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Understand Min Heejin’s fight with HYBE corporation

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Casper Libero chapter.

On April 22, the company that holds the label to some of the biggest groups in K-pop, such as BTS, TXT and Le Sserafim, “invoked the right to audit CEO Min Hee-jin and top executives of its subsidiary ADOR”. Later, the CEO of the company that manages the hit girl group NewJeans was asked to step down from her position in the subsidiary, amidst accusations of trying to manage the group “independently”.

Following the unfolding of the controversy, Min Heejin denied the accusations made by HYBE that ADOR was leaking confidential information, in an attempt to secure investors that could help the subsidiary break away from its mother company. The executive went on to point fingers at the conglomerate’s latest debut, the girl group ILLIT, for supposedly copying NewJeans’ distinct concept and style in the Korean music industry, citing her complaints over the new group as reason for her being dismissed by HYBE.

“The cultural success of ADOR’s NewJeans is ironically being undermined by HYBE”, stated the CEO. “After ILLIT’s teaser image was released, there was an explosive response online, with many commenting that they initially thought [the group] was NewJeans”. She went on: “ILLIT is being evaluated as a derivative of NewJeans, with terms like ‘Min Hee-jin style’, ‘Min Hee-jin type’ and ‘NewJeans’ counterpart”.

On April 25, Min held a press conference to address the issue, which had since been gaining major attention from the media. She claimed not to have expected that amount of attention, denied the accusations of a “breach of trust” and mentioned being “living in hell” for the past two days, directly mentioning HYBE for their role in the scandal. “HYBE is going forward with a public relations strategy stronger than it does with its artists. I have become a witch. My top priority is to clear my name, and the second is to reveal the truth of what happened. […] the ways I and HYBE perceive the situation are very different.” she pointed out.

Exposure of private texts

She addressed the leak of private conversations between her and HYBE’s CEO Park Ji-won, stating the conversations had been rid of context. “The things that I talked about comfortably with Park Ji-won have made me ‘the grumpy old woman.’ The things that I’ve been saying with my vice CEO are just things that we discussed out of intimacy. […] If someone framed you a certain way and edited your own conversations, it would be so easy to make a new story out of it.” said Min.

She then went on to reveal more private messages, this time involving HYBE chairman Bang Si-hyuk. The texts included a mention to SM entertainment‘s girl group aespa, “You can crush aespa, right?” asks Bang, to which Min responds “Hahaha”, and the chairman goes on “Forget aespa, and let’s create Min Hee-jin World”. That added more fuel to the flame, and caused a huge response online by angry fandom members, including not only ‘MYs’, aespa’s fans, but several other fandoms whose groups had been drawn into the controversy, such as Le Sserafim and BTS.

Min Hee-jin constantly mentions a constructed response from HYBE, trying to paint her as the villain in the story. Meanwhile, HYBE insists on the usurper narrative, accusing Min of plotting management control with other executives, to the point of consulting a shaman on major company decisions, allegations that Min refutes by claiming their evidence is distorted.

Between so many accusations and encountered information, netizens have found it hard to pick a side in the feud. So let’s get to know the controversy’s main characters from the beginning.

Who is Min Hee-jin?

Min Hee-jin began her career in the Korean entertainment industry back in 2002, joining SM entertainment as a graphic designer. She went on to be promoted to creative director, working with groups such as Girls’ Generation, Shinee, f(x) and EXO. Her work consisted of overseeing the planning and production of artwork for the albums, costumes and music videos, plus building the artists’ brand identity.

During her time at SM, she was acclaimed for her innovative approach to art direction. The “Min Hee-jin effect” consisted of more concept-driven musical releases, and she’s credited for setting the trend for more visual-centered, narrative-rich works in K-pop, which is the embodiment of her most recent endeavor, NewJeans.

After leaving SM due to burnout, Min joined Hybe Corporation in 2019, working as chief brand officer to oversee the company’s rebranding. In the following years, she was designated as CEO of HYBE’s new subsidiary ADOR (All Doors One Room), by November of 2021. She led the creative direction and development of NewJeans, ADOR’s first girl group, whose surprise debut ‘Attention’ became a massive hit, attributed to the group’s unique visuals and sound.

In contrast to her praised career and highly celebrated creative endeavors, this dispute with HYBE is not the first controversy attributed to Min’s name. In the past, the online community has accused the executive of promoting sexualization of minors, such as allowing f(x) to wear revealing clothes that mimicked school uniforms and the alleged sexual innuendo in the lyrics of NewJeans song ‘Cookie’.

HYBE’s position

On May 17, the court hearing for the injunction filed by Min Hee-jin against HYBE began. The civil court order intends to prevent the company from exercising its voting rights at the ADOR shareholders’ meeting on the 31st. HYBE holds an 80 percent stake in ADOR’s shares, while the other 20 percent are held by Min.

It was reported that legal representatives on both sides exchanged accusatory remarks. In response to Min’s claims that her contract with HYBE was a “slave contract”, HYBE stated: “We accommodated every request made by Min as best as possible and supported ADOR to the fullest. We invested in ADOR when no one else did. In an unprecedented move, ADOR was given over 100 billion KRW in funds. The clause banning her activities with competitor businesses simply follows industry standards, and was meant to ensure extended collaboration between the two sides”.

They also appointed the image of Min as ‘NewJeans mother’ as being a facade: “Min Hee-Jin has made remarks in the past such as, ‘It’s hard to treat the members of NewJeans like artists. It’s unbearable that I have to pick up after them’. She also said, ‘I was the reason NewJeans succeeded’. Min Hee-Jin also required the NewJeans members to say exactly what she wrote in a script during interviews. She is gaslighting the NewJeans members so that they remain obedient, and is framing this as a ‘mother-daughter’ relationship”.

To that, Min’s side stated that the members themselves wanted to continue working with her. It was said that “To them, Min Hee-Jin’s role is essential. This is something that the fans have acknowledged as well”.

Further developments

Bang Si-hyuk made his first public statement on the conflict through a petition to be handed over in court. “I understand that some view Min Hee-jin’s actions as highlighting the problems of a multilabel system”, Bang stated. “However, no matter how sophisticated the system is or how thorough the contracts are, nothing can completely deter human malice”.

He continued, “The actions of one malicious individual should not be allowed to damage the system that may have been built over a long time. I believe that this is the strength of our social system, which prevents personal malice and wrongdoing from destroying social institutions and order”.

The Seoul Central District Court is yet to reach a decision regarding the case. It was commented that the court would ask HYBE and ADOR to fill in extra evidence by this Friday, for a ruling to be reached by May 31.

If the court rules in favor of Min Hee-jin, HYBE will lose the ability to vote for her removal as ADOR’s CEO. If the decision favors the conglomerate, she will likely be removed from her executive position.


The article below was edited by Fernanda de Andrade Silva.

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Isadora Mangueira

Casper Libero '26

Brazillian journalism major. Passionate about everything media related and obsessed with learning more about the world.