Following the lengthy statement form APRIL member Chaewon on the bullying allegations of former member Hyunjoo, the subsequent response from Hyunjoo, and then Chaewon’s response to that, the whole group gathered recently to give a “tell-all” interview about the issue.
The interview with Sports Kyunghyang is lengthy, and you can read it in full here, but like with a previous article I’ll provide a summary.
APRIL start about by declaring they’re the victims in this case and proceed to share their evidence. They say that the shoes and tumbler incidents were misunderstandings and not malicious, saying that the shoes got mixed up (and provided a picture of the supposed mess at the company dorm) and that the tumblers were in a similar situation of disarray. They say Hyunjoo did get angry about the tumbler but claimed they were unaware what it meant to her. APRIL say that all of the members were afraid of Hyunjoo, so it’s absurd that they bullied her. As far as Hyunjoo’s suicide attempt goes, they say they were unaware of it. They also mention that they threw her a surprise party once, which they say wouldn’t happen if they were bullying her. They then talked again about how Hyunjoo didn’t want to be an idol, was always sick, and missed schedules. Regarding the kimbap incident in the company van, they explain it essentially as Chaewon did in her statement, claiming that Hyunjoo was making a scene and yelled at Chaewon and Yena.
When asked why they believed all this was happening, they explained:
“There’s a limit to idols who live apart from their families without cellphones in their adolescence. We’re all adults now, but some us were 14-15 years old at the time. We weren’t able to get along with each other during the short trainee period. Also, we can’t get close to all the members, and we may not want to. Not everyone can get along. Is that so wrong? All girl groups are probably like that. We might get jealous of each other, and we may get hurt by words, even though they’re not intentional. But we endure it while trying to adjust to each other. We believe all idols, senior idols, and trainees will understand us. “When we were living in the dorms, we couldn’t say anything even if we were upset. At that time, we only did what the agency told us to do. We didn’t even have time to take care of each other. We started missing each other and realizing how precious we are to each other when we lived separately after five years, but due to Hyunjoo, APRIL fell apart. We hope she doesn’t blame the members for the hardships she went through.”
Going forward, they apologize to their fans for the controversy, saying they don’t want to fade away as a bullying group, and they hope the next legal case isn’t dismissed like the initial one was.
They go on to say that Jinsol was accused of stealing by Hyunjoo and there was an incident, but there was no CCTV to verify. They then claim an incident where Hyunjoo accused Yena and Jinsol of tripping her but then changed her story twice and the CCTV didn’t support Hyunjoo’s claims. They also talk about stuff like going to eat without her since she didn’t want to go and having Hyunjoo frame them for mistreatment, and that at one point they discussed buying a voice recorder to catch her, though that didn’t seem to have happened.
As far as why the bullying allegations happened, they explained that being around Hyunjoo was like being with “a time bomb who could explode at any moment“, and then talked again about how they threw a party for her and also mention buying her shoes that she wore. In closing, they shared a message for Hyunjoo:
“I don’t know why she’s forgetting all of the happy memories with the members and only having distorted memories. It’s such a shame. Because of this incident, our hard work from the past seven years has come to nothing. We are in great pain as even our families are being criticized. APRIL now has the title of a ‘group of bullies,’ and even when time has passed, our members will live on with the title of ‘perpetrator of bullying.’ We want to receive an apology from Hyunjoo who brought this situation about, and we want to tell her to return things back to the way they were with her own hands.”
Evidence provided included the journals of members and psychotherapy records from Naeun and Chaewon over the span of six months during the time of the journal entries.
The news outlet described her journal as “not much different from that of any other teenage girl.” She wrote about her fans, “I met our fans, and I was happy,” while referring to them respectfully. She also wrote, “It was a really fun day,” after coming home from watching a movie with her manager or group member, or “Why am I like this,” when she was scolded while recording a song, after which she added, “I’ll work harder.” However, her journal entries from February 2016 also contained several instances of Naeun expressing her pain due to Hyunjoo’s alleged reluctance to practice, lies, and contrasting behavior. On another day in a different month, she wrote, “I want to die because of [Hyunjoo] unnie.”
On February 25, Naeun wrote in her journal, “[Hyunjoo] unnie is sick again. Even more so these days, I’m growing more tired, and the members are growing tired. I want to know what the problem is. Is it too big of a problem for me to understand… does she really want to achieve this dream?”
Naeun recorded in her journal on February 27, “[Hyunjoo] unnie is sick again. The heart is burning. She likes presents, but she says she doesn’t like practicing, working hard, and hardships. If she does it like that, will her wishes come true? Is there an answer to this? It’s a miserable and tiring day.”
Naeun’s psychotherapy record for March 31 says, “I’m in a very serious state. Several times in a day, I want to die. [Hyunjoo] only tries to win the crown without exerting any effort.”
Chaewon’s psychotherapy record on April 16 reads as follows. “She was sick during one year out of her two years as a trainee, but she’s so selfish… I don’t want to see her anymore. I also don’t like that all of the other kids are having a hard time…I’m wondering if we’re fools for working hard…I think I’m at my limit now. I’m just hanging on each day. I don’t cry much, but I’ve been crying every day recently. These days, I want to die.”
Yena wrote in her journal on May 13, “For the first time, we performed at a music show as four members. I kept getting confused because it has only been two days since it was changed to four members, so I made a mistake. I was really worried. When we stepped down from the stage, our members poured out the tears they had been holding in. I feel miserable today too.”
While it’s not the reversal that they were probably hoping to find in terms of evidence, it’s at least more coherent than previous attempts by DSP Media, contrasting whether it was bullying or simply disliking a member who didn’t want to get along with the group. Not sure if Hyunjoo will respond, but the interesting thing is that they went on the offensive, essentially accusing her of being the tormentor.
Their primary issue, though, is that a lot of the evidence doesn’t address the main problem effectively. They provide evidence that they resented Hyunjoo for one claimed reason or another and that they had mental health issues themselves, but I’m not sure anybody really disputed that. The thing people found bizarre was specifically that DSP allowed this environment to fester in their company and that the members were so open about their disdain for Hyunjoo at the time and now. Like it’s still baffling that even now, knowing the reaction the public has had to their uncaring attitude towards Hyunjoo’s suicide attempt, they continue to treat it with the same “what a pain” type disdain as always even after the medical records were released.
Netizens continued to dig into APRIL’s story, which is positive and negative. Some points can be valid, but stuff like trying to claim the pictures were taken in 2016 seem silly when the pictures themselves have 2015 in them. That said, the point about it being for APRIL’s My Wish content and not some random get together makes sense.
Netizens also called into question the claim that only Hyunjoo had a personal cell when a picture from early 2016 at Yena’s middle school graduation showed other members had their own phones, which contrasts with Chaewon’s claim that nobody else got them until late-2017. They also found a discrepancy in the date of a picture, regarding whether it was at Chaewon’s or Yena’s graduation, but either way it was a public event that fansites were at so it’s not like any of them are gonna act up there.
None of this is really damning against APRIL or anything, but it does seem surprisingly sloppy for something that was pretty clearly rehearsed and researched considering they went through CCTV footage from years ago. Personally though, netizens getting involved rabidly only gives me pause rather than assurance.
Obviously Hyunjoo has handled the war of words in public better than DSP, which honestly is a lot of the reason why so many people have sided with her, and I still believe that’s generally justified due to DSP & APRIL struggling to get their story straight. Honestly, their descriptions of their dynamic almost make Hyunjoo’s claims seem more likely rather than untrue.
But there’s plenty of time ahead for things to get resolved between the parties involved. And as I’ve said before, the one guaranteed takeaway from this is that while we frequently assume regarding the dysfunction and hellscape that trainees and idols go through within companies, it’s even uglier than imagined when laid bare and DSP actively contributed to this nightmare.