ZE:A, also known as Children of Empire, is a South Korean boy group formed by Star Empire Entertainment in 2010. The group is composed of nine members: Kevin, Hwang Kwang-hee, Im Si-wan, Lee Hoo, Kim Tae-heon, Jung Hee-chul, Ha Min-woo, Kim Dong-jun and Park Hyung-sik. The group released their debut single in 2010, their last release as a group was their compilation album "Continue" in 2015.
Under the name Child of Empire, following their appearance on Mnet's Office Reality, the group gained attention by performing various guerilla shows and creating UCC videos. They have also appeared in a documentary-styled show Star Empire, and later getting their own documentary show titled Empire Kids Returns, showing them performing in wingcar performances around Seoul and training. The group faced controversy in December following the similarities of the group's name to Brown Eyed Girls' JeA. The group later changed the pronunciation of the name to avoid confusion.
2010: Debut, Nativity, Leap for Detonation, Level Up, concert tour and Japanese debut
ZE:A released their debut single album "Nativity" on January 7, 2010, having it reached number one on both the "Album Chart" and "Artist Chart" on Daum that same day.
They performed "Mazeltov" as the title track.
They subsequently released their second single album "Leap for Detonation" on March 25, 2010. The title track, "All Day Long" was produced by Brave Brothers.
In June, their official fanclub name was announced to be ZE:A's (or ZE:A STYLE).
The group's third single "Level Up (bad-talk-sad)" was digitally released on July 8, 2010.
At the end of July, the group embarked on their Asia promotion tour, stopping by Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and various other places.
On September 22, 2010, they debuted in Japan by releasing their Japanese debut single ZE:A!(ゼア!). The single placed third on the Oricon daily chart.
On December 21, 2010, ZE:A released their Japanese single album, Love Letter/My Only Wish. It placed second on Oricon daily chart.
2011: Lovability, Exciting!, Watch Out and Heart For 2
The group released their first full-length album, Lovability, on March 17, 2011 with "Here I Am" set as the lead single.
Promotions for Lovability were cut short due to "Be My Girl", a song off Loveability, was deemed unsuitable for minors.
At the end of June, Star Empire announced that the group would be releasing a summer single. While filming the jacket album for Exciting!, member Hyung Sik fell off the yacht with member Dong Jun. Hyung Sik was saved by Dong Jun and the group's manager, while suffering a minor ankle injury.
On July 8, 2011, ZE:A's third single album "Exciting!" with lead single "Watch Out" was released. On July 8, for the first time, the group took the number one spot on Hanteo's real-time album sales chart.
On July 29, after two weeks of promoting "Watch Out!", the group started their follow-up promotion with "Heart For 2".
Early October, Star Empire announced that a new Japanese single would be released on November 22. The single was placed 3rd on the Oricon Chart just a few hours after release.
2012: Delayed Comeback, Spectacular, Phoenix and Beautiful Lady
During the brief break various ZE:A members ventured into drama appearances and variety appearances. Notably, Im Siwan received national fame for his role in the MBC fictional historical drama The Moon That Embraces The Sun.
ZE:A's comeback album was set to release on June 21, 2012, but in May, ZE:A's agency, Star Empire Entertainment, announced that the group would postpone their comeback because of an injury to member Jun Young's right ankle.
The group's second studio album, "Spectacular", along with its title track "Aftermath" was released on July 4.
In August, Kwanghee was confirmed to be the new cast of MBC We Got Married and will be Coupled with Sunhwa SECRET.
On August 26, ZE:A's fourth single album "Phoenix" was released.
Promoted as a special gift for ZE:A'S, Beautiful Lady was released on December 7, 2012.
ZE:A's first mini album "Illusion" with lead single "The Ghost of The Wind" was released on August 8.
Hyungsik was cast in The Heirs as Jo Myungsoo. Minwoo was cast in a Japanese Musical Summer Snow.
2014: First Homme, Junyoung's stage name adoption, Nasty Nasty
The group's second mini album "First Homme" with title track "Breathe", was released on June 2, 2014. "Breathe" was simultaneously promoted for two weeks with another song off their mini album "St:Dagger". Both tracks were produced by Brave Brothers.
On August 22, 2014, ZE:A leader Junyoung announced during their ZE:A's Day fanmeet that he would officially begin promoting under ZE:A under the stage name Lee Hoo. He cited negative feelings surrounding his name as a reason to change his name. He would be the second member to adopt a stage name.
On August 22, Star Empire Entertainment announced that a ZE:A and Nine Muses collaborative subgroup would be formed, titled Nasty Nasty. The group consisted of Nine Muses members Kyungri and Sojin, and ZE:A member Kevin. They debuted on September 3, 2014 with their title track Knock.
Late September, Lee Hoo talked (tweeted) about mistreatment by their company. Some of the allegations included initial “slave” contract, not getting paid properly, multiple instances of the leader being slapped by the CEO, possible assault of other members, alluding to the CEO using Taeheon as a pawn in gaining more money from MMA — essentially letting him get beaten badly by a veteran fighter for ratings (and maybe also encouraging the other fighter to do so), members going through emotional turmoil caused by the company, lying by the company and KBS’ Dream Team about Lee Hoo’s promotion-halting injury two years ago, television appearances being bought and other bad behavior by the CEO of Star Empire and other agencies.
Star Empire released a statement and they reached a new agreement. Their contract changed from 12 years to 9 years including (including military service), with profits split 70% to CEO and 30% to the group.
2015–2017: ZE:A Best Album and hiatus
Minwoo announced his enlistment on August 26 and fully enlisted on September 15. Taeheon enlisted on December 7, 2015 as an active-duty soldier.
The group's first compilation album, along with its title track "Continue", was released on September 18, 2015. It consists of a total of 28 tracks.
Kwanghee was officially chosen to join the cast of Infinite Challenge, one of the most popular and successful Korean variety shows.
On February 9, 2017, it was falsely stated that ZE:A were likely to disband. However, it was later confirmed by the members themselves that this was not the case, and that for the time being they would focus on solo activities with some of the members joining different companies. On April 12, Star Empire gave an official statement confirming that ZE:A is not disbanding and will come back as a group again when the time comes.
Channel-Korea wrote an article late 2019 about what happened to ZE:A and their solo activities.
Sources: Wikipedia 1, 2, Channel-Korea, MBCkpop, fanpop, ZEA2011, Soompi, Seoulbeats, whicdn.
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I actually really enjoyed making this post. Re-watching all their work I can only come to the conclusion that they are underappreciated as a group and quickly overlooked in 2nd gen kpop despite producing some extremely popular stars.
Apart from their most popular songs (Aftermath, Phoenix, Breathe, The Ghost of the Wind) I really enjoyed All Day Long. Some of their songs sound dated now and some concept changes didn't make any sense though (boxing choreography to cute boyfriend concept for example).
Their performances are really great. They really had the full package: a wide range of great vocals, visually very attractive, great stage presence, the ability to adapt to concept changes.
I really enjoyed their unique choreography and formations. I'm really sad for them that their CEO ruined everything for them (and all his other groups). I would love to hear what you think about ZE:A. Your favorite member? Favorite concept and song? Do you enjoy all their solo work?