From an idol who blackmailed Lee Byung-hun for 5 billion won to LE SSERAFIM’s Kim Ga-ram, GFriend, HYBE has a dark history with girl groups.
LE SSERAFIM is the first girl group launched in cooperation between HYBE and Source Music, but is the second of Bang Si-hyuk, chairman of HYBE. Chairman Bang has worked with Source Music to produce the female idol group GLAM in 2012.
GLAM was produced by HYBE‘s predecessor Big Hit Music and Source Music was in charge of management to prepare for the group’s debut. However, they failed to show any significant achievements and disbanded in 2015, three years after their debut. GLAM remained as HYBE’s dark history.
Although they lacked popularity during their promotion period, the fact that GLAM member Da-hee was brought to court had a big impact on the group’s name.
Da-hee was arrested and indicted in 2014 on charges of blackmailing 5 billion won along with model Lee Ji-yeon, claiming they had a video recording actor Lee Byung-hun making obscene remarks in private. She was sentenced to one year in prison in the first trial, but was sentenced to one year in prison and two years in probation in the final trial.
Since then, she has left the entertainment industry and has been active on Afreeca TV since 2018. Last year, she gained attention by winning the grand prize at the African TV BJ Awards.
Her income has also increased significantly. According to Pung Today, a website that counts the number of star balloons of streamers, she received 23,201,634 star balloons last year alone. Star balloons are paid sponsored items that cost 110 won each (including VAT), and the star balloons she received are worth 2,552,179,740 won.
HYBE’s “Girl Group Dark History” is being re-examined as LE SSERAFIM has made an uneasy start a month before their debut. Some has started to criticize his view of girl group production.
Recently, testimonies from alumni who attended the same middle and high schools as Kim Ga-ram of a month before his debut have been posted on SNS and online communities. One netizen claimed, “Kim Ga-ram was a famous bully. Light harassment is something that happened everyday, and she cursed at us just because we walked near her,” and “I have a friend who collapsed after hearing about Kim Ga-ram’s debut.”
In response, HYBE countered, “We confirmed that Kim Ga-ram was rather a victim of school violence,” but doubts are still growing as Kim Ga-ram’s past photos spread online.
Another unfortunate case of HYBE’s girl group is GFriend. In 2019, when GFriend’s agency Source Music became a subsidiary under HYBE, fans expected GFriend to have more opportunities to grow thanks to better support from a big company. However, only 2 years after becoming a HYBE artist, GFriend shockingly announced their disbandment in May 2021. The group’s schedules were canceled, and HYBE was accused by GFriend’s fans of being the reason for the sudden disbandment because the company wanted to focus on new girl groups, including LE SSERAFIM.
Although it has been over a year since GFriend disbanded and three former members Umji, SinB, and Eunha have re-debuted under VIVIZ, fans can’t still move on from GFriend’s regrettable breakup. GFriend was once a top-tier 3rd generation girl group and had so much potential. GFriend’s sad ending is one of the reasons why HYBE is criticized as a company that ”ruins girl groups”.