Let’s find out why Tao left.
Despite his groundbreaking records and achievement of monumental success in Korea and around the world, Exo has never been able to escape the tangles of controversy.
After their 2013 breakthrough, courtesy of their million-selling album XOXO and the hit single “Growl,” the group continually faced issues ranging from internal disputes with their company SM Entertainment as well as a possible rift among members.
However, it is the incessant withdrawal of members that has really made the group infamous among K-Pop followers. In this article, we’ll put focus on the similar controversial and highly vague departure of member Tao.
A History of Goodbyes
Member departures are a common thing in K-Pop groups, most especially for those who hail from SM Entertainment.
As of today, the only active group whose original members are intact from the said company is the boy band SHINee*. In 2009, three members from TVXQ requested for withdrawal from the group followed by the lawsuit filed by Chinese member Hangeng, from Super Junior in the latter part of the same year.
As for Exo, there have been three member withdrawals since their formation in 2012.
Most recent departure from EXO
In the middle of their promotions for their second mini-album “Overdose,” Kris decided to file a lawsuit against SM Entertainment to request for the nullification of his ties from the company.
Amongst the members, it was Tao who was greatly affected with Kris’ departure bringing his thoughts to popular social network Instagram.
In his post days after Kris’ filing, Tao expressed that he felt betrayed and thought that Kris intentionally hid all of his plans from the group, putting them in a compromise. He believes this especially since he is also in the middle of their preparations for their first tour.
He wrote about how he thinks as follows.
Good things and bad things will switch, so when it comes to betrayal, no one should be to blame.
If somebody of this group wishes to leave, we can’t keep him from leaving.
Five months after Kris’ incident
Despite this, Tao and the rest of the group went on with “Overdose” promotions and their first tour “The Lost Planet” was able to make multiple stops across Asia.
However, five months after Kris’ incident, another lawsuit for contract nullification embroiled the group, this time, from member Luhan. Luhan’s reasons for withdrawal included his deteriorating health and the unfair treatment of the Chinese members against the Korean ones.
With two Chinese members leaving, it has been speculated that the remaining members from the China-line (which includes him and Lay) are also leaving.
Rumors of the four of them reforming into a new group back in their homeland even surfaced. Amidst all of these, Tao remained firm and assured in his position within Exo through another Instagram post dated December 9, 2014.
It was also in this day that rumors of his departure being finalized appeared. In a rather ambiguous post, Tao said “Let’s go on a date EXO-L, want to hold hands?” This was interpreted as Tao staying thus dispelling malicious gossip about his stay in the group.
What Went Down: Tao’s Departure from Exo
2015 passed and Tao went on with his promotional activities with Exo and his individual gigs. He appeared in variety shows both in Korea and China simultaneously. Amidst all these appearances, Tao has been sustaining a lot of injuries in his body. Being an expert in martial arts, Tao has been in charge of Exo’s stunts ranging from back flips and kung fu-inspired moves.
He has also been chosen to compete in physically draining sports events such as the “Idol Star Athletic Championships” in 2013 where he suffered from an injury after a high jump event and another foot injury while filming “Laws of the Jungle” in 2014.
He has also been sustaining a lot of injuries since their debut from all the stunts and choreography. These repeated reports of injury have once again worried fans and has fueled rumors of him possibly leaving once again.
In March 2015, Exo released their sophomore album “Exodus” which spawned the hit single “Call Me Baby”. During the promotional rounds for the album, Tao was evidently missing from their performances as it has been reported that he is seeking treatment for his ankle injury that he got from his appearance in MBC’s “Idol Futsal World Cup” in February 2015.
Tao’s father posted a letter in social media site Weibo in April 22, 2015, which stated that he wishes for Tao to leave the group. He cites that the lack of support from SM Entertainment in terms of his recovery from his sustained injuries has compromised his son greatly, thus he believes that leaving the group will serve as the best for Tao.
From then on, Tao went on an abrupt hiatus from Exo, and has remained in China for the time being.
Three months after Tao left Exo, it was reported that he was staging a solo debut in China. This was proven true with the release of his first single “T.A.O” in July 2015.
Various individual endorsements and appearances also followed through – signaling the official start of Tao’s career.
In August 24, 2015, Tao filed a contract nullification lawsuit at the Seoul City Central Court against SM to formally terminate his contract with the said company.
His representatives mentioned that the lack of support from the company in terms of his injuries, as well as other issues such as the reported discrimination between Korean and Chinese members, the 10-year contract which is deemed to be too much and the unfair distribution of income between the members and SM.
In response to Tao’s lawsuit, SM countered with a case as well, citing that Tao has been prepping up for his solo activities discretely with another company even though Tao is technically contracted with SM Entertainment.
To this date, SM and Tao are still undergoing court negotiations to settle their case.
2016 and Beyond: Tao’s Future in Compromise?
As of 2016, Tao is still able to pursue his solo activities in China. He has released two extended plays in 2015 and has secured movie deals which are all set to be released this year. In addition to that, he has been active in different television shows as well as appearances for various fashion spreads. Things seem to be going well for Tao’s solo career.
However, in January 5, 2016, SM Entertainment announced that they have won a case against Tao concerning a breach of contract in terms of a temporary payment that Tao requested in 2015.
According to SM Entertainment, Tao asked for a temporary payment in October 2015 in the middle of their negotiations and SM agreed to provide the said amount.
Tao was unable to repay the amount in due time which prompted the company to issue a lawsuit on the basis of a breach of trust. It was then announced through the Intermediate People’s Court in the Qingdao, Shandong, China that Tao should pay the amount in favor of SM Entertainment.
Tao’s side immediately clarified with this ruling by saying that a lot of SM Entertainment’s statements do not coincide with the truth. According to his representatives, Tao has repeatedly asked for the account number of the company for the payment.
However, they believe that SM was deliberately trying to withhold information so that it could look like Tao was breaching their agreement. To this date, his side has released various pieces of evidence to prove their extensive efforts to reach out with SM Entertainment, which leaves the case unclosed.