a “strong and mature” concept. The single “Wanna” was released on July 28, 2009, and immediately placed on top of music charts. “Wanna” is estimated to have sold at least 2,000,000 downloads in South Korea. Just two days later, KARA released their second studio album titled “Revolution”. During their promotional activities, they performed the song “Mr.” alongside their single. The song became a huge hit thanks to its iconic butt dance and even won several awards.
In Feb. 2010, Kara came back with “Lupin” and showed a darker, more mature concept. The song topped various charts following the day of its release.
As with all groups, KARA eventually made their Japanese debut in 2010. Their Japanese debut album “Girl’s Talk” sold 107,000 copies and ranked number two on the Oricon Weekly Album Chart just in its first week of release, making it the first album by a non-Japanese girl group to sell more than 100,000 albums in its first week. The group achieved their first number one Japanese single with “Jet Coaster Love” in April 2011. By the end of that year, KARA was dubbed “Japan’s #1 Rookie Artist of 2010” by Oricon and also received the “New Artist of The Year Award (International)” from Japan Gold Disc Awards.
The group announced their comeback with the single “Jumping” after nine months of hiatus in the Korean music industry. It was promoted in both Korea and Japan alongside their mini-album of the same name. Once again, KARA won first place repeatedly on various music shows with their comeback.
THE BIGGEST STEP
Source: DSP Kara
KARA released their fourth studio album “Step” on Sept. 6, 2011. The album immediately topped various music charts in South Korea hours after its release, even reaching the number two spot on Billboard K-Pop Hot 100 List. By the end of the year, the album had already sold up to 100,000 copies in South Korea. The single of the same name became one of the most iconic songs in K-pop history.
ONCE AGAIN IN JAPAN
Source: Tuấn Kiệt
KARA went on to release their second Japanese release “Super Girl”, which is also their fifth studio album in Nov. 2011. The album drew 360,000 pre-order sales the day before its release and went on to debut at #1 on the Oricon Daily album chart. It sold over 275,000 copies in its first week, placing it at the top of the Oricon Weekly album chart. Thus, KARA has set a new record and has become the top-selling foreign female group of 2011. They have even surpassed SNSD’s debut album “Girls’ Generation” which sold 232,000 copies in its first week.
PANDORA’S BOX CHANGES GIRLS FOREVER
Source: DSP Kara
On Aug. 7, 2012, KARA’s agency revealed the group’s fifth EP “Pandora”. The concept of the album was to show the group’s matured charms through a modern interpretation of Pandora’s Box, the great Greek myth. During the album’s showcase, member Nicole Jung stated that the group aimed to display their “maturing feminism”. Just two months later, in November 2012, they released their third Japanese album “Girls Forever”, which is also their sixth studio album. This album was commercially successful as well.
FANTASTIC GIRLS’ FULL BLOOM IN JAPAN
Source: Sone Kamilia
KARA released their seventh studio album and fourth major Japanese release “Fantastic Girls” on August 28, 2013. Two songs from the album were released as singles, which were “Bye Bye Happy Days!” and “Thank You Summer Love”. They were both quite successful singles in their own respects. The first single “Bye Bye Happy Days!” rose to the number two spot on the Oricon weekly singles chart and debuted at number two on the Billboard Japan Hot 100 and Billboard Japan Hot Single sales chart, charting for 7 weeks in total. The second single “Thank You Summer Love” debuted at number two on Oricon’s daily singles chart selling 48,479 copies, thus becoming the group’s highest first-day sales for a single. The single also debuted at number one on the Billboard Japan Hot 100 and Billboard Japan Hot Single sales chart, becoming Kara’s second number-one single on both charts.
Just a week later after the release of “Fantastic Girls”, KARA went on to release “Full Bloom”, which is their eighth studio album, and fourth Korean album release. The title of the album was a reference back to the group’s debut album, “The First Bloooooming”. The album reached number 1 on the Gaon Album Chart. Moreover, the lead single “Damaged Lady” reached number 4 on the Gaon Weekly Singles Chart and number 9 on Billboard’s Korea K-Pop Hot 100. “Full Bloom” was the last album to feature members Nicole Jung and Kang Ji-young who left the group in 2014.
SECOND CHANGE OF LINEUP
Source: DSP Kara
The members Nicole and Jiyoung decided not to renew their contracts with DSP Media, and left KARA in 2014. Nicole left to pursue a solo career, releasing her first mini-album “First Romance” in November 2014 under her new agency, while Jiyoung left to study overseas, and signed with a new company to resume her acting career in Japan.
Following the two members’ departures, the reality show “KARA Project” was aired on TV to select a new member to join KARA. Seven DSP trainees took part in the program. The winner of the competition was Hur Youngji, the last member to join the group.
Upon Youngji’s inclusion into the group, KARA released their sixth extended play “Day & Night” on August 18, 2014, with the song “Mamma Mia” being the promotional single. It is the first album to feature Heo Youngji following the departure of members Nicole and Jiyoung earlier in the year.
CUPID IN LOVE
Source: DSP Kara
KARA released their seventh mini-album, “In Love”, on May 26, 2015. The title track “Cupid” ranked number one on the Gaon Social Chart.
Source: DSP Kara
On Jan. 15, 2016, DSP announced Gyuri, Seungyeon and Hara’s departure from the group due to their contracts expiring. The company also noted that Youngji would continue her music career as a solo artist as a part of DSP. KARA’s legacy is one of perseverance and a steady climb to the top. They proved that concept and line-up changes don’t always negatively affect a group’s popularity. KARA are undeniably K-pop legends and should be remembered for their character, hard work and dedication. Tell us what’s your favorite KARA song below!