Over the past few months, numerous K-Pop and K-Drama stars have become embroiled in controversies over their past behaviors, from school bullying to animal abandonment. But while some stars in the past have found themselves kicked out of their agencies over controversies, others were lucky enough to have their companies stick by them no matter what. Here’s how that decision is made, according to two veteran K-Pop agency directors.
These days, Yoon Seon Mi and Yoon Ho Joon are business directors at FirstOne Entertainment, the 2019-founded agency behind soloists like Kisum and Philippines-based group 1st.One. Before that, however, they worked at JYP Entertainment for several years, taking charge of artists like Wonder Girls, 2PM, and Miss A. In a new “Comment Defenders” video with AYO on YouTube, the two directors responded to a viewer who brought up how agency staff have to clean up artist scandals.
I feel so bad for the agency staff. They’re cleaning up the stuff that their artist has done in the past… They didn’t do anything wrong ㅜㅜ
— AYO commenter
First off, Yoon Ho Joon clarified that agency staff do try their best to make sure they don’t debut stars with dark pasts. He explained that they tell the idols, “Be honest.” One K-Pop idol trainer revealed auditionees are even asked by casting agents, “Have you been a good person?” On top of that, another trainer explained that trainees’ temperaments are monitored closely since a bad temper can often indicate bad behavior in the past.
However, in order to build a good relationship, Yoon Ho Joon explained that staff have to trust stars when they say they haven’t done anything wrong in the past. Former K-Pop manager Dragon J recently explained that agencies can’t investigate every trainee’s entire background—likely due to legal and safeguarding reasons as well as time constraints—so it makes sense that agencies rely on trust.
Yoon Seon Mi agreed, explaining that while agencies do their best to work out whether idols are concealing anything, they’re good at hiding their pasts these days. As such, when idols’ bad behaviors and illicit activities are revealed, Yoon Ho Joon says, “We’re in a fix too.”
We’re guilty for… being in charge of them?
— Yoon Seon Mi
So, when scandals do break, how do K-Pop agency directors decide whether to stick by an idol or terminate their contract? “If it’s something big,” Yoon Seon Mi explained, “We confirm the facts first.” After all, they can’t make any decisions on hearsay alone; many of the recent allegations in K-Pop have been proven false or found to be grossly exaggerated.
If the allegations are true, Yoon Seon Mi says that directors look at two key factors: how sorry the idol is and how their attitude and behavior have been since then. Based on these observations, “We decide to move forward together or not.”
As such, if any idol doesn’t feel any remorse and has a prolonged background of ill behavior, it’s possible their company may decide to cut their losses and let the idol go. Those who are highly apologetic and haven’t shown any bad behavior in recent years, on the other hand, are more likely to be supported by their agency.
Finally, there’s the public apology. When it comes to releasing official written apologies, Yoon Seon Mi reveals all the key staff in the agency work on the statement and how to frame their position.