LE SSERAFIM Kim Garam’s return is deemed as not profitable and risky.
As stated in the last article, “The Direction of LE SSERAFIM After Kim Garam” Kim Garam has been temporarily excluded from LE SSERAFIM’s group activities after she got called out in a school violence controversy. Recently, a post was posted on the Internet community to inform everyone about Kim Garam‘s recent status. A foreign fan reportedly posted a photo of Kim’s autograph on the fan community Weverse, saying that Kim Garam is still practicing at HYBE office building and that fans shouldn’t worry because nothing has changed. This month, all six members of LE SSERAFIM appeared on the Japanese magazine non-no and CDTV broadcasts.
That status quo is not necessarily true. Her appearance on such magazines and broadcasts is said to have been filmed before her team switched to a five-member system. However, several articles have reported that HYBE is not considering kicking Kim Garam out or replacing her with another member. It is a probable scenario that they will push ahead with her return in Japan under the cover of local activities, which are not in contact with Korean public opinion and the media. Even so, it cannot be confirmed yet that HYBE will let Kim Garam return, but the possibility of her returning after taking a break “for the time being” as originally notified cannot be ruled out. Netizens don’t know how such a decision will help the company.
There will be several criteria to judge this kind of problem. School violence is a moral issue and has a social effect, so justification is important and public pressure is strong regarding this matter. Meanwhile, the purpose of the entertainment industry is, after all, profit. The key criterion here is which choice will benefit the company the most. Considering these points, Kim Garam’s return is not a positive one. She has been concluded by the school violence committee as the perpetrator, and trying to return through some kind of clean-up will only rekindle the controversy that has been dispelled after changing the team into a five-member one, and causing new controversy. HYBE is currently facing a drop in stock prices due to the matters relating to BTS military service exemption. Public opinion management and stock price management are important to HYBE, and there is no real benefit for this agency to overdo it and bring bad news upon itself due to a rookie girl group member who still has just a small proportion of the company’s sales.
Currently, the five-member LE SSERAFIM has settled down and is operating smoothly. They were extremely bothered for more than a month after their debut due to malicious comments. In the current extremely oversaturated girl group market, anti-fans and fans of other groups seem to prefer targeting popular new groups of large agencies, but many malicious comments were resolved after LE SSERAFIM changed to a five-member system. In other words, this means most negative reactions from the public audience are due to “the school violence” controversy rather than for other reasons, and their attitudes changed to neutral, or even favorably, because the cause has disappeared.
There is no significant vacancy in the current five-member system. The number of members is an odd number now, which means there is stability in the formation. The movements do not overlap, and each member is more visible and harmonized as a team. Each member is fulfilling their position perfectly, and the overall size of LE SSERAFIM fandom did not decrease.
What is worrisome is that negative opinion is strong on Kim Garam’s return right from within the fandom. If the company pushes ahead with Kim’s return, there will be people who are dissatisfied because the fandom does not have the power to stop this from happening. Controversy and disputes will arise within the fandom over a certain member. This is a threat that will affect the group in the long run, creating a double crisis of external criticism and internal disputes. In such a state, a united fandom to support them is certainly impossible, and in an era where the idol industry is becoming a fandom industry, LE SSERAFIM’s group sales will suffer from the consequences.
Comparing Kim Ga-ram’s return to LE SSERAFIM’s activities as a five-member group, the former option literally has no benefit but only risks. This is the case in which all aspects, including external causes, the agency’s image, crisis management, group operation, fandom management, as well as economic gains and losses should be considered. Regardless of what is easy or difficult to proceed with, the group and the agency must fight against strong winds with the former option. The latter option is more reasonable and well-supported by the public. LE SSERAFIM is a rookie group that has just debuted recently, it’s not difficult to replace members and if they want to rebuild the group, now is the right time. Even if a new atmosphere is created through a member replacement rather than keeping the five-member system, it can create new hot topics and give the girl group a rebound point with a fresh vibe once again. In addition, after the school bullying revelations, the reorganized group is actually working better than before. From Kim Ga-ram’s point of view, if she returns, she will be caught up in a whirlpool again and become the target of criticism. It is questionable whether her return is helpful for the members.
From HYBE’s point of view, there is still a reason to let Kim Ga-ram overcome controversies, join LE SSERAFIM’s activities as planned, and preserve the group’s original formation completely. HYBE’s judgment and position are not wrong for a breakthrough. However, the formality and benefits of that decision are still unclear. As mentioned, many specific risks will follow. The legitimacy of the group’s operation or the agency’s morality will be questioned since they can’t admit that they were wrong. The more they do that, the harder it will be for them to communicate with the outside world. They will be increasingly drawn into keeping their unchanging position, making their decisions hard to be understood by the public.