HYBE-ADOR conflict: What will happen to NewJeans?

Girl group NewJeans [ADOR]

NewJeans will release its music and hold the Tokyo Dome concerts as planned — but what happens next?

As the conflict between HYBE and its subsidiary ADOR shows no signs of ending anytime soon, questions remain surrounding what the future holds for NewJeans, and whether the members will side with their producer Min Hee-jin or their agency's owner, HYBE.

NewJeans members have been keeping mum on the feud between Min and HYBE ever since news broke Monday that the ADOR CEO tried to get a third-party investor to help her gain control over the agency.

The group’s official social media accounts and media platforms — YouTube, TikTok, Twitter (or X) and Instagram — have been uploading new posts this week, but only those unrelated to the conflict, such as member Hyein’s birthday on April 21 and the group’s Nike event held in Singapore last February.

The only thing that ADOR revealed about NewJeans is that when Min called out ILLIT — a girl group that debuted under HYBE subsidiary Belift Lab last month — as the “fake NewJeans,” the statement came “after ample communication with NewJeans members and legal attorneys,” implying that the five singers also agreed with Min’s accusations.

Girl groups NewJeans, pictured top, and ILLIT [ADOR, BELIFT LAB]

Netizens even found that member Hyein had uploaded a series of pictures to NewJeans’ official fan community app, Phoning, on March 25, the day that ILLIT held its debut showcase. One image included very small text that read: “Stop copying.”

Should the members decide to take Min’s side and attempt to break free from HYBE, the BTS agency could be left with another Fifty Fifty situation at hand. The two parties would be looking at months of lawsuits trying to prove why the exclusive contracts between the two parties should or should not be terminated, unless one throws in the towel.

Girl group NewJeans will hold ″Bunnies Camp 2024 Tokyo Dome″ meet and greet at the Tokyo Dome in Japan on June 26 and 27. [ADOR]

ADOR could skip the legal battle by ending the members’ contracts as their current agency. But then it would have to answer to HYBE — the parent company that owns 80 percent of ADOR’s shares. Should ADOR's execs fail to give proper reasoning, they could end up being sued by HYBE.

“An amicable solution is already out the window in reality, but it really is the only way to stop any more harm being done to the artists,” said pop music critic Kim Do-heon.

“It’s already the names NewJeans and ILLIT that are being used at the forefront of the battle between the two companies. The longer this conflict lasts, the more harm will be done to the members’ reputations and that can’t be good for the activities that the groups have ahead of them.”

NewJeans has one Korean single scheduled for May 24, a Japanese single and two concerts at Tokyo Dome in June. The quintet also announced an album to come within the latter half of the year and a world tour set to begin next year.

HYBE said that the group’s activities will proceed as planned “as long as there is no direct request from ADOR,” and the company's CEO Park Ji-won also made it clear that it would support all its artists, including NewJeans and ILLIT, in an email sent to HYBE employees on Tuesday.

Trucks with LED screens drive around HYBE's headquarters in central Seoul on Wednesday with messages demanding ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin to stop using the agency's girl group NewJeans in her conflict with HYBE. [YONHAP]

Fans are also rooting for HYBE to get a hold of the situation. Fans paid for an LED truck to drive around HYBE headquarters in central Seoul’s Yongsan on Wednesday with a message reading, “Min Hee-jin, stop using NewJeans and the family,” and, “Bunnies support HYBE-signed NewJeans.” Bunnies is the name of NewJeans’ fan club.

HYBE has requested that the board members of ADOR summon a shareholders' meeting. If the board members, who are mostly pro-Min, refuse to do so, HYBE could file for a court order to force a meeting, but it could take up to two months for a court decision to come.

“There is no reason for HYBE, which owns 80 percent of ADOR, to give up the NewJeans IP [intellectual property],” said Ji In-hae, an analyst at Shinhan Securities. “But since the situation has escalated to this level, it is likely that HYBE will demand Min Hee-jin to retire as the CEO.”