K-pop bullying: Hyunjoo in war of words with April, (G)I-DLE's Soojin removed from song

Tamar Herman, South China Morning Post

Posted at Apr 21 2021 01:31 PM | Updated as of Apr 21 2021 01:55 PM

Bullying and abuse issues continue to rock K-pop, and girl groups April and (G)I-dle have updated fans on recent allegations.

In March, people claiming to be acquaintances of former April member Hyunjoo (Lee Hyun-joo) came forward with allegations she had been bullied by bandmates, notably Naeun (Lee Na-eun). The band’s company, DSP Media, issued a denial and threatened to take legal action. Members of the group, including Hyunjoo – who is still signed to DSP – released statements this week addressing the issues.

On Sunday, Hyunjoo posted a missive on Instagram describing her alleged hardships and bullying at the time, and revealed that since the situation came to light she has lost out on work and is embroiled in a legal battle with DSP.

“The bullying began in 2014 while I was preparing for my career, and continued through 2016, until when I left the group [that October],” she wrote, adding that she had been a young teenager at the time living in a dormitory with the perpetrators.

April members Chaewon and Yena responded on their own Instagram accounts, denying various claims and allegations made by Hyunjoo and her associates, and saying it had been her victimising attitude that was at fault rather than their actions. DSP also issued a statement, saying that band members and company staff have faced emotional turmoil over the allegations, and that they are pursuing legal action against Hyunjoo.

In related news, Cube Entertainment announced on April 19 that (G)I-dle member Soojin would not be featured on the group’s upcoming song, Last Dance, released through the entertainment app Universe.

The vocalist took a hiatus from the group last month after allegations that she had bullied classmates while a schoolgirl.

Several celebrities in South Korea’s entertainment industry have recently faced allegations of bullying and harassment going back over several years. Some face legal action.

Among those affected are Stray Kids’ Hyunjin, who is on hiatus from the boy band, and Seventeen’s Mingyu, who has returned to the band after its label reportedly looked into the allegations and came to understandings with those who had come forward about Hyunjin’s bullying in high school.

In March, leading actor Ji Soo had to leave a popular K-drama following numerous allegations against him of sexual abuse - the highest-profile example of what some people believe to be a reckoning in South Korea, where social media is used to take to task those who abuse their power.