ADOR employee claims HYBE coerced her consent to audit + NewJeans’ parents’ letter revealed + HYBE responds

Despite my feeble wishes for everything to remain quiet until the results of the general board meeting were released, a couple stories have emerged relating to the HYBE/ADOR conflict that are probably of some interest to those following along.

Neither necessarily impacts the legal outcome of things, but an ADOR employee alleged HYBE recently coerced her into cooperating with their audit, while the letter that the parents of NewJeans sent HYBE was revealed. Both were promptly responded to by HYBE themselves.

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Okay, so on May 10, Min Hee Jin released a statement (here in full) about the “style directing team leader” at ADOR, essentially alleging she was harassed by HYBE into participating in what she described as an “illegal audit”.

MHJ explains that the audit began around after work hours at 7 PM on May 9 and continued for five hours. The HYBE audit team allegedly followed the style director home from the office after 10 PM, and MHJ says they demanded her laptop and personal phone, coerced her to sign a consent form to take her laptop, and threatened reporting her to authorities if she didn’t cooperate. The employee herself said the HYBE audit team questioned her contract with ADOR, claiming they have evidence of embezzlement and breach of trust while threatening to file a complaint.

MHJ claims that contract in question is industry standard and had previously been provided to HYBE back in February. She explains that last year ADOR used internal staff for advertising shoots, but this year they changed to outsourcing due to demand, which she says HYBE was informed of. MHJ says HYBE is taking issue with advertisers paying incentives to internal ADOR personnel directly like they would typically do with freelancers instead of those being given out through incentives. The claim is basically that this caused no loss to ADOR and just streamlined the process, and can be verified in HYBE’s records.

MHJ claims HYBE lacks understanding of the industry and their actions against the style director were illegal, alleging interference with business, coercion, and invasion of privacy. She says the employee is distressed as a result of the confrontation, that they plan to withdraw consent due to coercion involved with it, and are considering legal action. She essentially tries to paint HYBE as desperate to frame her and willing to do anything it takes.

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Not long after that, HYBE responded with a statement of their own (here in full). They go point-by-point to rebut Min Hee Jin’s statement, saying their audit was legal, non-coercive, and done with consent.

HYBE explain that the style directing team leader arrived at work at 6 PM and agreed to start the audit at 7 PM, and claim the only reason they went to her home late at night was the employee wanted to submit her personal laptop she left at home, so consent wasn’t compelled. HYBE say the reason they wanted personal phones was because ADOR employees used them to carry out work convos instead of company messaging, but when the style director didn’t consent, they did not push it. They also say the style director admitted to receiving hundreds of million of won in compensation from outsourcing companies with MHJ’s approval.

HYBE deny MHJ’s explanation that internal employees receive benefits directly from advertisers, explaining that it should be company revenue and say the lack of punishment for this by MHJ was clear illegality. When confronted by this matter by HYBE, they say MHJ dismissed their concerns and discussed having to stop the practice with the style director due to HYBE.

HYBE essentially say that MHJ is trying to mislead the public by lying again, and express disappointment in MHJ as a leader for not protecting the style director by naming her in the media. They conclude by saying they will take all possible legal actions.

Additionally, HYBE attached a KakaoTalk convo between MHJ and a couple ADOR executives about the style director, which I think need to be presented as is:

  • MHJ: Tomorrow at the meeting, thank them for their hard work over the year. Because her incentives are tied to the group’s advertisements, tell her the full amount so she can understand how large the payment is (because she’s the type to act like it isn’t a large amount even though she knows it is). She sometimes cosplays as anti-social, so we need to let her know.
  • MHJ: 1. Let her know that HYBE has objected (to her pay), we have to change the system regarding how work regarding advertisements are delegated. HYBE usually doesn’t allow you to get paid for work other than her main job, but they allowed it because I asked them to. It would be dumb of us to make it seem like this is our decision. People are fickle so they soon forget what you do for them, but remember the things you’ve taken from them.
  • MHJ: You know what I’m saying?
  • L: Yes.
  • S: Ok.
  • MHJ: So this is when we should use HYBE, when else would we use them. Because this is something that might become a HR issue. Telling her that HYBE wanted things to change will cause her less grief. Anyways, besides this, I am hearing there are a lot of problems within ADOR.
  • MHJ: 2. Let her know what issues can arise and therefore we need to change the system. This is actually the most important. Other employees might become discouraged that she takes all the wages. To be honest, if the (ADOR) managers wanted to, they could make valid objections (about the stylist getting paid so much). Although we did this at 1. but make her understand once more.
  • S: Ok.
  • MHJ: Tell her she’s taking all the advertisement bonuses for herself while her assistants don’t receive anything despite working very hard. To be honest, when we first agreed to this pay structure, we didn’t foresee this issue arising (because at the time she had so few assistants and they were working as if it was a part-time job).
  • MHJ: To be honest, she should have been the one to tell us first about this but she didn’t. I think she took advantage of the fact we weren’t looking into this.
  • S: Ok.
  • L: In the beginning, you were actually helping her, but as the advertisements became larger:
    1. Her pay outside of her given work has become too large.
    2. The system has become skewed so that the team’s resources are working for her own compensation.
    3. Due to resource constraints, we’ve had an issue with our schedule.
    These problems are in a situation where individual efforts alone are not enough, but it can only be resolved through changing the work process/structure.
  • MHJ: Yes, this is actually a big problem internally as well. This is also a task we must resolve first before being caught by HYBE. Audit issues may arise, actually.

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That wasn’t the end of the saga, however, as the style director herself came forward and gave an interview where she backs the MHJ statement on multiple fronts.

The style director explained the situation around HYBE’s alleged coercion, “I was frightened when HYBE’s audit team mentioned embezzlement and breach of trust. They suggested that I could be reported to the police.” She also spoke about the incentives that were at the heart of the issue, “This was how I was paid at my previous company, and ADOR also approved of receiving it in exchange for incentives, so I didn’t know that something like this was happening. I was scared because they were talking about embezzlement and breach of trust.

She talked about how her audit process started, “I received a call from the HYBE audit team saying that there was a crime during the internal audit and asked to see my logs … I told them I had work to do so I asked to postpone it, but they said they could still proceed and file a complaint and they didn’t need to hear my side of the story, so I ended up telling them.” Starting at the beginning, she spoke about being approached, “I was talking on the phone on the 4th floor of the office around 7 p.m., I had something to do so I left work at that time, but the audit team was right in front of me. They asked me to cooperate because they could sue me if I didn’t.” She explained further about the environment in which she gave her statement and signed away consent, “I was told to tell the truth, so I told the truth. I was very scared because the audit team said that the money I received from outsider under non-compete agreement would be considered embezzlement. Then, when I asked if I had to go to the police station, the HYBE audit team told me to talk here rather than go to the police station and be investigated. So, I told the truth as it was. The atmosphere itself felt oppressive.

Regarding the laptop issue and following her home, she said, “They said if I didn’t submit my laptop as evidence, I would have to go to the police. Around 10:30 PM, someone came to my house and took my laptop. They even asked for my phone, but I refused. Afterwards, I took a taxi back to the office and was audited until midnight. I wrote a consent form, but after telling the ADOR lawyer about it, they said it was illegal and would withdraw it for me. This is money I received by working my schedule, and not something I gave to Min Hee Jin. All I did was work hard, and I’m upset that all this is happening.

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Additionally, earlier today, the e-mail that Min Hee Jin sent to HYBE and BELIFT LAB back on April 3 was revealed. Within it was a letter from March 31 from the parents of the NewJeans members in which they speak up about ILLIT’s similarity to NewJeans, Bang Si Hyuk‘s treatment of their daughters, and the concern they had after their debut was postponed.

Mostly, their concerns around the ILLIT situation have already been made public, talking about worrying that there were intentional similarities and questioning the internal company planning to allow that. They do reveal that NewJeans staff were recruited for ILLIT’s debut, “What is shown in the series of concept photos, styling, music video direction, choreography, and internally-produced content along with the employment of NewJeans’s debut-era staff who had exclusively worked with NewJeans without prior experience with other idols make it difficult to deny the intentionality behind these actions.

The parents go on to talk about the distress the members are suffering from during the ordeal, later also mentioning that the broken promise of not being HYBE’s first girl group caused them suffering as they were worried during the delays and neglect. They say during that time one member considering giving up her dream of debuting.

They then allege that Bang Si Hyuk ignored the members at the company. They mention several instances where that happened, saying that even if he didn’t recognize them, he should’ve at least acknowledged their greetings, “After hearing more than one or two instances of standing blankly in the elevator because it was embarrassing to be ignored, noticing that [Bang Si Hyuk] was pretending not to see them, and feeling like they were being avoided on purpose, we were surprised at this childish and unbelievable situation as parents, and we were at a loss as there was nothing we could say to our children. These members are just of middle school and high school age.

Concluding, the parents essentially explain that they’ve lost trust in HYBE, have requested Min Hee Jin take action against infringement, and want HYBE to create a healthy artist environment, saying they await a response and corrective measures.

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Shortly after this was revealed, HYBE responded that they replied to that e-mail on April 16, which was about a couple weeks after they received it.

HYBE say they explained to the parents that there wasn’t any plagiarism, push back on Bang Si Hyuk’s lack of acknowledgement as a “one-sided argument and not true”, and claim the e-mail itself was a part of Min Hee Jin’s plan to drag the members into this and utilize them for her own greed. They basically say this was all part of her exit plan and that the e-mail was written by MHJ and another ADOR exec.

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Update

Moments ago, one of the mothers of a NewJeans member gave a phone interview. She explained that on the day of Min Hee Jin’s press conference, a few mothers visited HYBE in an attempt to bridge the divide between HYBE and ADOR. She says CEO Park Ji Won came late and they didn’t have time to talk about mediation, rather they were just told MHJ did this and that wrong. She says the parents stated clearly that the idea to send an e-mail was started by the parents, and they only asked MHJ her opinion on it.

When the topic of Bang Si Hyuk not greeting the members of NewJeans was brought up, they were told that it was a misunderstanding and that the BSH may have facial recognition disorder. The parent described their reactions as, “We couldn’t say much there, but after we left, I thought, ‘Does a facial recognition disorder mean muteness as well? Even if you don’t recognize someone, don’t you usually greet them?’”

At the meeting they said MHJ’s plagiarism allegations were delicate, so they were ordered not to talk about it. However, less than an hour later, articles related to that were coming out.

Park Ji Won also told them that NewJeans will get a long vacation after the Tokyo Dome concert in June, potentially of up to 18 months as the recruit a “Grammy-winning producer”. She says they told them all five mothers agreed they want their children managed by Min Hee Jin, and that without her they are worried that HYBE will basically shelve them. They heard a world tour might be coming but have doubts now.

When a HYBE official was told of the comment, they explained that the long vacation comment didn’t mean a break, just the typical rest period after comeback activities and that NewJeans wouldn’t be stopping activities.

Regarding the issue of greeting NewJeans, a HYBE rep said, “We have no comment.” When asked specifically about Bang Si Hyuk not receiving the greetings of the group, they said, “It’s difficult to answer.”

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With regards to the wall of text above, I’m not going to pretend to know the details of their contracts, advertising industry norms, and what their company policies are, and on that front I’d probably advise readers to not act like they know either. They’re both threatening legal action, and are already involved in legal action, so that stuff will hopefully be sussed out in an appropriate arena.

Regardless of which side is right or wrong in this case, as usual it’s the people seemingly caught in the crossfire that I feel worst for. The style director might not have even been aware of any alleged wrongdoing (even judging by HYBE’s own KakaoTalk evidence), but even if she was, there’s just something unsettling about a conglomerate using their legal team as a police force (especially in regards to the personal phone) or whatever it is they were doing here. I realize this isn’t rare behavior for firms doing investigating, but the methods used can be borderline vigilante, and the description of how this supposedly went down certainly reminded me of that.

As far as the parents stuff goes, it seems of little consequence. That said, the letter from the parents did seem like something a team of lawyers would write more than parents just venting about issues. Also, if it’s true that Bang Si Hyuk took any resentment from all this out on the girls themselves, that would be incredibly shitty, and the facial recognition thing is an odd excuse. Greeting somebody back regardless seems … reasonable.

Phew.

Kudos to those of you who are getting through all of this, and I hope the summaries help at least a bit in keeping track of things.

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Anyway, in the midst of all this, ADOR announced that their extraordinary general meeting will be led on May 31 after they held their board meeting.

Ideally, the PR war updates about this will chill until May 31. I have my doubts, though.

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