Fans split on NewJeans’ success and CEO Min Hee Jin controversy

Fans split on NewJeans’ success and CEO Min Hee Jin controversy

Fans Split on NewJeans’ Success and CEO Min Hee Jin Controversy

Fans have mixed feelings about the group NewJeans and their label CEO, Min Hee Jin of ADOR.

NewJeans’ double single “How Sweet,” released on the 24th of last month, has achieved million-seller status, with over 1.08 million copies sold according to Circle Chart’s May album chart. This makes all four albums released by NewJeans since their debut in 2022 million-sellers.

The album’s title track, “How Sweet,” along with the included track “Bubble Gum,” continues to dominate the top positions on major Korean music sites such as Melon, Genie, and Bugs. Additionally, the group has won three trophies on music shows, including MBC’s “Show! Music Core.”

NewJeans is also making waves on global charts. On Spotify’s latest “Weekly Top Songs Global” (for the period from May 31 to June 6), “How Sweet” ranked 119th, remaining on the chart for two consecutive weeks. The song also secured high positions on major Billboard charts (June 8 issue), including 7th on the “Global (Excl. US),” 12th on “Bubbling Under Hot 100,” and 15th on “Global 200.”

In Japan, NewJeans’ popularity is evident as well. They have the most entries among overseas artists on the Billboard Japan “2024 Mid-Year Chart” (from November 27, 2023, to May 26, 2024), with three songs (“Ditto,” “OMG,” “ETA”) making it to the “Hot 100” comprehensive song chart.

NewJeans will release their Japanese debut single “Supernatural” on the 21st and hold a large-scale fan meeting at Tokyo Dome on the 25th and 26th. NewJeans also stood out in entertainment shows. They made headlines with their appearance on the KBS2 show “2 Days & 1 Night Season 4” on the 9th, marking their first appearance on a terrestrial variety show since their debut.

However, despite the buzz, the show’s viewership ratings fell. The episode recorded a 6.1% rating (Nielsen Korea, nationwide households), down 1 percentage point from the previous week’s 7.1%.

In contrast to NewJeans’ success, their CEO Min Hee Jin is facing backlash from international fans. An online petition titled “Min Hee Jin should leave HYBE” was posted on on the 27th of last month. As of 5 PM on the 9th, the petition had garnered 49,000 signatures, surpassing the initial target of 35,000 and nearing the next goal of 50,000.

The petitioner, identifying as “ARMY Forever,” is presumed to be a BTS fan based on the name. The petition accuses Min Hee Jin of spreading false information and leading harassment against groups like BTS, I-LAND, and LE SSERAFIM, and calls for her to leave HYBE due to her negative impact on other HYBE artists.

The petitioner emphasizes the importance of the group’s management swiftly addressing the issue to ensure a safe and respectful environment for all members. They urge for appropriate measures to prevent the spread of harassment and misinformation and to apologize for all harm caused to the company and artists.

NewJeans made their debut in 2022. Audits, allegations of copying, an emotional press conference, confused fans – the latest controversy shaking the K-pop world has it all. At the centre of it all – popular group NewJeans, the woman who is their creative director, and one of South Korea’s biggest, most influential record labels.

The infighting between Hybe, the entertainment giant behind the success of BTS, and the head of its subsidiary label Ador has gripped the country for days now. The tension peaked on Thursday when Min Hee-jin, CEO of Ador, gave a two-hour press conference where she sobbed several times and used expletive language. “It’s not me who betrayed Hybe, it’s Hybe that betrayed me,” the K-pop veteran said in the live-streamed event. “I don’t know what you think, but I wanted to focus on NewJeans.”

Formed by Ador in 2022, NewJeans is a five-member girl group – Minji, Hanni, Danielle, Haerin and Hyein – whose ages range from 16 to 20. Their music, which has been described by critics as fusing the old-school R&B sounds of bands like TLC with playful and hooky melodies, grabbed the attention of the K-pop world and beyond. Their first single Attention topped Korean charts right after their debut in July. And their hit song SuperShy made multiple “best of the year” lists at the end of 2023, including those compiled by Rolling Stone, NME and Billboard Magazine.

The group has cultivated a big following – its official Instagram account has nearly 12 million followers. They are also becoming a new favourite of investors. The group and its members have been appointed ambassadors of several global fashion brands. In April, they even replaced K-pop sensation Blackpink as the face of the tourism board advertisements at Incheon airport – Korea’s biggest.

It all started on Monday, when Hybe announced that it was launching an audit on its subsidiary label Ador and its executives including Ms Min. Hybe also called on her to step down. Hybe, which represents massive K-pop groups such as BTS and Seventeen, is South Korea’s largest music firm. Ador was founded in 2021 as an independent label under the company and NewJeans is the only group it manages.

According to local media, Hybe accused Ms Min and others of plotting to go independent and take over control of the label, as well as leaking confidential information to attract investors. Ms Min owns an 18% stake in Ador and Hybe owns an 80% stake. The other 2% is owned by other top executives in Ador. Ms Min denied the allegations and had accused Hybe of launching another girl group Illit that was copying NewJeans’ music and appearance.

Ahead of Ms Min’s highly-anticipated press conference on Thursday, Hybe told the media that it would report Ms Min to police for “a breach of trust and other related allegations”. The company said on Friday that the complaint had been filed. The company also said it would continue to provide attentive mental and emotional support to NewJeans. At the press conference, Ms Min again disputed Hybe’s side of the story and repeated her previous accusations. She also talked about creative differences with Hybe, and denied allegations that she had said BTS had copied NewJeans.

Seemingly every twist and turn has made headlines on South Korean newspapers and K-pop fans’ social media feeds. While both Hybe and Min Hee-jin have stressed their priority is to protect NewJeans, fans are understandably concerned about their idols, who have remained silent on the dispute. “Hang in there NewJeans! No matter what, Bunnies [fan club name] are and will always be there for you,” a top comment under the group’s IG post on Monday reads.

Fans also appear to be divided. “I love you, NewJeans. Please don’t follow Min Hee-jin and make your comeback smoothly,” one comment liked more than 900 times reads. “I will absolutely protect NewJeans and CEO Min!” another one liked 700 times says. Korea’s general public has also been watching the situation closely. The press conference was broadcast on all three major broadcasters and YouTube. The shirt and cap she wore to address the media sold out on the same day. Many are relating to the situation as they see it as an example of workplace conflict, and one with an angle of gender dynamics. Hybe’s shares fell nearly 5% on Friday, while they fell nearly 15% this week.

It is not immediately clear what each side will do next. But many local outlets speculate it is likely that the matter will be taken to court. In the press conference, Ms Min said she wanted to sue Hybe for damages. Hybe has requested a shareholders’ meeting at Ador to dismiss Ms Min, according to local reports. But many believe it is unlikely to happen given the opposition from Ms Min and her team. If so Hybe will have to turn to the court to get permission to hold an urgent shareholders meeting, This can take up to two months. NewJeans haven’t addressed the ongoing dispute. But they are not going to disappear from the public eye. The group has already revealed that they will release their new double single How Sweet in May. They started releasing teaser images for it on Friday.