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A comprehensive rundown of HYBE vs. ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin’s feud

Boy, oh boy. Where do we begin with this one?

Since April 21, 2024, South Korean media and the K-pop stan community have been abuzz with news about HYBE and Min Hee-jin’s feud. Numerous individuals and K-pop groups have been mentioned in the process, thus resulting in a lot of fan wars and heated discussions online.

With the current events still not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, here is a condensed and easy-to-digest rundown of the events since the beginning of the HYBE vs. Min Hee-jin and ADOR audit, until HYBE’s reaction to Min Hee-jin’s conference.

Min Hee Jin
Photo Credit: Yonhap News

April 22, 2024 – HYBE begins an audit of ADOR, calls for Min Hee-jin’s resignation as CEO, ADOR’s response

HYBE initiated an audit of its label ADOR and its management after it had attempts of the label moving to become independent. It is known that ADOR is a label under HYBE established in 2021 and is the label responsible for NewJeans. Min Hee-jin is the label’s current CEO and holds about 20% of shares in ADOR, while HYBE holds 80% of it.

According to industry reps, HYBE called for a shareholders’ meeting as a measure to hold ADOR’s management accountable. Another reason for the shareholders’ meeting was to appoint an additional ADOR director from HYBE to replace the ones that came with Min Hee-jin from SM Entertainment.

HYBE was also reported to have called for Min Hee-jin’s resignation as ADOR’s CEO in the process.

On the same day, ADOR responded to the reports surrounding HYBE’s audit with a statement. In the statement, ADOR called out BELIFT LAB, one of HYBE’s labels, for plagiarizing NewJeans with their newest girl group, ILLIT.

ADOR also alleged that HYBE was also directly involved in the copying of NewJeans by ILLIT. “HYBE, a leading company in K-pop, is blinded by short-term profits and is mass producing unoriginality by copying successful cultural content without hesitation.”

ADOR also made it clear that they would not like NewJeans and ILLIT to be associated or compared to each other in any way possible. The statement ended with ADOR hoping that both HYBE and BELIFT LAB to “face their wrongdoings and contribute to the Korean music industry and culture through fervent contemplation and creation while respecting the cultural achievements of others.”

April 23, 2024 – More statements from Min Hee-jin, HYBE’s CEO’s company-wide message, and Dispatch’s exposé on Min Hee-jin and NewJeans’ relationship

In a separate interview with Ilgan Sports posted on April 23, 2024, Min Hee-jin spoke about some of the things that HYBE had claimed the day before.

“I have never met with any investors to seize HYBE’s management rights (in ADOR). I have never tried to steal executive rights like HYBE claims. How can I do that with my 18% equity (in ADOR)? Because HYBE has 80% equity, it is impossible for me to seize the management rights. It is also impossible for ADOR to leave HYBE without their consent. It is hard to understand why HYBE is claiming the impossible.”

Min Hee-jin also asserted that the only reason why HYBE was pushing for her resignation was due to her bringing up issues with the company internally, and called out the media play that HYBE was doing.

“I am surprised by HYBE for doing this during a very important time for NewJeans. All of this happened within four days of making a complaint. I also wonder if there has ever been a case that a company publishes articles during an audit before it has even yielded results? What was the reason they needed to put out these false articles that have nothing to do with what I was actually complaining about?”

On the same day, HYBE’s CEO Park Ji-won issued a company-wide message, with the latter part speaking directly to BELIFT LAB and ADOR staff. The full message was posted on Blind, an anonymous but verified forum for South Korean office workers.

In the first part of the message, Park Ji-won addressed the rumors being thrown against the company as false, and hoped that they would not be too affected by everything that was happening.

Later on, Park Ji-won addressed both BELIFT LAB and ADOR staff, and thanked them for their efforts on the growth of ILLIT and NewJeans and their debut and comeback respectively. He ended the statement by saying that HYBE will grow and be better from these issues.

On the same day, Dispatch released a report outlining how Min Hee-jin formed ADOR and how NewJeans was formed.

Dispatch first revealed the training periods of each NewJeans member under Source Music: Minji joined in 2017, followed by Hanni in 2019, then Haerin and Danielle in 2020. Hyein’s date wasn’t revealed, but it was said that Source Music had found her online and invited her to audition.

The final line-up for NewJeans was revealed to be chosen by Source Music CEO So Sung-jin, and was chosen during the second half of 2021. Min Hee-jin transferred to HYBE in 2019 and was given the role of Chief Branding Officer.

In HYBE’s official announcement, they also slated that Min Hee-jin would be heading a new girl group and launching her own label, which would be later known as ADOR.

Before ADOR’s founding, however, Min Hee-jin was supposed to be in charge of the new girl group debuting in Source Music. Min Hee-jin sourced trainees, including the lineup of NewJeans, from Source Music into ADOR.

Dispatch did agree that Min Hee-jin should be credited for the fame and achievements garnered by NewJeans, but shouldn’t be solely credited for it. But, because of NewJeans’ success, Min Hee-jin was able to acquire shares and stocks in ADOR, amounting to 18%.

However, Dispatch also mentioned that when Min Hee-jin did receive her shares, ADOR was basically in the red.

To end it, Dispatch summarized their article by stating, “If NewJeans succeeded, Min Hee-jin would be credited. If NewJeans failed, the debts would be covered by HYBE, not ADOR. Thus, NewJeans’ fame cannot be singlehandedly credited to Min Hee-jin.”

April 24, 2024 – Min Hee-jin responds to HYBE’s audit questionnaire, HYBE finds a “Project 1945” document, ADOR refutes the claims surrounding the document

On April 22, 2024, HYBE sent an official questionnaire to Min Hee-jin and the other officials of ADOR, and also asked them to submit company files and her laptop for investigation by April 23, at 6 P.M.

Later on, HYBE alleged that Min Hee-jin did not respond to their audit questionnaire. To this, Min Hee-jin released a statement through ADOR on April 24, 2024 stating that this was false and that she had finished the questionnaire and sent it back.

Min Hee-jin also said that she is “unable to share the contents of the audit questionnaire,” due to a clause included by HYBE that stipulated, “if the contents of the audit are shared externally, it will be dealt with through strong legal action.”

On the same day, Channel A News claimed that HYBE found a document during their audit that proved that Min Hee-jin was truly making moves to become independent. The said document was titled “Project 1945”, and was said to have plans of lawsuits, civil cases, plans for media play, and others.

The document wasn’t revealed to the public, and the only evidence for it being the word-of-mouth from HYBE staff.

The document also proved to be controversial with the South Korean public, with the year “1945” being incredibly significant in Korean history. 1945 was the year where Korea was liberated from Japanese rule.

ADOR later on denied this interpretation from HYBE, stating that the document could be likened to “random doodles”. ADOR also said that HYBE had already leaked the document prior to their audit.

April 25, 2024 – HYBE releases report about their audit on ADOR and Min Hee-jin’s press conference

On the morning of April 25, 2024, HYBE released an interim report of their audit of ADOR. At the same time, they revealed that they will be filing a formal accusation against ADOR CEO Min Hee-jin and other officials due to occupational breach of trust.

In their report, HYBE detailed and confirmed that there was solid evidence against ADOR, in which there was a plan to take over management and that the plan was conceived by Min Hee-jin. The report also included a screenshot of a conversation between ADOR’s vice president and Min Hee-jin.

On the same day, Min Hee-jin held a press conference, where she addressed the ongoing feud she had with HYBE.

Throughout the press conference (which was meme’d the hell out of by K-pop stans and Korean netizens, btw), Min Hee-jin maintained her innocence against all the claims being thrown at her and had some other things to say as well.

With regards to HYBE’s claim of her stealing management rights for the money, she said, “It doesn’t make sense to say that I stole the management rights for money. I already have contracted shares, and there is a lot I have received, which I cannot disclose.”

With regards to all the claims saying that she had said that (group name) stole her thing, she said, “I never said…But HYBE was worried this would become defamation, so they said ‘that’.”

Min Hee-jin also revealed in the press conference that NewJeans was supposed to debut as “HYBE’s first girl group” and the “girl group made by Min Hee-jin under HYBE”, but HYBE had “blocked” all those by debuting LE SSERAFIM first.

NewJeans’ and their parents’ reactions to the entire feud was also revealed by Min Hee-jin, who said that “they said they felt sorry for me and cried a lot.”

HYBE later on released their own comment in response to Min Hee-jin’s conference, which can initially be summed up to, “It’s not worth answering.”

April 26, 2024- HYBE’s detailed statement following Min Hee-jin’s press conference

On the next day, HYBE released another statement that gave their perspective on the remarks made by Min Hee-jin during her emergency press conference.

There were a total of 12 points in the statement, which can be condensed to:

1 Regarding the claim that the takeover of management rights was a joke or casual talk – It cannot be dismissed as a joke when there are documents stipulating other plans and options.

2 Regarding the claim that the monetary compensation was not enough – Min Hee-jin’s salary is the highest by far among all individuals who work at HYBE headquarters and the Korean subsidiaries.

3 Regarding the claim that the audit began immediately without a response to the whistleblowing email – There was a detailed 6-page-long in A4 size response on April 22, at 10:01 a.m., and Min Hee-jin read the reply at noon on the same day.

4 Regarding the claim that there was no guidance on the return of information assets- HYBE made multiple attempts to contact CEO Min Hee-jin via landline phone, email, and mobile phone messages. New laptops were also provided when the work laptop was taken in for investigation.

5 Regarding the claim that we promised to debut [NewJeans] as [HYBE’s] first girl group- Min Hee-jin was contradictory; she had said in an interview on March 24, 2022 that the girl group project under her name will be launched in the third quarter of 2022.

6 Regarding the claim that she was not told to promote NewJeans at debut- there was a disagreement between SOURCE MUSIC and Min Hee-jin, which delayed NewJeans’ debut. The decision to debut Sakura and LE SSERAFIM was to “protect the news values of both teams.”

7 Regarding the claim that HYBE is neglecting the promotion of only NewJeans- “It is difficult to claim that ‘we’ve been neglecting promotion of NewJeans only.’” In the past year, there were 273 press releases for NewJeans, 659 press releases for BIGHIT Music, which operated 8 teams including BTS and individual activities, and 365 press releases for PLEDIS Entertainment, which has 4 teams including SEVENTEEN.

8 Regarding the claim of a slave contract- Not true.

9 Regarding the claim telling us to do ESG management- “We are promoting the expansion of applying eco-friendly albums to all labels under HYBE, but the most uncooperative label is ADOR, which internal staff members are very well aware of.”

10 Regarding the claim that there was no attempt for conversation- There was continuous discussion with CEO Min Hee-jin.

11 Regarding the claim that the shaman is simply a friend- “The company takes seriously the fact that important company information is being indiscriminately exposed to outsiders, who are intervening in decision-making…”

12 Why during the comeback period…? Regarding the claim that HYBE does not cherish NewJeans- It was CEO Min Hee-jin’s side that started the arguments. “CEO’s Min’s side is the one actually threatening the company using the artist as hostage.”

Even when condensed, this one’s still a lot to digest.


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