Friday, August 3, 2012

ZILLY TALKZ: Very Read-Worthy Article on T-ara's Bullying Scandal

As there has been a steep rise in the number of the bullying related deaths (including suicides) in Korea, T-ara's bullying scandal has become a hot issue at the national level. Today, I'll translate one of the best-written article I've ever read since the scandal broke.  It's quite long but trust me: it's worth reading the whole thing.


Written by Kim Gyoseok
Translated by ONSEMIRO
(Link to the original article in the Enter-Media)

"Shameful Decision Made by a Bigwig in the Korean Entertainment Industry"

Here's a manager or producer named Kim Kwang-soo. He entered the Korean entertainment management industry as a road manager in 1985 and in the 90's, he rose to success with an eye for discovering fresh talent (including actors as well as singers), which gave him the nickname Midas Touch. He was at the peak of his career, when he discovered the singer Jo Sungmo, and SG Wannabe's success proved the pinnacle of his career even in the 2000s. He became one of the powerful bigwigs in the Korean entertainment industry and is considered an iconic example of a person that started at the bottom and worked his way up to the top on his own and with his own style.

Kim seems to have an aura of confidence that he can always create a new star. In an interview, he said celebs' it factor always changes; just like we buy a new smartphone and toss away an old phone, celebs are like "consumable products."  Maybe that's why, despite his own genius for discovering talents, training them and making them famous, he never has ongoing amicable relationships with them.

Along with his eye for fresh talent, another key to Kim's success is that he's really good at making "the celebs under his leadership" (henceforth, his employees) the center of public attention through a variety of media outlets he can use in the right place at the right time. He doesn't care about the future of his employees as long as he can set the trend using them and make money.  Kim Minwoo (henceforth, Minwoo), the best new Korean ballad singer of the early 90's, shows a typical example of his kind of leadership: In an attempt to make the song, Ibyeong-yeolcha Aneseo (“In the Enlistment Train”), hit the number one in 1990, Kim really talked Minwoo into enlisting; and after his release from the army, Minwoo disappeared into oblivion due to Kim's negligence and lack of care.

But when you manufacture products, some of them can show flaws, like Jo Sungmo, Nam Gyuri (of SeeYa) or Hwayoung (of T-ara).  In that case, manufacturers usually offer after-sales service but Kim Kwang-soo seems to think replacing is faster than repairing. Just like the fast fashion brands work, the secret of his success lies in manufacturing his product as fast as possible, marketing it to the public as much as possible in the shortest time possible, and replacing it with the next product as fast as possible. And whenever clearing out the old item, he shows superb crisis management skills, living up to his name - a master of utilizing the media.  Even now when I'm writing this, he's feeding the media with new press releases and interviews in hopes of tipping the scales in his favor.

And now the tragedy starts here when Kim is too sure of his own instincts. By his own estimation, he has the keenest eye of all for trends past and present and the great ability to handle crisis but unfortunately, by taking too much pride in his ability, he put T-ara in danger and the group is pretty much all his company has at present. In fact, dissonance in a team or group is a normal thing.  People face conflicts in schools, at work, or even in their families, let alone in interest groups (like idol groups)  organized and formed by their companies. In other words, an idol group is not formed with a circle of friends in the first place. To top it off, it's like the microsoms that grew up hearing people praise their beauty are gathered together in the same galaxy.  And even among the members of the Avengers, there were conflicts and a hierarchy of authority.

But the problem is, it was Kim's road map for crisis management that added fuel to the fire; T-ara's bullying scandal was started out as gossip but then came to the fore as a serious social issue.  Facing conflict is one thing, bullying is another. Wangdda or bullying is one of the most important issues that is now looming larger than ever before in our society.  And the tweets among the members at least showed Hwayoung and the rest are obviously not on good terms. Accordingly, the proofs and pieces of circumstantial evidence began circulating around the Internet and people started asking for an explanation for what's really happened.  Now the controversy became a national issue, probably bigger than the Olympics, and it didn’t go unnoticed by Kim, the issue maker.

Instead of putting out the fire instantly, he chose to add fuel to it by announcing that he would release an important statement and thanks to this announcement, T-ara attracted the attention of the whole country to become a Gukmin Geurup ("The Nation's Group").  Almost everyone knows each member's name, their company name, and even their boss's name.  Someone I know even came to know it was one of those T-ara members who played Princess Yeojin in KBS's "King Geunchogo" that went off the air quite a while ago.  But Kim's road map worked up to this point and no more, which is eventually catching up with him, his company, and T-ara.

When people wanted an explanation, Kim announced that he was kicking Hwayoung, a presumed victim of bullying, out of T-ara. And the reason for her exit was, according to him, the fact that, regardless of whether she had been bullied or not, she is actually a horrible snob. Yet, he said, the rest of the group wanted her to stay but he chose to let her go for the sake of the company's suffering staff.  When she immediately refuted such claims on Twitter, he pushed her into a corner, blaming her for playing the victim. He said though being the youngest member and the weakest link of the group, she's been bossing around the poorly paid staff members who are putting up with very poor working conditions. And he added she was expelled from the group because she had broken a promise to the fans by refusing to perform on live TV.  But I see no causal relationship (between the alleged actions and the alleged agent of those actions).

First of all, even though it may be true Hwayoung is being a diva (or maybe all T-ara members are being divas), it has nothing to do with the welfare of the staff members.  It's Kim, their boss, who has his say on their pay or their working conditions.

Secondly, I wonder if he would still have kicked her out of T-ara on the grounds of refusing to perform on live TV on the 27th (of July), had it not been for the controversial tweets published on the 25th. People are curious to know whether Hwayoung has really been bullied, not what kinds of arguments or fights they've had. However, she was axed on grounds totally irrelevant to the issue.  It would've been more honest to admit that he chose to send her home due to disharmony among the members, at the very least. Then it might have been dismissed as just another gossip as only those involved know the real reason.

Since then, however, unfair news articles written almost entirely on information from Kim have been pouring in, which is now backfiring on him and T-ara; such reports have increased animosity from the public towards them.  They absolutely stand in the proximate relation of employer and employee where the former is a bigwig in the entertainment industry and the latter is just a 19 year old (Western age). And as this bigwig is bombarding this girl with false images, confusing messages, and media manipulation, people have become more sure than ever that Hwayoung has been bullied and furthermore, they regard Kim's way to solve the problem as "pushing the weak down and then putting the boot in."

Such an undesirable outcome was caused by Kim's inability to keep up with the spirit and sentiment of the age.  I don't think he realized that this scandal belongs to the "social issues" category; and he seems to believe that his media strategy is superb and still works perfectly.  Yes, it used to only before Evan Williams, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg.

Some say there's far too much fuss being made over disharmony among the members of an idol girl group while others suspect conspiracy.  But the things is, so many people are taking an interest in this incident not because they are a bunch of busybodies or flibbertigibbets but because it showcases the dark sides of human beings and atrocities in our society. It's already shocking enough to learn that the smiling faces on TV may be the bullies and the bullying victim. Adding insult to injury, however, Kim's way to solve the problem reassured them of our corrupt, irrational society where the wrongdoers discredit their accusers and the bullying victims, not the bullies, have to transfer to another school. It's easy for them, especially the teens and their parents, to feel empathy for Hwayoung, a presumed victim of T-ara's bullying scandal.  They fear our society will only get worse if they can't win the fight for her because the T-ara bullies are teen idols.

This incident highlights one of the fundamental problems in Kim's road map.  Just as he has treated his employees like "consumable products," he thought he could keep his latest hit product undamaged by axing Hwayoung.  However, today's masses want to hear those "products" tell their personal and emotional stories and that's why today's idol stars appear on TV talk shows or entertainment shows to become popular. Furthermore, the fans want to get actively involved in building up the "brand" story and that's why the reality singing auditions have become a phenomenon.  A coming of age story to share with the fans is what today's entertainment industry needs.

Out of tune with times, however, Kim not only added new members to already successful T-ara for no reason but announced he would make them compete against one another and in a worst case scenario, he would replace the weakest link of the group.  It was a silly decision made out of touch with reality, even without communicating with the fans.  The key difference between Kim's Core Contents Media (CCM) and Korea's three major agencies (JYP, SM & YG) is that CCM lacks strong unifying forces or bonds between the company and its employees, hence is devoid of tradition and management system.

In fact, it's no wonder the fans harbor great antipathy toward Kim, a grownup who doesn't act like one.  How dare he throw the girls under or barely over 20 down in the cutthroat competition and keep them all booked up to their eyeballs all year, yet without trying to intervene when there is any type of conflict among them and even without caring about their life and future?  Even when the bullying scandal first broke, he chose to just wipe away pus when the wound is festering  underneath.

Hwayoung (or the rest of the group) might have been merely a cash cow or a lucrative product for Kim, but she's a human being who has a life to live day by day.  Disharmony in T-ara and bullying are totally different issues and people are feeling bitter about his violent solution to such a serious problem and his cruel decision to manipulate media to get rid of her.  And that's why they are empathizing with her.


  1. Who is Jo Sung Mo with now? (agency I mean). I actually liked his songs.. though in some of his songs I thought it was a female singing. LOL.

    I haven't been following T-ara, didn't know all the member names etc, because I was never attracted to their songs / singing. It is true that now I know a lot more about them from these few days than I ever did.

    The scary thing for me is how fast teenagers? got angry even before it got blown up by KKS's statements. These former fans very quickly turn into bulliers themselves, how is the chain supposed to be broken?

    I think, like in Jay P's case, you (all the team members)'re screwed either way once people reach a certain level of anger. When you don't disclose the full reason a member is kicked out, the public speculate, and when you try to (make up / disclose the reason), it will also retaliate. I think the T-Jinyo or whatever similar teams will never reach their goal because even if the members speak for themselves there will be people who claim they're lying.

  2. "Busybodies & Flibbertigibbets"...awesome promotional idea for new toys or candy, love it!!!...(Devils Advocate)...Bullying is a rather strange topic. Before we go diving into the pool, to save someone, it's important that they follow instructions, or they'll cause both of us to drown. Kim Kwang-Soo & CCM, are on the cut-throat level, even more so than the big 3. So any level of attention, is converted into fuel for their machine. Rebuking him is rather pointless, his actions are standard for a company fighting for recognition. This battle could produce a double win or double knockout. CCM wins if they successfully move on, without Hwayoung, but lose if T-ara is disbanded. Hwayoung wins if she becomes a star with another company, but loses horribly, if she uses the wrong fork, or does anything that confirms what Kim Kwang-Soo has reported. The final results won't be given, until 7 months, to a year from now. Let's see what happens.

  3. Wahyimo, As far as know, Jo Sungmo is not currently signed to any agency after his court battle with his former agency S-Plus Entertainment.

    ========> I think the T-Jinyo or whatever similar teams will never reach their goal because even if the members speak for themselves there will be people who claim they're lying. <================ This is exactly why the writer of this article said the first move Kim Kawng-soo chose to take was totally wrong.

    kpopantz, yes, we gotta wait and see and I hope there's no innocent victim(s) in this scandal if it's true there really was no bullying.

  4. Pictures(&Videos) really do speak a thousand words...and are the X-factor in winning media wars. The more evidence that surfaces like the link below, will help us keep track of who winning. Hwayoung's gotta prove her case.

    Current score, by my count: T-ara - 2 vs Hwayoung - 1

    Stats: CCM(Tara) - Official statement/confession from the president, about hwayoung causing in-house issues, and this article - 2 points

    Hwayoung - Caused fans to riot and protest supporting T-ara, encouraging them to disband. - 1 point

  5. kpopantz, I think you missed one thing that really matters: Hayoung didn't cause fans to riot, but it was others' tweets that started the fire.

  6. Her leaving T-ara is what inspired the riot, and the protests, i thought? If the tweets came before she decided to leave, then i stand corrected.

  7. Yes, the tweets came days before her "forced" departure.

  8. BTW, I was never a T-ara fan but now I know the name of each and every member of the group and even can recognize their faces. When it comes to marketing noise, I think Kim Kwang-so is second to none in Korean music industry. ;)

  9. Please accept my humble apology, for my premature information. Im still not totally sold yet that Hayoung is completely innocent, but i am a little more compassionate towards her than before. Now we need to know how long CCM and Kim Kwang-So have known about the tweets. KKS scheduling meetings with T-Jinyo, is him trying to save face, and his own butt.

  10. kpopantz, you may be right. Hwayoung may be not completely innocent but the general sentiment of the Korean people is that nothing ever justifies bullying. Bullying is bullying and it should not be tolerated no matter what the reason for the bullying. And a majority of people seem very convinced that Hwayoung has been bullied.

  11. I must agree that bullying is nasty stuff and should be prevented at any level.

    However imho the culture looked celeb/idol centric (from an outsider's point of view who never lived there). The amount of attention and public outrage on it exceed any other country's response to their idols. Say when Beiber punches someone bloody in broad daylight, the whole world knows about it, but the amount of rage from the fans and the general community is not even a tenth of this. Not that it means that to the rest of the world it's okay having violence and bullies, but the public don't get affected as much.

    In S.Korea it seemed that if you do something wrong outside of your work, your whole career goes down with it as well! Whereas if you see Amy Winehouse, Whitney, etc.. those are people who are still being acclaimed despite having huge personality flaws.

    The teens/kids need to learn separation between idolizing someone because of their talents and hard work, and idolizing someone wholly for what they seem to appear. Partly I guess because there are so many variety shows going on out there, people think they know their idols very well and expect them to be exactly as they see on TV.

    Plus as I've said before, the defenders are turning into bullies themselves. The public demands evidence from each side of how bad the other side is, and they want to judge for themselves, not allowing the members reconcile or solve problems out of the public eye.

  12. In S.Korea it seemed that if you do something wrong outside of your work, your whole career goes down with it as well! <===== I kinda agree as we've seen it happen many times.

  13. So South Korea needed to have one of their dearest idol bullied to start thinking about how bullying is wrong? I'm oversimplifying and being cynical here, I know, but seriously, as someone commented earlier, even fans themselves turn into bullies when an artist does something they dislike. Having this scandal won't change anything in Korean society. It's sad, kpop just sounds like a factory with heavily manufactured goods to me. This article proves it. Fans are shocked and concerned but what are they willing to do? A boycott? Probably not.

  14. kpop just sounds like a factory with heavily manufactured goods to me. <=== This probably is K-pop's biggest strength and its biggest weakness, too.

  15. BULLYING....totally against it................People who are, or claim to be timid, are not easy to adjust to, or read. Often they are MISTAKEN for trying to be better than, snoby, or too good. When people can't get a fix on your persona, it can be good or bad. Often times, it becomes annoying and will cause some to dig or attack. Aside from all of them competing to show their individuality, i don't know, but do believe, they're also wanting to know who/what she is.

    There's always a better way to do it, but they're young, and don't seem to possess the grace or patience to allow Hayoung to blossom into the Tara family. Bullying her is not justified, but her acting cold, and timid only encourages those who are less graceful. (Again, i don't know them, we don't know them that well. Im only stating what i believe)

  16. kpopantz, true. I don't know them in person either.

  17. Cliff notes don't give us all the details, but that doesn't mean they aren't somewhat factual. This is a link to the allkpop commentary,[ ], for this story. Allkpop may not be the most trusted source of factual information, but they do report recycled info that is found & confirmed, on some of the more prominent kpop sites. With this apologetic post that Hayoung has recently made, i'd like to know what are your thoughts about where this story is now, Onsemiro. [ ]

  18. kpopantz, one thing I know for sure is Kim Kwang-soo is trying to sweep the garbage under the rug as he always has done in the past. He's still a big power in Korean music industry and a majority of Korean fans seem to be fed up with his same old way of handling controversies and scandals.


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