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Mother Of God, Is This The End Of T-ara?
I don't have enough information to have an opinion* (which doesn't mean I don't), but I'm fascinated by how quickly public opinion — at least as evidenced by the outpouring of complaints on comment threads — has coalesced around a story that people can't possibly know is true, at least not yet. E.g.,

WTF? did not see this coming! i mean they are all bitches but srsly make the other members suffer as well for bullying her and shit but in return they make the victim leave the group!

and BULLSHIT u prob asked ur staff to say all this shit u fucken piece of ass, "In deference to the complaints by T-ara's staff of 19 people (5 stylists, 7 hair & makeup, 5 on-site managers, 2 team managers), Hwayoung’s contract as an artist will be voided effective immediately with no conditions."

I call bullshit!!! They kicked her out because she wasn't the popular one and it's a mean girls thing the other members got bad attitudes...It's all bullshit...but I wish her the best

I don't believe a darn thing that ridiculous CEO says. Complaints from the staff to cover up the bullying by the members? Seriously? And why did he feel the need to list who the staff members were and how many of them were part of the 19 that supposedly complained against Hwayoung? It's unnecessary information.

we apologize in saying that we could not forsake the arguments of the staff members. OH REALLY???!!... I didnt know staffs are more powerful then a CEO. CCM Please shut down your fucking company with all your lies and all your betraying all your artists.

lol apparently its got to do with the staff. huh, thats funny, cause that is a obvious lie right there.

Just read a article on CNN this week. South Korea #1 in bully related death (suicide). Read Seung-Min's story on CNN. The CEO should of been the adult in this situation. Ever heard of communication. As IDOLS they have so much influence. Bullying starts from the top (CEO) and works down (singers). It's all about $$$ for the CEO. All the K-pop groups are puppets!! They should all get together and fight the # issue in their country. BULLYING!!
Hwayoung was just kicked out of T-ara. But the narrative had coalesced several days earlier: long-time members Jiyeon, Hyomin, and Eunjung had tweeted their disappointment about another member, saying she needed to show "determination." This was interpreted by Netizens as being aimed at Hwayoung, who, with a hurt leg, had failed to perform at one of the group's TV gigs, and at a concert had only partially participated. Hyomin: "The differences in levels of determination^^, Let us all have more determination. Fighting!!!" Jiyeon: "The differences in levels of determination ^^, Always be humble ^^ and sensible ^^ I applaud you, acting genius ^^" Eunjung: "A position can make or break a person, but determination can make a person too. Sigh, it's unfortunate. You have to know to take care of the people around you." (See article at allkpop. I don't vouch for these translations. Or the article.)

This doesn't seem so outrageous to me, but on the 'Net it was taken to be three hotshot, bitchy, jealous members of the group bullying the young one.** And maybe people who follow these things more closely than I do have good reason to buy into this narrative, and to consider Jiyeon a bitch. Or maybe such people are just making things up. (Hwayoung didn't join T-ara until late 2010. There does seem to have been a diminution of Eunjung's mic time since then. Eunjung has, imo, the best voice in the group. She sings only a few lines in "Day By Day," just the refrain, but in those few lines she brings the crucial emotion of the song.)

There's a counter narrative that says Hwayoung was set to perform with T-ara on Music Bank and then pulled out at the last second, leaving the group in the lurch. Eunjung (0:47) covered some of Hwayoung's lines, did so with aplomb; but Hyomin (3:14) was assigned to later in the song, fumbled, was obviously uncertain, looking at a prompter who was holding up the words for her, later may simply have been embarrassed, and to relieve her feelings went to twitter. [EDIT: No, the tweets were two days earlier, after the Budokan concert. See update below.] But again, we don't know if this happened in this way, except for what we saw onstage. Soyeon was also out, members having to take her lines too. I thought they all got through OK, and Hyomin sounded fine; so what if there was a mistake? —Hyomin having tripped and fallen onstage last week, she might already have been feeling extra exposed and self-conscious.

[This vid isn't on YouTube anymore, and in case Dailymotion kills it at some point, here's a link to this performance on mp3.zing. UPDATE: That's dead too; here's one on Vimeo, another on Youku]

This is what one commenter claims (reporting what she read elsewhere online):

its basically about the musicbank incident where hyomin forgot hwayoung's lines. in the rehersal hwayoung had to sit on a chair and do her rap but instead on the live stage hwayoung said she was too nervous and so eunjung and hyomin had to memorize it really fast. and then thats where their tweets came from
I like Hwayoung performing, love her dancing on "Lovey-Dovey" and her raw chicken squawk on "Roly-Poly." But my bias here is to want T-ara to continue to do well commercially and to continue singing songs by the likes of Shinsadong Tiger, Cho Young-soo, Kim Tae-hyun, Kim Do-hoon, the writers being at their best when writing for T-ara, the songs being at their best when sung by T-ara, I really haven't figured out why. So 'cause I want the group to prosper, my bias is to side with Eunjung et al. Assuming there is a side.

I don't know the impact of the response, or the size. What I've seen so far is people overwhelmingly upset and ready to dump T-ara in the river. Those quotes up-top are typical, not extreme. But maybe they're only typical of people who leap forward and post online (5,000 comments in four hours to the allkpop article); going by the comments, I'd believe T-ara is in serious trouble with its fanbase. But again, I don't know.

Kim Kwang Soo, the Core Contents Media guy, seems to have a tin ear for politics. If the reaction really is as strong as it seems, he should have figured that he simply couldn't boot Hwayoung out of the group right now, simply couldn't. Not in the midst of the "bullying" narrative, not with everyone ready to sympathize with Hwayoung and blame Jiyeon and the rest, and not in such a way as to make it seem like he's tearing down Hwayoung further. He may be the boss, he may be utterly right in this instance (he has a reputation for being a ruthless bastard, but again, I don't know; and even ruthless bastards are sometimes right), but sometimes what seems logically right and best to you isn't actually for the best, given the situation. Sometimes you're just stuck. Apparently, he has no credibility (again, I don't know if this is fair; but even if it isn't, he has to recognize it's a fact, and work within that fact — in other words, I'm suddenly identifying with Mr. So-Called Ruthless Bastard as I'm imagining him, and feeling that I get why he did what he did, would possibly do the same if I were in his situation, not recognizing while I was in it that I was making the wrong choice). This from Wikipedia: "Core Contents Media responded to the whole incident by stating that the members' Twitter accounts had been hacked; however, because most of the members had tweeted on July 25th, the explanation did not add up." (Just 'cause it's on Wikip doesn't mean it's true. But if it is...)

*By "enough information" I don't merely mean "information concerning what happened this week" but also "what I'd know if I'd made an effort to follow the members of T-ara as personalities, as they act on TV and appear on talk shows and drop tidbits in interviews and say the right thing and say the wrong thing etc.," all of which is part of their job and part of the music so I'm not glad that I don't know this stuff. But one can't know everything.

**She's actually two months older than Jiyeon.

UPDATE (CORRECTIONS): Two mistakes in this write-up: (i) There seems to have actually been four members of T-ara who initially tweeted their disappointment: Hyomin, Jiyeon, Eunjung, and Soyeon. I'd said there were three. The allkpop article (which was translated and adapted from something called NewsPlus) only gives Hyomin's, Jiyeon's, and Eunjung's tweets, but shows a Webshot of a fourth by Soyeon, in Korean (the NewsPlus article is identical in this respect). Wikip adds Boram to the list, but the citation is to the allkpop article, which leaves her out. UPDATING THE UPDATE: Boram did tweet, but her tweet and Soyeon's weren't much more than general exhortations. (ii) The tweets came on Wednesday July 25, after the Budokan concert, but two days before the Music Bank show where Hwayoung was a last-second scratch. I'd initially thought they'd come after Music Bank. (Supposedly, with only a couple of others bands in the queue ahead of them at Music Bank, Hwayoung refused to or felt she couldn't perform. But I don't know enough to say that either of those are accurate interpretations of what happened. I don't think anyone who wasn't there knows. Maybe even the people who were there, including the principals, don't know.)

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Despite being an adult, and not a "fan" type of person, I feel a little bad about this story. The script seems so inconsistent. What CEO fires his leading singer (at least for this comeback) for some temper issues with the group still in promotion? As I wrote in another forum, I wonder what he could have done if he was the CEO of some '70 rock band, managing artists on drugs. After all, we're only speaking of some young girls being pushed to their limits, no wonder if some of them have a breakdown now and then.
I may be wrong, but I have a high opinion of Hyomin as a person. It's hard for me to imagine her being involved in this bullying thing.
Anyway, he raised such a lot of mud that it will be difficult for him to cleanup the image of both the company and the group.

Well, my main interest here, beyond wanting T-ara to continue to prosper aesthetically, is the reaction:

(1) that people are willing to call something "bullying" when the information given is way too sparse to justify that characterization (at least, I don't have nearly enough information to judge whether or not there was any bullying, the tweets themselves not seeming like bullying unless there's something else in the context that I don't know about that makes them so and makes them part of a long pattern of harassment; but again, is there actual evidence for any of this?).

(2) that public opinion here is itself acting like a mob of bullies, people without restraint willing to call Jiyeon and crew bitches and bullies and doing so with near unanimity (about 1 in 15 comments is a dissent of the sort of "Hey, wait, we don't know what happened" or "Can't you see that when you express hatred towards T-ara you're doing the very thing you claim to be decrying?" — and no, of course, they can't see).

(3) that the narrative — of a poor victim being set upon by bullies and then being the one who gets punished herself (and we the commenters will be the ones to take the online stand against this) — is so strong, people falling into it so easily (but bear in mind I never followed the long-running fan discussion of T-ara, or stayed abreast of the group members' individual public demeanors)

(4) that the narrative "Something interesting happened that we don't yet understand; I wonder how we could go about finding out more or interpreting it better" is correspondingly weak.

By the way, the CEO in his statement was implying that Hwayoung had been a problem child for a whole lot of people a whole lot of the time; of course, if this is not true, what he's doing is reprehensible; and even if it is true, you have to wonder why he didn't think he could act later rather than now, in the meantime working with Hwayoung to create a gentler exit, one that doesn't basically involve his trashing her. But then, people get mad, even at teenagers. Especially at teenagers.

I too have a high opinion of Hyomin, but it's based on almost no actual knowledge of her; I've barely looked at more than scattered clips from Invincible Youth, for instance (mainly to add to my collection of Sunny's miraculous behavior in regard to chickens, pens, dangerous boys, and whatnot). Fundamentally, Hyomin has a relaxed look and a strong but engaging demeanor, someone whom you would expect to make a very good host of a diplomatic reception, except she's too down-to-earth to run with the hoity-toity.

That "Bullying starts from the top (CEO) and works down (singers)" quote reads true to me, but then a lot of Kpop acts are really incredibly dysfunctional. It's a whole industry of teen stars who lead carefully stage-managed lives (apart from on twitter I guess), after all. Anything could be true behind the scenes, including years and years of sanctioned psychological abuse. The unusual thing about this incident could just be that it happened in public, where we could see it.

Anyway if you want to tie this in with T-ara's art, there is Jiyeon always being cast as in with the gangsters. (Did you read the comments speculating that CCM is a front for the CEO's illegal side businesses? No idea if that is true, but man, that would be one elaborate cover.)

Edited at 2012-07-30 01:56 pm (UTC)

I still think it's an important point that I don't know that there was any bullying. Taking on faith what Mat read about the CEO, Kim Kwang-soo, the guy was acting like a jackass with his false statements. But nonetheless, maybe he was sincerely trying to protect the staff and the group, and again, just because he's a jackass doesn't prove that he's fundamentally wrong in this instance. Again, I don't know.

As for dysfunction, based on my work experience I often wonder how any business manages to keep going. I would define "dysfunction" as systematically self-defeating behavior. But when it comes to T-ara, and what they're paid to do, the result seems far from self-defeating. Among other things, they've put out more good music, and more consistently good music, than any K-pop act I can think of. Of course, that's my taste speaking, but I don't think that the sound they make is different in kind from the sounds of SNSD, f(x), 4minute, and the rest. It's just good far more often. I've disliked maybe one album track and a couple of individual-member OST side projects. The rest is ace.

Of course, what happens to the psyches involved is a different story. But, again, I don't know the story.

I really think you're being far too kind in your interpretations. And that's because I think the T-ara dynamic is fundamentally abusive, starting at the top (CEO) and working down (singers). Not that I have any hard proof; it's just a vibe I get. Abuse can bring people closer together, which can improve the music, e.g. T-ara are always scarily in sync in their voices and gestures.

My definition of dysfunction is a mode of behavior that's out of step with the requirements of the world: within the group tears, repentance, forgiveness, promises to never do it again, perceptions of having betrayed that promise through some small action, tears, repentance, etc - the cycle of abuse - is a functional response, but as soon as you step outside that world you can't function. Meanwhile, within that world, you get worn down - so it's self-defeating in the end, even if not right away.

TONS of Kpop groups are dysfunctional by this definition though, and I don't think they should stop making music just because of that. It's all about whether or not the trade-off is worth it.

This is quite sad news!

I actually came around to say that I thought of you quite a lot while watching Sunny, which:

1) is essentially the full-length movie of T-ara's "Roly Poly" video, although I don't know if the latter is based on the former -- 2011 was steam engine time for Korea's 80s revival,

2) tells the story of an eponymous girl gang, whose moniker is given to them by a late night DJ based on the Boney M song,

3) features a protagonist named Nami, like the original singer of T-ara's "Round & Round" cover (this was discussed in the movie).

There was also a running fourth-wall breaking gag to the effect that the various 1980s rival high school girl gangs kept naming themselves after IRL present-day idol groups. Of course the movie itself is somewhat magical-realist, with heightened characterizations, so the gang itself is constructed along the lines of an idol group, "7 Samurai" style. It made me wonder, though, to what degree the descriptive language of idol groups (eg. the fact that there has to be a leader, a maknae, etc.) is actually derived from the IRL sociology of high school gangs, which I've always understood from media were A Big Thing in 60s-80s Japan -- and apparently, Korea. Also, if there is a link, how apparent that would be to the idol groups' teen audiences (as opposed to the director Kang Hyeong-cheol, or the movie's target audience of middle-aged women. Though I would guess Kang is also around 40, and the impression his two movies have given me is someone who's into music and media, and is thoughtful about drawing the connections in popular culture. And Sunny nearly outgrossed Transformers 3 in Korea, so obviously it has broad appeal).

I was going to blurb the movie on Tumblr as "Kang Hyeong-cheol attempts to explain why Frank Kogan likes T-ara," but I didn't think anyone would get it -- without watching the movie, anyway. XD

Edited at 2012-07-30 08:52 pm (UTC)

I watched an excerpt from Sunny a few weeks ago when Subdee tipped me off about it; saw a gang confrontation and the living-room performance of "Round & Round." The latter had the ring of truth, raw like actual kids, whereas T-ara's "Roly-Poly" performance is the way these kids pictured themselves in their mind's eye. From your description, I really want to see the entire flick (it's on YouTube). It'll probably have to wait, though; first I'll be wending my way through God Of Study on Hulu. Watched episode one yesterday. Is in the Blackboard Jungle family, strong man reforms ghetto school, though it tries to walk a line between comic exaggeration and serious drama. So far is very clumsy in setting up the characters, here is Character Type A, here is Character Type B, and so forth, rather than people and their traits being worked out in relation to each other. But the exaggeration does make it possible for negative or recalcitrant characters to come off as potentially lovable.

Tuned in to see how Jiyeon does as a sad sack loser of a rejected would-be girlfriend; am even more curious to see if the show tries to do for its viewers what the teachers supposedly do for their students, which is to get them excited by a subject matter. I'd say that such shows and movies never attempt this, except I've actually not seen enough of them to know. (Number of people who've heard "Gangsta's Paradise" divided by number of people who've seen Dangerous Minds = a very large number.)

Was once marveling in a Jukebox email about how in 4minute you had one person designated as "Lead Dancer," someone else as "Main Dancer." And you'd have a "Lead Vocalist" and a "Main Vocalist" (and of course, with only five people in the group, you had people in multiple roles, a Main Rapper also being a Vocalist and Main Dancer [as well as being a drifting, simmering, smoldering, blazing sex symbol, but that wasn't part of the official designation]). Michaela Drapes wrote back that these reminded her of the endless officer lists in Korean conglomerates.

As our friend e.via wrote on twitter to the new anti-t-ara site, "is your new hobby the witch-hunt?".

I don't know anything except a few things: The CCM CEO has very transparently lied - first saying their twitter accounts were hacked and later explaining what the members meant by the tweets they supposedly earlier didn't write themselves. Later he claimed they'd taken legal action against someone claiming to be a BTS person, police said that was not true. So the CEO _IS_ full of bullshit.

Similar things have happened in CCM before, although the backlash is bigger than ever.

This morning there does seem to be a change in the tenor of the comments. E.g.,

talisa_s 2 minutes ago
Gosh, stop bashing on Jiyeon now! She can't ALWAYS smile, she is just human too. But, the funny thing is, in the beginning when they said that T-ara was going to add a new member, everybody was like "EEeeeeeh, no, we hate her, bla, bla, bla" and now everybody is on Hwayoung's side. You guys don't even know how it really was but keep on calling the original members from T-ara the bad ones. I really don't understand these people....

axavier92 0 minutes ago
Just ignore. No one's gonna support you and they would only bash you. Just ignore them. We'll continue supporting T-ara no matter what.
Maybe people who don't normally post are now trying to weigh in, with cooler heads and more thoughtful attitudes.

Best scenario I can think of is that CEO becomes the focus of most antagonism and the "public," sentimental and witch-hunting as ever, chooses to blame him and decide the "girls" are blameless, or just being human, etc. So they continue to support the group and the music. May be too late for that. People's ideas are already set.

If I were suddenly hired as Machiavellian adviser to CEO, I would say, "OK, you shut up in public. Now, we'll engineer it like this: the remaining members of T-ara are going to hold a news conference where they will state, in defiance of you, that as far as they are concerned Hwayoung is still a member of the group. They might even be extreme and say that's their condition for continuing the group. And then you, the CEO, will reluctantly give way to them, the group, and reinstate Hwayoung. But it's got to look as if they are calling the shots, not you. Because anything you do is contaminated by the idea that you'll say or do the first thing that comes into your head that you think is to your advantage. And if Hwayoung is as bad as all that, you can always hope she doesn't rejoin. But if she does, you live with that. Just admit to yourself that you're not the boss of this situation."

But maybe I'm overreacting in thinking anyone has to do anything. I don't know the context, the culture. Maybe Core Contents Media should forget damage control and stay mum (or continue to leak things, or allkpop — and whomever allkpop reprints — makes things up on both sides of the argument [report I linked is prefaced with "According to an industry insider"; I mean, it seems as if they're completely willing to print rumors], including character assassination of Hwayoung). I really think this incident has put T-ara's commercial viability at risk — if not viability, at least their stature, the size of their audience. But I have no actual idea. I don't know Korea, I don't know the market. This may be way smaller potatoes than I realize. Maybe there's no real risk. After this blows over, they put out the next T-ara single and a repackage of the EP, Part 2 of the vid comes out, millions are enthralled, everything is hunky-dory, or lovey-dovey.

Edited at 2012-07-31 02:45 pm (UTC)

The rumors about bullying are the key point. CCM can continue to classify them as fakes, K-Pop sites can continue to publish any kind of nonsense, but there are also professionals like the famous SBS pd that supported Hwayoung from the start, on his personal Twitter account (he apologized later). It's not so absurd to assign some trustworthiness to the story about a crying Hwayoung left in the hallway out of the waiting room of KBS's Music Bank, on July 27, when she allegedly refused to perform. Something bad likely happened in the group.
Disperding the shadows that are obscuring T-ARA is not easy at all, even for our Machiavellian adviser. I don't think that a "not guilty" declaration would be effective in this scenario. Tears are needed, and sincere repentance. Will they succeed in cleaning their image?

The crying in the hallway story I read was so sparse that I couldn't make sense of when she was crying and why this was significant. But I suppose what makes sense to me hardly matters.

Putting back on my Machiavelli beret: sure, Jiyeon's a talented actress, she can cry. Give her an extra hefty bonus if she breaks down bawling in mid-sentence.

Here we go, tears inbound... (T.T)
"I'm going to say sorry to the boss now. I'm so sorry to our boss. They have treated me so well"
"After apologizing to the other members, staff, and fans and apologizing for breaking her promise and reflecting on her actions, Hwayoung burst in tears"
"The T-ara members also are saddened and shed tears over this incident"
"I talked frankly to all of them yesterday, and each of them shed tears"

A few hours earlier, CCM headquarter:
[DON CORLEONE MODE]Le faremo un'offerta che non può rifiutare...[/DON CORLEONE MODE]
(We're going to make her a offer she can't refuse...)

Edited at 2012-08-01 06:53 am (UTC)

Why say that something bad "likely" happened? And why assume that there was any bullying (if that's what you're assuming)?

Not that something bad might not have happened, or that there might not have been bullying. And I wasn't following this story from the start (on Saturday night, which would've already been Sunday afternoon in Korea, I decided to catch up with Music Core and Music Bank, noticed on the YouTube sidebar a video of Hyomin falling onstage last week, did a search of allkpop to find out more about that, found this instead). But the way the "bullying" story developed seems to be:

(1) The tweets happened, which essentially were four people saying that another didn't show enough determination — which in itself hardly seems like bullying, though maybe it's bullying in the context of this group's particular dynamics that of course I wouldn't know about: but I think I can tell bullying from a hole in the ground, and it's generally when you tease or ridicule or threaten or deride someone in order to hurt or humiliate her and make her feel weak, not when you admonish or express your frustration at someone for not trying hard enough, or you urge her to do better.

(2) Netizens interpreted the tweets as bullying in and of themselves. So this isn't yet a rumor so much as an interpretation, a decision about what happened.

(3) The word "bullying" is such a gravitational force that thousands upon thousands are drawn to it: the story of four people picking on another, ostracizing her, victimizing her. For all I know this has to do with people's feelings about Jiyeon too, the roles she's played and so forth, people willing to think of her as a bitch. I don't know, haven't spent much time following that aspect of the group. But I'd say that the engine here is the bullying story itself, something in the culture (which culture? Korea's? the industrialized world's?) — that is, the bullying story doesn't arise from rumors about T-ara; rather, the appeal of the story is what inspires people to create the rumors, to let their imaginations go, the story affixing itself to T-ara in this instance. Ambiguous incidents in the past are "discovered" and given only one possible interpretation. None of which necessarily means that Hwayoung wasn't ostracized or bullied, just that the story of her being ostracized and bullied precedes anyone's discovery of evidence for it, the story rather than the evidence being the driver here.

By the way, two things that I haven't found, my being late to the dance: (i) What date the Music Bank performances were recorded (as opposed to the date they aired). If it's the same day as the broadcast, then it's two days after the original tweets. Whereas if it's before the tweets, the tweets make more sense. (The Music Core performance that aired the next evening, on the 28th, has all eight members, obviously recorded back before Hwayoung was hurt.) [UPDATE: Wikip says Music Bank is live. Not that I automatically believe Wikip, but it's usually right. Also, something can be recorded live but air later, and sometimes people use the word "live" for that. Ambiguous. But I suppose that, since Music Bank awards the week's top group at the end of the show, they have to genuinely do at least that live or the winner's name would leak.] (ii) An actual news report (as opposed to a Netizen saying something on a blog or in a forum), quoting the actual words Kim Kwang-soo used, detailing his claim that the twitter accounts were hacked (but the translations that get run are often so bad that I'm not sure I should trust them anyway). I'm painting a picture in my mind of Kim Kwang-soo being a total jackass, at least in his interface with the public (I mean, obviously he — or someone — was doing something right with T-ara over the last three years.) I don't want to make the same mistake as so many others, to believe that something said about this affair is true merely because lots of other people say so. But if Kim Kwang-soo did make that claim about the hacking, you have to wonder why someone doesn't remove him. Whom does he answer to at Mnet?

Also, where's Soyeon? Seems to me, if you're "leader" of the group, you need to (or get to) lead. (Naive question?)

Edited at 2012-08-01 04:54 pm (UTC)

Speaking of E.via, I love her recent EP, E.viagradation Part. 1 (Black & Red), everything except the single (on any of her EPs the only place she ever goes wrong is when she hires a legitimate singer to create a regular-sounding song). There's no "Shake!" or "Pika!chu!," but she does a good job by indulging her artsy tendencies, which she does with a light touch, bunch of interludes and moods.

First Person Plural

Interesting message from Hwayoung to her fans, assuming it's bona fide (I read it on allkpop) and that the translation is accurate. The word "our" is thought-provoking.

To my fans, you’ve loved me until now, and I'm sorry that I've only given you disappointment. Please stop now, and look forward to our more mature and improved selves in the future. I apologize for making you worry during this time. I also want to apologize to my Core Contents Media family. I'll greet you all with a better image next time.
Seems to me she's giving Core Contents Media and T-ara the opportunity to reconsider, with the implication that she won't make them abase themselves in doing so. She's willing to take blame/share blame.

Whatever her flaws or virtues, she's playing this very well (assuming, again, that this is bona fide; piece has been up for eight hours).

Re: First Person Plural

Another translation of that tweet uses "a more improved me" instead. With my rudimentary Korean skills I would have gone with that myself, and not "our" (reading her tweet, which is legit).

She's making the right PR moves and has all the sympathy in the general Korean consensus as communicated by the Korean media. I'm more worried about the ones left and I don't think I'd go back if I were in her shoes.

Her sister is still in '5dolls' with CCM, though, which may complicate things.

Re: First Person Plural

Yes, there's a trend among the comments to think of Hyoyoung as if she's a hostage.

That word "our" stoked my wishful thinking, that they were near to a settlement that would bring her back into the group.

Again, not knowing (a) what actually happened, or (b) if the English-language Netizens are representative of sentiment in Korea as well, but assuming for the sake of argument that they are:

T-ara has to take Hwayoung back, or sales plummet, and the group never recovers commercially. Yeah, I know, even if the CEO and Hyomin et al. are pretty much in the wrong, they're facing a totally out-of-proportion reaction. But that's what they've got. That's the reality.

But if I'm Hwayoung, and putting aside any immediate resentment about my being mistreated and let down by the company and the group (whether she's in the wrong or in the right, I can't imagine she doesn't feel abandoned and isolated within Core Contents Media and T-ara), there's actually some good motivation to go back.

I assume Hyoyoung's not an issue, at least not upfront. (If Core Contents Media fires Hyoyoung, that's beyond bullying into total injustice, and the uproar would surpass what we've heard so far. But if they keep her, which they will unless she quits, over the next few years they can make things hard for her in quiet ways, presumably.) But despite having the public totally on her side, Hwayoung will face lingering suspicions in the biz as to whether, no matter how poorly she was treated, there isn't something wrong with her as well. Kim Kwang-soo's mentioning "5 stylists" and "7 hair and makeup" was very pointed (and if they in fact had no complaints about Hwayoung, very poisonous), implying that not only is Hwayoung unreliable, she mistreats stylists and hair-care people too. It's not obvious that YG or Cube or whoever would run to take her, unless they have sources of information saying she's fine. I mean, even I have the thought, "Why would he do this if it weren't true? What would he think he could gain?" Not that I don't realize how irrational and self-defeating his psyche might possibly be.

But in rejoining T-ara and having it seem to go well from there, Hwayoung can put to rest the suspicions about her, at least somewhat.

Seems to me that it's in everybody's interest that she go back, and that she flourish when she does. Which means that it's in T-ara's and Core Contents Media's interest to help her do well.

Of course, if I were in her position I'd probably tell 'em all fuck you and goodbye. And if I were Kim Kwang-soo, and I felt she had let the team down and abused staff and so forth, I might be too pigheaded to face reality. But then, I'm a master at burning bridges.


Latest report, as allkpop continues to adhere to its high standard of journalism:

Fans all over the world have started to point out that if the first letters of each line of the message are read vertically, the message "Only fans know" can be seen. Because of this alleged secret message, some are saying that Hwayoung may not truly be apologizing for her actions.

Fans commented on the fact that Hwayoung did not insert space between words purposefully, and these speculations have started to spread like wild fire across the internet.

However, it's important to note that depending on the type of browser used, the words may not align at all.
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At this point, Google gives me too much noise when I search "Kim Kwang Soo twitter hacked." Do you have a link to where he actually makes the claim that Hyomin's, Eunjung's, Jiyeon's, and Soyeon's accounts were hacked? I'm finding it repeated (and repeatedly mocked) by Netizens all over the place, as well as a claim that his twitter was hacked. But I've not found an actual news story with actual quotes from the man.

I see that the allkpop piece I linked and quoted in my original post contains this sentence: "Their agency at first argued that the girls' accounts had been hacked, but it seems unlikely that all of their individual Twitters could have been hacked at the same time." I'd like to see a more direct source than just that sentence (was there an agency press release? what did it say?). I guess my problem is that the excuse is so transparent and therefore so obviously stupid that I'm balking at the idea that even someone as blundering as Kim Kwang-soo could have said it, would have thought for a second that it would fly.

The allkpop article is a translation or an adaptation from a piece on NewsPlus.

I admit I've been trusting various sites translating articles, mentioning this, and in turn the Korean tabloid reporting correctly. I think this was where I first read about it, this guy is Korean-English and translates some stuff, but I can't see a source link to that particular statement (only a reference to CCM PR).

It's mentioned in other allkpop articles but again with no quotes that I can find now

Edited at 2012-08-04 08:18 am (UTC)

Just clicked the link now, and Oniontaker seems to be shut down, at least temporarily. Lots of people link it, but none of the links work anymore.

Great timing. Seems he's shut down for good. Think he had some inside contacts at SM and was uncomfortable with identity being revealed

KKS does finally issue an apology for his own actions. Hardly feels adequate, but this sentence is welcome:

"I would like to apologize to both Hwayoung and T-ara, as well as their parents, for inflicting pain."

I was hoping for him to have followed that line with this little sentence, "I therefore step aside as chief executive officer of Core Contents Media."

So they say

Just a quick rundown of most of how this went down. All based on translated articles on T-ara World and Allkpop. At the end is just some commentary from when I originally came up with this - it was originally compiled to find inconsistencies in Mr. Kim's statements. Do what you will.

On the 25th, the original "determination" tweets were posted, followed by the initial response from Hwayoung saying "sometimes determination alone is not enough" (along with a picture of her smiling). I can't say exactly when the rumors started, but over the next two days Hwayoung and Hyoyoung tweet back and forth about supporting each other. (The Music Bank where Hwayoung did not perform is on the 27th).
On the 28th, Mr. Kim says an announcement will be made on the 30th. The rumor mill is set ablaze, though, when it is reported that Mr. Kim said also that the "determination" tweets could not have originated from the members, and that their twitter accounts were hacked (I can't find any original source containing that statement, however). At the same time, the T-ara members' twitter accounts go silent (nothing new since the 27th), meaning that for those two weekend days, nothing official comes out to clear up the situation.
In the press release about terminating Hwayoung's contract, Mr. Kim gives as his reason for termination the difficult lives of the staff members - he goes on about the difficulties of their lifestyle and how their concerns have to be addressed as well, because they were suffering too much, driving long hours and living in cramped quarters, crying from stress and so on.
He says that his decision was ultimately to bow to pressure from the unnamed 19 staff members. He said it was not because of her "decision" not to perform, but because he didn't want the staff members to suffer. But he there also says that Hwayoung wanted to perform the whole concert in Japan, but that she was kept off stage "to protect her." The statement makes no mention of the latter performance on the 27th. However, as for the Japan concert performance, he says that she wanted to perform, but that all the staff and the T-ara members talked her out of it. He also states that the "determination" tweets were made by the members, but that they were unrelated to the question of performing or not. In the following interview he says that he hopes Hwayoung stays quiet and that he hopes the incident will not worsen further.
After the press release (the assumption is, having heard about the "facts without truth" tweet), he says that "It wasn't the Music Bank incident, but a number of other incidents as well." In a statement regarding her potential return, he talks about hoping she will think about what she's done.
As the crisis continues, he goes to her parents for his next statement. In it, after saying "they understand" his decisions, he then claims that the notion that lies were being told originated with Hwayoung's tweet (without specifying which one exactly - between the last twitter activity on the 27th, and the eventual apology on the 31st, Hwayoung has only tweeted "Facts without truth," after her firing on the 30th) and releases the statement twice implicating Hwayoung in complicating the crisis and claiming she was fired for refusing to appear at events and from the staff opinions.
Now with her apology, or to be precise, the statement released regarding her apology, Hwayoung apologizes for not performing on Music Bank and for the problems that have since arisen. He also says that the decision to terminate her contract was because she broke her promise (to fans) to perform on stage, and that the staff were also hurt by her decision not to perform.

Re: So they say

Now for the spin doctor workshop. He puts on his nice father face and talks about his breaking heart and not scolding Hwayoung for her bad behavior.
He talks about how the T-ara members feel bad for not protecting Hwayoung - why exactly didn't they release anything publicly saying "nah, it aint even like that?" Who's the one who put her on the chopping block in the first place? Who's the one who's released six various statements saying she's at fault for getting fired and for instigating the situation? Perhaps you can treat her termination as a separate manner, but there's not doubt that he was really the only one taking direct aim at defaming her.
But of course she and they all feel bad over how badly things have turned out. But they've played the minor role in this situation - in putting off statements until the 30th and in all his statements following, he's been continuously contributing to the blaze of ill will circulating, while taking no action to stem the tide. As he built one cover story after another, the members were left to stew during which time they came to feel worse and worse and their mentalities become more and more fragile.
How many times has he said "it's her fault" and so on? He hasn't accepted any responsibility in any of this, starting with signing off on Hwayoung in the first place. He first blames her termination on the will of the support staff, then he blames her decision not to perform, and now in this apology statement, he's also turning around and implicating the other T-ara members (indirectly) by saying they didn't do enough to control the situation - when this whole time he's been saying there was no serious problems within the group, and when he is probably the reason they never stepped up this whole time. Even if he didn't order them not to take to Twitter or elsewhere, he was clearly spearheading the operation to manage this crisis - in short, he made the call to exclude them from his plans to deal with this situation. But now, his plans have come to a head and he can manipulate the situation again.
What's a 19 year-old girl know about handling politics? Of course she's gonna be shaken up, and, as anyone who's heard of abusive relationships can tell you, when the abusive person makes nice, they look all the sweeter. Furthermore, he's been the one hounding her this whole time, forcing her into this corner, making his case against her. Six statements in two days! And of course things are falling apart, she hears about it, and hears him scolding her in the media, why wouldn't her mind get a little twisted around? And if she really did make some promise to perform that day, he seizes on that one technicality and keeps pushing that line until she thinks that is all this was about, when there was a lot more going on, starting with just his jacked managing to begin with.

Oh yes, for all the reasons you say, he's extraordinarily culpable, and by firing Hwayoung he may not only have destroyed T-ara but destroyed Core Contents Media.* And there's the unwillingness or inability of anyone to step up and stop him, even though he's being so out-of-control and (among other things) incompetent. Don't want to go into all my thoughts right now: there are six people with the stature to counter him [I'm assuming Areum's not yet in the mix], but they're MIA.**

Thank you for the chronology, and the commentary.

I still think the main story here is the pathology of the fans, the way that once they'd constructed (mostly out of thin air) the narrative of Jiyeon et al. bullying Hwayoung, they took this as permission to congregate en masse and call people bitches and bullies and to disseminate whatever destructive, defamatory material they wanted, all under the aegis of supporting poor victimized Hwayoung — except it's not quite as one-dimensional as that. Interesting memes and subthemes and countercurrents develop. I wonder how the sentimentality towards Hwayoung in her victimization is going to fit with the fact of Eunjung losing her endorsement deals. I suspect the latter will make sentimentalists uneasy. And the public doesn't speak with a single voice, given that one of the memes that's emerging is the phrase "witch hunt." Maybe some actual collective wisdom will develop; I hope the "wisdom" doesn't simply shift the venom away from T-ara and onto Kim Kwang-soo. He shouldn't be the fall guy, even though he himself should be fired, or should be forced aside, if no one is in position to simply get rid of him.

*I mean, if he hadn't fired Hwayoung, the whole issue would have receded. That was such a bonehead move. Oddly, there's something so naively transparent about his lying that it almost doesn't feel like lying. It reminds me of that hilarious Shaggy song where Shaggy's caught on videotape cheating on his lover, and his response is to say, "It wasn't me." I don't think it's crossed Kim Kwang-soo's mind that he actually has anything to apologize for. I do imagine that he does genuinely care about the young women, does want Hwayoung to prosper and even to come to him for fatherly advice in the future, and I get the sense that he's clueless as to how his statements about her actually come across as character assassination. Whereas Hwayoung comes across as mature, acknowledging that she let people down and that she owes Kim and Core Contents Media thanks for giving her an opportunity to be a rapper and a star (and presumably for lavishing so much creative talent on her). She decides, nonetheless, it's time for her to go forward on her own. Dignified, no finger-pointing, no reference to the flaws of others.

**There's been one message from Eunjung, which according to Newsnen via Nate, as translated by allkpop, was "Thank you so much... and I'm sorry."

Edited at 2012-08-02 05:24 pm (UTC)

After all the coups de theatre, did anybody understand the real reason behind this affair?

The staff's despair for the whims of a baby diva? Why KKS should bother about it, when he blatantly said that his slaves work 24/7 despite the fact of being underpayed and obliged to live crammed in small dorms?

The troublesome attitude of Hwayoung? In this case, why decide for her as the leading vocal for "Day by day comeback"? Why kick out her before the end of promotions?

The refusal to perform? They said that she wanted to perfom, why she changed her mind all of a sudden?

I think that before the end of the year she will rejoin the team for a comeback, helping the remaining members to be accepted by the audience.

did anybody understand the real reason behind this affair?

Wouldn't say the word "reason" is applicable regarding any of this.

It floats. E.g., "we know she was bullied because _____" (gets refuted, so something else is put in its place; gets refuted, and a third thing is put in its place; etc.).

"I fired her because _____" (seems inadequate, gets replaced by something else; still seems inadequate, another factor is introduced; etc.).

No slippage, but...

"Day By Day" is at number 5 on the new Gaon Chart, just like last week. Is at 5 on the Billboard K-pop chart, one down from last week's 4. This is actually a strong showing, given the rapid turnover atop the Korean charts. Has been charting for five weeks on Billboard, four on Gaon. But...

...the Gaon chart compiles from July 22 through July 28 (don't know Billboard's period), while the big backlash in sales and streams and airplay, if there was one, would have begun on July 30, the day Hwayoung was canned. I believe there are daily charts that have probably already told the story, but I forget what they are or how to look for them.

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