No two queen bees in a HYBE: The claims, accusations, rebuttals so far

Bang Si-hyuk, chairman of HYBE at left, and Min Hee-jin, CEO of ADOR [YONHAP]

NewJeans producer and ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin had a lot to say during Thursday’s press conference. She now stands at the very center of an ongoing controversy between herself and HYBE, the K-pop conglomerate that owns ADOR and 64 other companies, including BTS’s agency BigHit Music.

Min claimed the spat began when HYBE held back the debut of NewJeans and ordered Min to keep silent on anything to do with the group before it debuted so it could shine the spotlight solely on Le Sserafim, which debuted just a few months ahead of NewJeans in May 2022.

HYBE, on the other hand, argues that no such thing ever happened. It states that Min has been leaking confidential data in order to get a third-party investor to buy HYBE’s stakes in ADOR and seize control of the company.

HYBE reported her to police on Thursday for breach of trust and released a full rebuttal on Friday afternoon.

Amid the complicated back-and-forth that began on Monday, the Korea JoongAng Daily will sum up the main arguments that have been brought forward by the two parties and the prevalent reaction shown online.

Min Hee-jin, producer of girl group NewJeans and CEO of ADOR, sheds tears during a press conference held on April 25 in southern Seoul. [NEWS1]

Min Hee-jin: “HYBE pushed me and NewJeans aside”

HYBE prioritized Le Sserafim over NewJeans: HYBE recruited Min to rebrand the company and make Big Hit Entertainment — as the company was known back in 2019 — its first girl group at Source Music, a subsidiary that used to manage the now-disbanded girl group GFriend. Min said that many of the trainees were subpar and requested HYBE to establish a new label under her creation.

HYBE promised to debut her girl group first, but then pushed her project aside for the girl group that debuted as Le Sserafim, according to Min. She claims they then prohibited her from promoting or speaking publicly about NewJeans before its debut “because they needed to push Le Sserafim.”

Bang Si-hyuk did not support, but mocked NewJeans’ success: Min and Bang had been on “bad terms,” per Min’s words, ever since the debut of Le Sserafim, which was made worse throughout the two-year journey of NewJeans. Bang texted Min after NewJeans made the Billboard charts with “Ditto” (2022), saying, “Are you happy?” in a sarcastic tone, as revealed in their KakaoTalk chat.

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin at a press conference on April 25 [NEWS1]

I made an internal report against HYBE execs and HYBE retaliated: The company’s audit on ADOR came as retaliation against an internal report Min made against HYBE execs on April 3, according to her. Min says she demanded an official answer from HYBE on the reasons behind the similarity between newly-debuted girl group ILLIT and NewJeans.

I never got in touch with any outside investor: Min said that she never actually made contact with any foreign investment funds, including any from Saudi Arabia, as HYBE claims. The names may have been mentioned, but they were only presented during very personal meetings she held with staff when they were sharing their frustrations over HYBE’s negligence toward the company, she said.

The “Project 1945” document is nothing but a memo: The document that HYBE claims to be evidence of Min’s attempted coup is nothing but an informal memo that the vice president of ADOR wrote during meetings. It was not a formally written document and the vice president “just likes to jot things down,” according to Min.

No trust has been breached, it was all just table talk: No trust has been breached by Min because she did not act on any of the so-called “plots,” according to Min’s attorney Lee Sook-mee at Shin & Kim. At no point did Min try to diminish the company's value, which means that HYBE cannot prove anything regarding its police report, the attorney said.

A picture of Bang Si-hyuk, chairman of HYBE at center, with members of girl group Le Sserafim [SCREEN CAPTURE]

HYBE: “It was Min Hee-jin who got NewJeans' debut postponed"

Min Hee-jin tried to take control of ADOR: HYBE began an internal audit against ADOR on Monday morning upon the suspicion that NewJeans' label executives have been plotting to get an outside investor to buy HYBE’s shares in ADOR so that Min can gain control over the company.

Min ordered executives to gather dirt on HYBE: Through the audit, HYBE found documents titled "HYBE's sins," "Project 1945" and more, containing hostile information against HYBE to use as leverage as well as plans to break free by finding an overseas investor. The number 1945 likely symbolizes the year that Korea became independent from Japanese colonial rule between 1910 and 1945.

HYBE said that not only was the "1945" document found in the ADOR vice president's emails, but that it found files with "months of dialogue and meetings around the same subjects mentioned." HYBE also found a record showing Min ordering "everything to look merely like table talk," the company said Friday.

Photos for girl group NewJeans' upcoming single "How Sweet" set for release on May 24 [ADOR]

HYBE has invested 15.4 billion won in ADOR: HYBE spent 15.4 billion won in November 2021 to break ADOR off from Source Music, a subsidiary of HYBE, under the condition that HYBE owns 100 percent of ADOR’s shares. HYBE sold 18 percent of the shares to Min at a 1.1 billion won and 2 percent to other managers of ADOR.

We did not push back NewJeans' debut: NewJeans' debut was postponed because of Min Hee-jin's personal ambitions, not because of HYBE, according to the company. The company stressed that it had already sent Min a detailed answer to her questions on April 22, in contrast to her claim that she'd never received a full answer regarding the matter from HYBE.

It was Min who requested that she debut a girl group at a separate label, which resulted in bureaucratic paperwork that led to NewJeans' debut being pushed, HYBE said.

Minimizing NewJeans' promotion was inevitable: The company said that it had inevitably needed to ask Min to keep NewJeans' predebut promotions to a minimum because there was only a two-month term between the debuts of Le Sserafim and NewJeans. The company issued 273 press releases regarding NewJeans during the past year, which "cannot be considered small" compared to the 659 press releases for BTS and its seven members and the 365 releases for Pledis Entertainment's four teams including Seventeen.

Photos for girl group NewJeans' upcoming single "How Sweet" set for release on May 24 [ADOR]

Min discussed specific methods of “escaping from HYBE”: Specific methods were discussed by Min and the execs, HYBE said, which included terminating NewJeans members' contracts with ADOR and terminating Min's contract with HYBE. The list of methods included exercising Min's put option, leaving ADOR "an empty shell," getting a financial investor, asking HYBE to sell ADOR, selling ADOR and signing a new deal with a different company.

Min has been coached by a shaman on company affairs: Min had been consulting a female shaman to decide on major company management matters including the military services of BTS members or who to hire for the company.

HYBE said it secured lengthy transcripts of conversations between Min and the shaman through a forensic analysis from the internal audit of ADOR.

HYBE has demanded that Min step down: HYBE asked Min to step down as the CEO of ADOR prior to making its police report. Min has been refusing to hand in her laptop and won't comply with the company’s requests, HYBE said.

HYBE has asked ADOR to open up a shareholders' meeting to fire Min: 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 a shareholders' meeting and board meeting.

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

Public opinion: Affectionate producer or ungrateful usurper?

Even I would have been frustrated: The table has definitely turned to Min’s side. The public consensus until before the press conference was that Min was an ungrateful and irrational usurper who tried to overthrow the company management because of her own greed.

After Thursday’s event, however, public opinion has sided with Min, with a lot of people empathizing with Min’s position, viewing her as a creator and producer who only wanted her voice to be heard and whose efforts have been neglected by the company.

Min’s repeated assertion that she’s not interested in taking control of the company but just demands a change from HYBE has been met with support, or sympathy at least, from many people who have had a similar situation occur to them at work.

Min’s emotional outrage at HYBE, which sometimes manifested in emotionally charged expletives, actually worked to her advantage and led viewers to say that such an emotional creator “obviously seems uninterested in politics or management” but purely wants her work to be recognized — whether that’s a good thing or not.

NewJeans [ADOR]

She’s still an irrational usurper and an immature producer: Still, some believe that whether or not HYBE “oppressed” her like she says, Min claiming the creation of NewJeans as her own work is irrational and ungrounded. They say as long as she’s signed to a company, which she is, it is up to the company to change the schedules of a debut or promotional activities.

Some also see Min’s mentioning of ILLIT as a "NewJeans copycat" as not making sense, as the intellectual property (IP) Min created under ADOR is the property of HYBE, and the company can take such IP and repurpose it for any other use as it sees fit.

They also find Min’s repeated reference to specific groups — whether it be “her” creation NewJeans, Le Sserafim or ILLIT — a demonstration of just how egocentric and immature she is as a K-pop producer. Just as she cares for her own artists, other artists are also precious assets to other companies who came as a result of hard work by the constituents at each label, claim this group.

Some viewers also said that Min's alleged discussions with an outside investor carry weight because she is the CEO of a label, and thus her words cannot simply be considered “table talk.” Should there have been any specific methods discussed to overthrow management, then Min should answer to legal authorities regarding her actions, they said.