The video had not one of the hallmarks of Okay-pop. No catchy tune, no snazzy outfits, no slick dance routines. Undoubtedly no stars. It was set in an unremarkable auditorium with plain white tables and a big projector display screen.

Nevertheless it included screenshots of chats between two energy gamers within the business and immediately turned the speak of the Okay-pop world.

It was the live broadcast of a two-hour emotional tell-all delivered final month by Min Hee-Jin, the producer of NewJeans, arguably right now’s hottest Okay-pop act. She had referred to as a information convention to dispute accusations of company malfeasance by her employer, Hybe, the Okay-pop colossus behind BTS.

The unusually public and hostile feud — which has included allegations of plagiarism, chart rigging and shamanism — has led to a whole lot of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} being wiped off Hybe’s market worth. And it has solid a cloud over Hybe’s relationship with a rising star, NewJeans, whereas its largest act, BTS, is on hiatus.

“It’s about cash, it’s about management and likewise the possession of an artist,” mentioned Andrew Eungi Kim, referring to NewJeans. A professor at Korea College, Mr. Kim research the nation’s cultural affect, a phenomenon referred to as hallyu.

The members of BTS, who are all serving in South Korea’s military due to necessary conscription, usually are not anticipated to reunite till subsequent yr. As a few of them have launched solo albums, NewJeans has racked up its share of accolades. Previously yr it has topped the Billboard 200, performed at Lollapalooza and appeared in commercials for Apple and Coca-Cola.

The artistic drive behind the act is Ms. Min, who was recruited by Hybe to develop a woman band. Her pushback towards Hybe and its founder, Bang Si-hyuk, has resonated broadly in South Korea, the place company life could be punishingly hierarchal.

“She’s like a powerless visionary who’s combating towards an enormous company,” Mr. Kim mentioned.

Began almost twenty years in the past as a label referred to as Huge Hit, Hybe turned the dominant drive in Okay-pop thanks largely to the worldwide success of BTS. It went public in 2020, and a yr later, its market worth peaked round $12 billion. Since then, its shares have misplaced about half of their worth amid considerations that it will not have the ability to replicate the profitability of BTS.

Hybe has had success with different teams like Seventeen and Tomorrow X Collectively. It has additionally expanded in the US with offers like the acquisition of Ithaca Holdings, which manages Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. In 2022, it launched NewJeans’ first single, “Attention,” with out the attribute fanfare of Okay-pop debuts. The next yr was Hybe’s most profitable on report, with the corporate posting annual revenue of about 186.6 billion Korean gained, or $136 million.

One of many first public indications of the turmoil at Hybe got here on April 22, when it introduced that it was going to audit Ador, a subsidiary run by Ms. Min. It accused Ms. Min of illegally attempting to take management of Ador and requested her to step down. Hybe owns 80 % of Ador, Ms. Min has an 18 % stake and the remaining is owned by different executives. On April 25, Hybe filed a police criticism towards her.

Ms. Min responded publicly the identical day with a information convention. Wearing a inexperienced T-shirt with white stripes and a Los Angeles Dodgers hat, she appeared raveled and broke down a number of occasions. She rejected Hybe’s accusations and shared screenshots of chats with Mr. Bang, the agency’s founder, that she instructed had been proof of a fraught work setting.

She additionally mentioned that she had not been compensated pretty and accused Hybe of plagiarizing her work with NewJeans to enhance different acts. Hybe has denied her allegations.

To Ms. Min, the dispute was a tug of struggle between artistic and company pursuits.

“All I care about is NewJeans,” Ms. Min mentioned in feedback that had been livestreamed by the main South Korean broadcasters.

Two days later, a brand new music by NewJeans, “Bubble Gum,” was launched as scheduled.

In a written response to questions, Ms. Min mentioned, “It’s time to rethink the character of the leisure business.” For Okay-pop to maintain prospering, she added, the business must focus “basically on creators and creation” as a substitute of on cash and administration.

After Ms. Min’s look, rumors involving Hybe artists, chart-rigging and cults circulated the web. To followers, this sullied the picture of their favourite acts.

One group of BTS followers took out an commercial in native newspapers, criticizing Hybe for airing its soiled laundry. One other protested exterior Hybe’s workplaces.

Ian Liu, a NewJeans fan from Jakarta, Indonesia, had an identical sentiment. “The artists are collateral harm,” he mentioned.

Hybe was additionally concerned in a public feud final yr, although that was with exterior events. It was a bidding struggle for SM Entertainment, one other Okay-pop agency, that was gained by Kakao, a South Korean know-how big.

The dispute with Ms. Lee, who’s the chief govt of Ador, is headed to the courts.

“It’s exhausting to foretell what’s going to occur at this level,” mentioned Lee Gyu Tag, a professor of cultural research and anthropology at George Mason College’s Korea department. “Ultimately, this difficulty between Hybe and Ador shall be a studying alternative for different companies to discover ways to successfully handle their firms.”



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