As it happened — ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin's second press conference

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin smiles during Friday's press conference [NEWS1]

Min Hee-jin, producer of girl group NewJeans and CEO of the quintet’s agency ADOR, will meet with the press for the first time in a month on Friday, following the decision that she will remain as ADOR CEO.

Reporters wait outside the Korea Press Center in Jung District, central Seoul on Friday afternoon. [YOON SO-YEON]

Min last held a news conference on April 25, four days after HYBE began an audit against her and other ADOR executives, and seven hours after HYBE announced it would report her to police for breach of trust.

The Korea JoongAng Daily will cover the conference live, which is scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m. local time.

Reporters wait for ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin's press conference at the Korea Press Center in Jung District, central Seoul on Friday afternoon. There are more than 200 reporters on site. [YOON SO-YEON]
Reporters wait for ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin's press conference at the Korea Press Center in Jung District, central Seoul on Friday afternoon. There are more than 200 reporters on site. [YOON SO-YEON]

Hundreds of reporters begin entering the news conference hall. Min and her attorneys are scheduled to appear at 2:30 p.m.

Min Hee-jin enters, smiling, flanked by attorneys on both sides. She wears jeans, a yellow cardigan and a ponytail.

Hello I’m Min Hee-jin,” Min begins. “I’m awkward with things like this. Can I begin now?”

“Hello,” Min says again. “I’m seeing you all for the second time. This time, thankfully, I’ve won over the court, and now I’m much more relieved. The reason I’m holding another news conference is to explain our situation and our thoughts on the matter.”

First of all, I want to say hello to all. It’s been over a month since the last news conference, and that period has been the toughest of all my life. I hope it never happens to me again, but I have so many people to thank, so I want to begin by showing my appreciation for those people who helped me. My acquaintances, the people who cheered for me even though they didn’t know me and sent me DMs and online communities. I don’t look at the comments that much, but people around me screen captured cheering messages. I am so thankful to everyone. Not everything has been roses and sunshine, but I truly want to thank everyone. And because of them, I did not pursue wrongful things.”

Bunnies [NewJeans fans] and DMs, I was able to recover because of them. And when everything is settled, I want to show my appreciation to them.”

Min is in tears. “I don’t want to win people through emotions, and I’m not the type of person who wants to be in the spotlight. But I was desperate, and that’s why I had to be here. But I’m not that friendly with cameras. Back then, I didn’t wash my face for three days. I showed my ugliest sides. But, now, I think I have recovered somewhat from that. As I’ve said before, there has been some good news, but there are many obstacles ahead of me. Legally, there are complicated things that I need to go over and will unravel now.”

Min looks at her lawyers. “I also want to thank the judges,” she said, referring to the the Seoul Central District Court, which voted in favor of her motion to block HYBE from voting at ADOR's upcoming shareholder meeting. “Lawyers will be talking more than me. But the first thing that I want you all to understand is that I’m the head of the HYBE’s subsidiary, but my first position is as ADOR’s CEO. But there are situations where the positions and understandings have clashed. So how can I have conducted a breach of trust to ADOR? The first thing is that my first priority is my position as ADOR’s CEO. As I ‘ve said before, there are many obstacles ahead, and I’m going to tell you about my plans.”

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin at Friday's press conference [YOON SO-YEON]

Min's lawyer Timothy SK Lee speaks. “The two board members were fired from their positions and three new inside directors from HYBE were hired. What we’re worried about is that the board was formed in a way such that there is a possibility that Min could be fired. But legally, the injunction was passed so that HYBE cannot exercise its rights. It’s a precarious position, so because the injunction was approved, can she maintain her position as the CEO? This is the part that I want to explain.” Lee is referring to the fact that HYBE, had it been allowed to exercise its voting rights as the majority owner of ADOR, had planned to remove Min as ADOR's CEO at the upcoming meeting. It is unable to do so following the court's ruling.

Lawyer Timothy SK Lee continues. “Since a cluster of HYBE’s executives were hired as inside directors, there is a way that the board could be summoned to fire Min, but the new directors haven't passed that motion yet.

“There are other shareholders involved in the shareholders' contract. If ADOR summons another meeting, than does that mean that we have to file anther injunction?

“When we first held the news conference, the court verdict was that we needed to stand by the shareholders' contract because there were no reasons to fire Min. I believe that HYBE should work toward standing by the contract so that the new inside directors do not summon another meeting.” Were HYBE to call for another shareholder meeting, and meet the conditions to do so, Min's position as CEO could once again be in peril.

Min speaks again. “What I want to say — I’m going to answer your questions, but I’m really relieved to have thrown off so many accusations. If we’re going to go over who did what, then the opponent has to become the bad person. And I thought the situation wasn’t best, so that’s why I filed the injunction.”

“We are preparing for the concert at Tokyo Dome in June and a world tour next year and that means we need a tracklist for the album,” Min says, referring to ADOR girl group NewJeans, which recently dropped a new single “How Sweet” and is preparing to promote the release. “These plans were all thrown up in the air because of the ongoing monthlong battle. Some of the plans were covered, but some were caught in between, so I was worried that we had to throw away all the opportunities. To some, it’s a big dream, a big opportunity to drive up the K-pop momentum. My foremost goal is to carry out the plans as I wanted with no problems. And now, since HYBE is now listening to my side, I hope that we can amicably settle.”

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin smiles during Friday's press conference [NEWS1]

“This battle, I don’t know who is it for and who will come out to achieve what. I’m so tired of picking and blaming everyone, and the inside of it all cannot be explained in few sentences of an article. Personal relationships are so complicated and hard. We don’t need to bring all of that up.

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin sheds tears during Friday's press conference. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

“A company is not one’s own company that is owned by one person. It is comprised of various shareholders, and we need to become an organization that works with one unified corporate vision in mind. I’ve dedicated myself so much to ADOR, and that helped HYBE. That’s why the court obviously thought it wasn’t a breach of trust against ADOR.” Here, she is referring to the Seoul Central District Court's ruling again. “So, which direction should we go? We need to healthily and constructively discuss this.”

“That’s what should be the management mind, and that’s what should be humanely done,” Min says earnestly. “And I also know that there are many questions about the court verdict, but that will be explained by the lawyers.”

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin smiles during Friday's press conference. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

Min's lawyer Lee Sook-mi speaks. “It’s been a three-week trial. It was furious. The KakaoTalk [screen] captures have been blatantly revealed at the court, and there have been many documents revealed on both sides.”

Lawyer Lee Sook-mi continues. “All the questions that the press asked have been discussed in court. The primary issue was this: Was there any reason to fire her? The KakaoTalk [screen] captures have been submitted as evidence, but not one of them became a reason to dismiss Min.”

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin smiles during Friday's press conference. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

Lawyer Lee Sook-mi again. “At this point we want to ask the bloggers, YouTubers and everyone: The KakaoTalk captures and memos have been revealed through HYBE's audit, but under the Commercial Act, it technically wasn’t an audit, but a demand to protect the subsidiary from internal investigation. It’s a little different from an audit but that’s what’s been done because HYBE and ADOR are separate entities. In all, the court saw that there was no reason for an audit. The revealed KakaoTalks and messages, they all have been illegally revealed. The KakaoTalk messages had not been approved to be revealed by the people.”

2:50 p.m. Q. and A. begins. Top Daily reporter asks: “HYBE has already formed its board. Is this not going to affect signing deals? Will they fire the registered board members who still work for the company? And I recall the court judged that there was an attempted betrayal. What's your opinion on that?”

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin smiles during Friday's press conference. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

The court mentions betrayal a lot,” says Min's lawyer Timothy SK Lee. “But when you read the verdict, the court is saying that it may be betrayal conduct — but the point is that 'has she done actions to damage' the company. HYBE has completely missed the point. What the court admits to betrayal is from the KakaoTalk messages. But as I’ve said before, Min was so tormented that she was thinking of every other scenario. The court judged that it could be considered the conduct of betrayal, but it’s a long distance away from having damaged the company.”

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin smiles during Friday's press conference. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

“About the matter regarding the board members,” Timothy SK Lee continues, “the prior board members fired from their positions will continue to work at the company. ADOR has much work ahead, and they are very much needed here. And before they were board members, they were the founders of ADOR.”

“The press also asked about my stance regarding betrayal. I wanted to speak in my voice, but I didn’t step up because it was turning into wordy bloodshed. As the lawyers have said before, the verdict was saying that trust has been broken [between the two sides], but that doesn’t mean one side was at fault. It happened on both sides, also, emotionally. The expression of betrayal is not related to corporate or legal judgments. What I think is that HYBE cannot decide who is loyal and not: An employee who bows to her bosses but isn’t good at what she does, or one who doesn’t know how to mingle but proves her worth through numbers.”

“As an executive, you need to see the numbers,” Min continues. “If the numbers don’t come out as they are supposed to, then the management should be criticized. That objective, rational approach is what is needed here. All the rest of the emotions are all plays on words.”

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin during Friday's press conference [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

Min addresses her emotional previous news conference. “We need to see the essence. At the last news conference, my rage was up in the sky and I said a lot of rash things. But I’m not like that in real life. I’m an ordinary person. But I think people misunderstood me last time. This is completely different from management and investment. M&A [mergers and acquisitions] is a separate matter from managing a company.

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin during Friday's press conference [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

"What I said last time is that I’m not interested in investment or M&A,” Min continues, “and not interested in wrestling the company [away from HYBE]. I listened to ADOR's vice CEO because I’m unfamiliar with these things, but, I think, myself, that I’m good at management. I don’t know what you think, but management is a different occupation. ‘Expert’ management sounds really professional, but understanding that job and how one wears that hat is what I think is fundamental to this job.”

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin during Friday's press conference [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

Min continues, addressing the K-pop industry. “The thing about the entertainment scene is that it is what the person does, but it’s not putting nonliving things as a product and running them under a factory. It’s about moving people’s minds. There are many variables here. So, sometimes I say that this is a 'mad business.' When people’s emotions are at the extreme, they [expletive]. But if they’re moved, they buy. They’re mad consumers. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it's a double-edged sword. When people are moved, the industry grows exceptionally. But there are risks involved.”

Min turns to the market. “When people date or there are emotions involved, stock prices waver. But I think we need our own skill to cover that at the scene. For 20 years, I thought it was important not to separate production and management. When they're separate, they work separately and don't merge. That’s my philosophy.”

She brings up five-member girl group NewJeans again, currently in preparations for its first world tour. “We were going to go to campus concerts around the country, and it was planned long before. The reason is simple: There are many who want to see [NewJeans] in rural areas, but the industry before wasn’t equipped to handle a nationwide tour.”

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin during Friday's press conference [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

“I didn't want to be misunderstood that way,” Min says. We’re trying to efficiently work to give the fans what they want, promote NewJeans’ new songs and upgrade the members’ skills.” However, “If we want to show our sincerity, we just have to donate.”

Min undergoes back-and-forth with a reporter who requests that she answer concisely. “This is a really important issue for me,” she stresses. “But everybody’s quite busy at the moment and came here in a hurry; we hope you can take more questions from us,” the reporter says.

“You shouldn't be mad at me for this,” Min says. “But we want to ask you many more questions,” the reporter counters.

Min: “But this is really important for me to explain.” Reporter: "I'm saying this because this is important as well.” Min says she will try to be concise moving forward.

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin during Friday's press conference [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

Min returns to NewJeans. “I had decided to donate, but this is not something I can decide if I am not the head of the company. This can affect the future plans and activities of NewJeans. The effects won’t end with a festival. Producing and management need to go along the same lines. I was talking about the latest example, and, like, I wanted to test how much synergy there can be when creative sector and money sector work together. And I think this is a success if it turns out to bring outcomes in a matter of only two years. I was curious how far this could go if our management could run with this kind of efficiency. The reporter asked me to end the answer, but I was almost done.

"Anyway,” she says, indicating U.S. AP Reporter Park Ju-won, "I will take that reporter’s question first."

You said HYBE had suggested you sell NewJeans albums in bulk to middle retailers to increase the album's sales volume in its first week,” Park says. “Is this true, that HYBE suggested such an idea? And also, is this a normal practice at big agencies?”

Min answers, “I can’t confirm if this is a widespread practice here. And this is actually a very serious and important issue. And each reporter can have different thoughts on it. Some might want to hear deeply about it, some might want a short answer. And, for me to explain, I can get very wordy.

“So, to explain the gist of it: Yes, it is true, it was suggested. HYBE said they just said it casually while smoking, but when they are taking my jokes that seriously and hope I can take their suggestions as jokes, this doesn’t make sense. I think we must put them on the same level.” Min here refers to HYBE's public accusations that the CEO had, among other things, sought outside funding for a potential takeover of ADOR, which Min has claimed was a misunderstanding of nonserious text conversations she'd had.

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin during Friday's press conference [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

Today, you are very beautiful,” The Bell says. “I think it’s because you had some good news. I want to ask you two questions. The court did conclude that you sought ways to strengthen your grip on ADOR — that you planned to do so and were at the stage right before execution. Why are you offering HYBE reconciliation?”

Min answers: “I didn’t create this fight, from my perspective. And you talked about the court ruling, but, I’m really sorry. I have a headache.”

After a second, she continues, “It is contradictory to say that I was doing it to strengthen my grip over the company. I already have control over the company. HYBE needs to decide whether it is going to be the white knight or the black night. Whatever I seek to do, the final decision lies with HYBE.

"About the betrayal we talked about. I think I felt that betrayal first, and HYBE broke that trust first. Then I need some agenda to talk about or discuss with HYBE. But as a subsidiary, what power do I have? I only have an 18 percent stake. Then, what do I need to do to escape this bullying, what would make HYBE care? What should I say to make HYBE scared of me? I didn’t have any idea.

“I didn’t know how to negotiate because just getting to the negotiating table was impossible. Why? Because HYBE just said, 'We didn’t do it.' Why did I describe myself as a subtle outcast? It’s because they weren’t shouting at me publicly, 'You are already an outcast.' If they did, I could at least shout back, “Why are you bullying me?' But what they did was, they were doing this in a subtle manner, so I was confused. I questioned myself: Do I feel like an outcast, or am I not?

“This had been going on for so long that I concluded that our trust had been broken apart. I could have said, 'I just said this.' But if they were so worried, they could have just called me and asked. They hold the key to making a decision.

“If I [only] thought about my own gains, I wouldn't have to go through this. I wish we could go on with the plans that we had with NewJeans. That will not harm anybody. If I don’t do this, and New Jeans has to take leave until our organizational matters settle, who does that benefit? That’s why I made this offer. Emotionally, not only I, but they will be hurt as well. It has been a long, tiring fight. It’s the end. We have to move on to the next chapter. That’s how I think.”

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin's Friday's press conference. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

SBS to the microphone. “What happened is what happened. Since you are the center of attention, please explain the details. What was the meeting this morning like? If the C-suite executives don’t help, the company’s management or world tour wouldn't go as planned. What do you think?”

Min answers. “That would become serious because it could be a breach of trust for the company. So, they won’t act like that, I think. We don’t glower at each other when we meet as people would think. Only one person acting as a representative of HYBE came today. HYBE said what they wanted to say, and we also expressed our thoughts.

“On the outside, there were no fights. What will be done in the future remains to be seen. But if HYBE wants to develop ADOR and its vision for NewJeans, then they would need to discuss that with me. I am a huge interest for ADOR and NewJeans, but, I think, rationally, we only spoke on our behalf. If I retain my loyalty to the parent company, that means I am betraying NewJeans and ADOR.

“But for me, my foremost priority is as ADOR CEO. That’s why I separated the label and remain independent. If not, then I should be part of HYBE. When I first made that decision, I was promised that my management would be intact, and I’ve done everything to prove I am suitable for the job. My first priority is NewJeans and ADOR, and that will also lead to profitability for HYBE.”

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin during Friday's press conference. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

Byline Network asks about Min's earlier meeting with HYBE. “What did HYBE and ADOR speak about? You guys said that you had discussions for the 'greater good.'”

“No discussions about that happened,” Min says. “At the earliest, we can summon the board again on June 10. We have only a week left, so I wanted to say what I wanted to say at this news conference. If I ask to meet again, then weird articles would come out again, so I wanted to speak my words and organize everything.

“There was the court decision, and HYBE needed to accept that. I am always honest and to the point. Since the board members are hanged, press will be curious, and fans will worry. I wanted to bring that all out into the open in this conference.”

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin during Friday's press conference. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

Min's lawyer Lee Sook-mi: “We just talked to each other for five minutes and discussed where we stood. HYBE’s No. 1 priority was to fire Min, but, respecting the court decision, [they] decided not to. But HYBE’s side agreed to fire the other two board members. The hiring of replacements was done without any special occurrences.

“HYBE executives and two attorneys came, and ADOR’s three board members were there. The meeting concluded quickly, and there were no statements issued. We were not notified by HYBE of the procedure to respond to the hiring of new board members.”

Reporters ask questions during Friday's press conference with ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

Money Today asks, “If the new board picks a new CEO, then would Min and the new candidate become co-CEOs? Is there a clause in ADOR['s contract] about this?”

Min's lawyer Timothy SK Lee says that “there aren’t specific clauses on this.”

Min's lawyer Lee Sook-mi adds, “Having co-CEOs and heads of different subsidiaries are different concepts. Having more than one CEO is a change of clause [from the original contract]. I’m not sure if another CEO will be hired, but I would think that it would be a breach of contract.”

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin at Friday's press conference [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

“What are the responses from NewJeans about the news that Min retained her executive position?” YTN asks. “And you said that you were going to constructively talk about HYBE on a positive note — but on this dispute, ADOR also raised objections to HYBE's conducting audits of other ADOR employees. Will all the rest of these problems be kept in the mud? How is that going to be resolved? And what about rewriting the shareholders' contract between the two parties?”

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin at Friday's press conference [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

“I cannot confirm anything for sure,” Min replies. “But as I said before, trust is a mutual thing. So what will happen next will depend on how the other side approaches the matter. HYBE could also misinterpret my intention, so that’s why I’m trying to be honest. I don’t really think it matters how the contract is revised, just that the noncompete clause to be revised.”

Min adds, “if that’s gone, than I can consider giving up rest of the conditions. But it’s hard to explain, because it depends on how the other side comes out. NewJeans members are all chaotic, of course. If they didn’t have any schedules, we probably would've met. But to me, they are …” Min trails off. “But this is not important, I think.”

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin at Friday's press conference [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

Yonhap News TV asks, “I think there are other idol members who got hurt in this dispute like BTS, ILLIT and Le Sserafim. What do you want to say to them?”

“Everyone got hurt, including NewJeans,” Min says. “Not pinpointing specific person. But as I said before, I am a person, too. One of my employees told me that [the public] is firing at me like I’m not a person anymore. But I am, and the members are, too. I don’t want to say anything to a specific person. But if everybody wants not to hurt everyone, they just have to stay silent. But they keep pushing it and bringing everyone up. That’s how people get hurt. If people want to consider others, don’t mention them.”

Min goes on, “That’s why we need to settle this matter, to wash off the blood. We need to talk about the solutions.”

MBC: “HYBE filed a police report for breach of trust. But then HYBE proposed to settle. How long are you going to wait?”

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin at Friday's press conference [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

Min answers, “There are no deadlines, but I’m just preparing for the ‘what ifs.’ If a board convenes another meeting and decides not to fire me, then it doesn’t matter. There is a possibility of that. But should they? To be straightforward, it’s hard working together. But as an adult, I can’t just say ‘I quit!’ because my feelings are hurt.

“I’m so tired and enraged and tormented. But in the long term, I have to think about what’s best for everyone and suppress [my feelings] even though I got hurt. I don’t know what HYBE is thinking. Even though I’m amicable, if the other side doesn’t’ think that way, then there’s no point.”

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin at Friday's press conference [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

Invest Chosun to the microphone. “HYBE and CEO Park Ji-won are only expressing their stance through press statements. Have you talked to [HYBE founder and Chairman] Bang Si-hyuk in person or spoken to him?” Min says no, she hasn't. What about HYBE's shareholders? “I think what I’m saying here should be relayed to them as well. Anyone can become a shareholder if they hold one share. Shareholders are the public. But since there’s money involved, it becomes more urgent.

“Would it be right to the shareholders that uncertain risks are involved? That’s why we’re asking to secure our independence, and [that HYBE] not touch us so that we can quietly perform our tasks and make a profit. Then, that would go to the shareholders. That is my philosophy.”

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin at Friday's press conference [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

You spoke about your love and visions for NewJeans, but things got loud again when the screenshots of you talking behind their backs were exposed,” TV Chosun says. “Have you talked to NewJeans about this?”

Min answers, “It would take too long to explain. Do you remember the Kakaotalk [from] three years ago? That’s what it was about.”

Min adds, “To be honest, what did I actually talk about then? You know the “wow” I replied back to ADOR's vice CEO? I don’t remember that. That’s not what’s important. It’s valueless. NewJeans did not contact me because of that.”

Min continues, “They reached out to me because they knew that I was hurt. When you look at the screen captures, those were things that just needed to be discussed. I’m not an Academy [Award]-winning actor, and I can’t believe that people would think I dressed [NewJeans member Minji] that way. The attire from the previous conference was what I’d been wearing for three days.

“Of course, I didn’t have time to change clothes and put on makeup when I was being hunted down like that. If I could, that'd be psycho. I wasn’t myself. But all of this is beside the point. As I said before, if I want to protect the artists, I should not mention them. The adults have to persevere, because that’s not the point. That’s what protection is.”

A Dong-A Ilbo reporter mentions that the entertainment industry is about “moving people.”

Min responds, “I was so confident because I didn’t have any crimes. I know myself the best. I haven’t met anyone and haven’t talked about that. Dunamu and Naver were private meetings, and it was all staged.” Min is referring to meetings she had with two major Korean companies to discuss their potentially purchasing shares of ADOR from HYBE.

“The Netflix documentary was also as scheduled. We haven’t done anything, but what documentary? The proposal was not only from Netflix; several proposals came, but we declined them all. But I thought, should I say yes to some of them? There are many perspectives tangled here, but to me, this is all so comical. I can’t remember the prior question because I’m getting old.”

Min continues discussing Naver and Dunamu. “HYBE and I were throwing punches at each other. When I talk to my employees, I always remind them that we shouldn’t sulk in the workplace. Even if I was criticized, we should not turn our backs on each other and not say hello or slam the doors, or just not reply. That’s too hurtful. I hate that.

“I think it’s childish that people would think that workplace would be a happy place. When there are lines that need to be drawn, then we work, and if we work with mindsets of rationality and reason, then there could be settling points. If I don’t approach the matter to [expletive] someone, that kind of mindset is a breach of trust. If ADOR faces a disadvantage, then the ultimate decision-maker is me. If the opponent’s argument has a point that I haven't thought of, then I could concede.

“Work should be tightly done, but to draw it out, that could be seen as planning for a breach of trust. I don’t think there is any advantage for HYBE if they draw this out. I’m a pessimistic person, but if I’m that much pessimistic, it’s too stressful to live.”

Bloter asks, “You talked about noncompetes, but when you first formed the contracts, did you realize that they were toxic to you?” Noncompete clauses typically bar an employee from taking a job with a competitor to their employer for a set period of time after that employee's position is terminated. Min has such an agreement with HYBE, which she has previously referred to as a "slave contract."

Min replies, “I didn’t know. That’s why I realized it after one year [after the contract was made].”

Bloter asks if the contract will be rewritten.

Min replies, “It’s on hold. And within that process, the copycat issue came up.” Min refers to the earlier saga in which she slammed girl group ILLIT, signed to HYBE subsidiary Belift Lab, as a “NewJeans copycat.”

“We were not aware of [what ILLLIT's concept was]. The most iconic example of this would be the teaser that was released on March 6. When we looked at the hanbok [traditional Korean dress] magazine shots, we were like 'What?' But we weren’t sure if we should raise the problem right now. And in the midst of all this, the time I was given to review the shareholder contract was very short. HYBE understood that I was in that predicament, and, back then, we were on good terms. If you're asking, if I didn’t doubt them … it would be weird to doubt a friend. Maybe that person didn’t think of me as a friend. But we were acquaintances, and normally one would trust that. So I didn't know about that clause, and when I saw them after a year, I was like, 'What?' So I began looking it up. I thought it would be revised fast, because it could also become complicated for HYBE, but something became twisted there.

“There are many business divisions within HYBE, and there are many subsidiaries here, but we need to think about the competitiveness here. As freelancers, we need to think about our survival. It’s not just about HYBE. It’s same for other companies as well. If there are complications within an organization, normally, that’s when one would turn to subsidiaries. But firstly, it won’t be a situation that I am satisfied with, or want to pursue. And if I think that it doesn't live up to my expectations, then I can work with other companies. But then, I would become conscious of that.

“That’s what would lead to complications in workplace. Sometimes, one would wonder, why aren't they giving them work? Or other side jobs as they wanted? From the perspective of a subsidiary, if I want to maximize profits for ADOR, then I want competition. What would be better? To use a work force from in-house, or outside? The best [option] would be to perform the same tasks with less money. That’s why we shook hands with Line Friends. They have their skill, and I have the design insight and understanding. The price of merchandise could be lowered because of their skill. So we had some trouble because we were working with other subcontractors, but those consolidated sales were all attributed to HYBE.

“So there could be room for competition, because I was thinking about upgrading the quality efficiently. I think we could healthily discuss this reasonably. But for HYBE to say, “Why didn’t you give me this?” — this won’t lead to an answer. From a management perspective, what’s important is to not to lose the short-term benefits. We stood on different sides of this.”

BBC asks, “Were there discussions between HYBE and NewJeans and their parents? How much did the artists get to raise their voices on this?”

Min answers, “What’s ironic is that when an artist speaks up, people think that we’re using them earn sympathy, so they can’t speak up as they want to. Sometimes they are thought to be too young and should be protected. It’s hard to say, but I was able to stand here after one month because of people who supported me or thought my words were true and honest. The Bunnies, the parents, they checked on me everyday because I might make an extreme decision. They always asked me if I was well, told me to eat. Even yesterday, we were crying. And to be honest, there is no relationship like this in the entertainment scene. We talked on the phone for one or two hours about whether the members were hurt, or on every decision made on them. Naturally, we would learn about each other's deep familial matters. And I am also close to the members’ sisters and brothers. This is the type of relationship that could not help but form.”

"But I’m not good at holding in what I think is unjust. So I tell the parents honestly about what the members have done right or wrong. Sometimes I would play the role of a teacher, sometimes I’m [celebrity psychiatrist] Oh Eun-young, and sometimes I'm a mother to them. In situations where I can’t speak to them, I ask the members’ parents to talk to them instead. So I joke that I’m their stepmother. From the perspective of HYBE, they don’t know our relationship so they can misunderstand us. They key dynamic to this idol industry is to talk openly with the artists’ parents.

“That’s why I think Ador’s revenue was so good. My management judgment was to respect the parents’ decisions as well. When should we schedule the concerts, how are the members’ conditions — I can’t judge this alone. We need to discuss how to realistically perform the tasks, and all of the hours we spent together deliberating on this [led to mutual trust].

"Parents would say, ‘You’re so busy, how can we talk for one to two hours?’ But I believe that’s my job, and that’s my duty as a CEO. If other people say it instead of me, it could be misinterpreted. I wanted to solve all the problems directly and prevent future problems by speaking to them for one to two hours. That’s the kind of relationship we’re in.”

Yonhap says, “You mentioned you wanted to keep [ADOR] independent. What is the area where you want to keep your independence? And you mentioned the vision NewJeans members have. What is that about?”

Min responds, “If you are getting an investment and work for a company, you can only compromise. There are shared functions. Not everything can be the way you want it. So if some can take a step back, we can go together. But if nobody’s willing to give up what they want, I can only talk about independence. Each organization differs in its character and style. Every manager’s style is different as well. So it’s hard to say which area we need independence in. But, you see, I’m in no position to argue. There is room for discussion. Right now is, like, a dead-end situation.

“So I’m not trying to argue what’s right or wrong right now or trying to be independent. I’m not seeking that anymore. If you look at the current problem, there are steps to making amends. You can’t solve the problem all at once. Going through a surgery and merely stitching your stomach won’t fix the problem. I think looking back at our processes within HYBE will be a good opportunity for the company to become a better company. Someone like me is useful in restructuring the organization. If you hate me for it, that organization will face problems in other ways.

Min addresses the second part of the question regarding her vision for NewJeans. “It’s just to live happily, for both NewJeans and me. You are young, you want to become a celebrity, but you don’t know what an artist is. But it’s a big company, and they say they are the expert, so the kids auditioned and came. They didn’t know anything about the system. Reporters don’t fully know the system. Each label under HYBE is different. How can these kids know?

“What matters now is how we teach these kids and what kind of a person we make them into. During the contract period, I told them they were studying with me. I am the teacher, and I have many other good teachers. Then I gave them special lectures from the pool of professors, for seven years, and then I told them, 'Study so that you can make your living afterward. Until you do, you will work for me.'

"When you grow, you start to want to do your own thing. But to be a good parent, you shouldn’t be giving them everything now. You should be teaching them how to become independent and make a living afterward. How can moms always be there for them? I think that for them to be a great artist, I mean, they might even want to get married or study abroad after seven years. Who knows what they will want? And who can stop them?

“I want them to live the life they want. That’s for the long-term good of them. Not signing contracts again. I think that’s the industry’s malpractice. Other teams debut, and markets change. If you think about it, this kind of vision is something that wasn’t there before in the K-pop industry. The members might have thought my vision was fun and interesting. I didn’t want K-pop to be stagnant, following after what other successful artists do. That’s not fun.”

“They are not running YouTube promos,” Min continues. “They don’t even look like they care. But they make money, and they are doing well. How can HYBE make so much money with such little investment? Why do I save on costs? I am a producer, and so I don’t want to spend money on things unnecessarily. I work with people I trust. They don’t stab me in the back. They get paid the right amount, and that’s how we work. For the music video for 'HURT' [2023], it was shot in like an hour or so.”

“There’s not much cost incurred by that. When we were shooting the music video for 'Attention' [2022], I said, 'I don’t have a lot of money, but I want this video. Let’s close-up on their faces. Fans like that.' For the main music video, that doesn’t work. You need some kind of specialty. But I want to show the faces. Then what do you do? Well, what’s difficult when they are already beautiful? You just need to shoot. If you use your brain, you can save so much money and still do well. The budget I use for production is lower than the industry average.”

Min continues recounting her experience producing NewJeans' music videos. “When I was producing 'Hype Boy' [2023], we produced four videos for the cost of producing one video. It’s not only our label that invests a lot. Investment money comes in at the same time. Then the CEO just tries to work out how to use it. My motto from the beginning was not to rely on additional investment, but to deal with the initial investment we got. I don’t like to be indebted. I wanted our company to turn a profit as soon as possible.

“So I didn’t want to spend too much on music videos. I don’t like to do everything abroad. It was just that if you want to play music on the street and shoot something, there are so many limitations in Korea. If you shoot outside, your music is leaked. So I tried to find a country where people won’t be able to find us and where there is more freedom in shooting. And as we went out, I tried to take as many shoots as possible while at that location. So I scheduled things tightly. I don’t like working at night. And staff payment gets expensive at night. So you have to be smart, to be efficient.”

“How will ADOR operate?” Min is asked. “What was the response of the employees?”

“I have a lot on my mind,” Min says. “Employees are trying to act normal, but how worried would they be? I could feel, in the messages they sent me, how they felt. So I am going to email everyone tomorrow. How I felt … everything. It was like a sudden nightmare for everybody, and then a month just passed by. I think it all depends on what the counterpart says. This could end on good terms or not. But I am so tired. And paying for lawyers and everything, I don’t have the money. They are so expensive. It’s been going on for a month. Can you imagine the cost? My incentive, 2 billion won [$1.45 million] all went into hiring lawyers. Literally. After taxes, what would I really get? It’s all over. I just go along with life, happy when happy and then sad when sad. I don’t plan for the future.

“I am MBTI P [prospecting], but as I live life and work for the company, I am becoming J [judging]. I am, like, a total P with just 1 percent J,” she says, implying that she does not like to plan in advance.

“So that’s how I fit in this work. Because I am flexible and agile. It’s so fun to work with fans. It’s a very fast cycle. But why did I talk about money? Oh, so … when you are over 40, moms forget names, and I am like that now. And I also have ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder]. I am sorry. So I don’t know how things will go with HYBE. But I am tired. Exhausted. And about the money, viral and reverse-viral, how to do it? I am so tired just delivering the news to reporters. I don’t want this situation to go on any longer.

“Let’s just be efficient. Don’t use up our money on unnecessary stuff. HYBE must have spent money. The court has created a turning point. It’s all meaningless for this fight to go on and betrayal to go on. We met on business terms, and we need to come to a conclusion. It’s been a month. It’s exhausting.”

Min turns to discuss the future of NewJeans and HYBE. “If you just think about me, it’s all easy. But to think about everybody, I think of NewJeans as my own children. If I think about them, it’s so painful. Let’s do this, and everything’s gone? It’s all so painful.
So that’s why I said I would back down.”

The Korea Herald asks the final question. “This all started with the allegation that ILLIT copied NewJeans. Do you still think ILLIT copied NewJeans? Will you still act out if other groups copy NewJeans in the future?”

“As I’ve said before, I’m a consistent person, and it’s not like my thoughts would’ve changed,” Min replies. “I already said that I didn’t want to mention the members. But now we are at a stage where the issue is different,” she says, contrasting her current state to the one she was in when she accused ILLIT and HYBE of plagiarizing NewJeans.

“So I would rather not talk about this matter more, as it will make people uncomfortable. Talking about calling things out, though — I think calling out in a healthy way is always necessary. We don’t know what issue might arise next time. So sometimes I might skip some while raising questions on others.”

Min turns back to ILLIT and her copycat accusation. “I thought it was crucially necessary for me to raise the issue, for [NewJeans'] survival. If something like that happens again, yes, I will call it out. You know, one day I would go, 'I should just expose everything and blow it up,' and on the other day I’d go, 'Ah, I should just endure it.' But it’s not like I write all my feelings down on my KakaoTalk. I don’t record them every second.

“And as I end the news conference, I would just like to mention that I have a lot of people I am thankful for. I just thought, 'I must win the injunction,' because I didn’t want to upset the people who trusted me with goodwill.

“But I don’t have a lot of cash, so if I do end up making a lot of money — like 10 billion won — I would like to return it to society. It’s not like I’ll end up carrying the money [to the grave]. Actually, it got me thinking that I should just throw money out into the streets. Like, I kind of wanted people to queue up outside my place so I could hand them out 1 million won each. Crazy thought, I know. What am I going to do with all the money?

“When I look at Bunnies — I went to a restaurant when NewJeans had its fan meeting, and I saw fans holding lightsticks, and I was so thankful for the support. I can buy meals for them. I can buy meals thousands of times for our fans. So it sort of hurts to do business against someone that supports you. Which is why I wanted to make good content. So even if you randomly choose any of our content, it will end up being a good one and not a wacky one. That’s I think how we should repay our fans.”

Min continues, in tears. “I just want to make money without making myself feel guilty. I was having such a tough time three or four days before the injunction. I wanted to speak out, but I didn’t want to make a bigger mess out of it. The only thing that comforted me was my album collection — I collect vintage albums or albums that are aesthetically pleasing graphically. And I never realized that our fans also do a similar thing. And that got me thinking 'Wow, do only refined people turn out to be Bunnies?'

“I really wanted to show off our fans and show the world how cool Bunnies are. Whenever Bunnies tagged me, I would repost it to my story, and that really gave me comfort. Looking at pretty things made me comfortable, and looking at others also enjoying in that manner, feel like their life was getting affluent, I think that feeling, in return, made me feel much better. So I’m not sure if I’m a pervert or what, but it was nice for me to see that other people were enjoying their life in such ways. It gave me catharsis."

4:15 p.m. Min concludes the news conference with her final remarks. “I just would like to thank [the court], again, for the injunction, and I just hope it goes well for NewJeans. You know, I’ll be fine, living, somehow, but they are still kids. They still need my support. So I hope the adults make good decisions for them.

“Again, I’m also willing to make financial deals, because I’m not greedy. I just hope people don’t misjudge me. I did all I could. I’m glad I won the injunction, and it feels fresh to have the false charges against me taken off like that. I hope all turns out to be good for NewJeans."

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin leaves Friday's press conference [JOINT PRESS CORPS]