K-Pop Clash as HYBE Probes Alleged Breakaway Attempt by NewJeans Label ADOR

HYBE Corp., the biggest corporation in the South Korean pop music scene, has begun an audit into ADOR, the label responsible for K-pop act NewJeans. HYBE says that executives at the majority-owned subsidiary may be attempting to break away from the conglomerate.

“HYBE invoked the right to audit CEO Min Hee-Jin and top executives of its subsidiary label ADOR, called them to summon a shareholder meeting and sent an official letter to ask CEO Min to step down,” HYBE said in a statement emailed to Variety.

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Media sources in Korea have reported that the audit targets Min and one of her deputies and that computer assets have been seized and face-to-face statements already taken.

They also report that HYBE suspects Min and her deputy to have circulated confidential information to outsiders in a possible bid to attract investors who would allow ADOR to gain its independence from the parent company.

ADOR was founded in 2021 as a HYBE subsidiary and is currently 18% owned by Min, a renown hit-maker in the Korean music industry. Min issued her own statement describing the allegations as “an absurd media play” and as punishment for her criticism of Belift, another Hybe label.

“They are trying to dismiss me as I took issue with [recently-launched girl group] ILLIT copying NewJeans,” Min’s statement said.

HYBE’s CEO Park Ji-won, countered that assertion with an email sent to company staff and which was subsequently leaked to Korean media. “Most of what they are claiming is not true or groundless,” Park said in the email. “We have learned that the plans in question were set long before ILLIT made its debut.” He also called it “a case revealing a clear attempt to seize control of the company.”

The unidentified ADOR deputy has also been in anonymous contact with Korean news media and said that the trouble stems from an internal document laying down his personal experiences and grievances. He said that its contents had not been discussed with Min or other ADOR executives.

The Yonhap news agency quoted the executive as saying: “I deeply regret that mere personal reflections, which are no more than a ‘memo’ level of writing that has never been implemented, have been leaked to Hybe and portrayed in various news articles as if they were an internal document for a grand conspiracy, just because they were stored on a company laptop.”

With BTS in hiatus, while its group members do their mandatory military service, HYBE has sought to diversify its acts and revenue sources. NewJeans, which debuted in 2022, has achieved rapid stardom. It has had successive hits including “Hype Boy,” “Attention,” “Ditto” and “OMG” and is scheduled to release a new single next month.

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