Omega X accuses Spire Entertainment CEO Kang of abuse

Omega X
Photo: Omega X via YouTube

Omega X has taken steps to press charges against the former CEO of Spire Entertainment, who has accused Kang Seong-hee of verbal and physical abuse, including sexual harassment, the K-pop group announced in a Nov. 16 news conference . The lawsuit – which includes a request to terminate their contract with the company – comes just over three weeks after a fan of the boy band tweeted an alleged eyewitness account of abuse by then-CEO Kang. Omega X consists of 11 veteran members ranging in age from 21 to 27 – leaders Jaehan, Hwichan, Sebin, Hangyeom, Taedong, Xen, Jehyun, Kevin, Junghoon, Hyuk and Yechan – who previously debuted in other groups before their old bands settled down disbanded or paused. The so-called “K-Pop Avengers” formed the group as a second (and for some, their last) chance at a ruthlessly competitive industry. Vulture has reached out to Spire Entertainment for comment.

In the weeks leading up to Omega X taking legal action against Spire Entertainment, more evidence against the agency mounted. Kang eventually lost her job and the band began speaking out. “The reason we couldn’t help but endure it all and keep it quiet until now was because we were afraid it was our last chance [in the music industry] would disappear if we didn’t,” Jaehan said at the press conference. Below is everything you need to know about the group’s allegations against Spire Entertainment.

The news first surfaced after Twitter user @hwi_418 shared an alleged eyewitness account of an incident in Los Angeles after their October 23 concert. They were waiting for an order from Uber Eats when the fan claimed he saw Kang berate the band and appear to have physically assaulted the boys. “I saw the CEO of the children’s company hit the kids,” the user claims, linking to an audio recording said to show the abuse. “My hands are really shaking, I don’t know what to do.” A member is said to have fallen to the ground. The woman can be heard in the clip saying, “Have you ever done that for me?” and went on to tell the member, “When I was going through such a tough time, did he ever take care of me? I’ve broken down before! Get up!” Eagle-eyed fans then dug a separate twitter thread on Oct. 4, which alleges a fan’s mother saw two Omega X members being “yelled at by a woman” in Chile, prompting internet outrage.

On October 24, SBS News published an exposé about the agency and its CEO, and released several videos allegedly showing more incidents of verbal abuse and disruptive behavior. In one such clip, which could be an expanded version of the first Twitter user account, a person who appears to be CEO Kang allegedly yells at the boys in a Los Angeles parking lot. “Do you think losers like you could be loved by people?” she asked. “Are you tall? You didn’t get this far on your own.” Jaehan falls to the ground and she asks the other members if they ever helped her when she fell. The second video released by SBS is said to show Kang picking up the leader Grabs collar and throws him to the ground while his bandmates try to intervene.

Spire Entertainment denied all abuse allegations in a phone call with SBS. “The person who posted the clip on social media is more of an anti-fan of the company,” she claimed, adding, “I just asked them if they ever helped me when I was having a tough time . An attack? Absolutely not.” Omega X’s last post on their shared Instagram account was on October 19, but apart from their silence on social media, the group only addressed the allegations in the coming weeks.

The agency released a full statement the same day the first SBS report was released. “First of all, we salute with deepest apologies for causing concern with this unpleasant news,” Spire Entertainment wrote, further claiming that the band and agency “presently have resolved all of their misunderstandings, and they ended the conversation as you wished.” move forward while being considerate of one another.” The reconciliation didn’t last long. Another SBS report that day detailed allegations that the company canceled members’ plane tickets back to Seoul, an action some saw as retaliation and left the boys effectively stranded. The next day, SBS reported that the band had to buy their own tickets, with help from the family.

Omega X broke their silence on November 6th. The band opened their own Instagram account outside of Spire’s purview and shared their own statement to address the incident for the first time. “We created this small space for communication because we wanted to say thank you to the fans who love us and the people who cheer us on, and we also wanted you, as the parties involved, to be directly with our own mouths about the current situation inform incident,” they wrote, saying that due to a contractual arrangement, they are unable to post on social media without the agency’s permission. “When our suffering recently became known to the world, we feared that everything we had achieved so far would go up in smoke. But we have now decided to put our fears behind us and take courage together.”

“Our group was a second opportunity for our 11 members who came together after rising from difficult times of despair and refusing to give up our dreams… Thanks to our fans, we’ve been able to get through the past two years. There were days when we were treated so unfairly by our agency that we wanted to cry, but our only source of strength that allowed us to endure it all was the memory of our fans’ cheers,” reads the promising Statement to continue performing and “chasing our dreams to the end.” On November 7th, Spire announced that the CEO had resigned.

SBS continued to uncover other allegations of abuse, including a claim that it forced members diagnosed with COVID-19 to perform on stage. Screenshots obtained by SBS on Nov. 11 claim Kang and her husband, the company’s chairman, forced the group to hide positive COVID tests alongside a video in which Jaehan can be heard speaking out against the plan protested.

The group eventually decided to proceed with a Nov. 16 press conference at which they announced charges against the agency and a request to terminate their contract with the Seoul Bar Association, according to reports from Korea Joongang daily and Korea herald. Omega X introduced new allegations against Kang and the company, including gaslighting and threatening behavior. “Not only Kang, but also employees and managers insulted and set fire to us,” Jaehan said. “And during the recent world tour, we were also physically attacked by them.” Yechan recalls, “Another high-ranking official from our agency told us ‘die’ in a group chat while we were touring South America.”

“Not only did she force us to drink after our exercises, but she also made sexually harassing remarks and touched our thighs and faces to persistently sexually abuse us,” Jaehan claimed, referring to Kang. “Even after such meetings were over, she kept calling, texting, and verbally assaulting us.”

“She would threaten us that we should ‘crawl’ if we wanted to remain Omega X, and that she would either kill us or kill herself if we didn’t,” he added.

“We had no choice but to stay with her and do whatever she wanted,” Hangyeom claimed. “She would also tell us that if we refuse to drink, there will be no next album.” The group also said they are seeking medical treatment. “Every time I came home, I was afraid that Kang would call at any moment,” Hangyeom continued. “At some point I couldn’t take it anymore and started going to a psychiatric hospital. In fact, even now I still panic when I hear a phone ring or vibrate or anything like an alarm.

“Once when another panic attack happened, I told Kang that I couldn’t breathe. She mocked me, saying, “Oh, will we see articles saying, ‘Omega X becoming a ten-piece band because Hangyeom has panic disorder?’ I was shocked by that,” he concluded. Several members broke down in tears at the press conference. They say Spire Entertainment has not yet “sincerely” apologized and “threatened us with a fake bank statement,” according to Junghoon. Their lawyers claim the company tried to get members to pay £300m to £400m (around $220k to $298k) each to pay off the ‘debt’ they owe, a figure linked to SBS reports match.

“I know not every agency is like that, but I think a lot of K-pop trainees and even current idols are treated unfairly,” Taedong said.

There have been multiple allegations of abuse by K-pop companies. The idol industry is a top-down structure in which performers and musicians — who are trained from their teens or early teens, and often live with other trainees under the care of the company — are often replaceable employees working in a system with several groups of little power make their debut each year. The Korean government has taken steps in recent years to loosen the grip these agencies have on stars, with laws banning underage singers and actors from attending nighttime performances and being pressured into sexualized performances. A separate law aimed to end “slave contracts,” or agreements in which idols were forced to pay companies an exorbitant amount of money if they broke their contract or chose to leave. The contracts also prevented them from signing with other agencies.

In 2019, members of TRCNG shared evidence that TS Entertainment employees allegedly assaulted and blackmailed them, while in 2018 the leader of East Light claimed they were the victim of an attack. Bigger names like Super Junior’s Han Geng and EXO’s Lu Han and Kris Wu filed lawsuits against their former labels, alleging abuse, bad contracts and sexual assault. Fans were also outraged in 2015 when video emerged from a behind-the-scenes DVD showing a manager raising his hand at BTS’ Jung Kook, who appeared to flinch in response. In that case, Big Hit Entertainment apologized for the incident, fired the employee, and said they prohibit “coercive or repressive action” against artists.



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