A K-pop group accused their management agency of sexually and physically abusing them in a news conference on Wednesday, weeks after a viral fan video captured audio of management having a verbal disagreement with some of the band members after one of their shows.
In a lengthy statement to BuzzFeed News, the law firm representing the band Omega X detailed some of the allegations against their management company, Spire Entertainment.
“Former CEO Kang [Seong-hee] made Omega X drink with her even before important official events, sexually harassed them,” Law Firm S said in the statement. “The sexual harassment of the members is not simply a sexual issue between men and women, but a problem that shows how power with distorted values violates the dignity of young people with dreams.”
The 11-member boy band Omega X debuted in 2021. Their most popular music video “Love Me Like” has 18 million views on YouTube, and they catered to a worldwide fandom with songs like “Vamos” and “Baila Con OX.” Allegations of mistreatment by K-pop idols have long caused explosive, shocking scandals. In 2020, Media Line Entertainment CEO Kim Chang Hwan was sentenced to eight months in prison and two years of probation for aiding and abetting child abuse, after group the East Light said an agency producer had physically and verbally assaulted the members. Boy band B.A.P ended their contract with agency TS Entertainment after accusing the management of unfair profit distribution and maltreatment (the suit was later settled).
Omega X claimed that both Kang and Spire chair Hwang Seong-woo forced the band to perform after testing positive for COVID-19, despite having high fevers. The group said Kang told them to "take vitamins, drink a lot of water and go on stage no matter what. If not, I’ll beat you up with a baseball bat.”
At the Seoul Bar Association, all 11 members shared more details of the accusations they brought against their agency. “She not only forced us to drink after our practices, but she made sexually harassing comments and touched our thighs and faces, persistently abusing us sexually,” group leader Kim Jaehan said at the news conference. “All of the members were abused continuously for a year.”
Members Hangyeom and Jehyun also said they were receiving psychiatric support due to Kang’s actions.
“I believe this is not a problem limited to just myself or this group but that it could be happening somewhere else,” 24-year-old Xen said on Wednesday.
All of the members, who range in age from 21 to 27, had come from previous K-pop groups that had been disbanded by other companies.
“I want to inspire people who are about to give up their dreams to see us and realize there’s hope,” member Taedong told BuzzFeed’s Daebak Weekly newsletter during the promotion cycle of their first album.
In October, a fan captured an audio clip after one of their shows in Los Angeles. “Hey, who are you? What are you?” a woman’s voice yells in the clip, before a thud is heard. “Stand up,” she says after.
“I saw the CEO of the kids company hitting the kids,” wrote user @hwi_418, who recorded the audio and posted it online. “My hands are really shaking so I don't know what to do.”
Korean entertainment broadcast channel SBS shared footage of a woman they identified as Kang yelling at member Kim Jaehan from the same night, before Jaehan collapses on the ground in panic.
Fans immediately worried about whether band members were being poorly treated, and #ProtectOmegaX trended on Twitter.
Kang denied assaulting Omega X members, claiming it was "an allegation made against the company by an anti-fan."
"I was distressed from pulling all-nighters for days and working so hard that I had a nosebleed, but the bandmates wouldn't comfort me or care for me, and I'd become frustrated. But I usually treat them with much respect," Kang told SBS.
Spire Entertainment released an apology and said that the conversation was about the band airing grievances that were resolved. The company did not acknowledge if there was a physical altercation.
“At the time, having completed the tour, the OMEGA X members and the agency were talking about how hard they had respectively worked up until then, in order to make plans for the future,” Spire Entertainment said in its October statement. “In the process, they wound up airing their grievances against one another, and as they became worked up due to their emotions, they began raising their voices.”
The band is suing to have their contract terminated on the basis of “breach of contract and destruction of trust.” Law Firm S said it filed for an injunction to suspend the validity of the exclusive contract between Omega X and Spire Entertainment on Wednesday, and plans “to take strong measures, such as additional criminal charges and sue for damages.”
Spire Entertainment has not responded to a request for comment. The members of Omega X have not responded to requests for comment. When BuzzFeed News reached out to their former publicity firm Helix Publicity, we were told it was no longer working with Omega X and could not speak on the matter due to a nondisclosure agreement with Spire Entertainment.
Since coming forward with the allegations, Omega X has launched their own Instagram (K-pop idols are typically not allowed to maintain an autonomous digital presence without explicit permission from their management). In a statement on their first post, they wrote a thank-you letter to their fans, and a publicist they formerly worked with liked the post.
“We have had happy times since our group activities but also had to endure some painful times,” the group wrote. “When our situation became known to the public, we were worried that what we had achieved so far would be in vain. But now we have put our fears behind us and decided to be brave.”