The legal proceedings of the OMEGA X abuse case started up earlier today and are likely going to continue on for a while barring some extreme change of heart, but other than that beginning, there’s also been other stuff happening in the media. Thankfully though, not much.
The most noteworthy thing is that OMEGA X’s case was covered by the New York Times, and apparently under fire from them, CEO Kang Seong Hee became defiant about the allegations.
She told the publication that she treated them like a mother and blamed Jaehan falling on him. But as the NYT notes, this isn’t even all that outlandish an occurrence in the industry, we just have evidence this time.
“I took care of all of them like their mother,” Ms. Kang told The New York Times in a phone interview, adding that Kim Jaehan, 27, the band member who fell at the hotel, had collapsed on his own. She said she hoped the band would resume its normal activities with the agency.
Experts on K-pop say the band’s accusations against their agency, if true, would be consistent with other stories from industry insiders and whistleblowers. They say some management companies, especially smaller ones, routinely exploit young artists who are desperate to become K-pop idols by imposing strict controls on their behavior and in some cases subjecting them to verbal and physical abuse.
She further described this as a witch hunt and that the members wanted to move to a bigger operation.
In an interview last week, Ms. Kang denied the band members’ accusations. Her request for them to cover her agency’s debts was justified, she added, and she believes that the band members have accused her of abuse in order to justify moving to a larger agency.
“In their opinion, our company does not have enough to nurture them,” Ms. Kang said, referring to the company’s financial resources. “So they are conducting a witch hunt.”
None of that really makes sense to me. Not sure anything showed they wanted or needed a bigger agency, they likely wanted out due to being treated like garbage.
One lawyer mentioned that smaller agencies tend to have contracts that are even more fucked up than the ones at bigger agencies.
Kim Youna, an entertainment lawyer in Seoul, said smaller agencies in particular have tended to sign rising musicians to contracts that don’t define work hours or set limits on what the artists can be reasonably asked to do.
Contracts between artists and their agencies have been around for only about 25 years in South Korea, Ms. Kim said. Other industries in the country have robust labor laws. “In this context, it seems that idols, considered the less powerful parties, have no choice but to suffer a little loss,” she said.
Some of the losses are financial. It is common, for example, for agencies to ask artists to pay back the costs of the training they received, such as dance lessons, vocal coaching and other preparation. But there are often questions about how transparently those debts are calculated, said Lee Jongim, a scholar of South Korea’s entertainment industry and the author of “Idol Trainees’ Sweat and Tears.”
Yeah, big agencies don’t necessarily have better music or deserve more attention, nor are they especially moral or ethical either. However, the thing that always worries me about smaller operations is that they tend use that status as an excuse to do whatever to employees, idols included.
One of the reasons fandom and media are important in this case is that it requires a certain level of backlash to get companies to care, and it’s working so far but needs to continue working.
Omega X’s fate may depend on how the South Korean public reacts to the band’s side of the story, said Ms. Lee, the pop culture scholar. If the dispute escalates and its members can rally more public support, she said, Spire Entertainment may allow them to break their contract.
At least two companies that work with Spire abroad have cut ties since the scandal broke: Helix Publicity, which had been responsible for Omega X’s public relations in the United States, and Skiyaki, the company that held the license for Omega X’s activities in Japan.
A number of people who worked or volunteered at concert venues on its recent two-month, 16-city tour of the United States and Latin America have also spoken up for Omega X.
Gigi Granados, 25, a cosmetologist who attended a show at Palladium Times Square in New York City, said she had witnessed Ms. Kang screaming at members of the band at their hotel after the performance. “No one deserves to be yelled at that way,” she said.
Obviously this site itself has a negligible impact, but doing anything possible to keep the pressure on is valuable for a group that doesn’t have a massive built-in support system yet. That’s why concerns that this would be swept under the rug at the time were justifiable, but the thing that gave me hope was SBS were on this from the get-go and they’ve proven integral in telling their story.
Additionally, SPIRE were accused of changing the passwords of the members to their fancafe, to which they responded it was routine maintenance. Alright, just another coincidence, I guess.
Plus, to the surprise of nobody, it seems like Kang Seong Hee is still working at the company and in a relatively normal capacity despite her supposed resignation. In fact, reports were she was having dinner with trainees of SPIRE’s future boy group.
Here’s hoping OMEGA X not only win but get it swiftly so they can move on with their careers.