HomeEntertainmentK-pop group NewJeans is at the center of a messy feud: what...

K-pop group NewJeans is at the center of a messy feud: what you need to know

Is this K-pop’s biggest feud of 2024?

NewJeans, the five-member girl group behind hits like “Attention” and “Super Shy,” finds itself at the heart of a messy legal feud between the label head, ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin, and Hybe, the parent company behind top K-pop groups like BTS , Tomorrow x Together and Seventeen.

The controversial fight between ADOR (an acronym for All Doors One Room) and Hybe first came to light in late April, when it emerged that Hybe controlled ADOR over its plans to spin off independently and acquire NewJeans – which made his debut in July 2022 and catapulted him to fame. Over the course of the public feud, there have been accusations of plagiarism, shamanism and insider trading.

As the battle for control – and for public opinion – continues, here’s what you need to know about the ongoing K-pop drama between ADOR CEO Min and Hybe.

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 25: ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin attends a press conference on April 25, 2024 in Seoul, South Korea.  HYBE, the company behind BTS, has launched an audit of its subsidiary ADOR and is demanding the resignation of CEO Min Hee-jin, claiming that she tried to take over popular girl group NewJeans and leaked sensitive information, while Min claims that HYBE ADOR exploited and allowed plagiarism of NewJeans' concept.  The feud between the two entertainment powerhouses threatens to derail the careers of NewJeans and other HYBE artists caught in the middle of the corporate power struggle.  (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin during a press conference on April 25, 2024 in Seoul, South Korea. (Chung Sung-jun/Getty Images)

Min Hee-jin, who calls herself the “mother” of NewJeans, is the current head of ADOR, an independently run sub-label under the Hybe banner.

A veteran of the K-pop industry, Min joined Hybe in 2019 when it was still known as Big Hit Entertainment, after playing a key role in shaping the creative direction for genre-defining acts like SHINee, EXO and Girls Generation. In 2021, she became CEO of the newly created label ADOR, of which she owns an 18% stake, ahead of the launch of her first girl group, which later became NewJeans. Hybe owns an 80% stake in the company, with the remaining 2% controlled by other executives.

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The first sign of trouble came on April 22, when Billboard reported that Hybe had initiated an internal audit of ADOR following allegations that Min was secretly planning to take control of the label and become fully independent. In an official letter, Hybe also called for Min to resign as CEO.

In response, ADOR suggested that the infighting started because Min had reason to believe Hybe was deliberately copying NewJeans’ concept to launch ILLIT, a five-member fledgling girl group that debuted in March under Hybe sister label Belift Lab. ADOR also denied Hybe’s accusations that the CEO took several paths, including seeking outside investors (a claim Min rejected) in an alleged attempt to separate the label from its parent company.

On April 25, Hybe issued a press release stating that the audit found “concrete evidence” that Min aimed to “seize management control of ADOR,” including alleged instructions on how to pressure Hybe to to sell an 80% interest. Hybe also said it was filing an official police complaint against Min and other ADOR executives for breach of trust, prompting the CEO to call an emergency press conference that same day to deny the allegations.

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During the emotional two-hour press conference, Min maintained her loyalty to NewJeans and insisted she had no intention of severing contractual ties with Hybe. She also claimed she had a “slave contract” with Hybe (which the company denied), addressed allegations that she sought help from a shaman and argued that the debut of Le Sserafim – a Hybe girl group under sub-label Source Music – took precedence got over NewJeans. among several other claims.

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin attends a press conference on April 25 in Seoul, South Korea.ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin attends a press conference on April 25 in Seoul, South Korea.

ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin attends a press conference on April 25 in Seoul, South Korea. (Chung Sung-jun/Getty Images)

In the weeks that followed, things became increasingly messy between Min and Hybe, which recently became South Korea’s first entertainment conglomerate. Parents of NewJeans members have gotten involved and rumors are swirling about cults and card manipulation.

Despite Min and Hybe’s feud over who controls ADOR (and ultimately NewJeans), both sides seem to agree on at least one thing amid the public mudslinging: protecting NewJeans.

NewJeans' Minji, Hyein, Danielle, Hanni and Haerin will perform at the August 2023 Lollapalooza Music Festival in Chicago's Grant Park.NewJeans' Minji, Hyein, Danielle, Hanni and Haerin will perform at the August 2023 Lollapalooza Music Festival in Chicago's Grant Park.

From left to right, NewJeans’ Minji, Hyein, Danielle, Hanni and Haerin perform at the Lollapalooza Music Festival in August 2023. (Amy Harris/Invision via AP)

The ADOR-Hybe battle comes at an inopportune time for NewJeans. The group, which consists of members Minji, Hanni, Danielle, Haerin and Hyein, is in the middle of a comeback.

“Our company is committed to ensuring that NewJeans’ comeback activities are not hindered,” Hybe said in an April 25 statement. A few days after the feud was first reported in April, the five-piece dropped the music video for their latest song “Bubble Gum,” which will be released on May 24 along with upcoming single “How Sweet.”

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The quintet will then perform at the K-Wave Concert Inkigayo in Incheon, South Korea on June 2.

NewJeans will then make its Japanese debut with the single ‘Supernatural’ on June 21. A second song, ‘Right Now’, featuring contributions from Pharrell, will also be released the same day. The group will hold a fan meeting, ‘Bunnies Camp 2024’, on June 26 and 27 in Tokyo.

NewJeans has no official activities after the concerts in Tokyo, so it remains unclear what the future will hold for them and what will have happened in the ADOR-Hybe fight. A month before the controversy, it was reported that NewJeans might release a new album in the second half of the year and planned to go on its first world tour in 2025.

The story changed when new claims emerged after one of the members’ parents claimed in an interview in May that Hybe planned to put NewJeans “on a long hiatus” after the group’s activities ended.

Hybe is using a fair process to dismiss Min from her position as CEO of ADOR, but that has not yet happened.

On May 10, ADOR’s board agreed to hold an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting, scheduled for May 31, where the replacement of Min and other board members will be discussed.

Min had previously filed an injunction with the Seoul Central District Court on May 7 to prohibit Hybe from exercising her right to vote to fire her.

The hearing took place on May 17, with further accusations made from both sides. Among them, Hybe alleged that Ador’s CEO robbed NewJeans, shared trade secrets and secretly met with outside investors. Min accused the company of trying to market one of NewJeans’ albums.

The court’s decision to approve or reject its order is expected to come before the shareholders’ meeting.

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