The worst in-group bullying scandal in the history of Kpop

Kpop group S#arp was among the top artists of the 1st generation. However, they had to disband following a feud between 2 female members 

In-group bullying is nowhere near a rare occasion in Kpop. However, none of them was to the extent of S#arp, whose 2 members argued to the point they had to hold a press conference, and things even got violent. As a result, S#arp’s situation was considered “the worst bullying scandal in the history of Kpop”.

The worse Kpop in-group bullying

S#arp debuted in 1998 with their first album “The S#arp”. At the time, the group consisted of 5 members: Seo Ji Young, Jang Suk Hyun, John Kim, Oh Hee Jong, and Lee Ji Hye.

Later on during promotions for S#arp’s first album, a new member, Chris, was added to the group’s lineup. The group then went through several member changes before they attained success, with John Kim departing and Sori joining. One of their singles, the dance-pop track “Tell Me Tell Me”, eventually became a big hit, even winning first place on music shows Inkigayo and Music Bank and reigning over Korean music charts. “Closer”, another song of theirs, also managed to click with the majority of the Korean public. 

In 2001, S#arp released their 4th album “4ever Feel So Good” – which is probably their most successful work. The title song “Sweety” from this album went on to become one of Korea’s most favorite songs of 2001, boasting the beautiful voices of Seo Ji Young and Lee Ji Hye, as well as a lively and cute melody. Another song of theirs, “My Lips… Warm Like Coffee”, which was included in the 2002 album “Style”, also received huge popularity and were widely covered by the public as well as other artists. 

However, at the peak of their career, S#arp members began to have conflicts, with the most serious feud being between Lee Ji Hye and Seo Ji Young. For more context, S#arp was formed by Seo Ji Young’s family, who decided to establish the group with her close friends. However, Lee Ji Hye was an exception – as she joined S#arp following an audition.

The feud was said to have stemmed from Seo Ji Young’s jealousy, which led to her harassing Ji Hye. Recalling her time with S#arp, Lee Ji Hye bursted out in tears and said she went through “horrifying” things due to her groupmate.

According to Ji Hye, Seo Ji Young would get violent and abuse her basically everyday. At the time, Ji Young was dating the “Good Bye Dear Wife” star Ryu Si Won, and would ask her boyfriend to slap and curse Ji Hye out. 

The conflict between Ji Hye and Ji Young reached its limit during the recording for an October 2002 episode of Music Bank, and the two former idols were found getting violent inside an elevator. As a result, the manager kicked Lee Ji Hye out of the performance, leading to the group promoting with only 2 members, Seo Ji Young and Chris. 

Following this incident is a press conference, where Ji Hye and Ji Young both shared their side of the story. According to Ji Hye, Ji Young shouted at her and insulted her in all sorts of profanities, leading to the fight. 

Ji Hye also said that she realized she was wrong to get physical, and so phoned Seo Ji Young’s father and expressed her apologies. She was then asked to personally apologize to Ji Young, and dragged along her manager as a witness. In the end though, Ji Young did not accept Ji Hye’s apology, and her mother even insulted and hit Ji Hye in the head. 

However, Seo Ji Young blamed everything on Ji Hye at the same press conference, saying: “Ji Hye said she only hit me a couple of times, and I can’t recall the fight in full, but I am sure she punched me at least 7 or 8 times. She also hit me in the face, head, and neck. She was insulting me using swear words, grabbing my hair and violently shaking my head.” 

The female idol also denied being the reason behind their feud. However, the group’s manager insisted otherwise, claiming that another witness heard Ji Young insulting Ji Hye. Hearing this, Ji Young immediately stood up and abruptly left the scene. 

11 years of mending 

To understand the true reason behind this scandal, Korean media rushed to find other members of S#arp and the male actor Ryu Si Won. According to Si Won, after the Music Bank fight, Seo Ji Young stayed by his side for a long while, before he took her to the hospital after immense mental pressure. The actor also stressed that his girlfriend suffered under Lee Ji Hye’s hands, and hoped that Ji Hye will receive a rightful punishment, 

Meanwhile, S#arp member Jang Suk Hyun said: “I wasn’t there the entire time, so I couldn’t say much, and I have asked the witnesses, but no one shared anything. Recently, though, I did manage to coax something out. Seo Ji Young said Ji Hye hit her without any reason. However, according to what I heard, Seo Ji Young cursed at Ji Hye first.”

After the press conference, Seo Ji Young was drowned in criticism, and the S#arp’s agency, World Music Entertainment, announced the group’s disbandment just a week after. 

Lee Ji Hye then went on to become a famous solo artist, and is well known for her hit “Love Me, Love Me”. However, she was later hospitalized for exhaustion, during which Seo Ji Young visited her. The feud between the two once again became a hot topic, as Seo Ji Young brought white chrysanthemums – a flower often used during funerals in Korea, during her visit.

It was not until 11 years later that Lee Ji Hye and Seo Ji Young could finally reach a neutral point. According to Jang Suk Hyun, the two stayed silent for an hour before finally talking. 

Meanwhile, Seo Ji Young also made her solo debut and released 2 albums, as well as appeared in the 2011 K-drama “Pianissimo”. However, she was hated by the public, and received little success. She eventually withdrew from the entertainment industry altogether, after settling down with a non-celebrity husband back in 2011. 

Speaking of her past, Seo Ji Young expressed heavy regrets: “It has been years, but I still feel regretful… If only I wasn’t so stubborn in the past…”

On the other hand, Lee Ji Hye’s career was more long-lasting and remarkable, having released various music products and appeared in TV programs like “Divorce Singles”, “Free Doctor”, and “Divorced Singles 3”.  

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