HYBE pushed NewJeans aside for Le Sserafim, says Min Hee-jin

Min Hee-jin, CEO of ADOR, tears up while speaking during a press conference held Wednesday in southern Seoul. The conference was held seven hours after HYBE said it would report her to the police for breach of trust. [NEWS1]

HYBE forced ADOR not to promote NewJeans before its debut in order to promote Le Sserafim instead, the girl group’s producer and ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin told reporters in a two-hour press conference held on Thursday, the day that HYBE said it will report her to the police.

“[HYBE] told me I couldn’t promote NewJeans or publicly talk about the group because they needed to push Le Sserafim,” Min said, revealing a series of KakaoTalk chats she held with HYBE CEO Park Ji-won and chairman Bang Si-hyuk to reporters.

“They didn’t let me promote NewJeans as the first girl group from Min Hee-jin because they intentionally wanted to confuse people. NewJeans was the one that should have debuted first, but they broke their promise and debuted Le Sserafim instead, with members Sakura and Kim Chae-won added to the list.”

Min met with local press in southern Seoul on Thursday afternoon, seven hours after HYBE said it will file a police report for breach of trust.

An emotional Min emphasized that the reason she “resorted to all of this“ was because HYBE pushed NewJeans aside ever since the girl group’s debut and has been mistreating her as the producer behind the success the quintet has achieved.

Min Hee-jin, producer of girl group NewJeans and CEO of ADOR, unveils past KakaoTalk chats with HYBE CEO Park Ji-won during a press conference Thursday in southern Seoul. [CHO YONG-JUN]

Min said that she and Bang had been on “bad terms” ever since the debut of Le Sserafim, which was made worse throughout the two-year journey of NewJeans. But the whole “situation” erupted when she wrote an internal report and demanded change, “which was met with retaliation through an audit and a raid of our office.”

“I made an internal report, which I hoped would be addressed formally by the company, but so many things have stemmed from there,” she said.

“I had to resort to an internal report because they never listened to us,” she said, saying that she couldn’t disclose the details of the document.

Min alluded to the members of NewJeans, especially Hanni, Haerin and Hyein being on her side during the conference. She said received phone calls from the members, and Hyein even said that she “wanted to speak out about everything” on the group’s fan community app Phoning.

Girl group NewJeans [ADOR]

“She told me that she thanks me so much because I helped her through hard times,” Min said, recalling her phone call with the NewJeans member. “She said that she wants to tell everyone what happened. The members' mothers are so worried that I'm going to kill myself. But why would I? I'm going to say everything that I have in my heart."

The girls' mothers tried to talk to HYBE, but CEO Park refused, according to Min.

“Do you know what Park Ji-won said to the mothers? He said that he's not going to talk to them, just to ADOR. Then they start an audit without telling us and say they care about NewJeans?”

Earlier on Thursday, HYBE announced that it found “solid evidence” that Min attempted to conspire against HYBE and ordered her staff to gather hostile information about the BTS agency. Specific methods were discussed by Min and the executives, HYBE said, which included terminating the contracts of the NewJeans members with ADOR and Min's contract with HYBE.

Girl group NewJeans pose for a photo as Incheon International Airport's new ambassadors at the appointing ceremony in March. The group has asked Google to identify the operator behind a YouTube channel that the members allege to have spread defamatory information, according to U.S. news reports. [YONHAP]

HYBE said that it questioned insiders of ADOR, one of whom handed in evidence that Min conspired against HYBE and ordered the staff to gather damaging information. Min ordered ADOR executives "to find ways to push HYBE into selling its shares of ADOR," the informant said.

The informant turned over "detailed evidence" that Min tried to seize management rights of her label and contacted a potential investor to help her gain control of it. Min had previously denied to the local press that she met outside investors.

Specific methods were discussed by Min and the executives, HYBE said, including contract termination for NewJeans with their label and for Min with the parent label.

Min Hee-jin, CEO of ADOR, asks photo journalists to turn off their flashlights. [CHO YONG-JUN]

"Their conversations included subjects such as 'getting international money and making a deal with HYBE,' 'making critical appeals about everything that HYBE does,' and 'coming up with ways to harass HYBE,'" according to the top agency.

"They also made plans to 'get ready for a fight involving the press in May' and 'make ADOR an empty shell and take it out,'" the company said.

HYBE also released a KakaoTalk conversation between the subsidiary label's vice CEO and Min that took place on April 4 at around 5 p.m.

The vice CEO sent Min a message that read, "We have these options," listing a series of methods to take control of the label by exercising Min's put option, leaving ADOR "an empty shell," getting a financial investor, asking HYBE to sell ADOR or selling it and signing a new deal with a different company. Min answered, “Wow.”

The informant admitted to writing a file containing the phrase "Ultimately escape HYBE" but said that the words came from Min and they only "wrote them down."

Through the audit, the parent agency found documents titled "HYBE's sins," "Project 1945" and more containing critical information against the label to use as leverage as well as plans to break free by finding an overseas investor. The number 1945 is likely a reference of the year that Korea became independent from Japanese colonial rule, which lasted from 1910 to 1945.

The "1945" document was found in the emails of ADOR's vice president. Min has not handed her laptop over to HYBE yet.

Photo journalists take close-up photos of ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin as she sits down for her press conference Wednesday in southern Seoul. [CHO YONG-JUN]

A day earlier, ADOR sent a formal response to HYBE's set of questions just minutes before the 6 p.m. Wednesday deadline. The sublabel warned of legal measures should the content of the letter be made public, according to HYBE.

HYBE has requested that ADOR convene a board meeting on April 30. Should the board members refuse to comply, the parent label is likely to file a request in court to open an ADOR shareholders' meeting. A court decision typically takes four to five weeks, after which the label will get 15 days to open the shareholders meeting and board meeting.

HYBE CEO Park Ji-won apologized for concerning the fans, artists and the constituents of his label for the "mishap that took place in the process of refining the multilabel system," while also promising to keep supporting NewJeans in the future.

"We promise to prioritize the mental recovery and emotional stability of our artists, who are the most precious assets in K-pop, now that the situation has settled for the time being," he said in a press release.

Girl group NewJeans [ADOR]

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

The girl group is set to release a music video on Friday, which will proceed as planned, Min said.

“Bang Si-hyuk needs to keep his hands off the labels,” Min said. “Not that he's not capable — [HYBE labels] BigHit [Music], Pledis [Entertainment] and Source [Music] are produced by Bang Si-hyuk. If a chairman gets involved, then people suck up to you. Other labels do weird things to look good. It's just human nature. The only way that this can be prevented is if the top man keeps away. If they get involved, you naturally end up talking about who's the favorite and who's not.”

Min said that she will be willing to talk with Bang or Park should they offer to do so. She stressed that this is not an attempt to hijack NewJeans from ADOR or ADOR from HYBE.

Min Hee-jin, left, producer of girl group NewJeans and CEO of its agency ADOR [ADOR]

“My relationship with HYBE may be bad — I saw what happened to Fifty Fifty, I’m not dumb,” Min said, referring to the girl group that tried to break free from its agency after seeing major success with a single. Three out of the four members were kicked out of the group as a result.

“I'm not trying to say that I'm the righteous one or the great one,” she said. “I just wanted to say things candidly. It's really not about the money, nor am I taking this lightly. I just want everyone to imagine what it would have taken to push someone to do this.”

HYBE refuted all accusations in a press release after the conference. The company handed in the police report against Min on Thursday afternoon to the Yongsan Police Station.

"There are so many things she said during the press conference that aren't true that it's difficult to list them all," the statement said. "We have decided not to react to any of them, because we think it's pointless."

"We do, however, want to make this clear regarding the company management," it continued. "We ask that Min stops lying by saying that we did not ask to talk to her or that we did not respond to her email. We ask that she promptly steps down for the good of the company as she has proven herself to be incapable as a manager. We also ask you to stop damaging the members' reputations by repeatedly mentioning the artists and their parents."