BELIFT LAB drops 27-minute video addressing plagiarism claims against ILLIT, seem to drag the whole industry into the mess

It seemed like things were settling down on the HYBE/ADOR dispute front, at least to the point where I’d be able to catchup on everything else and recap the current legal situation. However, BELIFT LAB had other plans, as they recently posted a 27-minute video featuring CEO Kim Tae Ho and Deputy CEO Choi Yoon Hyuk (and others) that addresses the plagiarism allegations from Min Hee Jin and ADOR involving ILLIT and NewJeans.

Yes, that’s on their official account.

To summarize the video, they basically explain that it’s the fate of all successful group concepts to be inspirational, and that if ILLIT’s similarities to NewJeans are valid then so are NewJeans’ similarities to their predecessors. The group’s visual director Heo Se Ryun claims that there’s something called “ILLITcore” in the fashion industry after their debut, proving their uniqueness and influence. ILLIT’s performance director Myung Sang Woo also defends against the plagiarism related to choreography, similarly citing instances where NewJeans and other groups did similar moves.

In a rare amusing moment, they busted out their branding book for ILLIT, where they point out that they specifically put “NOT NewJeans”, “NOT BLACKPINK“, and “NOT IVE” in it.

I get that the point is they wanted to avoid being like those groups, but it’s just funny that it was clearly on their mind. The descriptions are … a bit weird as well.

Some have already pointed out problems with the video — like that the comps are incorrect (NMIXX) or reaches (photoshop), including official personnel (BLACKPINK’s) and critics (1/2) joining in, while netizens are mocking them for being unprofessional (getting evidence from DC Gallery) and all kinds of other stuff (they promo’d ILLIT using NewJeans themselves in the past) — but that aspect of things is not what I’m interested in litigating.

What I am interested in talking about is what the existence of this video means for K-pop, both specifically to this situation and more generally speaking.


As far as PR goes, this doesn’t strike me as a great decision by BELIFT. You know how a lot of people were pissed at HYBE/Min Hee Jin for involving other groups in their dispute? Well, now BELIFT has done that multiple times over, and this time most of those named aren’t even contained within HYBE. All that’s going to do is piss those fandoms off, doesn’t really even matter the context. They had to know that, right? I mean they’ve seen how fans are, yet how many people signed off on this?

Predictably then, BELIFT is getting dragged in Korea for the video, but also internationally because people are pissed their faves are now connected to this mess. While I actually don’t think the general message of the video is explicitly wrong, the execution was extremely loose, coming off like a Stan Twitter/Cyberwrecker/Troll bait type of thing except company endorsed. I had to check twice to make sure it wasn’t fanmade. And in the end, I just feel bad for ILLIT because in a lot of cases they will end up being the face of the company’s actions for the backlash to come.

Anyway, I dunno what the legal outcome of the BELIFT/ADOR plagiarism stuff will be, but my stance on that issue remains the same: unless there was like internal document style stuff that was bar-for-bar copying, I simply don’t care about it either way. I don’t care about ILLIT doing it or not, I don’t care about NewJeans doing it or not. Yes, I see similarities, but that’s literally just entertainment.

Like even at the outset of this, one of the things I resented about Min Hee Jin’s plagiarism angle going public was the potential for it to spread even more among fandoms due to companies themselves being involved in it. Well … now we’re literally in the next evolution of what she did internally with the complaint, which is it becoming officially company endorsed to the public.

Maybe it’s a hot take and I’m being dramatic, but fandoms are already arguing about this in the immediate aftermath. It sucks!

And unlike the fandoms who are being defensive about this group or that group or this company or that company or this creative or that creative, my reasons for hating it is bigger than any one specific thing, because most importantly all this discourse being magnified is what’s personally most annoying to me*.

*And also the damage this stuff could do to artists if it continues the trend of corporations turning art into a war of IP fought by armies of lawyers in order to extract every drop of value out of every asset so they can make the line go up further. Be more like Ryuichi Sakamoto, cowards … but mostly me me me.

Well, I guess at least this mess further reinforces my assumptions about the competency and trustworthiness of company executives.


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